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We buy a lot of things at the spur of a moment and some of that stuff we never actually use, so it was really a waste of money. Other times we get something and soon wonder how we ever managed to do without it. You never know what it is that can make a difference in your life. For me it was something that few people have on top of their wish list: a retractable tonneau cover for my truck.

See, I had always wanted a truck, but when I finally got one I found myself using it less than I expected. It gets decent gas mileage, so that wasn't it. The problem was that I was a nervous wreck every time I parked the truck with something on the bed. Nobody's going to steal a load of 2 x 4s or a few sacks of cement, but I don't haul around construction materials most of the time. I got the truck in part because I wanted to be able to haul stuff when I needed to, but I really just wanted a truck. I planned on using it to commute to work and also for our camping and diving trips.

I quickly found that I hadn't been thinking this through. A long weekend's worth of camping gear had to be secured to keep it from flying off, and I didn't dare to leave the truck unattended on the way to the campground. I also found there was no way I was going to leave our scuba gear on the bed. We're technical divers and the gear we take on a dive trip costs probably ten grand. There's no way I could leave that on a truck bed.

This is when I came across retractable tonneau covers. I saw one installed on a truck at my dealership and wondered why I had never thought of it before. Basically, it is a roll top cover for the bed of the truck. It rolls up and retracts into a small box that mounts behind the rear windshield. Truck tonneaus come in a variety of styles. Some you open and close manually, others have sort of a jackrabbit system with a spring in it, so they retract automatically and you can pull them open with a string. Some are full metal and very sturdy so they can take a beating.

When you install a tonno you essentially add a huge trunk to your truck. You can still use it as a truck as the small box takes away hardly any space, but you can now stow gear away out of site under the bedlocker. This way it's protected from weather, wind and prying eyes. There's a heavy-duty lock, and you can even get one with a remote control.

Do tonnes cost a lot and are they hard to install? No and no. My full-metal Jackrabbit didn't even cost half as much as the GPS option on my truck. I installed it myself and it took me less than an hour. You don't have to drill holes or anything; it just clamps on.

Having the retractable tonneau cover has made a huge difference. I no longer feel like I have to unload everything when I park somewhere. We now take the truck on our weekend trips, which is roomier and more comfortable, and it's great to know that our gear is secure. I even noticed a slight improvement in gas mileage on long trips, but that's just an extra bonus.

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