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Chuckbox, Patrol Box, Camp Kitchens and Such

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I guess this is a discussion thread.  If I do this I'll post up a write-up later.  Won't happen for a while yet.

Does anyone here have a chuckbox or camp kitchen or something like that for their Jeeps?

Last summer I built a nice cargo deck for my Jeep to help me organize gear in my Jeep much better.  It worked awesome for packing the rig.  But now that goal has been met I'm moving on to the smaller scale organizational elements.  Up next is my "kitchen" as I call it, a big Rubbermaid tote bin that I keep ALL my camping cooking gear in. 

It "works" going to and from the campsite but it's a PITA at the campsite.  The problem is trying to access anything in the bin since there is no internal organization.  It's all a big mess to deal with hauling stuff out of the bin to find what I'm looking for.

So, I'm thinking of making this more organized and probably move away from one general tote bin.  Doing some research on camp kitchens I stumbled across things called chuckboxes or patrol boxes.  They look like they'd be a fun project to pursue.  Only issue is there is a number of different ways of doing so.

Original Idea
My original idea was to build a box or two that could stack on top of each other.  I could then set up internal divisions for organization.  If each box was not deep then items could be easily accessed.  Here's a model I developed with this concept in mind.  On idea with this is I could fit more folding legs on the bottom of the unit (like my camp table) so that it could double as an additional table / work surface at the camp site.

Chuckbox Idea
Then I stumbled across the idea of the chuckbox or patrol box.  Originally these come from the chuck wagons of the old west where a series of cubbies and a fold down shelf were build into the back of the food wagons.  The chuckboxes are a similar idea but incorporated into a self-contained box instead of a wagon.  And instead of stacking the boxes like in my idea you fold down the side and you have a series of cubbies for organization.  Thinking about this more I like it a lot.  I could set it on an edge of the camp cable (cargo deck) and have access to the whole internal contents of the "kitchen".  I don't gain much in the way of table space but it might otherwise be more usable.

The Expeditionalportal.com website has a great thread on these.

This is one of the nicer ones finish wise.  Note the fold down side with stabilizing chain.  If set on the edge of a table it would give another surface to work on, though not for heavy items.

This is another one.  More open cubbies and a more open top.  I'm not sure how structurally rigid this would be.  And they missed the opportunity to fold down the side as a work surface.

Another version.  Starting to notice a theme?

This is an OLD one that is based on the Boyscout Patrol Box concept.  Not the chunky cleats on the side of the box?  Angled legs fit in the cleats to elevate this off the ground. The cleat assembly and legs take up space in the Jeep but I would then have more table space by not having this on my camp table.  Sizes of these Patrol Boxes can get big and semi heavy.

This is a more modern Patrol Box but it's smaller.  Click the link to see more photos.  But here you can see how the legs fit into the side cleats.

This is nicely finished with formica laminate for the top surfaces of the box and folding side panel.  Should make clean-up easy.  Note, it is sitting on a separate table and has a separate water jug set next to it.

I'm really digging this one.  Small, basic, but well thought out.  Check out the build thread on Expeditionportal.com.  Some nice thought went into this one from an industrial design professional.

Design Considerations

Stove Storage and Use:
A number of chuck boxes set up the stove so it is on the fold out side.  This blocks access to the chuckbox interior while cooking.  Other boxes put the stove up top.  One keen idea had the chuck box top lid open up so one didn't have to move the stove. Care needed to be taken to allow access for the stove's rubber or metal gas supply line to the propane canister.  Also, note the blue chuckbox above that incorporates a horizontal brace to help stiffen the box, yet it cuts down to allow acces to the stove controls.  Oh, and the guy built a propane canister holder by riviting s steel hook to a 4" PVC pipe cap.  Very slick.

I like these chuck boxes but I'm still curious about the rattling.  I think a lot of the supplies would rattling on the inside without the cubbies being stuffed with extra towels.  Extra towels wouldn't be a bad thing, however.  Always handy for cleaning and drying.

Some chuck boxes employ wooden drawers.  These can be custom fitted to the box.  But their weight adds up.  Consider making them out of thinner plywood.  The builder of the blue boxes used clear plastic bins instead.  Not only can he see the contents of the bins but the bins save weight and can double as wash basins.  However, in the even the plastic bins get damaged, how easy or difficult would it be to get replacements of the same size?

Also, a utensil drawer is another common feature of many of these chuck boxes to organize eating utensils.

Weight vs. Strength:
One thing was pointed out in some of these threads is that these boxes can start getting heavy.  The blue one weighs 67 lb. when it's fully loaded.  And that's with the builder switching to 1/4" plywood internal dividers and such.

Material Choice:
Plywood is a common building material for these boxes and usually in 1/2" thickness.  3/4" is more durable but it also becomes heavier.  Load up the chuckboxes with supplies and gear and it could be a bear getting them out of the back of a Jeep.  Also, "typical" CDX or even ACX fir plywoods available at home improvement stores are softwood and have a lot of voids so screws won't hold as well.  I think it would be wise to invest in a good cabinet shop grade birch plywood. IIRC, Home Depot stocks this for about $40/sheet for 3/4" 4x8 panels.  Oh, last note with thinner materials comes weight savings but construction becomes more difficult as there isn't much bite on a 1/2" screw into 1/2" plywood.  Some hardware connections may require through bolts and nuts.

I like the integrated handle / gas supply pass through on the blue one above, but I'd think that any openings would allow a lot of trail dust to get into the chuck boxes.  For us Jeepers, perhaps a well sealed box would be wise.

Pay attention to sizes of various items you'd want in the chuckbox.  I think this would be a tricky trade off for keeping things tight enough to keep the stuff in place and from rattling too much and making things too tight and too specific to a particular model of cookware or whatnot.  What if you need to replace a particular item down the road and can't find something that fits?  I took some measurements last night:

* Metal camping plate = 10.25" dia x 1" tall
* Metal camping bowl = 6.25" dia x 2.5" tall
* Nesting cook set = 8-10" dia x 6" tall +/- verify
* Paper towel roll = 11" long x 7" dia for a fat roll
* Aluminum foil box = 12.5" x 2" or 2.75" depending on box (2" is common)
* Std. Colman Propane canisters = 8.5" tall x 4" dia
* Long lighter wand = 11.5" long
* 9" Chef's Knife = 13.5" long (tip to handle)
* My two-burner stove = 21.5" x 11" x 3.25" (verify as all stoves are different)
One thing I'm also noticing is that the chuckboxes aren't super deep.  They seem to be in the 12-15" deep range.  This makes sense.  Any deeper and it would be hard to get things out of the cubbies.  Same problem I had with my all-in-one tote bin but from the side instead of the top.

Well, that's it for now.  This is the research I've accumulated in the last day or so.  I'm still not sure how I'd layout a chuck box for myself.  My primary stove is a weird 2-burner w/ flip-out grill.  It's nice to grill steaks or hot dogs but it takes up a lot of room when set up.  Not sure if I'm going to try and make a home for the grill in the chuck box or not.  Another alternative is making two chuck boxes.  Also, any chuck box could be designed so they are vertical when set on the camp table but can pack flat in the back of the Jeep.  Not sure if this makes sense but might be worth exploring the option.

Back in the Scouts, we used patrol boxes quite a bit.  Think they were pretty similar to the green or blue one you posted.  One nice feature we had were adjustable legs, that worked well on un-even ground. 

Something kind of like this:

However, with all the partitions, it wasn't the most efficient use of space.  This dead space did allow all the cups, pots, pans, etc to rattle around a bit.  Not a big deal when you're hauling them around in the back of a truck.  Between the rattles and poor use of space, I'm not sure I'd want to try and put one in the back of my Jeep.  I'm also kind of a minimalist though :dontknow

For the rattles, you could try using some rubber traction mats to keep stuff from sliding around and lining the walls with felt, or carpet, or something.

Along similar lines, but on a tangent is Compact Camping Concepts.  I plan to build one of these is summer to pull behind the CJ:


I probably won't buy the roof top tent, but will use my existing one and haul it in the trailer.  I'm thinking of using 2X2 tubing rather than a HF trailer and YJ springs for the axle, but it will be similar.  I think it should work pretty good.

Very cool, Hutch.  But I'd like to keep everything self contained in the Jeep for ease of manuverability.  However, if my wife wants to join us on our camping trips then I can use my utility trailer and there's no need to worry about storage space:  4x8 trailer w/ 21" tall side panels.  And with the tarp on top and lashed down it does a good job keeping things dry, too.  :D

Rio, nice leg.  And don't take that the wrong way.  :P

I'm also worried about the rattling of stuff in the chuck box.  That's why I'm thinking if I stuff a bunch of hand towels around things it would help keep the noise down.  And then I have hand towels at the camp site.  Also, I've found stuff in my TJ doesn't rattle that much.  Chalk it up to the progressive rate coil springs and OME shocks.  But for general road travel everything is pretty buttoned down.  Now, on the trail no doubt things would rattle a lot.  But apart from Manastash Ridge and our Naches Trail route to get to the camp site there's no other offroading-to-get-to-the-campsite situation that I know of in WA state.

You are correct that the cubical nature of the chuckboxes may not be as space efficient but properly organized I don't think they'd be that much worse than a big bin.  And there's also the value of having things neatly organized and easily accessible that might be worth the space efficiency trade off.   I think it's all going to depend on how I construct and design the chuck box.

Hence the reason I picked up my little tent trailer a while ago that is rotting in the back of my house. LOL I just need to get the desire to work on it.


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