Hard-sided pop-up pickup campers and camping toppers seem to be a growing trend of the early 2020s, evidenced by a steady wave of new launches like the Oru Designs Bruin, Cube Series QB and AntiShanty Dwell Shell. Ohio startup Hardsider is deep at work on the sleekest, most compelling take yet, pairing a military-grade truck rack with a removable pop-up roof and composite cladding. The camping cap further cements its unique future-proofed design with plenty of exterior track for accessory mounting, LED lighting and Starlink satellite internet capability.
Hardsider starts its build out with a burly 2-in (5-cm) aluminum square-tube pickup rack it says was originally developed for the US Department of Defense. The reinforced front of the rack extends farther forward than other pop-up alcove campers and toppers, a key element of the design.
The rack can be used alone, like a less modular version of the new Küat Ibex, but it’s also meant to serve as the foundation for the drop-on pop-up camper that clamps to the upper frame. The ballistic nylon-encased honeycomb-core composite that makes up the pre-folded walls, roof and sleeper platform is designed for boosted strength and weight-cutting. Unlike some other hard-sided pop-tops with multiple folding parts, the Hardsider’s all-in-one “Origami Tech” wall design erects all three sides in one motion.
The pop-up walls are structured to hold strong in high wind and under heavy, wet snow loads, while the ballistic nylon delivers abrasion resistance. A laminated closed-cell polyethylene insulation provides a claimed R22 insulation level.
A pickup bed topper without a floor, the Hardsider sits atop the pickup box rails and includes a full-height rear wall with entry door inside the tailgate. Hardsider adds on a front wall and lockable large and small doors on each side for easy interior access from all around the vehicle perimeter.
The longer forward extension of Hardsider’s roof covers up more of the truck cab roof, a disadvantage if you want to carry cargo on a rack, but it also creates more interior space. While other pickup topper sleeper platforms extend back over all or most of the pickup bed, eliminating all standing room, Hardsider’s full-size bed still leaves plenty of open space over the floor. This makes it easier for each of the two people to get in and out of bed without disrupting the other and also means that one person can stand “downstairs” while the other sleeps soundly.
As for the lower space itself, the Hardsider comes standard as an empty shell but is offered with several available layouts for filling out the pickup bed. A basic bulkhead walls off a pass-through storage compartment running between the small left and right hatch doors. From there, buyers can outfit the larger rear pickup floor space with a pair of sidewall benches or a single bench and a shelving unit with work table. The shelves are accessible from inside and out for added convenience.
The Hardsider comes with interior and exterior LED lighting, and the entire perimeter of the pop-up shell is covered in stacked tie-down rails for adding accessories like off-road lights, awnings and antennae. The topper is also a Starlink-ready design for OTC digital nomad support. The ability to take the pop-up roof off and use the Hardsider as a rack separates the design from virtually every other camping topper we’ve seen, save for the upcoming Jeep-badged Addax.
The Hardsider is mostly just pretty renderings, but the company did bring two prototypes to last month’s Overland Expo East show. It is taking US$1,000 reservations and hopes to begin delivering the first customer builds from its Cincinnati facility in spring 2024.
Estimated pricing falls between $15,000 and $30,000, depending on interior layout and options, and the Hardsider topper will be compatible with the spectrum of pickup trucks, from midsize to full-size HD models, including electrics. The estimated 450-lb (204-kg) base weight is a little heavier than designs like the 380-lb (172-kg) Dwell Shell or 350-lb (159-kg) Rossmönster Lagom but very comparable to the 460-lb (209-kg) Hiatus camper.