As some of you may know, I'm very fond of hard-working pickup trucks, and occasionally have inspired/inane ideas about how to make them better (or, worse, depending). Well, I has another. And this time, it's not a truck, it's a truck accessory. I think I've solved the passionate bedliner v. camper shell debate once and for all.
I was driving around recently and noticed a fair number of households with trucks that had makeshift camper shell-storage solutions, which usually involved some wood posts or a stack of cinder blocks. What it made me realize is that for many, camper shells are occasional-use things at best, and they're bulky and a pain in the ass to store. That's when I had an idea, thanks to the space station.
Gimme a minute, it'll make sense. I was thinking about the Bigelow Aerospace inflatable space station module that's set to be launched to the ISS next year. These inflatalbe sorts of modules make a ton of sense to get more enclosed volume in a space station — so why not apply these ideas to trucks?
What if you could have a sort of collapsable camper shell that would be out of the way when you didn't need it, but ready to go when you did? An inflation-based idea seemed like a promising way to go for this.
Now, I can't use the same method Bigelow uses for the inflated enclosed volume, because most camper shell owners don't really want or need an airtight volume. But inflatables may work for the basic structural components of the camper top, right?
So I came up with this, and it has the added plus of acting like a bedliner when not in use. Not a great bedliner, probably, but I think good enough. Essentially, There would be six basic parts: two inflatable sidewall units (think rubber/canvas raft-type construction), two hard side panels (fiberglass?) hinged along the upper part of the truck bed walls, and a large panel for the floor of the truck bed that would become a roof. Rounding it out would be a compressor to inflate it all, and an optional inflatable mattress for the truck bed.
When not in use, the inflatable parts would be packed tight between the bedliner panels and the sides of the truck bed. When inflated, the inflatable sidewalls would push the hard side bedliner panels up and out, where hinges would lock them in their vertical position. The floor bedliner panel would be lifted and locked into place as a roof panel. Snap-on plastic (or screen) curtains would cover the front and rear (along with the tailgate) sides of the inflated structure. Here's a quick little animation:
The result should be a usable little shell that's perfect for the occasional camping trip or quick tailgating shelter or a way to keep a dog out of the sun or whatever you want. It's probably not great to drive with it up, but who knows? Maybe there'd be a good way to get it secure enough.
When you're done, just vent out the air and let the side panels fold back into position, replace the roof/bedliner floor, and you're back in business with an open, usable truck bed.
This could be pretty cool, right? Maybe? I wrote this up pretty quickly after I had the idea, so I'm sure there's lots of holes, and I'm sure many of you will remind me of that idiocy that hangs over me at all times, like a big, comical mallet of Damocles dangling over my head.
But I can take it. So, have at it— what do you think?