The Ultimate Truck

By Christian Schauf

Camo, politics and trucks. Can you think of anything dudes get more butt-hurt about?  

Oh well, here we go. I’m going to tell you why I think the 2018-2020 Ford Raptor, with a few inexpensive additions, is the most capable, most adaptable, and relatively affordable vehicle money can buy. You’re mad already, aren’t you, Chevy guy?  

2019 Ford Raptor: I paid $67,000 brand new. Prices range from 50-60k for a truck with 40-50k miles.

Here’s what I love about the 2019-2020: This is the last year before the new model. Yes, the new model has a new rear suspension (more on that later) and a bigger touch screen, but the 2019 has all the bugs worked out. In fact, in 85,000 miles, the only issue I’ve had with my raptor was a broken sunroof track, which oddly occurred after a week of elk hunting up trails designated for ATVs only. Overall the Raptor has been as reliable as any vehicle I’ve ever owned, and you can pick one up fairly cheap these days as the new model is pushing prices down.  

As for the rest of the Raptor’s benefits, they are well documented. Skid plates. Ecoboost that over my lifetime has been a combined 18 mpg, multiple driving modes, heated seats and steering wheel, Fox active-valve shocks, and the list goes on. Sometimes I forget it’s an F-150.  

Lights: $750

If there’s a weak point in this truck for my mountain-dwelling life, it’s the lighting.   After one too many close calls with elk crossing in front of me from an uphill location and big snowflakes making visibility the only thing slowing me down, I got serious about lighting. 

I installed six cube lights from in the open spots in the front bumper (pro tip: amber is scientifically proven to provide more visibility when in snowy or foggy conditions, so have at least 2 of these). A 30-inch light bar from Rough Country that sits behind the grill fixes the problem. Not only are these simple, bolt-on additions you can do in a few hours, but the rocker switches built into the Raptor feature wiring that exits out of the passenger side of the engine compartment, eliminating any drilling and wiring. 

All in, you’ve added over 35,000 lumens that’ll, as one old guy at a gas station told me, “burn the hair off a bobcat at 1,000 yards.” 

Tune: $1200. 

A COBB Stage 1 Tune gives you another 25 horsepower and smoother shifting via a quick ECM flash and new air intake. It allows you to modify pedal control, run lower octane fuels at the touch of a button, and more.  Not necessary, but nice.

DECKED Bed Storage System $1400

If you’re anything like me, half the fun of having your truck is also having all of your stuff. I’m not kidding, I have everything from a survival kit to a pack raft to whatever gear is required for the season I’m in, all tucked into the Decked system. In the fall, one drawer is set up to hold my bow, binos, kill kit, arrows and more, thereby eliminating the space-eating bow case you’d typically use. In the winter, I’ve got snowshoes, blankets, shovels, and more.  Everything stays dry, locks when you lock your truck doors, and the platform is so sturdy, you can stack a baby elephant on top and the drawers still pull out with a smooth sexual quality. 

The downside of the decked system is that if you’re a tonneau cover guy, it only leaves a pickup bed that’s only 6 inches deep, which led me to my next purchase. 

RSI SmartCap $4,295 

It took me a long time to pull the trigger on this topper. Now I can’t imagine a truck without it. I’ve slept in the back on many hunts, put my dog back there when he’s danced too close with a skunk. I have a truck bed soft carpet cover on top of the Decked system, and LED lights lining both sides and across the back, making it more like a little room for little people than a pickup bed. The side windows open so my dog can take in all the smells and the Decked system puts him at perfect height. The side windows open up, providing a micro-canopy in wet weather, and the negative flow air vent keeps dust out when you’re spending hours on dirt roads. 

The downside is that the RSI and Decked system were a bit heavy, so I added some springs all the way around.

Geiser Progressive Rate Springs $600 

Added to the front end, these were a game changer. They suck up chatter better than stock, while also making the big holes disappear.  Icon Multi-Rate Rear Leaf Springs, which I had set on level 3, were maybe even more impressive than the front springs. If the Raptor had one personality flaw off the showroom floor, it was the tendency to let the backend drift in chatter and whoops. More times than I care to admit, I’d find myself drifting across a dirt road, losing more control than I’d hoped due to the springs lack of flex. The new springs (and likely plus the added weight in back) almost completely eliminated this. Now, the truck tracks straight, holds a line and maintains control in nearly every scenario. 

A/T Tires $1400

Of course none of this matters if you aren’t well connected to the ground. Falken Wildpeak A/T3W tires have proven tough and reliable weather highway speeds, deep snowy mornings or wet rocky trail climbs. Quiet, grippy and even a 55k mile warranty make these a far superior choice over the soft, and quickly deteriorating BF Goodrich KO2’s which come stock. 

Your opinion likely varies from mine, but I’ll put this rig up against anything in terms of value, everyday practicality and performance.  

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