One of the requirements for my project truck was being able to carry a lot of my Search and Rescue gear as well as other gear for fishing, camping, or any number of other activities I plan to do with the truck.  I also wanted a canopy which could serve as a solid shelter in the event I have to spend the night out somewhere unexpectedly.  As I started doing my homework, I narrowed down the list of canopies to 3 manufacturers.  I did a ton of research on the internet, then went to some local dealers and finally settled on the A.R.E. Z-series.  I loved the look of the canopy with the nice lines that blended in with the bed of the truck, the frameless windows for a clean look, and the interior carpeting which matched my BedRug perfectly.  My local A.R.E. dealer, Canopy West in Everett, WA, was absolutely fantastic to work with (and is a primary reason why I also chose to go with one of their products).  I spent a good amount of time chatting with Mike, the GM,  and he took me through all of my options before I settled on the A.R.E.  I looked at every single element of these canopies and after comparing all of them, the A.R.E. had me sold primarily due to the quality of the hardware components (one look at the hinges on the rear window and you will know exactly what I mean), the clean look on the rear window (no visible hardware other than the locking latch), and overall quality of the paint job (which turned out to match PERFECTLY with my truck).  Mike was a huge help in showing me the infinite number of options and how I could configure the canopy to best suit my needs.

When I ordered the canopy, I chose a few options that made a lot of sense to me.  First, the rear sliding glass window that sits up against the cab of the truck.  There are a number of options here, but I definitely wanted a sliding window since I had one on the truck, and I really like the fact you could choose to have it swing down in order to make cleaning of both windows easier.  That has come in super handy.  Another option was the interior 12V LED light.  This one is definitely a must have, but I have to say…it’s not as bright as I had hoped.  This is a large canopy and the small LED light just simply doesn’t do it any justice. Luckily this is pretty easily remedied with some additional LED lighting options that are out on the market. I also chose to have Mike mount up a clothes hanger and fishing rod carrier.  These options are absolutely great for when I go out fishing.  Last, but certainly not least, the Yakima rack and Megawarrior cargo basket.  Getting the rack installed by the factory is an absolute MUST.  This is not a trivial installation once the canopy leaves the factory.  When the canopy arrived, I had no worries about drilling into a new canopy and possibly misaligning the rack holes.  This is done on a large jig at the factory for precise alignment and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.

On installation day, I was amazed at how these canopies are installed.  Before I had arrived, the cargo box had already been mounted to the rack to make things easier on the installation.  I had also opted for the shovel/axe brackets on each side of the basket which were also already mounted.  Mike’s tech, Jason, has clearly done this a million times.  The canopy was loaded up on a forklift and prepped for the install with the proper weather seals and wiring go here to check it out.  Before I knew it, Jason was sliding that canopy on the to bed of the truck while Mike guided him in.  Once the canopy was in place, the wiring for the 12V LED was put in place and tapped into the main battery via a dedicated wire (not the tail lights).  There’s a slick little device that sits on the hydraulic arms to the rear window and it triggers the LED light when you open the window.  Once the canopy clamps were installed and clamped down, Jason hit the interior with the air gun and got it all nice and cleaned up for me.  It looked AWESOME.

I’ve had the canopy now for a couple of months and have been out on some camping and fishing trips.  I seriously don’t know how I had lived without one of these on my previous trucks.  If you are debating on getting one of these, DON’T.  I couldn’t be happier with not only getting a canopy, but choosing the A.R.E. and buying it from Canopy West.  These guys are true pro’s at what they do and they know their stuff.  Do your homework, look at what’s out there and make sure you work with a reputable dealer in your area that will be there if anything goes wrong.  Here’s the pics from the install…