How to Build Your Own Camp Kitchen Chuck Box

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An organized kitchen is the secret to a happy camping trip. That said, it’s not always easy to keep all of your camp cooking gear and ingredients readily accessible when you’re at the campsite.

Let’s face it; tossing everything randomly in cardboard boxes will only get you so far. This tutorial provides instructions for a do-it-yourself wooden camp kitchen box that’ll solve your culinary organizational quandaries once and for all. Plus, it looks good and is pretty much guaranteed to impress the heck out of your camping buddies.

Supplies needed:

  • 4' x 8' sheet of ½" plywood
  • 4 sets of hinges
  • 2 latches
  • 2 magnetic closures
  • Wood glue
  • Screws
  • Lid prop (recycled tent pole section)

Tools needed:

  • Screwdriver
  • Tape measures
  • Drill with small bit
  • Pencils
  • Construction square
  • Skill saw (many hardware stores offer cutting services)
  • Small handsaw
  • Safety glasses

Camp Kitchen

Step 1

Measure your gear. First, measure your stove with the fuel bottle attached. This will give you the overall length and width of your box. Make sure to add some space in order to allow the stove lid to open and to hold any items you might want to store next to your stove. Measure the height of any gear you want to store upright (maximum height) in order to help determine shelf spacing.

Camp Kitchen

Camp Kitchen

Step 2

Lay out all your measurements onto the sheet of plywood. Try to make the most out of the sheet. Line up all similar cuts and start cutting. If you don’t own a saw, most hardware stores offer cutting services when you purchase wood. If you plan to have the hardware store do the cutting, you’ll want to provide a cut list and a diagram to help the hardware store determine the best way to cut.

Camp Kitchen

Step 3

Line up the back and side pieces and mark your shelf height location with a pencil; this will make it easier to screw in your shelves after the outer box is built.

Camp Kitchen

Step 4

Start by assembling the sides and back of the box. If you are not using self-drilling screws, you should pre-drill holes for best results. Screw and glue all seams.

Camp Kitchen

Step 5

Attach the bottom of box, screw and glue all seams.

Camp Kitchen

Step 6

Pre-assemble the shelves outside of the box. Make sure to square the top and bottom, as this will make them easier to install. If you’re adding a top shelf face board, install it now. Screw and glue all seams.

Camp Kitchen

Step 7

Install the shelves using the pre-marked lines. Screw and glue all seams.

Camp Kitchen

Step 8

Attach the top/lid to the short face board. Screw and glue all seams.

Camp Kitchen

Step 9

Attaches hinges to top/lid and front face board.

Camp Kitchen

Step 10

Install remaining hardware (latches, magnets, etc.). Locations will vary based on the design and dimensions of your camp kitchen chuck box.

Camp Kitchen

Step 11

Sand all edges round and stain/seal plywood.

Camp Kitchen

Step 12

Post pictures of your completed camp kitchen to your favorite social media sites and then go camping!

Download the camp kitchen box supplies list and cut sheet and get started: Camp Kitchen Cut Sheet.

For more camping tips, check out our camping checklist.

  • Josh

    I WILL be making one of these. Thanks for the tutorial!

  • dave

    Just completed this project. Good idea that will hopefully add to my camping organization. There are a few things I would like to add. First, the biggest issue I had building is figuring out how my camp stove and propane bottle will work if used while in the box. I happened to search around on the net and seems like most take the stove out of the box and use the box as a cupboard. I wanted to use as an all in one. The authors stove is a primus I believe which comes with a flexible hose to connect to the propane bottle. That wold be nice but not buying a new stove at 150.00. Seems like Coleman doesn’t make a flexible hose. Not sure if a primus hose will retrofit with the Coleman.
    the other big issues is that most hinges and latches utilize 1/2inch screws which means that it will poke out though your material thickness. Had to add little backer pieces of scrap I had in my shop. Third, I finished with a clear spar urethane water based product. It’s meant for outdoor furniture so hopefully it will last in the elements. Last, I added handles on the side for carrying. I imagine when fully loaded the handles will come in handy. I was going to add some pics but the blog won’t allow me to. I’ll see if I can get a link to the finished box.

    • Miles

      You should be able to pick up an adapter hose for the Coleman. Though most of my time in the wilderness these days is spent with a pack on my back, I use a larger propane tank with a “tree” attachment for car camping. Lantern screws in on top and I run a hose to my stove(s). Happy Trails!

    • Laurie Blacker

      That would be great! My husband and I were just commenting that this thing didn’t have handles. We’d love to see a photo of your finished product. Thanks!

      • Rush Kester

        Handles should be custom placed depending on whether youth or adults will carry the box from the car to camp. Multiple sets of handles allow for options.

        • dave

          The box is fairly heavy loaded with kitchen goods. I was thinking it is heavy for me. Don’t think my wife could lift it, let alone my kids.

          • kirbang

            I agree, How about a model with a compact(able) wheeled system or Rikshaw!

  • Nigel Pepper

    Fine for car camping (with a massive car) otherwise somewhat pointless. Less is more. Reduce your footprint. You *probably* don’t need this.

    • dave

      Nigel, what works for you may not work well for others, and vice versa. I built this and used it, and it proved to be handy to keep my camp kitchen organized. I will say that it is better than trying to sort through a box of unorganized kitchen supplies, however this option does add extra weight and a slightly bigger size when packing. Not that big of an issue if you have a larger vehicle, certainly not for a small compact car. Only slightly large than my previous kitchen box. But unless you’ve tried it, don’t knock it. If you don’t have constructive feedback or input, please just keep your negative opinions to yourself.

    • OHIO SHAWN

      When I’m camping with 3 dozen scouts, we NEED two of these for our 3 day camps. We’re thinking about making a 3rd one. Don’t assume you understand what everyone else is doing out in the woods.

      • Big Bill

        I’m looking to build one (or 6) for the scouts but my goal is to mount them on a yard cart (10 – 12 inch wheels) I’ll probably go with a cutting board / counter to work top. Another goal is to upgrade the camp stoves to the free standing ones…. but that cost’s money. It will also make this top design out of date.

        We have some older boxes but the younger scouts can’t lift them.

    • Michelle Benvenuto

      We car camp with our young kids and all our Nieces and Nephews who all (6 total) are 10 and younger. Having a safe and designated place to keep cooking gear is quite essential. Your comment is narrow minded.

    • Kate Reyes

      We travel as a family for camping, which means there are anywhere from 25-30 people. We have one chuck box, and a second would really be nice, so I am going to make this one. When we leave our campsite what came in with us, goes out with us. You can’t determine what is right for everyone, so it’s better to worry about your camping trip and not be negative toward others.

    • Lacy

      Also would be great for packing with livestock. I’m planning to build one just for that reason.

  • randysmith

    I made something very similar a few years ago. May I add a few comments about the design:
    1) – I used 1/2″ MDF. It’s a “kind of” plywood, but is smooth on both sides. Treat it with polyurethane to make it water resistant.
    2) – I made the lower shelf a drawer. This involves a bit more woodworking, and potentially additional plywood, but HomeDepot — and doubtless others — sells partial sheets.
    3) – I used standard drawer separators [KMart, WalMart, Target, …] in my lower drawer. Make sure the drawer size is appropriate.
    4) – The biggest complaint I have is that stuff stored in this rattles, and occasionally bounces out, or at least gets disorganized, while moving. Especially if traveling over other than the most pristine roads. I’m still trying to figure out some sort of “hold down” for all the stuff. Right now it’s simply stuffing rags into all the storage compartmernts to keep everything from moving about.

    • W3SL33

      Have you tried to add rubber/elastic bands or Velcro?

    • Big Bill

      little late but what about something like cargo netting?

    • Kate Reyes

      I know you said you are using standard drawer separators, you could try the plastic bowl covers with elastic edges. Fit over the drawer separators to keep things in place.

  • Annie

    Brings back many memories. My father made several different camping cupboards for all the stuff we used to carry when we car camped. He used 1/4 plywood to save weight. Attached lifting handles to aluminum sheets and attached them on the inside with the handles coming through a hole cut for them, making them semi flush with the outside of the box. We still use them for storage of extra camping equipment at home and they have held up very well with over fifty years of use.

  • Shawn

    My son’s Boy Scout Troop has used similar boxes for each patrol in their Troop for many years. We use them as freestanding units. We have added removable legs (that are stored inside the box when not in use ) to each box to free up table space. If you do this just keep in mind NOT to put legs straight down. We use 3/4 inch pipe so we can just thread and unthreaded as needed. Handles were also added….plus a small ( but heavy enough to support weight ) chain to the front door and often use that to place stove on

  • Pre Vert

    Nice project but fully loaded this thing could easily weigh 100lbs……where are the casters?

    • dave

      Don’t know if casters would help. As the height of the cooking surface would be at your knees and casters would be in your way if you tried put it up on a bench. The cooking height is perfect height if placed on a picnic table’s bench.

      • kirbang

        How about rickshaw style?

  • Trev

    These are excellent additions to car camping trips. Both a friend and I have made camp boxes for Car Camping to keep everything more organized, handy, and ready to go during meal time. I used mine twice in the last month on Car Camping trips. When I leave it at home I feel the difference and spend a lot of time digging through boxes trying to find things and then misplacing them. I have a couple hinged doors that swing out to hold spices and also grilling stuff and then it supports a fold out top. It is a little more elaborate than the one shown in the REI e-mail and probably weighs a little more. I essentially keep the following in mine (pots, pans, mixing bowls, colander, Coleman Stove, spices, cooking knives, measuring cups/spoons, cooking utensils, pot holders, dish wash tub, soap, alum foil, cutting board, etc.) I have handles and also a detachable base with some beefed up wheels so I can push it over some rough terrain (which has been handy on several camping trips). If you car camp, this is a great addition. I would highly recommend building one for yourself.

  • Frank

    Definitely, thanks for the step by step. I made a short video on some of the modifications that I made. Check it out on YouTube.

  • Clay C

    Am I crazy or is the narrow face piece that attaches to the top missing from the cut sheet?

    • Dave

      Yup. I just finished one today. The ‘front’ cut needs to be cut to make it work.

  • Plages

    This was and is perfect, as its also a wonderful tool for that moment when California has our next shake!

  • Will O’Bryan

    I am currently working on the project and I am struggling with some of the instructions. I added 1x1s in the back to avoid splitting the half inch plywood when putting screws in the back to connect the sides because, I struggled with the images on what size screws to use. The shelves installed easily after finally working through building the back to the sides and the bottom to the sides and back. The instructions for adding the hinges are interesting leaving a small space in the back for the boards to stand up on forcing the tent pole to keep it up. Is there another way to do it where its not being held up like a hood of a car door? I am also adding wide handles for a hand towel rack after being placed on the picnic table. I hope to finish the product soon.

    • Preston Carter

      You could install “safety hinges” instead. I’m not sure if thats the real name for them but my uncle who is a wood worker just made a really nice looking toy chest. The hinges he put on there were able to hold the lid at any given angle. This was so the child wouldn’t have the lid slam their fingers. The lid must have been around 10-15 lbs or so and could hold the lid up.

      here just did a quick google search, its probably over kill but you can take it from there:
      http://www.rockler.com/box-lid-supports-back-mount

    • W3SL33

      To avoid splitting you could pre-drill the screwholes.

  • Scott Seyler

    Nicely done. Excellent craftsmanship. I just completed my version of a small wannigan inspired chuck box. Small and light weight, it can be carried with one arm. However it best suits small car camping or a day picnic. Next project may include a larger version with compartments like yours, but since I often camp alone, I need it to remain relatively light.I f you are interested, here is the link to my instructable showing the building of the wannigan. http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Build-a-Wannigan-Style-Chuck-Box/

  • wombat

    I’ve been looking for one of these boxes every where, only trouble is I’m in Australia we are metric so I have made a conversion formula if anyone is interested (double check it as I haven’t put it together yet) I would love someone to see if I have made any mistakes. In our stores we only get metric sheets in 1200mm by 2400mm which are smaller then 8 by 4 sheets so I have had to invent some measurements.
    let me know if the link doesn’t work.
    http://i860.photobucket.com/albums/ab164/wombat2509/kitchen%20box%202_zpsw3xh4am5.png

  • Brian K. Curtis

    Here’s my DIY chuckbox made by converting a craftsman toolbox http://listory.co/chuckbox

  • Heather Allysse Unverzagt

    Cool

  • rpnc

    Just finished mine. If using a hardwood plywood, the cut sheet does not account for grain. So be smart if it matters. The hardware you buy may have screws that are too long depending on the thickness of plywood you use.

    I am thankful for these basic plans because other than the tips I mentioned above, the plans took a lot of cyphering out of our work. Oh yeah, three of us worked together to build 4 total. That is a help, too.

  • REI

    Hi Margaret,

    The box is about 47 pounds empty. The filled weight will vary depending on the weight of your gear.

    Thank you for your interest. Come back and tell us if you made one!

    • Zoe Mora

      Do you mean 4.7 pounds?

      • REI

        The box weighs about 47 pounds—plywood is surprisingly heavy!

  • Suz

    Cool. Thanks for posting this!

  • L Borden

    Wow… Looks good, but for a woman, 47 pounds empty is silly.

    • weasel1886

      I agree. Look at the boy scout patrol box plans.

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