Rock Solid Industries have brought their Smart Canopy from South Africa. Did I make a smart choice?
Canopies, canopies, canopies. There are dozens and dozens to choose from. What makes a good one? What makes a bad one? They all effectively do the same job, right? Well, yeah. They turn a dirt hauler into a touring machine. They provide protection from the elements and security from those who think your things are also theirs. However, a breed of canopy that is a little different has recently hit our shores. Something a lot more practical than the humble fibreglass canopy that once adorned most utes.
South Africa provides Australia with many pieces of off-road engineering and why shouldn’t it? It shares a lot in common with us when it comes to off-road touring. South African manufacturers have gone a little left-of-centre; a number of brands have produced something that does away with the aesthetically targeted, city-dwelling canopy, instead providing practical, robust and quality products for the off-road market.
My last vehicle had a reputable steel canopy that I tried to make a little more functional. I stripped out the lining, installed a gullwing box and upgraded the roof rack mounting. But it just wasn’t quite right. On a Fraser trip, the mounting brackets bent and sent the canopy into the cab, the roof rack pulled the mounting track out and the rubber seals wore through the paint. So, for the new vehicle, I went on the hunt for something better. Something with optional accessories. Something I could fit more stuff in.
Here was my must-have list:
- A robust mounting system
- Gullwing storage
- Large side access
- Good dust sealing
- Reasonable weight
- Cool accessories
After a little searching (it didn’t take long, I could only find three brands), I chose the RSi Smart Canopy. Why?
It’s built from stainless steel, weighs about 80kg and comes flat-packed (like your favourite furniture store) in five pieces. This modular design does away with welds and uses bolts to bring it all together, eliminating the possibility of welds fatiguing. The roof is fitted with a standard aluminium channel for mounting a range of standard roof rack systems, that is securely bolted (not riveted) to the canopy roof.
All of the doors use heavy-duty rubber that create a dust-proof seal, while any metal edges are covered in pinch weld. The attention to detail is second to none.
My favourite part, one that is severely lacking in the market, is the mounting system. RSi have done away with the clamps that wrap around the (weak) lip of the tub. Solid 3mm steel brackets mount the canopy securely to the tub tie-down points, preventing any possibility of the canopy moving or ‘spreading’ the tub.
RSi not only produce the canopy, but have gone a step further to produce integrated accessories such as a gullwing kitchen, drop-down table slide, side windows and a side-loading roof rack. They will also customise the colouring of the doors and the canopy itself based on what the customer is after.
To break up what would be a refrigerator on wheels, I chose matte black doors, a full gullwing box to house my electrical panel and more sensitive items. I also grabbed the drop-down table; it sounded like a good idea to make use of the dead space in the ceiling of the canopy. Unfortunately, lighting isn’t included in the price of the canopy as I would have expected, but it is available as an accessory.
Another advantage of the modular design means adding other accessories later is a simple process and doesn’t require a trip back to the manufacturer.
As I mentioned, the canopy comes in five pieces that all bolt together. If you’re a regular DIYer, it’s a simple install. Each of the sections seal with pre-installed tape, and it’s just a matter of threading nuts on the captured bolts. Once that’s done, lure a mate or two with some beer to lift the canopy on and bolt it down. I did have to cut some plastic away from my tub liner to fit the brackets, but no biggie.
It’s a cracking canopy; through the very smart modular design, RSi have developed a functional yet reliable unit. The construction is second to none and the attention to detail is exceptional. Although some may prefer luxuries like central locking, this canopy is built with one purpose in mind – off-road touring, and for that, they have nailed it! Absolutely, this is the smart choice!
The good bits:
- Easy to build and install
- Huge amount of space
- Dust sealing second to none
- Excellent roof rack mounting system
- Bomb proof construction
- Huge gullwing doors for access
The bad bits:
- No central locking
- Tub liner needs modification
- No included lighting
- 70 Series
PRICE AS PICTURED:
- Canopy: $3520
- Table: $400
- Gullwing Box: $310
- WEIGHT: 4/5
- CONSTRUCTION: 5/5
- EASE OF USE: 5/5
- FUNCTIONALITY: 5/5
- OVERALL: 4.5/5