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.
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: 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

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

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

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

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. emailthetoolman@gmail.com

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
bjnaddell4 months ago

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?

LDSMITHII6 months ago
Do you have a materials list? How many sheets of plywood? Thanks
mojoworkin18 months ago

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!

VentureScout11 months ago

Good Job, well thought out design

csteigs11 months ago
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
wheeljam1 year ago

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.

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


JDHerndon1 year ago
Toolman, I was searching for a better way to organize my camp gear when I came across this on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/LanceHolly32511?feature=watch. 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.
bakdrft2 years ago
I can call myself an acomplished "wood-butcher" , My hat is off to you! Nice work!
chrisdp2 years ago
Thanks Toolman. Really well thought out. I am inspired to reduce my own camping kitchen clutter.
builddoll2 years ago
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)  builddoll2 years ago
Not a bad idea.
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.
thetoolman (author)  Barbarianantho2 years ago
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.
Nicely done. How much does it weigh?
thetoolman (author)  diyoutdoorsman2 years ago
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)  thetoolman2 years ago
That's 30-40 lbs. full. less than 20lbs. empty.
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)  warpspeed2 years ago
Barely, I use one of those collapsible hand carts from Costco.
atmooney2 years ago
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)  atmooney2 years ago
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.
This is just amazing! So much thought put into it and it really shows!
godbacon2 years ago
I like a trivet to set hot pots on, It sometimes helps when cooking to let things stand or just to get them off the burner. It would be great to add one next to the stove. you could build it right into the surface. A peg hole and a dowel could set up into a paper towel holder when it's open. I like to have them right out in the open when Camp cooking. Great look'n go box, I wish you much success with the final version and hope my suggestions help.
thetoolman (author)  godbacon2 years ago
That's a great idea.
Just beautiful workmanship and thoughfull planning. Well done.!!!
thetoolman (author)  jessejames1232 years ago
jvilter2 years ago
Very nice project! My only comment is concerning the organization of stuff inside the box. I would make it a point to not mix cleaning supplies and foodstuffs in one door/storage area, especially if you have kids along with you. Other than that it looks spectacular.
thetoolman (author)  jvilter2 years ago
All of the cleaning items can be re-organized in a plastic box with a lid just as anything in the box can. it's shown here just to stage the photo.
Nicely done! I would also add some dish tubs for cleaning the dishes. The nice thing is that you can pack the cleaning supplies in these tubs (and then seal the tubs up so chemicals don't spill into the food) and add separation of foods and chemicals that way.

In one of the photos on the last page, it looked like the fold out table tops were starting to bend.  Did you have any issues with weight in testing?

For latches, did you consider rare earth magnets?  There's a couple of products out there that use the magnet to hold the door shut, and then a wand you apply to the back of the latch area (another magnet inside) that pulls the metal away from the latch magnet so you can open it.  This wand can be connected via string and stored by the handles.

Still a nice job!
Good Point...
wolnut2 years ago
Very nice. Check out a mob in australia that make camp kitchens www.drifta.com.au I've had one for years and it's great. Cheers
caityjay2 years ago
This is great. I'm tempted to make one for crafting/sewing stuff (I would get more use out of that, lol). So useful!
Thanks an awesome idea, caityjay! Now I'm going to need 2 of these...at least!
You've done an amazing job! I've been looking for a good chuck box design for years! Yours reminds me a lot of the one that my father made when I was a kid. He didn't have a stand or umbrella, though. The bed of the truck was "good enough" for him. lol

Wonderful instructable! Keep 'em coming!
That's a great project... Job well done:-)
Pandroe2 years ago
This is by far one of the best chuck-box designs I have seen. Great work!
thetoolman (author)  Pandroe2 years ago
Thanks a lot.
mole12 years ago
Oooooh! Very fine!
I like it, the only thing I can think to add at the moment is a set of door/shelves to the back. This will add support to the fold out top, add more storage space, and allow you to make the top a little wider for extra work space. You of course can keep the flat back panel that is already there, just add two swing box style doors (Like on the front) on the rear and widen the top. Great pics btw. :)
thetoolman (author)  Goldenlace7103 years ago
Thanks for the feedback. The doors support the top just fine but I guess I could add more if needed. I'm trying to keep the the overall dimensions within a manageable range to fit in my truck. Thanks.