Introduction: Chuck Box - Camp Kitchen

Picture of Chuck Box - Camp Kitchen

Problem: I want to go car camping but, don't have an organized way of dealing with cooking, eating and cleanup besides several cardboard boxes full of camp stuff that I don't know what it is. In other words, I'm starting from scratch. The last thing I want is to get the camp site and spend time digging through piles of stuff to cook a meal. I think you know where I'm coming from.

Solution: Create a portable storage container for camping related eating, cooking and cleanup tasks that:
1. fits in the bed of my pickup.
2. folds down for easy storage.
3. expands at the camp site to provide more work space.
4. contains all the basic eating, cooking and cleanup equipment.
5. built from common on-hand materials and keep costs to a minimum.
and lastly,
6. stores easily at home ready for the next adventure.

Too good to be true? well let's give it a shot. This is a prototype version and depending on how it performs out in the field, may go through some changes.

I've attached a working drawing with dimensions that work for me. You may need to alter them to fit your needs. Good luck!

Difficulty scale: Depending on your carpentry skills, I'm rating this a 6 out of 10.

Step 1: Design - the Box

Picture of Design - the Box

I spent quite a bit of time thinking about the best design that works for me. I found many good designs on the net and borrowed features from some and added many of my own. You may not like this design so feel free to change anything you like.

Design Criteria:
1. must fit stove and all cook/clean gear
2. must maximize storage space for large and small items.
3. must maximize working counter space.
4. must hold fresh and wash water containers.

The Box:
The 2 top panels fold out and are supported by the swing out doors. The doors double as storage space for cleaning and condiment items. I added bungees to the doors to keep things from rattling around. The large storage compartment has adjustable shelves as does the right compartment. Nesting cooking components saves space and the flip out door design allows easy access to all components.

Step 2: Design - the Stand

Picture of Design - the Stand

Given that the deign of the box would probably not allow it to collapse with equipment inside, the stand had to fold down.

1. I used door hinges with removable pins to allow the 2 halves of the stand to attach and detach to each other.
2. Sections that were removed from each side to make the stand lighter were reused for fold down shelves.
3. The back cut out had movable legs attached to rest across the horizontal supports.
4. Supports for a free standing beach umbrella were added for sun shading.
5. The inside dimensions of the stand fit the outside dimensions of the box so that  the box nests inside the stand against the stops.

Step 3: Building - the Box

Picture of Building - the Box

Top, sides, divider, and bottom: 3/4" Swedish plywood.
Back and internal adjustable shelving: 1/8" tempered Masonite board.
Doors: 3/4" plywood frame, 1/8" Luan mahogany skin, closet door hinges.
Handles: recessed road case hinges (1/2" of side had to be routed out so the handle fit flush)
Top fold out counter: 3/4" Swedish plywood, piano hinges recessed.

-Take care to measure everything carefully!  Measure twice, cut once.
-The box has1-1/2" screws were driven through the top and bottom to hold the sides. I used bar clamps to hold everything during assembly. There was no glue used on this project.
-Prefit the doors before assembling the box. The doors should be made a little bit shorter than the opening so they will swing out easily. I used small pieces of scrap pine for the door latches and stop.
-I cut extra slots on the inside of the box to maximize adjustability of the shelves for the future should the contents change,
-The finish is natural pine with 2 coats of poly urethane.

Step 4: Building - the Stand

Picture of Building - the Stand

Sides: 3/4" Swedish plywood. Cutouts removed to reduce weight.
Hinges: Residential door hinges with removable pins. The original pins were replaced on 2 sets with large framing nails for easier assembly.
Fold Out Shelves: Cutouts were reused and mounted with dowel pins as hidden hinges. Fold out supports added.
Umbrella Stand: Scrap plywood with 1'1/2" pipe clamp. Top bracket is removable and attaches with small bolts and hidden crown nuts.

-Assemble 1 short and 1 long side together and leave them that way. Store them folded flat and secure the removable pins in the box for safe keeping.
-You can mark the pieces for easy assembly like top/front.

Step 5: Collapsed - Expanded

Picture of Collapsed - Expanded

Here are the finished photos of the Chuck box collapsed for storage and expanded ready for use.

I hope that this project inspires you to build your own chuck box. Or if you like, email me and I can build one for you.

Remember, measure carefully and prefit everything before assembly.

I'll be glad to answer any comments you have for me. Enjoy!

Step 6: Measured Drawing

Here's the measured drawing. You can alter any and all dimensions to suite your own taste. The measurements shown on this drawing are estimates and may differ slightly from the finished projects. I did not include all of the detail for the fold out shelves and support legs so I'm sure you can come up with your own measurements.


Let me know what you think in the comments and thanks to any of you who happen send me a badge.

The Toolman


max3dlee made it! (author)2017-05-09

I made a version of this last year. We use it often. I used some left over plexiglass from another project for the shelves. Added a drawer that goes above the stove and a french cleat type holder on the side for accessorizing. Great fun and extremely handy to have! Thanks!

rjessup (author)2017-03-23

how many sheets of 3/4 inch plywood did this take?

S0dyP0p (author)2017-03-13

The more I look at different designs, the more I like the top box design you've got with with swing-out doors supporting the leaves. I'm looking to copy that with more of a static store-in-the stand design. All those moving parts in the stand look taxing to my skill level but they look completely worth it on the top. Thanks for the thorough write-up and photos!

msqard2304 made it! (author)2016-07-11

Love the design. Just what I was looking for. Hoping my Boy Scout Troop will like it. Thanks for the plans.

ElizabethM130 (author)2016-06-17

Anyway you could make it more carry-friendly? I've seen some with poles on the sides for transport, but I don't know how to incorporate them into the design.

briankcurtis (author)2016-05-15

Great box, Toolman! I'm a bit less handy than you are, so I made my chuckbox by converting a craftsman toolbox. Would love to know what you think!

thetoolman (author)briankcurtis2016-05-16

Awesome!!! Sometimes I think that I Tend to over build things. Your project inspires me to keep my eye out for a used box like yours. Recycling the draws makes this 1st rate.

Great job.

The Toolman

briankcurtis (author)thetoolman2016-05-16


max3dlee (author)2016-04-14

I'm absolutely making this first weekend I have the time. My only concern is heat from the bottom of the stove. Is there any special care one should take?

scotth61 (author)max3dlee2016-04-15

Heat from the bottom of the stove really shouldn't be an issue. I've often used my Coleman camp stop on the top of a plastice folding table and it never even got warm. The metal on the stove acts as a shield, and heat rises anyway.

deswiger (author)2016-04-15

Some clear silicone in all the right places (keeping the inside water resistent) and I'm going to do this just for a storage / work platform for my BBQ grill on the porch. Saves running back & forth into the house for stuff, plus if we do go out into the bush, (or camping as the civi's say) it's ready to go. Nice job, thanks for the share! Semper Fi

wcgems (author)2016-04-14

Only change I would make would be to put the stove on the botton and move the boxes UP to keep the shelf from bowing. But its awesome.

crazypj (author)2016-02-11

Pretty cool your still monitoring build (even if it did take a while to get back to people ;) )

I've been 'designing' a fold up case for electronic/electrical stuff along similar lines to have everything in one place with a minimum footprint yet still be transportable. I think I'm going to re-design now so I can fit a 400w inverter for solder station or power supply and have an 'on site' electronics workstation with no need to run extension cords or start up generator

RichEW (author)2016-02-02

What do you estimate the total cost is?

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2012-09-19

This is just amazing! So much thought put into it and it really shows!

sorry for the late reply. thanks

Barbarianantho (author)2012-10-03

While i like the look and functionality of your stand, it's the only part i feel needs an improvement. Back when I went camping with scouts our chuck box hand simple legs made of, if i recall correctly, 2x4s placed into angled slots. while in itself this isn't an advantage, the benefit was that these same legs were placed into horizontal slots immediately above the angled ones to become handles to easily carry the box into camp.

sorry for the late reply. your right, that sounds simple. i probably would have done that in the early years but over time, my designs have become more complex, hense the folding base.

The object was to design a collapsible stand that would fold flat and store in about the same amount of room that the box took up. I'm sure that one might come up with a wide variety of different stand designs.

chrisdp (author)2012-11-25

Thanks Toolman. Really well thought out. I am inspired to reduce my own camping kitchen clutter.

thetoolman (author)chrisdp2015-11-02

sorry for the late reply. good luck.

bakdrft (author)2013-05-12

I can call myself an acomplished "wood-butcher" , My hat is off to you! Nice work!

thetoolman (author)bakdrft2015-11-02

sorry for the late reply. thanks

JDHerndon (author)2013-08-15

Toolman, I was searching for a better way to organize my camp gear when I came across this on youtube: I believe you may have been the originator of this design from the sound of your story. Not sure if you are aware of how your great design has caught on and reinvented. I too made your camp box and just now putting the finishing touches on it... a series of polyurethand coats to keep it safe should I forget to cover it when I retire for the night. I'll try to upload the pics and video this weekend.

thetoolman (author)JDHerndon2015-11-02

sorry for the late reply. good luck.

paolobertoncin (author)2014-04-10

really a good job and a good idea.... to make one!


sorry for the late reply. thanks

wheeljam (author)2014-06-02

Us Boy Scouts have been using things like this for many, many yrs. I believe we originally borrowed the design from the military. Back when the Boy Scouts were originally formed. It was a British military officer that formed the Boy Scouts in England.

thetoolman (author)wheeljam2015-11-02

sorry for the late reply. i think you are right.

csteigs (author)2014-08-06

This is brilliant. I needed a cook station that would fit in the back of my Tahoe that wouldn't take up so much space so I could stow the rest of my gear in with it, this is virtually the perfect solution

thetoolman (author)csteigs2015-11-02

sorry for the late reply. thanks

VentureScout (author)2014-08-26

Good Job, well thought out design

thetoolman (author)VentureScout2015-11-02

sorry for the late reply. thanks

mojoworkin1 (author)2014-11-29

Love this! Thanks for sharing! As I look at the plans for the base, I think I am going to attempt to build it with all the hinges in the corners intact and add two more hinges in the middle of the right and left sides so the sides can fold inwards and the whole box "flattens." Wish me luck!

thetoolman (author)mojoworkin12015-11-02

sorry for the late reply. good luck. like to see it when it's done.

LDSMITHII (author)2015-01-11

Do you have a materials list? How many sheets of plywood? Thanks

thetoolman (author)LDSMITHII2015-11-02

sorry for the late reply. no materials list. the drawing should help.

bjnaddell (author)2015-03-03

I'm looking to replicate yours, or something similar, great job! 1 Question, with all the 3/4" ply, what's it weigh? In other words, is it a 1-man lift, or 2-man?

thetoolman (author)bjnaddell2015-11-02

sorry for the late reply. it's heavy, one man can lift it but two is easier. try 1/2" ply.

whodathunk2 (author)2015-10-24

I think this is likely the best overall Camp Box design I've seen. For my own use, I don't think I'd use the base but, the enclosed box for travel, the side shelves, the open space around the stove when cooking, the storage inside the doors - all were obviously well thought out. Feel I have discovered a good next project here.

thetoolman (author)whodathunk22015-10-25

Thanks for your praise. I don't know if it's the best, but I did take some time to design it. It's a great project and feel free to improve on the design. I'd like to see it when you are done. Send me a link.

Thanks again,

The Toolman

builddoll (author)2012-08-06

Looks good! the only improvement I would make is to change the latches. I don't know how smart the raccoons are in your area but here they would open up that box in no time.On our camp box we have hasps with small biner clips to hold it shut and safe from raccoons. Otherwise great design!!

thetoolman (author)builddoll2012-10-13

Not a bad idea.

diyoutdoorsman (author)2012-08-02

Nicely done. How much does it weigh?

Well, the stand weighs about 10-15 lbs and the box 30-40 lbs. Depending on your situation, it could have been made of lighter materials, this is a prototype.

thetoolman (author)thetoolman2012-08-05

That's 30-40 lbs. full. less than 20lbs. empty.

warpspeed (author)thetoolman2012-08-05

Nice job! I built one years ago but I never thought of using hardboard to create movable shelves, that must save a lot of weight. Can you carry it loaded by yourself?

thetoolman (author)warpspeed2012-10-13

Barely, I use one of those collapsible hand carts from Costco.

atmooney (author)2012-08-04

Pretty cool idea! I like the "no rummage" part! I have two boxes of camp gear that I repack every time I camp, and never know where I put anything! This would solve that nicely! Well done!

thetoolman (author)atmooney2012-10-13

One more thing, when I store it for winter, I write an inventory of all the contents and tape it to the outside of the box. I'm getting forgetful sometimes.

About This Instructable




Bio: Alan Walker a.k.a. "The Toolman" has been creative and worked with his hands all of his life. He has been employed in a ... More »
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