Review: A.R.E. Overland Series Camper Shell

Feb. 18, 2015 By Josh Burns
The A.R.E. Overland Series shell features Line-X coating for added strength in key areas. It is available for most truck models, including trucks from Ford, Chevy/GM, Nissan, Ram and Toyota.

Truck buyers love versatility. I purchased my truck for this very reason, and it’s the main rationale why I will likely always own one. My truck cabin has plenty of space for family and friends, and the bed is literally a blank canvas for hauling large items. My truck bed serves as a dirt bike hauler, a surfboard carrier, it transports tools and lumber, it’s where I store my camping gear and fire wood, my spare tire and recovery gear, and now it’s also where I stash a baby stroller since I’m a new dad.

The new reality of fatherhood in relation to my truck now means my backseat is occupied by a car seat, so there’s no longer much space to securely store items there. Gone are the days of lifting of the backseat and storing important gear there where it can be safely locked in the cab. On a recent camping trip we realized this limitation when we lacked the space in the cab to secure items when we ventured away from our campsite.

So I myself at a crossroads many truck owners face: Should I get a tonneau cover or shell for the bed? Having owned trucks fitted with shells and tonneau covers, I can say that both are good options for securing cargo, but for me, a tonneau cover wouldn’t cut it since it significantly limits the vertical storage space of the truck bed. A shell made a lot of sense, with the only major sacrifice being I could no longer haul dirt bikes in the bed – but then again, there’s an easy solution for that with a Joe Hauler. My course was set: I needed to find the right camper shell for my truck.

As I started to peruse the numerous offerings on the market, one shell that caught my attention was from well-known manufacturer A.R.E., which recently launched a new off-road model with its Overland Series. This new line actually highlights the company’s recent partnership with Line-X coating, as the Overland models feature a two-tone design that incorporates Line-X coating in high-stress areas for additional strength and durability. This added strength and toughness is right up our alley considering all the time we spend off the highway in our truck, so we decided to order up one of our own.

Our A.R.E. Overland Series shell arrived at Fuller Truck Accessories in Fullerton, California. The shell comes from the manufacturer attached to 2x4s to protect its base. As you can see, Line-X coating is applied on the forward corners and all along the base of the shell for added strength.

A.R.E. tabs its Overland Series as the ideal truck cap for the outdoor enthusiasts who will spend time off-road, where rutted, bumpy roads will require a more durable truck cap to retain structural rigidity. A.R.E. marketing manager Andy Clutter offered some insight on the idea behind the use of Line-X on its shells.

“The Line-X coating provides extra strength to our fiberglass caps, especially in high-stress areas,” Clutter said. “It also provides a distinct look that complements the styling of today’s pickup trucks. We chose this coating because Line-X is the premier coating supplier and this product is engineered to not lose its luster.”

The new A.R.E. Overland shell is available for just about every truck make, including Chevy and GM, Ford, Nissan, Ram, and Toyota. A.R.E. prides itself in going above and beyond with the construction of its products. Its facilities are ISO certified, and the company uses hardware that is 500-hour salt-spray rated to match OEM specifications. Each shell is constructed using a low-filled resin fiberglass and a unique polyester resin fiberglass laminate. Its shells and tonneau covers use automotive-grade paint and are finished with a clear-coat exterior. The Line-X coating on the Overland Series shell provides additional reinforcement on the front corners and bottoms edges, and the polyurethane Line-X coating will offer added protection from the elements. 

When it comes to ordering the Overland Series shell there are many customizable features, including the rear door, side windows, interior lighting, and there’s even the option to paint match the shell to your truck. Up top, A.R.E. also offers optional Yakima Control Tower Racks or Whispbar HD Racks, offering transportation options for longer items or the addition of bike racks, storage baskets, etc. There are multiple options for the forward-facing opening of the shell, including a compression boot seal to connect the shell to the rear window of the truck, a sliding window option (which we chose), tilt down window and more. The interior of the cap can be left unfinished or be lined with a dark gray fabric interior (we opted for the fabric lining). There are also options for interior lighting as well, including a 12V dome light and the option of one or two LED rope lights. 

Luis Molina of Fuller Truck Accessories works on attaching the wiring for the shell’s exterior rear brake light, interior LED rope light and dome light.

After running the wires under the truck, Molina finishing attaching the wiring to the truck battery.

We went ahead and placed our order, and when we did we were surprised to learn that each shell is actually hand built for every order – there’s no grabbing a stock piece and shipping it out. We measured our bed to verify its exact length (just in case of any slight variation), and over the next few weeks A.R.E. built our Overland Series shell and shipped it out to our nearest A.R.E. dealer, Fuller Truck Accessories in Fullerton, California. Fuller has been in business since the mid ‘70s, and it originally produced its own wood and aluminum shells under the name Fuller Camper before shifting over to be one of the early distributors of fiberglass shells. The family-owned company has two Southern California locations in Fullerton and Riverside. The staff is very knowledgeable about all things trucks, and that covers everything from access steps, tonneau covers, camper shells, auxiliary lighting and more.

Before setting the Overland Series shell on our truck, Molina installed an adhesive strip to help secure the shell and seal its connection atop the bed to help keep the elements out.

With Molina manning the forklift and Alfredo De La Cruz providing another set of eyes during the installation, the shell is gently laid in place.

Helping us during the installation was Luis Molina, a 15-year employee at Fuller who’s installed his fair share of truck accessories over the years. His expertise was greatly appreciated, as he knew just the right spots to run the rear brake lighting of the truck shell as well and the interior dome and LED lighting. Helping Molina with the install was Alfredo De La Cruz, a rookie in the shop compared to the other veterans but one who is quickly learning the ropes. Molina had our Overland Series cap installed in less than two hours. The lighting was properly and securely installed, so we don’t have to worry about a wire coming loose the first time we got off-road. With the shell securely in place, we hit the road.

Once seated atop the truck bed, four fasteners keep the bed secure in place.

Molina and crew double-checked that all brake lights and interior lights were working properly before we left. We were pleasantly surprised at how much light the single LED rope strip produced.

After it was installed, we really liked the two-tone color scheme of our Overland Series shell. The color-matched paint on the shell really gives it a clean appearance.

The last few weeks we’ve had plenty of opportunity to put our A.R.E. Overland Series shell though its paces. We even took the truck with us out to King of the Hammers in Johnson Valley, and it helped serve as our transport vehicle to the event and our sleeping quarters as well. So far, we have absolutely no complaints about the shell. It fits like a glove, looks great, and most importantly we haven’t heard a creak or squeak – even when tackling the whooped-out trails in Johnson Valley. It’s hard to quantify the improved strength the Line-X coating provides the Overland Series cap, but it only makes sense that the addition of the thermoplastic polyurethane and polyurea material provides added strength in such key areas as the forward-facing edges and the entire base of the shell. What we also appreciate is that the material is impact-, abrasion- and solvent-resistant so we don’t have to worry about it quickly wearing down in the elements.

With tens of thousands of spectators and race crews descending on Johnson Valley for this year’s King of the Hammers, it’s impossible to avoid the dust in the seat of trucks, Jeeps and RVs. We took our truck out to this year’s race, as it securely store our gear as well as provide a great sleep shelter.

Our living quarters for this year’s King of the Hammers. It’s not glamorous, but our A.R.E. shell made sure we had more protection from the elements.

During our recent trip to King of the Hammers, we loaded up the truck bed with a cooler, firewood, a spare tire, recovery gear, sleeping gear, camping gear and a few other random items. The locking rear door on the Overland Series shell let us leave the truck with peace of mind it wouldn’t be tampered with. When it came to crash at night, we had ample space to shift some of the cargo to one side of the bed and lay out our sleeping bag and blankets for makeshift sleeping quarters. Since there’s plenty of vertical headspace with the shell installed, we had ample room to move around. Most importantly, the sealed edges of the shell kept out the cold night air as well as the dust.

A.R.E. celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009, so clearly they’ve been doing something right to be around this long. When inspecting our Overland Series cap before installation, the quality and craftsmanship of the shell was apparent, but the truest test was actually using it out on the trail. We’d recommend it to anyone who is in a similar situation as ours where securing items in the bed becomes a priority. We’re also happy to know the shell is covered by A.R.E.’s limited lifetime warranty (for the original purchaser). A.R.E. recently announced an expanded relationship with Line-X where it will now offer the Overland Option on all of its caps and tonneau covers, offering a complete (the OTR option) or partial coating (like our Overland Series) on its products.

We’re very pleased with the fit and finish, the appearance and the durability of the Overland Series shell. It’s a great addition for those looking for securely storing items in their truck bed, especially for those who venture off the highway on the weekend.


Fuller Truck Accessories
1900 W. Commonwealth
Fullerton, CA 92833
800-99-SHELL (74355) Newsletter
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