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Ultimate Camp Box

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Here is a new approach to the classic camp box or chuck box.  I wanted a box that stored all of my cooking gear including my stove, was light enough for one person to carry and easy to build.

There are two big changes from most boxes.  First the top is open, this allows easy access to the stove and reminds me of the old Volkswagon buses that had built in stoves.  Second, the front doors open to the side instead of dropping down.  Most people think that it is nice to have a work space in front of the box but I think the drop down table makes it hard to reach the stove.  When this box is sitting on a picnic table, I use the table as a work space and can easily reach the stove.

The the sides of the box are made from 1/2" plywood with a 1/4" inner shelf, doors and back panel.  Everything is held together with framing brackets.  No glue or nails.

The box holds everything I need to cook, clean and serve for 4 people.  At camp, the pots hang on the left hand side to dry and the spatula and other utensils hang on the right.  There is a spare propane canister behind the stove and the plastic tubs are used for washing dishes.


 
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phanson48 months ago
this is the second chuck box that I have seen.. both designs are solid in the retrospect that their designers and users built them for their needs. I'm looking at size, weight, material , what I will be storing in the box and what I am going to use as a stand. I do a lot of camping and setup and tear down times are a real killer when it comes to where I go and how long I am going to stay.. so if this can help I'll build it
wgreunke (author)  phanson48 months ago
When I was doing my design, I encountered the extra stuff spiral. The more I have, the bigger the box, the heaver the box, the longer it takes to clean everything and the longer it takes to pack. When I minimized the stuff, I could spend more time camping and less time moving things around.

The next version of the box is actually going to be smaller as I incorporate the learnings from this project.

Ward
kjamesro8 months ago
I too have been looking for a light, but strong design, and will look closely at this.
One question, does the side of the wood by the camp stove get hot?
wgreunke (author)  kjamesro8 months ago
After five trips, I have not noticed a problem with the right side getting hot. Remember that the short width is a design mistake because I did not measure the stove in the opened condition. When you build your version, just add a couple of inches to the overall width and you can use your stove with both windshields on.
ki4oyh11 months ago
Looks nice. Thanks for the information and photos, should ease the construction considerably. The field notes were quite helpful, also.
jbuschie2 years ago
Hey wgruenke, thanks for the inspiration, and the good photos- been meaning to build one of these for years, and your post gave me enough detail to get going.  My son & I spent a few hours on a Sunday morning and built ours.  Photo attached from our first camping trip over the 4th of July with the new box- it was great to have everything we needed in one spot, instead of digging in the bottom of plastic bins all the time.

One customization I added is for my gas bottle, if you zoom in the picture, I used a jigsaw to cut out a half-circle to hold the bottle upright.  When the doors are closed, it can't tip over, so no risk of leaks.  We camped for 5 days, and cooked a lot, and had enough gas for the trip.  

Lots of fun to build, and even more fun to use- thought you'd enjoy the photo- Thanks!  
Chuck Box.jpg
wgreunke (author)  jbuschie1 year ago
Great Job! I really like how all the utensils are matching and ordered according to height. Looks like a great spot to spend 5 days. Glad you and your son had fun building it together and were able to complete it quickly. Really enjoy the picture; having my ideas used is a great compliment. Hope your success is an inspiration to others.
rbbiggs2 years ago
Great Instructable! Thanks so much for posting this. Exactly what I was looking for. You saved me from a bunch of trial and error !!
wgreunke (author)  rbbiggs2 years ago
Thanks RB.

This was actually my second attempt, the first prototype used 1/4" panels with long wooden stringers at each of the edges. The design was a little flimsy and it took forever to build. Using the 1/2" in an H shape with metal brackets and the rest 1/4" gave the best balance between weight and strength. Several of the 1/4" pieces were reused for the second generation and there are many small holes along the edges.

The biggest challenge with working with plywood is joining two edges at 90 deg in a simple fashion.
PitStoP2 years ago
This is cool. I like the idea that is portable. The only thing I will probly add is maybe some sheet metal or tiles for the top where the stove is. This way the grease or anything you heat, cook or spill won't stain into the wood and it'll be easy to clean. Also paint or an clear coat will work.
I think I might make one of these! Thanks for the idea wgreunke..
wgreunke (author)  PitStoP2 years ago
I like the idea of some simple smooth surface to aid cleaning. I may make a trip to Tap plastic to get some kind of liner for the top shelf. The wood is already coated with waterproof deck stain but it may be hard to clean. The stove seems to catch the bulk of the spills and splatters.
You could get a scrap piece of Formica and some contact cement that might work.
PitStoP rbbiggs2 years ago
I was thinking that this morning also. Basicly you can use just about anything that can be adhered to the wood and can be wiped clean. It's just a mater of choice and also trying to keep the weight to a minimun. speaking of weight, I was thinking if I make one I probly add some wheels in the back side kinda like a cooler has with something to pull it with this way if it gets heavy with all the things in it I won't have to carry it as much!
I could think of so many things I can add to one of these to do alot more than just cooking but it might just get too heavy.. =) But the again sometimes simple just might better.
wgreunke (author)  PitStoP2 years ago
Simple is the word. I tried to define this box by what I left out rather than what I could put in. At the moment, one person can easily carry the box. I do have to keep the food in a separate basket. This basket usually goes into those raccoon boxes that you find at campsites.
Debi Slager2 years ago
How about a cookie sheet instead of the 1/4 inch shelf? Slides out and is useable.
wgreunke (author)  Debi Slager2 years ago
I like that idea, it gives you another portable surface. I bet a flat polyethylene sheet would also double as a cutting board.

I do have two small cutting boards that slip inside.

One of the requirements is that everything can be washed in the tubs. I am a firm believer that a mess in the kitchen expands to fill all available counter space. By limiting the space, I minimize the amount of things that have to be cleaned while camping.
dougbyte2 years ago
Really like your camp box. I made one years ago, but no where as light as this one. One little tweek I applied was to dismantle a 3 ring binder note book. and screw the metal part with the rings on it, to the side of my box. Makes a great place to hang dish cloths or utensils.
wgreunke (author)  dougbyte2 years ago
Cool reuse of the binder. I also considered some kind of mini coat rack bar with hooks. Putting the hooks on the inside kept the box from getting caught when I pack the car. Believe it or not even the small latch on the front door gets caught up when I pack my car with the standard camping equipment. My cooler already has a gouge mark from when I did not leave enough space.

The other solution is a set of hooks that you can remove. When you get to the campsite, just clip the hooks on the side and you are ready to go.
mmyler2 years ago
Instead of a split top that folds out on either side to form work surfaces, how about a hinged flap that folds up on the right side that can be supported by the right front door? This way you could still have your pot hooks on the left side and it should not add too much weight.
wgreunke (author)  mmyler2 years ago
I considered something like that but the front doors ended up below the the level of the stove so they would not meet the top when it was folded out. The other issue with this concept is that the front door would prevent access to the counter top on the side of the box.

Now that I think about it, this actually might work because the table top space that is lost is gained from the open cover. This gives you more counter space when the box is on the ground.

Thanks for the idea.
ka1dza2 years ago
I would suggest that you use large cup hooks for the pots and pans as screws won't hold them when you are underway.

The Boy Scouts have similar kitchen boxes too.

THAT would be something nice for my '78 Westy too.
wgreunke (author)  ka1dza2 years ago
When underway, the doors are closed and the pots and pans are stored. The screws are only used to hold things while at the campsite. I used the small screws because I did not want anything protruding from the side of the box that would get caught when loading and unloading the box.
gingerely2 years ago
I see the extra (?) propane cylinders behind the stove (and strapped in - nice!), but when you are using the stove, where do the tanks sit? Or, where would the tank being used be placed?
Also, to keep the stove in place while driving or the box being moved, do you have a strap over it to keep it in its spot. I can see it bouncing out - yikes!
I DO like this! Compact, usable - thumbs up!
wgreunke (author)  gingerely2 years ago
Hi Gingerely, the propane canisters stay in place while cooking. The rubber hose just connects to one of the cylinders. The stove lid protects them from the heat. Note that there is one active cylinder and one spare. Also I number the cylinders and always use the lowest number first. This prevents storing a bunch of half full cylinders.

No problem yet with things bouncing around, first because this is for family camping in a mini-van so speed bumps in the parking lot is the closest we get to off road. Second, the car gets a little full so the box usually has other stuff on top of it.
EvlRed2 years ago
My dad built us one of these back in the 70's when we were car camping in an old Volvo station wagon. Thank you so much for sharing this, it brought back some fond memories!

BTW keep weight in mind when you select your supplies, or else you might need more than 2 handles to carry it and all of it's contents! ;)
Pops built one sort of like this in the '60s that we called the chuck box (see chuck wagon.) He made the front door hinged at the bottom. It out and down and was supported with a couple of chains. We could let the door down and have some workspace - covered with Contact Paper of course. He angled the front to fit the angle of the back of the old Ford station wagon. When we stopped for lunch at a roadside park, the chuck box was fully accessible after opening the back of the station wagon. No unloading the chuck box or its contents. Freshly made sandwiches!
wgreunke (author)  hammer98762 years ago
I had a lot of conflict on whether to make the front fold down. In the end, I felt it was easier to have the doors open to the side so I could easily reach the stove without leaning over the counter. Also when I am at a campsite or other location I can set the box on the ground and not have to worry about stepping on the drop down lid.

I like the story of traveling in the station wagon. I designed this to serve a similar purpose in a mini-van, the modern equivalent of a station wagon.
thor742 years ago
excelente me gusta mucho su idea,gracias por compartirla.
My dad had a Pickup bed camp trailer, the tailgate became the counter and the box inside was set up like this one.
turrilynn2 years ago
Love this idea - why didn't I think of it?!! How much easier would camping be to just load this puppy up and go!
Really well-done! I like it a lot and have often thought about building something like this for the back of my truck. Hot grub at road stops instead of cold, wet things from the cooler...
chuckyd2 years ago
You have thought out your needs very well, and have accommodated everything you need, apparently. I just wonder, though, what do you do when it rains? Unless you use marine grade plywood, it will delaminate at the first rain. Also, the corners appear to be vulnerable to damage. I offer a few suggestions that might improve the box.

Try to find an impermeable material, such as a resinous material, like Corian or a knock-off.

Use continuous aluminum angles for all connections, with through-bolts.

The 1/4" shelf is already sagging, without any load. For thin shelves like this, apply a continuous aluminum angle along the long edges, as well.

Consider adding a top of galvanized or aluminum sheet metal for added rain protection.

I like the idea that others mentioned of having fold-out tables on either side, supported by the doors.

Lots of luck with your project!!

This is a beautiful job, thanks! I built a similar camping box forever ago, but now our kids are grown and don't camp with me any more, and my best camping buddy has moved too far away for us to do fish camp every summer like we used to. My current camp kitchen box is not as deep since I camp alone, so my stove cartridges are on the side instead of the back of the stove. Good idea to remove fuel cartridges when cooking. This gives me convenient space for utensils right alongside the stove. Fish on!
billbillt2 years ago
Great job!!....
profpat2 years ago
nice instructable!
profpat2 years ago
nice instructable!
loafers2 years ago
Looks just right for my upcoming Christmas trip to Fraser Island
onemoroni12 years ago
I like this instructable. I have been thinking of doing like this for a while and you have several great ideas I would like to use, hanging things outside, swing away doors. Peace
l8nite2 years ago
I usually like to clean my people BEFORE I cook and serve them, 4 people seems like a lot to cook with just a couple of small canisters of fuel but I guess you like your meat very rare............. Sorry, I couldn't help myself. This really is a well thought out chuck box, personally I'd like a double door lid that opened into counter space on either side of the stove but then it wasn't built for me! Thank you for sharing this great project
wgreunke (author)  l8nite2 years ago
Oops, typo. I meant to say 4 potatoes, not 4 people. This box was designed for Chris Voigt who plans to eat nothing but potatoes for 60 days.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11864290

I like the idea of the fold out lids. The side is one area where the box can extend without running into ergonomic issues. The original intention of the box was to set it up in a mini-van similar to a Volkswagon camper bus. Eliminating the lid makes it easy to get to the stove without having to move other things nearby.
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