Best Ute Canopy and Tray Buyers Guide
Utes, trays and canopies … go together like sunsets, sand and the Simpson Desert.
And just like a big trip takes careful consideration and planning, so too does a ute setup such as an offroad tray or custom ute canopy for your 4×4.
A worthwhile investment in (and the ultimate addition to) your 4WD for your next adventure, a specifically designed tray and ute canopy will give you more convenience and functionality, while also making your future trips more enjoyable and comfortable.
In this practical guide, you’ll learn what to consider when choosing the right ute setup for you.
Tray and ute canopy setup: Choosing the best solution for your needs
There really is nothing better (and more practical) than a 4WD ute with a good setup on the back – from the tray to the canopy to the rooftop tent.
So what makes a great setup? The answer to this question depends entirely on you and your personal needs, plus these three deciding factors:
- Needs and intended use: Weekend trips or a lifetime of adventures, and how you intend to use your 4WD now and also in the future.
- Vehicle and set up: Your vehicle and where you’ll be travelling (for example, off-road and off-grid), storage and sleeping arrangements, and how you want to “live” when you’re on the road.
- Quality: Your ute tray and canopy setup need to be constructed from high-grade material to ensure longevity and reliability so it can handle Australia’s harsh conditions.
Essential features of a good ute setup: CHECKLIST
Robust 4×4 aluminium ute trays and canopies offer a range of benefits when travelling and camping, including design innovation, storage capacity and increasing the functionality of your ute – taking it from just a vehicle to a full living solution when needed.
Ute canopy setup ideas … You’ve probably had many thoughts on this. However, new and innovative designs for a camping ute canopy or tray solution mean a mere ute can now become a complete lifestyle solution with a pullout kitchen, induction cooktop, rooftop tent integration, slide-out fridge and extended draws system. Before making any decisions, write down a list of what you want and what you think will work for you.
Not all ute setups are created equal. In fact, design plays a big part in your overall setup. Depending on your needs and how you intend to travel, your setup can be fully customised to your specific travelling and camping requirements. An innovative design can help reduce weight and utilise the entire space, while also giving extra storage.
If you are not helping to design your own ute setup, look for clever designs such as a one-piece unit, innovative interior fit-out options, pull out draws at the rear and underbody boxes.
If you are working with a company to design your own solution, check what is included in the package, for example, revisions and other necessities such as a shakedown trip and after-sales support.
When you’re looking for the best ute canopy, tray or set up, do your research. Look into the quality of the workmanship, the experience of the people building it and how they do it, that is, will it be designed using the latest CAD software to ensure the highest standards?
Regardless of whether you are buying a tray or custom canopy, choose high quality over everything else and look for people who will take great care and time with your build, such as, hand-welding and premium textured powder coating.
The experience and reputation of the craftsmen you use will be worth it years down the track when you’re still enjoying your tray or canopy!
Always ask about the materials used in your product or build, for example, the grade of aluminium and whether the materials are Australian. You should always feel comfortable talking with your craftsman about your tray or canopy, so always ask if you are unsure.
It even comes down to asking about the types of powder coating used and the grade of alloy, for example, is it 5005-grade aluminium? When it comes to materials used, you can get very cheap options that look great initially, but can fade quickly and will hardly stand up to a small twig.
Ask about the welding (you want to know about its integrity and strength), or if the roof is double seamed to ensure no welds tear out when exposed to rough corrugated roads).
Check with your craftsmen about the quality of the powder coating and whether it is scratch resistant. Ultimately, it’s the answers to these questions that will protect your investment in the long run.
Points of difference:
High-grade alloy laser cut for precision; superior quality powder coating for scratch resistance; central locking handles as standard; heavy-duty gas struts on doors; high-quality rubber seals to ensure maximum protection from dust and water; and custom-made hinges … What points of difference does your tray or custom ute canopy company and builder offer and do these suit your needs?
Each brand will have its own points of difference and features, however, it’s important to remember your needs and desires – and ultimately what suits you.
Look at the quality of latches, hinges and locks, and how they will stand up to the elements and situations you plan to endure. There are plenty of options on the market, with some much better than others. Look for adjustability of the locking mechanisms, any play in the doors or draws when closed and how firm the doors and drawers feel.
Importantly, you want to make sure you are looking for a compression latch as these will ensure that no dust or water gets inside the canopy or toolboxes.
Tray and canopy weights will vary greatly, however, when you are comparing them it is important to get an understanding of what the weight includes. For example, a bare canopy will be lighter than a custom canopy that is completely fitted out. Alloy over steel will ensure you get the lightest tray possible.
On average, a dual-cab canopy weighs between 100-200kg, while a ute tray can weigh up to 120kg. Keep in mind that additional weight means more wear and tear on your 4WD, plus higher fuel consumption too.
Working with a reputable company on the design will help utilise the space and keep the weight down as much as possible.
Not only is a specially designed ute tray and canopy a practical solution for travelling and camping, but it will also improve the look of your vehicle. A quality ute tray and canopy will have a sleek look with a powder-coated finish; with the extra coating adding to the durability.
Storage is important when you’re travelling and clever storage designs mean you can utilise the entire ute canopy. While an offroad tray will have less secure storage space than a canopy, there are still options available to maximise space and this is where an experienced tray and canopy craftsman can come in handy (especially if you’re overflowing with ute canopy setup ideas!).
Whichever ute setup you decide on, one of the main advantages of a canopy is that it will keep your belongings more secure from theft, the harsh Australian elements, and any damage caused when you’re travelling, for example, from corrugation. Even a tray can have storage that locks, which is especially important if you use your ute for work and play.
Extras and accessories:
If you are investing in a 4×4 ute setup tray or canopy, think long-term when it comes to extras and accessories. If you are intending to use your setup well into the future, the extras you add to your build now could serve you for many years to come, even if you don’t need them right now. Spare wheel holders, top rail kit, fridge slide and fridge, solar panel mounting, lift-off legs, awning, rooftop tent, jerry can holders, ladder and advanced 12V solutions are extras that can add a lot of value to your setup, not to mention ease.
Cost and budget:
Prices of a 4WD ute canopy setup or tray option vary significantly depending on your needs. While budget will play a part in the type of ute setup you go for, there are some other aspects to keep in mind when it comes to your budget.
For example, the quality of the workmanship and materials used, whether it is truly Australian made (be warned of companies that import 90 per cent of the product and claim to be Australian made) and the years of experience of the craftsmen making your tray and ute canopy dreams a reality. It takes great skill. Generally, a high-quality ute tray or canopy solution will range from $10,000 right up to $60,000+.
Warranty and brand reputation:
Pay attention to the warranty when you’re investing in a 4WD ute setup. It’s important to know what’s covered and what’s not, for example, extras, hinges, struts and so on. Most warranties will cover workmanship. Look for trusted brands in the marketplace and be sure to complete your research before committing.
Talk to ute and canopy companies about their after-sales customer service. You want to know you’re not just a number and that there is someone you can call on if you have a question or need help. Also look at the company’s policies on refunds, warranties and dispute resolution, and then get in touch and talk to the team to get a feel for their customer service.
Tray, canopy or integrated sleeping solutions: Here are your options
There are many options when it comes to a ute setup, especially a 4WD ute canopy setup, so carefully consider which is best for your personal needs and travel intentions. The four most common setups include a tray, on-off trayback canopy, custom canopy and integrated canopy and tent (aka an integrated sleeping solution).
Offroad ute trays are designed and made to be lightweight, durable and strong because they have a tough job, often bearing the brunt of heavy loads and poor road conditions. Due to this reason, look for one that is made with higher-quality products and by experienced craftsmen.
If you are planning to invest in a ute canopy, you may need to upgrade your tray to accommodate for the extra weight and intended use (aka adventures and travel!).
Canopies that attach to a tray are ideal if you want the best of both worlds: A tray and a canopy. An aluminium tray back canopy provides a secure and reliable storage solution when you’re travelling and a strong ute tray for when you’re not.
This camping ute canopy setup is versatile and can be fitted out to easily allow you to live out of the back of the ute while travelling. Nowadays, a standard aluminium ute canopy offers a good degree of modularity and flexibility, depending on the company you work with.
Integrated canopy and tent solutions
The latest innovative design for a ute setup are the integrated canopies and tent solutions (they are also called integrated sleeping solutions) that can be configured for a tray back ute or a ute with a factory tub. The design incorporates the tray, canopy and rooftop tent in the one compact and slimline unit.
An integrated canopy and tent solution is ideal for travellers who want a more luxurious and comfortable camping experience every time they head out.
When it comes to a high-end solution for your camping adventures, a custom canopy is the best option if you have very specific travelling or work needs, and want to work closely with your canopy builder from beginning to end to make your dream touring solution a reality.
Custom canopies are often the way to go if you have a unique vehicle like an Amarok with a chassis extension. A custom canopy would suit explorers who want to live out of their ute full-time and have specific travel requirements.
Best 4WD ute setups for your situation
Camp King Industries
Camp King Industries has taken their vast knowledge and experience of aluminium trays, canopy and rooftop tents to create lifestyle and sleeping solutions for any journey, adventure and destination you want to experience.
Based in Brisbane, Camp King Industries builds trays and canopies that are designed to last, with unique design styles and a focus on functional, strong and effective solutions. Flush floors and a 600kg canopy roof weight rating are evidence of these facts. The canopies have flexible layout options that allow you to build a canopy that suits your needs.
Camp King Industries is also the market leader in Integrated Canopies, which take a canopy and integrate a rooftop tent in one slimline unit. This solution reduces weight, increases convenience and, honestly, just looks great!
Norweld offers heavy-duty tray and canopy packages. Designed and manufactured by Australians, they use the highest-grade materials with cutting-edge manufacturing techniques to build some of the toughest products in the country.
They offer solutions from basic trays through to complete tray and canopy solutions, either fixed or wind-off. Being one of the oldest manufacturers in the game, they have a lot of experience creating functional solutions.
GCI Traytec manufactures aluminium trays and canopies for a large range of utility vehicles, from common Australian vehicles to European and American trucks.
ESSENTIAL INFO: GCI Traytec is very much focused on American trucks, building a large range of trays and canopies to suit these larger vehicles. Due to the size of American trucks, it is common to see a lot of creative storage options in their canopies.
Core Off-Road custom design ute canopies and myriad innovative 4×4 accessories. At the heart of their ethos is the word lightweight, which has led to the use of a combination of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and alloys to create strong and durable ute solutions.
ESSENTIAL INFO: Core Off-Road makes some great products. Being a West Australian-based company, they focus on that market and do require your vehicle delivered to them to fit their canopies. They also only do chassis-mounted options, so no ability to remove the canopy.
Boss Aluminium offers modular tray and canopy solutions for most Australian vehicles. With a focus on a modular design, Boss’s solutions are easily upgradeable and interchangeable.
Essential Info: Based in Melbourne, Boss Aluminium trays and canopies are fully Australian-made using marine-grade aluminium, and their trays and canopies are available in a wide selection of packages or as standalone options.
A 4×4 ute tray and canopy is an investment in your future adventures
Investing in a specifically designed ute tray or aluminium ute canopy will be one of the best things you do for your travel and camping experience, but it should take research and planning.
That’s why it’s important to do your own research and speak with experts, like the team here at Camp King Industries, to determine how you can get exactly what you need for your future trips.