If overlanding is akin to backpacking out of your 4×4, then wouldn’t your truck benefit from an ultralight backpack? That’s the general theory that led to the GoFastCampers Platform, a hybrid rooftop tent slash pickup-bed topper that’s not only drastically lighter than anything else on the market but radically simpler, too. I’ve been camping out of mine since late July.
What Is It?
The Platform is both the most practical possible pickup-bed topper and an extremely convenient rooftop tent, wrapped up in a package that’s lighter and stronger than not just any other camper but any combination of topper, tent, and rails, too.
What makes it so much better than any of the above is that it’s actually so much less. Typical pickup-bed campers try to pack all the comforts of home into an end result that’s invariably compromised by the limited space available in the back of a truck. Trying to literally carry the kitchen sink when you go camping doesn’t just add weight, it takes up space. So you end up removing your truck’s ability to do truck things when you’re not actually on an adventure. The Platform is different: it’s only a shell and a tent. What you put inside it is up to you. And that means you’re free to change it for different trips, daily driving, or as you learn about your needs and evolve your setup over time.
But don’t let the Platform’s simplicity fool you. Compared to other rooftop tents, campers, and toppers, it’s incredibly versatile. Need to carry something on the roof? The Platform’s roof can support up to 500 pounds, meaning it’s also the strongest roof rack in the world. Want to mount accessories like awnings, shovels, or portable showers? The extrusions that form the tent’s perimeter are designed to do just that. Need to bring a thousand pounds of manure home to fertilize your garden? The Platform leaves the entirety of your bed completely open. (And you can power-wash the whole thing, including the tent, when you’re done.) It does all that while keeping your load secure, doubling your available load height, and adding points for lashing inside that secure, contained space.
Who Is It For?
Your truck’s gross vehicle weight rating is the most important metric in determining how much work your truck is capable of performing—and a cap on how much you can carry. The maximum weight your vehicle is designed to handle, including both its own weight and what it carries, exceeding GVWR could cause an accident like a rollover, or simply exacerbate wear on components like your brakes and suspension, and could even cause parts like that to break. It’s an extremely important number that every truck owner should know, and you should go to lengths to ensure you don’t exceed it. Here’s a link that will help you find a public vehicle scale near you. Load your truck up for your next camping trip, and go measure it.
The GVWR on my Ranger is 6,050 pounds. Because I have the heaviest configuration—a SuperCrew 4×4—that means my maximum payload is 1,609 pounds. That has to include two humans and three dogs, which together weigh 555 pounds. So I’m only left with 1,054 pounds to work with when it comes to throwing camping stuff in my bed. That’s not that much, and it will be further decreased when I add bumpers, sliders, a winch, lights, a rear swingout, and jerry can holders later this month. The problem is worse on vehicles like the Toyota Tacoma, which has a GVWR of only 5,600 pounds, leading to a payload as low as 1,120 pounds, again before people, dogs, and off-road accessories.
What I’m getting to here is that weight really matters. And at 275 pounds when sized for my Ranger, the GoFastCampers Platform takes the smallest bite out of my GVWR possible. With more complicated rivals weighing over 1,000 pounds wet, you can see where I’m going with this. The Platform is designed for people who want a storage or sleep situation that does not utterly compromise the performance and safety of their vehicle both on-road and off.
The heart of the platform is a steel-tube space-frame chassis that’s custom designed for the dimensions of each truck it’s made to fit. This is the same technology that frames the fastest off-road race trucks and is both enormously strong and incredibly lightweight.
Aluminum panels wrap the four sides of the frame. The front panel, the one behind your cab, is fixed; the other three hinge at the top, are supported by gas struts, and can be locked closed. Windows in the front and rear panels allow you to retain use of the truck’s rearview mirror.
Forming the roof of the structure, and extending forward over the cab, is the tent, which hinges at the front to form a simple, robust wedge. Those hinges are impressively large, billet-aluminum items that GoFastCampers (GFC) produces itself, right here in Bozeman, Montana. They cap aluminum extrusions that frame the permitter of the tent and which contain T-shape tracks that allow you to bolt on a variety of accessories made by GFC or virtually any third-party company. I’ve used mine to add a 270 awning, and I’m going to fit a set of Front Runner mounts for my MaxTrax to them later this month.
The tent’s roof and floor are made from a very lightweight but strong honeycomb-composite material. Because it’s white, this means the roof of the tent doesn’t soak up too much heat from the sun on warm days. But because it’s translucent, this also means enough light passes through to the interior that it doesn’t feel like a dark cave inside.
The tent walls are made from a heavy canvas, which notably lacks the typical flame-resistant coating. Such coatings have recently been associated with a risk of cancer, both in the manufacturing process and in use, so it’s reassuring that a small, agile manufacturer like GFC was able to forego them. There are two windows at the front of the tent, filled with a heavy-duty bug net and backed by a canvas panel that you can zip closed on both ends. An enormous door fills the entirety of the tent’s rear panel. It zips all the way open, to maximize ventilation and your view. GFC welds flat connections onto the door’s sides and the tent’s interior, so you can connect bungee cords to help contain the tent material as you pull the whole thing closed.
The floor of the sleeping area is a clever modular design. The panel over the truck’s cab is fixed, but the portion over the bed is composed of three removable, reconfigurable panels. Each is topped by two-inch-thick memory foam (what you sleep on) wrapped in washable Cordura covers. With one long rectangle and two squares, these can be repositioned to create different ways to climb up into the tent. If you’re running solo, then removing the two squares can create a convenient bunk that’s totally open on one side. To bring someone along, just turn the rectangle sideways and move the squares to the rear. Then, when you want to get in or out, each person just pops out the square at their head and hops through. Made from the same honeycomb composite as the roof, each of these panels weighs maybe a pound, so removing and repositioning them is a cinch.
On midsize trucks, like my Ford Ranger or a Toyota Tacoma, the interior dimensions of the tent’s sleeping surface measure 50 inches by 90 inches. On larger trucks, like a Ford F-150 or Toyota Tundra, that size grows to 56 inches by 90 inches. The Platform on my Ranger, with its short five-foot bed, weighs 275 pounds all in. All components of the the Platform are made in America and assembled in Bozeman. Fitting one to your truck is simply a case of squishing a completed unit onto a rubber seal that runs around the perimeter of your bed’s rim, then connecting four proprietary clamps per side. You can get that done here in Bozeman, or GFC will come to you and fit the Platform to your truck in your driveway.
The thing that has surprised me most about the Platform is that it adds only a barely discernible amount of wind noise when you're driving. This is especially remarkable because the tent on mine sits two inches higher above my cab than it should. Mine was a prototype unit—the first one GFC made for the Ranger; production items correct that error and should run even quieter.
I fitted the Platform at the same time as a suspension lift and much larger tires. All of that has knocked about three miles per gallon off my total fuel economy, but I’m unable to break down the impacts of each individual component. Other GFC owners have reported little to no impact on fuel economy.
While I obviously expected the Platform to expand the utility of my truck bed, the degree to which it’s done so is incredible. The five-foot bed on my truck is very small, but thanks to the extra-secure height within the GFC, I haven’t actually managed to fill it completely yet. On a recent elk hunt, even while carrying a 210-quart Yeti, a 75-quart fridge-freezer plus the battery that powers it, a large Pelican case for my compound bow, an expansive tool kit, vehicle-recovery gear, MaxTrax, a large air compressor, ten gallons of water, a large stove, a propane tank, a jerry can, a folding table, and all my camping gear, I probably only used 80 percent of the available space.
And all that space is useful for more mundane tasks, too. When I finish this article, I’m going to make a run to the dump, with a bunch of cardboard that’s accumulated in my garage. There’s more than one trip’s worth of old boxes in there, but the Platform will allow me to carry double the crap.
The Platform also makes setting up and packing down camp a vastly easier and quicker experience than before. Opening the tent is simply a case of unlatching the two huge bolts that secure the rear, then watching it raise up on its gas struts. Closing it takes about a minute, since you have to be careful to whack the tent fabric inside as you pull the lid shut. Both tasks can easily be accomplished by a single person, but it does take a little practice to get the hang of tucking the material in while closing it.
The GFC helps your truck form a natural center for your campsite. Most of your stuff—your fridge or cooler for instance—can stay in the bed, even while the tailgate and the lift panels form sort of a quasi-cabana that’s perfect for camp hangs. Adding a 270-degree awning, which wraps one side and the rear of the camper, really helps make the Platform feel like your own little holiday home.
Sleeping in the Platform is not going to be as comfortable as home, though. In order to maximize fuel economy and minimize wind noise, the company has gone to great lengths to keep the overall height of the tent portion to just six inches. This makes it the slimmest rooftop tent in the world (and it’s available as a stand-alone tent for SUVs), but it also means it can only carry a very thin mattress. My fiancée, Virginia, and I find it comfortable enough that it doesn’t compromise our sleep, but every time we use it, we do miss our Exped MegaMat Duo.
Unlike slide-in truck campers, which fully seal their interiors from water and dust intrusion, the Platform does nothing to close off gaps in the tailgate or bed of the truck it’s mounted to. Like pretty much all pickups, the bed on my Ranger has gaps around its front, behind the cab, and around the tailgate. As a result, the same small amounts of water or dust that get into the normal bed of a pickup can still enter a GFC-capped bed. The trade-off is that you retain the ability to simply hose out that bed. Nitpickers have also pointed out that the side panels, which close on rubber gaskets, can allow a small amount of water or dust through in really tough conditions (like pointing a pressure washer directly at the seal), and that you get some rain drips around the hinges when those panels are open. I treat my truck like a truck—I don’t mind if it gets wet and am not bothered by a drop or two running down the steel-tube space frame while I’m sheltering under the awning.
The rear latches on the side panels can be used to lock those panels partially open, creating ventilation for dogs riding in the bed. The white roof also absorbs less heat than a painted car roof would. I still wouldn’t carry dogs back there on a hot day or leave them in there unattended for very long, but this is a very welcome degree of added utility.
Side panels combine with the minimal frame to give you uncompromised access to the bed.
The strongest tent I’ve ever slept in, it remains virtually silent even during heavy, sustained wind.
You quickly develop a knack for removing the square panels and sneaking downstairs for a middle-of-the-night pee break. Ditching the ladder gives you one less heavy, bulky thing to carry.
The modular, versatile nature extends to virtually every component. This has helped me better organize my bed, allowed me to fit my solar-power system, makes running a 270-degree awning easy, and facilitates mounting of stuff like a fire extinguisher, MaxTrax, etc.
Locking and unlocking each of the latches individually is a real pain in the ass, and I’m constantly worried that I’m going to break their key. They’re also a magnet for dust, mud, and other debris and can jam if you let them get very dirty. Carry WD-40, and don’t lose the little straw that comes with the can.
The thin memory-foam sleep surface is very firm. You can sleep on it comfortably, but it’s not as fine a surface upon which to have sex as the Exped MegaMat.
On cold nights, you can feel a little cold air rising through the cracks between the floor panels. As a result, a sleeping bag is a better idea than a quilt.
While the panels lock, the tent itself does not. The entire thing is less secure as a result.
Realize that you are still camping in a tent. There’s no heater and no insulation. You’ll want an appropriate sleeping bag for the conditions you face.
It’s a single-wall tent, so if you’re not careful about facilitating air flow through the windows while you sleep, you’ll wake up to condensation on the ceiling in the morning. I keep a microfiber cloth in one of the tent pockets to wipe it off before I pack up.
Should You Buy One?
How do you want to use your truck? If you’re building a dedicated camping vehicle, don’t need or want to perform practical tasks, take it really easy off-road, and have plenty of money to spend, then there are more comfortable, luxurious options out there. But if you want something that’s not going to get rattled apart over bumps, won’t compromise your truck’s performance and safety, and allows you to keep using your truck for more things than going camping, then the GFC Platform is the only viable option.
It’s also a relatively affordable one. With prices starting at $6,500, the Platform is less than half the price of some of the competition, even if it is still very expensive.
Worth it? At this point, I can’t imagine owning a pickup without one. A truck just isn’t complete until it has a Go Fast Campers Platform on it.
Read more: outsideonline.com