We go camping a couple times per year and every time it comes to making meals I get a little frustrated when I have to look in multiple places for things I need. Hunting around in Rubbermaid containers for spoons, spatulas, spices and paper plates – while food is on a hot camp stove – just isn’t fun.
So a few weeks ago I decided to try and remedy this.
Enter the Chuck Box.
Using plans from REI’s How to Build Your Own Camp Kitchen Chuck Box as a base, I was able to build our very own kitchen.
Make no mistake, it’s heavy. Made with a full sheet of 1/2″ maple plywood, it should weigh roughly 48 pounds empty. Loaded, well… like I said, it’s heavy.
Customized to a length of 36″, this box is wide enough to accommodate our long Coleman camp stove, with its propane tank attached. When the propane isn’t attached and the box is closed, there’s room on the top for our dish washing tubs, extra gas tanks, towels, and other random items.
Deviating from the REI plans, the top shelf panel is custom for our stove – with cutouts for the latch as well as burner dials.
I also chose to add an actual lid stay instead of a tent pole to keep the lid open. I was wary of wind gusts blowing the lid down onto a burning stove.
I believe the only other change was the addition of supports underneath the top shelf. These not only support the shelves but also offer more bulk material for the handles to attach to. The last thing I wanted with something this heavy was for the handles to rip off!
The fold-out front is a perfect table top for meal preparation and holding our cups of coffee while waiting for breakfast. The shelf has plenty of room for a couple utensil/silverware trays and other odds-and-ends.
The fold-out front is held tightly in place by the lid latches as well as a pair of heavy duty magnets. In hindsight, one would have sufficed.
I originally had plans to stain the entire box a green to go with the color of the Coleman stove, but quickly learned that maple just doesn’t take stain well. So I punted and used 4 coats of water based Helmsman Spar Urethane. This won’t be left outside in pouring rain, but it should handle condensation, the occasional rain shower, and the inevitable spills.
Overall I’m very happy with how it turned out. If I were to make it again, I’d forgo making it fit the propane tank and just allow for a hose to exit the box and attach to a propane tank nearby. I’d also consider using 1/4″ plywood for some parts of the shelving, again just to shave off some weight.
Its first weekend outdoors went well and it proved to be even more useful than I had hoped for. Having everything within arms reach was invaluable.
Here’s to many years of camping!