Camp Chuck Box


We’ve been camping…




And that leads to my latest project in the wood shop…

We went camping two weeks ago at Lower Hurricane Campground in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (above) and used plastic totes for our food and cooking materials. Well, that just about drove me crazy. It takes forever to figure out how to get stuff to fit. Then there is the issue of finding stuff and repacking them at the end of the day because food can’t be left out on the picnic table overnight. After some time in the R&D department I think I have a pretty good solution. Using my Google-Foo skills I found a few pictures of camping chuck boxes and then broke out my measuring tape, a pencil, and some paper. Soon I had a rough design sketched out. It took about three days (of my spare time) to construct the box and then another four days to add three coats of polyurethane and one more day to mount all the hardware. All in all this project required a $125 investment for materials (one and a half 4×8 sheets of half-inch birch plywood accounting for over $75 of the cost).

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The box closes up and the legs slide over the top. The whole thing then slides into the back of the Honda Pilot. Please excuse the quality of the next photo – it isn’t quite up to the level this blog is used to (DSLR > iPhone).


We tested out the box on our most recent camping trip. Aside from the record high temperatures, humidity in the 90% ranges, and healthy swarm of mosquitos and lake flies, we managed to survive. The box wasn’t the reason for our survival but it provided at least one less thing to complain about. Some action shots:


With the doors open there is support for the top panels to open on to. This doubles the counter space. Overall dimensions of the box are 20″ x 20″ x 30″ with a 60″ x 20″ top when opened. It’s a spacious box and is not meant to be carried across a lawn or park (at least not by oneself).


In action the box has two drawers that are fully removable. The top small drawer (on the bottom in this photo) is for silverware while the larger drawer is for cooking utensils and lighters). The bottom compartment is made specifically to fit the cook stove.


The left door features a paper towel holder. It is no ordinary holder however. I used my threading kit to thread the end of an oak dowel and then make a corresponding maple flag nut. This allows the paper towel to be mounted with zero clearance on either side ensuring the perfect tear for every sheet of paper. No more holding the roll with one hand and tearing with the other. It also took 2 hours to make (mostly in set up for the threading and tapping).


The right door features a three position adjustable shelf. Both doors have a lip on the bottom to keep the contents in place during travel. In the main compartment are two more shelves (1/4″ birch plywood) that are adjustable.


The whole rig was assembled with great care. Dado and rabbit joints are used everywhere possible, and since I don’t yet have a pneumatic nail gun I counter sunk and screwed everything together (in addition to glue). The stand is left over cedar paneling and is super lightweight. Only glue, lap joints, and dados used for the stand assembly – no screws.

It’s been mentioned that I should make and sell these. At $125 for parts and what amounts to 10-16 hours of my free time I’m not sure there is much of a business case for the production of a second copy. It’s going to be added to the growing collection of one-off wood creations coming out of the shop. Fr’ instance, the following two projects aren’t slated to be duplicated anytime soon:


A wood-screw type gun vise (I do have plans to make several cam-style gun vises in the future however). This vise is pretty much 100% hard maple with sliding dove-tail joinery and real leather padding.


William’s train. He likes the wood shop. He likes wood. He likes wheels and stuff to grab on to. Seemed like a good fit for the kiddo. But with ash, maple, cherry, birch, and oak and some 60+ pieces it’s not easy to make. I also don’t have a lathe, so making round parts is also quite a bit of work. If you are considering making your own train and have the tools, here is the documentation.

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…so a little off the off-grid path I suppose. But given that woodworking/craftsmanship is an integral part of DIY ventures like off-grid power systems and that camping and shooting sports probably fits that same demographic, I figured it may be worth sharing. And the train… well, who doesn’t love trains?

Some scenes from our travels in the U.P. this summer:

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7 thoughts on “Camp Chuck Box

  1. Rod

    nice work. I made one pretty much identical to yours but slightly smaller due to space constraints.
    One thing I added was a towel holder on one of the end boards (after they fold out). I cut a slot along the edges, got some 3/16 dia Rod from Home Depot and bent it to fit in the slots, then closed off the slot on the sides to “lock” the rod in place. If you send me an email I’ll send you some pictures.

  2. Shane Mason, Scout Master with 4th Riverview Scouts. Riverview NB

    Good morning! I stumbled on this site while looking for plans for a chuck box. We use them for our Scout troop but those are just not the size I would like to have for when my wife and daughter go camping. Any chance you have the basic measurements for the box? Height, length, depth for the box itself and the same for the doors? From there I can get started. I’m horrible at creating plans, but fantastic at following a basic and adjusting to my needs! Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    1. offgridcabin Post author

      The overall outside size is 30″w/20″h/20″d. The doors are 6″deep overall. When set up the work surface is 38″ tall and provides a 60″ x 20″ counter top. Mine is fairly heavy from using 1/2″ plywood and 2″ deeper than I need.

    1. offgridcabin Post author

      I made it up as I went and don’t have any plans to sell. Maybe if I make a second version I’ll create a build video and a set of plans. So far this one is holding up like a champ and I probably won’t be replacing it anytime soon. Would be pretty cool if TheWoodWhisperer would make a version…


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