Introduction: Ultimate Camp Box
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 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.
Step 1: Construction / Framing
Side pieces =1/2" plywood 16"x18" Qty 2
Big shelf / Bottom = 22"X16" 1/4" Qty 2
Back Panel = 23" X18" 1/4"
Front Doors = 13 1/2"X 23" 1/4" (Cut in Half)
Thin Shelf = 22"X18" 1/4"
Outside corner brackets Qty 4
Inside corner brackets Qty 4
Brass cup hooks
1/4" X 1/2" Round head sheet metal screws
Shelf brackets = 1"X2" strips 17" long Qty 2
Small hinges Qty 4
Small L brackets Qty 4
Small bolts with Nylock nuts and bolts.
The main structural shape of the box is an H with a bottom piece. The two sides, main shelf and bottom of the H are 1/2"
One of the problems of working with plywood is how to attach the pieces because you can not nail or screw into the end pieces. I chose a simple solution that only uses screws and sheet metal brackets. The brackets were attached with galvanised sheet-metal screws while the 1/4" plywood was attached using bolts, nylock bolts and washers
The box is made up of two side pieces and two main shelves from 1/2" plywood. The front doors, second shelf and back panel are 1/4" plywood. I used deck stain to protect the plywood.
The top shelf is attach using inside angle brackets. These provide support and also fit flush under the shelf.
The bottom piece is attached to the side pieces using large angle brackets.
The back panel is attached with small angle brackets. The panel is important because it make the box stronger and prevents the box from bending side to side.
The doors open to the sides on hinges.
Strong metal handles were attached to either side.
Step 2: Design Criteria
Most camp boxes like this either have a top shelf for storing the stove or the stove is separate. I wanted a permanent location for the stove so that I would not forget it and it was easily accessible. Therefore, I left the top open so that the stove could instantly be used without having to open the box. The propane canisters are held in place with elastic cord with passed through small holes with knots at the ends.
The box is designed around the stove and the plastic tubs. Instead of using a great big wash tub, I chose a smaller size which decreased the overall size of the box. The pots were chosen to fit inside of the tubs. I use classic copper bottom Revere Ware pots, one 3 quart and one 2 quart. These pots are considered some of the best cookware ever made and is available at your local Goodwill for $2.95 each. They heat up quickly because of the copper bottoms and are stainless steel so no worries about scratching them. I do use a Teflon frying pan for eggs.
The width of the box is determined by the width of my stove. Make sure you measure the stove when it is in the open position. The wind flaps extend beyond the stove making it wider. I actually had to remove one side to make it fit.
The depth of the box is determined by the plastic tubs that double as drawers or wash tubs. I use the plastic shoe boxes from The Container Store. They have carried the same sizes for several years so I know that I can always get replacements.
The height of the bottom shelf is big enough to fit a 3 quart pot with lid and the top shelf is big enough for the plastic tub. Two frying pans also fit on the top shelf with room for some extra plates on the pans.
I built several mock-ups with everything to make sure that I had enough space.
At the camp site, I wanted to hang everything off the side of the box. This kept the table clean, allowed things to dry and made everything handy when you needed it.
The biggest challenge I faced is how to hang my utensils. I did not want to have hooks on the outside because they would get caught on cloth bags when I was packing the car. To hang the pots, I used simple screws that stuck out about 3/16". My pots have wire rings in the handle and these fit neatly on the screws. I put the hooks on the inside of the door so that when you open the door to the right, the hooks are on the side. I added a second piece of 1/4" plywood for reinforcement.
I can also hang things like paper towels or garbage bags on the back rail using mini carabiners.
A propane tank should be used in the upright position when connected to the stove. This ensures that gas from the top of the bottle is fed to the burners and not liquid from the bottom which could cause a flair up. Additionally, propane should be stored in an upright position so that gas will escape the over pressure relief valve and not liquid if for some reason it gets too hot. When you store and use the bottle on the side you are operating outside of the manufacturers safety recommendations. Also reminder that propane is heavier than air and should never be stored in an enclosed area like boat or basement where a leak could build up leading to an explosion. Thanks to faithwalker1 for the reminder on upright storage / usage.
Step 3: Field Notes
When I get to the camp site, I first connect the gas hose to the fuel canister. I always number my canisters and use the lowest number first so I dont have a bunch of half used canisters.
Next I open the doors and put all of the utensils on the right hand side hooks. I then pull out the pots and remove the bowls and cups from the pots. The pots hang on the left side, the cups hang off the back and the bowls go back into the wash tubs for now. The paper towel roll hands off the back and and I may hang a garbage bag from a tree.
The kitchen is now open. When I am cooking, everything is ready accessible and nothing gets lost on the picnic table. The small tub on the right holds spices and cooking oil.
After cooking, I boil some water, and then poor the water into the wash-tub along with some biodegradable soap. I use the long handled scrub brush to clean because of the hot water. Everything fits into the tub which makes washing very easy. To rinse I either boil more water and put it into the smaller tub or take the tube over to the tap. I always bring a second tub to hold the clean dishes after they have been rinsed. To dry, I hang everything up just like during camp set-up. This makes things ready for the next meal. The bowls go upside down behind the stove.
When I am ready to go, I do the opposite of the set-up procedure making sure that everything is clean and the fuel hose is disconnected. The box is then ready for the next trip whenever that may be.