Top 10 Bed Features for Pickup Trucks

1c Bed Tech Lead II

By G. R. Whale

From the very beginning, manufacturers have tried to make the bed box of a pickup truck more functional, better looking and somehow uniquely their own. Not surprisingly, sometimes they succeeded, and sometimes they didn't. In some cases it wasn't even the bed itself they changed to make an improvement, but an associated part: The sliding rear cab window and bed light, for example, or the long-wheelbase/same overall length camper specials like the 1970 Ford F-350 SRW configuration, or Chevrolet putting a small bed in a Suburban and calling it the Avalanche.

Here is our list of the top 10 bed-tech features available on current-model pickups. You probably have a few others you like as well. We'll note that some pretty good optioins did not make the list, like Tacoma's weatherproof 120V plug, bed extenders, and bed-access side steps to name a few. Of course, you should stay tuned for even more versatile bed technology, as future pickups get ready to debut for 2015 and beyond.

Finally, let us know if there's something you'd like to see pickup makers include as part of their new bed-tech options list. We'll be sure to pass your ideas along. 

 

1. Integrated Kingpin Hitches

1 Bed Tech Gooseneck II

In the 1970s, slide-in campers became popular enough that pickups started getting dedicated RV plugs in the bed, as well as wiring pigtails. However, as frame rails became more sophisticated, manufacturers thankfully have offered factory gooseneck and fifth-wheel-base plate systems. No more welding, drilling through important cross members or dealing with measuring tape disasters. Today's integrated factory packages are solid, warrantied and still allow for complete use of the pickup bed.

 

2. Dual-Swing Tailgate

2 Dual Swing II

Popular with domestic station wagons of the late 1960s, the dual-swing tailgate allows you to lay it flat for tailgating parties or for carrying long objects, or open it sideways to avoid leaning over that long tailgate. That makes it much easier to reach the cargo deep in the bed. Our only beef is that the gate can't open a full 90 degrees.

 

3. Under-Bed Storage

3 Ridgeline Trunk II

Many years ago I considered a crew cab short bed to be a rather nice car with an open trunk in back. Then Honda put a decent-size trunk under the bed in the Ridgeline, made it lockable and just for good measure hid the spare tire in there where it was completely secure. Just as the independent rear suspension makes SUV third-row seats livable, the bed trunk hides lockable space down low where you want your center of gravity to be.

 

4. The Bumper Step

4 Bumper Step II

GM added a step built into the corners of the rear bumper (like Nissan's Xterra SUV several years earlier) and recessed comfortable handholds in a stake pocket in the bed rail. We almost wonder if this was designed in from the beginning or an aerodynamicist wanted to soften the corner for better mileage and somebody said, "What if?"

 

5. Tailgate Step

5 Tailgate Step II

As pickups get bigger and further off the ground (especially in three-quarter and one-ton configurations), using the bumper as a climbing step becomes less practical. Ford introduced a pop-out tailgate step and climbing bar integrated right into the tailgate, echoing the fold-down ladders on motorhomes and boats. On the plus side, it makes it easier for everyone to climb into the bed, but it works only with the tailgate open, without a load in it, and it adds quite a bit of weight to the gate. The Ford Atlas concept, seen at last year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, takes the step one step further, using the pop-up step as a cargo rack as well.

 

6. Spray-In Bedliner

6 Spray-in Bedliner II

Drop-in bedliners were the standard and were pretty inexpensive to buy. And its benefits (protecting the painted bed floor from nasty scratches) far outweighed its costs. But the fit of drop-ins were never tight, and the constant rubbing at contact points could wear through paint and create rust points when water crept in. At the same time, spray-on bedliners, once an expensive proposition, dropped in price and offered a much cleaner look, not to mention their almost-bulletproof protection. Nissan was the first to offer the option on its Titan, and now everyone else does too.

 

7. Bed Utility

7 Bed Utility Cargo II

Back when a pickup shell could be dropped on any of the Detroit Three trucks with equal aesthetic results, the aftermarket had a good selection of cargo retention, tie-down and bed-rail accessories, but shorter beds and unique bed rails (they all seem to be different now) forced truck manufacturers into the fray. When the Titan showed up with the highly adjustable Utili-track securing system, it had a leg up on other full-size pickups.

 

8. Bed Lighting

8 LED Bed Light II

Cab bed lights have been around for years, but they usually sit up high above the rear window. The unconventional-looking Ridgeline and Avalanche added lights in the sides of the bed because of their SUV/minivan underpinnings but the new GM half-tons take this idea a notch further. By using LED lights under the bedrails, they can run forever without flattening a battery; also, they're tucked under the bed rails for better protection with less light shining in your eyes (and more light on the job).

 

9. External Locking Storage

9 RamBox II

Lockable storage areas have been around for a long time (Ford was putting locking bins beneath the bed floor decades before Nissan reintroduced it with the current-gen Titan), but the RamBox has a lot more space than the Titan's rear quarter-panel bin and now it works with the central locking system on the key fob. On the downside, though, it takes away nominal payload; limits tonneau, rack or shell use; and the fenders tend to get messed up by things being dragged in and out of the RamBox. Of course, your cab has more usable storage space, but these storage bins are integrated into the bed and are a handy place to put things like tire chains and tow straps.

 

10. A Real Sliding Rear Window

10 Drop Window II

One of our favorite "non-box" pickup features is the Tundra's vertical drop-down sliding rear window; we're mildly surprised no one has copied it. Well-sealed, defrostable and without hurting rear visibility, the electric rear window completely opens to the outside when retracted, making it easier for kids to crawl through into the bed or back into the cab. When matched with a sunroof, it offers the most open-air experience you can have in a pickup since the Dakota offered a convertible (and don't forget about the Chevy SSR).

 

Comments

Some very good ideas here. i personally dont care for the Ram box because it narrows the bed too far for me but guaranteed someone thinks its the best thing since sliced bread! under rail lighting is an awesome idea! with a tonneau cover if it doesnt have a light the cargo lamp doesnt do much good. i LOVE the idea of built in gooseneck, no way could an aftermarket beat that! I will totally agree with number 10! The deck rail system in the bed is another great one, i use mine much more oftent than the lower fixed tiedown points. One of my absolute favorite things about my truck is in the summer being able to open all 4 windows, my moonroof, and drop my back window! The wind inside the cab isnt turbulant at all making it a wonderful time to just cruise!

I also don't care for the Rambox, I could not get my ATV in the bed with that. I would like a centered anchor point that I can attach my winch to (rather than the side). Also, how about a hydraulic dump option? That might be tough for beds fitted with a 5th wheel or gooseneck receiver.

I think all pickups should come standard with a spray in liner, even the manufactures that offer it very few seem to actually come with it. Nothing like having to take a brand new truck down to joe smoes to have the paint in the bed sanded up to apply a spray on line and hope they do it right.

@Alex and hemi lol
Don't be so quick to criticize the rambox. If you don't like the rambox there are models that have a regular bed too. They realized that it would narrow the bed and that's why they continue to offer both options. What is significant about it is it was the first to attempt to utilize the space on the sides of the bed.

I hate the Rambox too. If I was a tester I would take points off for it in the shootouts/reviews because Ram likes to put the Rambox on all of its test trucks.

@Mick
Well it's a good thing your not a tester then. I personally wouldn't buy the rambox either, but to say that it detracts from the truck when it's an OPTION is completely ridiculous.

The whole point is the rambox is not useful for people who need the bed space for ATV's etc, but it is highly useful for people who go camping or tailgating frequently.

@ HEMI MONSTER, Ford offered a toolbox integrated into the right bed side in the 70's (maybe even late 60's, not sure). And the Titan has a similar setup behind the left rear wheel. the Ram Box is definitely the better execution to date though.

Back in about 1966 Ford had a bed side storage box, GM had it way back as well, then Chevy brought the bed side storage back with the Avalanche, (It was moved from the lower passenger side of the bed to the rail.) now Ram followers would like people to think they invented it.

"I also don't care for the Rambox, I could not get my ATV in the bed with that. "

How big is your ATV? I put my Quad and dirt bike in the back of my truck. The ram box may make that a tougher fit bit I'm sure it could be done. Maybe my utilizing space comes from the many small and midsize trucks I've had in the past.

Pet peeve of mine. Tie downs tie downs tie downs. It took the industry WAY to long to realize people like to secure the cargo they are carrying. I would have thought that would have been a given but so many of my former trucks didn't have them. Nissan finally got got a clue when they came out with the Titan. Sadly the Titan is pretty much the same as when it was first released. Fortunately it seems like it will be getting some love again soon.

The best feature to me is the taller bed sides that started on the F-150. You can load more items securely and you can load up big and bulky items under a closed tonneau cover.

@hauling
Actually the tall F150 bed sides are a subtle form of height discrimination. Short guys like me can't reach into the bed from the sides while tall guys can. I'm surprised Ford hasn't gotten sued over it

@Scout, I have the Polaris Sportsman Touring 850 86.5" long x 47.6" wide. I am pretty sure it's too big for Rambox models. Even if it did fit in a tight squeeze, that just makes loading and unloading even more dangerous, so I am just not really interested in getting the Rambox anyway.

@Midget, get a midsize with a flat bed!

@midget, "Actually the tall F150 bed sides are a subtle form of height discrimination. Short guys like me can't reach into the bed from the sides while tall guys can. I'm surprised Ford hasn't gotten sued over it."

Discrimination?? Really?? Maybe you should sue the aftermarket companies who make lift kits too.

how about a 24v/12v power outlet in the bed? that would be cool!

For MY use and IMHO:

1. Integrated Kingpin Hitches--don't care, but like the in box RV plugs for truck campers
2. Dual-Swing Tailgate--sounds cool, but wonder how robust they are and how heavy
3. Under-Bed Storage--totally dumb if it houses the spare
4. The Bumper Step--I actually like this
5. Tailgate Step--dumb
6. Spray-In Bedliner--must have
7. Bed Utility--must have; I even miss the old cleats on the outside of the bed
8. Bed Lighting--I really like this
9. External Locking Storage--I think the Rambox is totally dumb for the reasons listed; I do like the quarter panel boxes, however.
10. A Real Sliding Rear Window--while I love my Tundra, and the feature is cool, not sure I would actually pay much more to add it (only available on CrewMax anyhow)

My favorites not listed:
--shock assisted tailgate
--120v outlet in bed

In many cases factory options are better than aftermarket. Integration and fit/finish tends to be superior.

@Lou
I think that's true for the most part. The integrated hitches are one thing where I would rather have aftermarket, solely because the people that make hitches have been making them so much longer than the automaker. The companies that design hitches put a lot of money and research into developing something that provides the optimal towing experience. Just because a truck maker offers an integrated solution, doesn't mean it's going to be the best option. On the other hand it's nice having to not drill holes in the bed of a brand new truck.

If any of the domestics put a manual transmission and the slide down rear window from the tundra on the options list, I would buy two!

@S10 fan

I'm an old S10 fan too! Liked your 110 volt idea a LOT! Also love my sprayed in liner. Had plastic liners in the past.

Before there were plastic liners I used to use a sheet of 5/8ths marine plywood soaked in sealant. They would get funky looking after a few years but they never rotted out.

Spray liner rules!

I HATE the deep boxes on trucks now! If you reach over the side of the truck to lift something out you have to stand on your tip toes and wallow the side of the bed to reach the bed floor! That aint too good when the truck is dirty! If you want innovation then lower the dang sides so we can reach into the bed without a silly step!

Do US manufacturers give the option of a flat bed on a 1/2 ton or a Pickup bed is the only thing sold?

I agree lower the bed sides again it's pain.

@Robert Ryan You can order 3/4 and 1 ton trucks with a box delete, so you can choice an aftermarket flat bed/utility bed. I am not sure if you can order it that way with half ton trucks though.

I like that slide down window in the Tundra and I like the composite bed in the Tacoma. I would like to see more anchors in the bed--a pair of anchors midway in the bed in addition to front and back. I also like full gauges in a truck--amps, temperature, and also a tachometer. Heated seats and steering wheels are also nice in any vehicle.

I liked the Avalanche style covers (or covers period). I think that was a great thing and I am really hoping the Canyon/Colorado have that as an optional add on.

How can you make a list of top bed features and not mention the Chevy Avalanche? The reconfigurable bed with a mid-gate was probably one of the most innovative designs to ever hit the market. It had bed lighting, bumper steps with hand holds, bed side storage, had the ability to either be a short or full 8' bed, your loads could be in the open or under full cover. It could even double as a fully covered place to sleep when enjoying the outdoors!

Out of that list, here are my favorites.

1) Spray in liner. It adds strength to the thinner metal beds.
2) Cargo lighting. Very handy at night!
3) Corner bumper step. Nice idea.

What I don't like.

1) Roll down rear window. I like to load long boards through the sliding rear window in our 150 Platinum from time to time. They have to lay on the window base and often run up to the dash. I then close the window as far as I can when it's cold or raining. I couldn't do that with this window. You can't lay boards or weight on that glass. I wouldn't even use it then and if that's the case, I'd rather have a solid back window like my SD has. Less stuff to break.

2) I hate our tailgate step. It rattles. I do agree that trucks should have lower bedsides again. 3/4-1 ton trucks will always sit up higher but still.

3) Rambox. I guess it's a nice option but I'd never want it. Takes up too much space as mentioned.

4) Gooseneck should be left for the aftermarket.

5) Swing open tailgate? Stupid. Try opening that in a tight space. And what if I carry long boards and need the length? Can't drop the gate. Just a dumb idea all around.


Other goodies I like are the 110 in the bed as mentioned above. About the coolest bed idea I recall seeing was on an old Chevy truck but I don't remember what. It had a door on the side of the bed up towards the cab you could drop and load/unload cargo from at waist height. Old school Chevrolet really nailed their trucks back then.

@Matt, it was also uglier than even the Aztek was. That first Avalanche should have been aborted. That thing was Scary Ugly! This 900 model looked sweet though. Better than the 900 Silverado.

@ ford trucks1

Dude have even looked at how the tundra window works? what do you mean you can sit boards on the glass? what part of it rolls all the way down did you not read? My window COMPLETELY disapears which means i would be sitting boards on the window sill not the glass..........

@ HEMI MONSTER

reread what i wrote....... I wasnt knocking the ram because of the ram box. i know they make them without. I merely said the rambox wasnt something i liked, thats all. you said yourself you wouldnt pick it, i just agree. i'm not knocking the truck because of a bed option.

Fordtrucks1

Are you a moron? The feature was clearly labeled "DUAL-swing tailgate". Do you know what the word "dual" means? It opens the traditional way AND it can swing outwards. Either learn to read or shut your mouth.

I like the tailgate step on my truck. Arthritic joints make it almost a necessity.
Tie-down systems are a must in current model trucks since the box rails have gotten more flimsy.
The behind the fender storage compartment is okay as long as you don't bang it up or let the seals wear out. All of the trucks I ever say "back in the day" with them got damaged, or leaked and/or rusted out.
I'd stay away from the Ram box since it narrows the box, limits the ability to load cargo across the box top, makes cargo racks more expensive and kills the option of canopies/caps. The other negative is that one can't really put anything heavy or awkward in them because you can risk damaging the box sides with sloppy loading or unloading. Chains, tow cables, hilift jacks etc. can all be awkward items to lift to the level of the bin opening.
The corner cut out like on the Silverado is okay but mud and snow will get into it. I also do not like the fact that car companies are making the bumpers more and more flimsy with less metal.

LMAO @ the GIRLY GIRL MAN STEP.

The worst feature for me is the taller bed sides on the truck. No longer can I simply reach over the rail and grab something like my bowling ball bag (two 15# balls plus shoes and gear) and simply lift it out. Now I have to climb into the bed or use a cargo bar to keep it from sliding forward from the tailgate when I go bowling. I'm not the sort to try and carry even a half-cubic yard of mulch, dirt, etc. in my truck.

I do like that sliding window and the extended cab, though. (In fact, I'd count the extended cab as the #1 feature, but it's not a bed feature, and neither should the window.)

@FordTrucks1 The Chevy corvair rampside is what you're thinlomg of from the 60-early 70s. https://www.google.com/search?q=chevy+corvair+rampside&safe=off&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=IuOjUvTPDpO5kQfakICQAQ&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAQ&biw=1099&bih=614

As other folks pointed out you misread some things.

@Lou BC Yes mud ice could build up but can be kick or hit out the steps. Reinforcement brackets have been added to bumpers, but I agree I want to see stronger bumpers with the reinforcement brackets.

thinking*

The thing I would love most added to new trucks is a real front bumper you can stand on to do work in the engine bay. My father f150 is prefect example, the oil dip is far back and deep down, I need a 5 gallon bucket to stand on to even reach it easily. If I had a bumper to stand or even put my knee on it be lot easier job to do when changing the oil.

Johnny I forgot who makes it but they do have bumper steps that attach to the front tow hooks to make it easier for checking under the hood.

The best thing on this list that I love is the spray in bedliner. If you own a Chevy then you know how well it does to hold the super fragile thin sheet metal together.

Ford had a dual swinging tailgate on its wagons back in the 70's so who did it first???

Johnny doe is a dwarf, figure's dwarf=troll.

Brian Thomas aka "johnny doe".

http://www.lasvegassun.com/blogs/kats-report/2013/apr/05/kouts-customs-takes-little-spin-brian-thomas-his-t/

@Lou BC--The arthritis only gets worse with age, anything that will help you reach into the bed of a truck with a little less aches is a plus.

What I would like to see is a 10' long box . Keep the longer wheelbase and a regular cab . Not for the weekend users but for pros who need a tool box and still be able to carry 4x8 goods .
Not a big seller I know but would make a nice option.

With the newer trucks being popular amongst mostly the geriatric crowd that still has money to buy them, they had to put in all those steps and hand rails so all the old timers could get into the bed.

Sorry, I'll take a drop in bed liner each and every time over a spray in. They're sturdier, they don't fade in the sun, you don't have to ever 'redo' them, rain and snow roll right off them and cargo is Far easier to load and unload. I'm not sanding down the paint on my new truck just so I can re-coat it with something else. I did a spray in liner once. Never again.

The corner cut out like on the Silverado is okay but mud and snow will get into it. I also do not like the fact that car companies are making the bumpers more and more flimsy with less metal.

@Lou, right on. That bumper will have to be replaced a half dozen times over the next 10 years. Care to guess how much that'll cost? Those 900 Silverado bumpers have got to be the thinnest, flimsiest pieces of sheet metal Chevy ever called a bumper. Pretty pathetic on a truck. I don't trust the new one after seeing how those held up. And you're right, mud and snow will pack those corners rendering them useless. It's a lawsuit waiting to happen. Chevrolet is just too cheap to do it properly. Look at those rear bedsides above the tires on the 900 Chevy's and you'll see and ocean's worth of waves. That's how thin of crap Chevy calls Like A Rock these days. No way would I stand on it. Just wait till rust fatigue sets in. And it will on a Chevy.

Chevy should bring back the "like a rock" slogan. Rocks don't move unless you push them :)

I agree on the flimsy bumpers, unfortunately this seems to be the direction pickups are going to as cars have gone. Plastic cover over a styrofoam bumper more damage and more expensive to repair and replace The only good thing is that the bumpers don't rust, but at least give me the option of a steel painted bumper.

@BrianL

All the manufacturers are heading towards thin sheet metal and tin bumpers for weight reduction to increase required fuel mileage. Dents become the consumers or insurance companies problem once the truck is sold....get used to it or buy old trucks

The Ram Box is probably one of the best things to happen to trucks since wheels.

-Far too many people have opinions on things they have no idea about. Opinions are like a$$ holes, everyone has one and they all stink.
-Ram Box offers tons of room to store tools, straps, shovels, and a lot of beer and ice. And it can be LOCKED.
-Loss of bed space is a non-issue, the storage is basically space above the wheel well that really isn't used with a standard bed.
-Large ATV? I can fit my fatty Arctic Cat 700 H1 with no issue (without removing bed rails). Look at my pic for proof:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/bvbwmrjzus7j2r7/Ram%20Box.JPG

-If you want to put a topper on a truck bed then you might as well buy a suburban and let real men drive trucks without them.



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