If you’re a Tacoma owner looking to upgrade your truck’s camping capabilities, then listen up. I recently installed the RSI smartcap Evo with the optional kitchen setup on my 2017 Toyota Tacoma, and let me tell you – it was a game changer.
As someone who loves overlanding and spending weekends deep in the backcountry, having a built-in camper that’s optimized for the Tacoma platform has been an absolute dream.
In this article, I’ll walk you through my experience with the smartcap system, the pros and cons I’ve discovered so far, and whether or not I think it’s worth the investment for your Taco. With prices starting around $4,000 for a bed capsetup, it’s not an insignificant purchase, so you’ll want real-world feedback before pulling the trigger.
So, in short:
- The aerodynamic shape and dark color integrates almost seamlessly with the Tacoma’s exterior look. It doesn’t appear tacked on.
- Accessibility from the three doors is excellent. Reaching cargo in the bed is easy, even through the gullwingdoors. I’d recommend using some kind of platform storage like Decked, especially on lifted off-road trucks.
- Construction quality and materials are top-notch overall. Attention was paid to weatherproofing.
The optional kitchen setup transforms your truck into a roadside galley for cooking and eating meals. Storage layout is well-planned.
- Manual door locks (6 in total) and lack of propane tank storage are two inconvenient oversights in the design.
- While being almost perfect, the smartcap Evo significantly improves upon a regular camper shell with its kitchen amenities and three-sided accessibility.
“I’ve put this system through its paces on rugged forest roads, sandy beaches, and rocky terrain, so you can trust me when I say it transforms your Taco into a go-anywhere camper”.
If you’re on the fence about upgrading your truck’s sleeping and storage capabilities, read on to discover if the smartcap is the right solution for your needs and budget.
The Design of Smart Cap Evo VS Tacoma
The smartcap is designed to seamlessly integrate with the body lines of the Tacoma. It’s painted in a soft black/dark gray color that complements the truck’s exterior color without being too bold or flashy. The camper has an aerodynamic shape that doesn’t create additional road noise or look outdated.
I’ve been impressed with how the smooth, rounded corners stay relatively clean even when driving on dusty backroads. Perhaps the dark color hides dust well. Overall, the smartcap has a modern, sophisticated look for a camper shell. It aligns cleanly with the bed sides and doesn’t appear bulky or tacked on.
“The curvy shell adds a nice touch to the Tacoma’s straight and boxy shape. For anyone looking to upgrade their truck’s camping abilities without detracting from the exterior aesthetics, I think the smartcap is an excellent option. Its low profile and SUV-like silhouette integrate seamlessly with the trucks’s design”.
Features & Build Quality of RSI Smartcap Evo
The smartcap is built with excellent attention to detail. The gas struts make opening and closing the rear door effortless, although they could potentially interfere with an awning mounted on the side of the camper. The aerodynamic shape prevents dirt and debris from entering the truck bed while driving offroad.
“So far I haven’t experienced any moisture leaks around the windows, but RSI does offer replacement weatherstripping if needed”.
There is an air intake vent on the roof that creates positive pressure inside the camper to further deter dust and water ingress. The roof rails are securely integrated and can’t be swapped out for taller versions. The third brake light is placed in the SUV manner. The supplied load bars are very similar to the Front Runner bars, but have slighltly different mounting (It’s possible to customize them). Overall, the materials and components used in the smartcap appear durable and built to last.
Locks & Security
The gull-wing side doors each have two lock points that require manually locking with a key. It would be convenient if RSI integrated the locks to connect with the factory power door locks, allowing everything to open with the truck’s key fob.
Having to unlock all six lock points every time seems excessive for a modern vehicle. I wish the smartcap had more seamless integration with the Tacoma’s digital key and power lock system. As it stands, you need to unlock each door separately with an old-fashioned manual key, which feels outdated. While the dual lock points make the camper very secure, it also makes accessing your gear more cumbersome.
“Observation: RSI could improve the convenience factor by linking the camper doors to the Tacoma’s central locking system. This would allow you to pop open all entry points at once with the press of a button. Easy, keyed access is essential for an aftermarket cap in my opinion”.
The smartcap provides excellent accessibility to the truck bed even with the camper installed. It has large doors on three sides that allow me to easily reach into the bed from various angles. I’m 5’9″ and my Tacoma has a 3″ lift, so everything is within arm’s reach for me.
“With my Decked drawer system installed, I can access my gear from the sides or back of the truck without any issues”.
However, those with a bigger lift kit and no organized storage may find it more difficult to reach into the bed from the smartcap’s side doors. But for my overland purposes, I’ve been very impressed with the straightforward access into the bed area. It feels almost like having an open pickup with how simple it is to load and unload through the camper.
The Smartcap Kitchen Setup
The smartcap’s Evo kitchen option is an excellent addition for anyone wanting to cook and eat on the road. It transforms the side windows into a fully functioning kitchen galley. The cabinet contains three main storage sections – glasses on the left, a fold-down stove in the middle, and space for appliances and cookware on the right.
“I’ve found the glassware section to be a bit larger than needed, leaving less room to stack pots and pans. However, the new 2023 Smartcap Evo Sport model apparently reconfigured this layout for more cookware storage”.
One downside is that the stove itself can’t be fully removed to use on a separate table. But again, the 2023 model may address this limitation. Overall, having a built-in kitchen makes cooking on the road dramatically easier and more organized. The smartcap galley is thoughtfully designed for real-world use.
Cons: Despite the well-planned layout, there is no dedicated spot to store spare propane tanks in the kitchen itself. This seems like an oversight that forces you to stow extra fuel somewhere else in the truck. The kitchen would benefit from a propane tank storage cradle or closet.
Also, making the stove removable in older models would add needed versatility. But even as-is, the smartcap kitchen setup far surpasses my previous chaotic approach of stashing cookware in plastic totes.
Overall Pros & Cons I Observed on my Tacoma
- Sleek, aerodynamic design integrates seamlessly with Tacoma’s exterior look
- Excellent accessibility from multiple doors
- Well-constructed with high quality materials and components
- Gas struts make opening/closing hatch door very easy
- Sturdy modular stainless steel construction which looks more durable than fiberglass
- With 770 lbs capacity it’s will easily hold a rooftop tent
- Air intake vent creates positive pressure to deter dust and moisture
- Kitchen option transforms truck into full cooking galley
- Kitchen has designated storage for cookware, appliances, glassware
- Stove flips down to convenient cooking height
- Cutting board slides out below stove for prep space
- Comes with a 3rd brake light for additional safety
- Integrated roof rails limit customization options
- Manual door locks are cumbersome and outdated
- Kitchen glassware section larger than needed
- No built-in space to store spare propane tanks
- Stove not removable on older models
- Locking/unlocking each door separately is tedious
- Can’t be opened from the inside
- You need to do good calculation if you want to level the roof racks above the cab and the truck cap.
Installation Tips on RSI Caps
Some precautions and things to keep in mind when installing the RSI SmartCap based on the installation instructions provided.
- Ensure that the truck bed is clean and free of debris before installation.
- Be careful when handling the SmartCap to avoid scratching or denting it.
- Use caution when installing the gas struts to avoid injury.
- Ensure that the latch cover is properly installed to prevent water from entering the SmartCap.
- Install the weatherstripping and tailgate seal properly to prevent water from entering the truck bed.
- Make sure the assembly block bolts are within torque specification and check them every 3-4 months to ensure they properly tightened (I suggest doing it, even though mine didn’t have any problems)
For Tacoma owners like myself who want to enhance their truck’s camping capacities without sacrificing bed access or exterior styling, the RSI smartcap is an excellent option worth considering.
While being almost perfect (I think it’s pricey), the overall construction, clever design features, and versatility of the smartcap system won me over during my months of testing.
Minor gripes aside, the smartcap took my typical truck camping setup to the next level. So if you’re looking to upgrade your Tacoma’s sleeping quarters and storage abilities for overlanding or weekend getaways, I highly recommend you take a closer look at what the smartcap has to offer. It just may be the truck bed camper you’ve been searching for.
Matt is a professional mechanic, experienced off-roader, writer and founder of Offroadium. With over 15 years immersed in the off-road community and 100,000+ miles logged on rugged trails across the Americas, Grabli shares extensive real-world knowledge. He previously worked as an automotive technician before shifting focus to specialty off-road projects. His passion is prepping capable rigs for off-roading and helping others to build the 4x4s of their dreams.