If you go camping often, you know how annoying it is to pack up all your kitchen items for the trip, set them up, and then have to unpack them when you come home. A simple solution to make packing easier is to use a chuck box or “camp kitchen box.” Below is what you need to know about chuck boxes for camping, DIY chuck box plans, where to buy them, and also ideas for making a simple chuck box.
Also read: Camping Kitchen Essentials Checklist
What Is a Chuck Box?
A chuck box is portable camp kitchen which fits in a box. It usually has drawers, hutches, or cabinet doors to serve as storage and the top can be used as a stove stand.
Chuck Box vs. Portable Camp Kitchen
Portable camp kitchens tend to be larger than chuck boxes. A kitchen will give you lots of work space and some even have kitchen sinks with drains. Because camp kitchens fold down, you must pack all supplies separately and set up the kitchen when you arrive at camp.
By contrast, chuck boxes are smaller and don’t fold down. You can travel with all the gear already inside them. It’s incredibly convenient and you don’t have to set anything up when you get to camp.
- Choose a camp kitchen if: You will be camping at the same place for several days, are with a large group and need lots of space.
- Choose a chuck box if: You are a minimalist camper, go on frequent short trips, and don’t want to spend time setting up the kitchen each time you get to camp.
Also see: Best Portable Camping Kitchens
What do you put in a camp chuck box?
Chuck boxes are meant to hold nonperishable camp kitchen supplies. Food is kept in separate storage bins or coolers. This allows you to keep the chuck box packed so it is ready for each trip. Because they need to be portable, there is rarely enough room in a chuck box for a camp sink. You may be able to fit collapsible camp sinks into some chuck boxes though.
Chuck boxes should hold:
- Plates and bowls
- Pots, pans and kettle
- Spare fuel
- Water canisters
- Spices, cooking oil and nonperishable essentials
Features of a Good Chuck Box
- Space for stove on top
- Utensil drawer
- Cabinet doors
- Easy access to all supplies (even when stove is in use)
- Can keep supplies inside while traveling
- Won’t tip over
DIY Chuck Box Instructions and Plans
Below are some chuck box ideas. They range from simple chuck boxes made from plastic storage bins or Ikea shelves to more complex DIY builds.
Beginner’s DIY Chuck Box
This DIY chuck box is fairly simple. There are no drawers on this chuck box. Nor are there shelves in the doors. You’ll probably need to store pots and larger items separately too. Despite these drawbacks, the simple design means it is much easier to build. Yet, it still looks awesome and is a fully-functional camp kitchen box. See the design and instructions here.
Ikea Chuck Box
One of the easiest ways to make a chuck box is to take an Ikea shelf with a door and turn it on its side. Connect the door to the frame with a chain for added stability. The downside of the Ikea chuck box method is that it is heavy. These are best for chuck boxes that remain in the car. Remember you should never cook in your car, so you’ll need a separate stove table!
Chuck Box with Fold-Out Side Cabinets
This is one of the nicest DIY chuck boxes I’ve seen. The doors open to serve as support for the sideboards. You end up with lots of workspace on top. The side cabinets are perfect for spices, oil and condiments. You can find instructions and plans here.
Vintage Style Camp Chuck Box
This wood chuck box is very similar to the one above. It also has side tables which open up and are supported by two cabinet doors with storage inside. The main difference is that it doesn’t have a hutch door attached by a chain. Instead, you get a pull-out drawer at the bottom. While this does mean less workspace, the design is much more stable and weighs less. See the instructions and plans here.
“Yack Box” (Compact, Lightweight Chuck Box)
You can easily make this chuck box out of plywood. The entire setup fits into a plastic tote. You can also use the tote box as a stand. Totes aren’t very stable though, so I wouldn’t recommend cooking in this setup. Instead, put the chuck box on the ground and use the tote for other storage or as a sink. See the plans here.
Deluxe Chuck Box
By far one of the largest chuck boxes I’ve seen, this design gives you a very luxurious camp kitchen – yet it still folds down into a box which fits into a pickup truck (good luck getting this into a car trunk though!). The base sets up separately and gives you a place to put water jugs. See the design here. The maker also takes orders.
Small Chuck Box with Slide-Out Cutting Board
Even though this is a very small chuck box, it has some cool features which give it more function. My favorite part is the slide-out cutting board drawer. There are also brackets on the sides for hanging pots and pans. The shape makes it very stable and safe for cooking on. See the design and instructions here.
Metal Chuck Box from Modified Tool Box
By simply removing the drawers and adding a dropdown door, you can turn a toolbox into a camping chuck box. What’s particularly cool about this DIY chuck box is that Brian repurposed the drawers to make side tables on the box. See the design and instructions here.
REI Chuck Box
I don’t have permission to post images of their chuck box, but you can find plans for a chuck box at REI here. The design is pretty popular.
What Can I Use to Make a Chuck Box?
If you aren’t the DIY type, you can still make a chuck box fairly easily. The easiest way is to use a crate, tote, storage bin or cart. Look for boxes which are front opening or have drawers. This makes it easier to access supplies. You can add dividers or other organizers inside the box to keep gear separate.
*Note that it usually isn’t safe to put a stove on top of these chuck box solutions. You’ll need a separate place to put the stove.
Below are some ideas of what you can use to make a simple chuck box.
Rubbermaid Chuck Box
Rubbermaid makes a lockable storage container called the “Action Packer.” The 24 and 35 gallon sizes are perfect to use as a chuck box. You’ll need to add some storage compartments and dividers though. Here’s an example of a customized Action Packer by Scout Master. You can get the Action Packer at REI or Amazon.
Tool Box Chuck Box
Most large tool boxes do NOT make good chuck boxes: you usually have to lift off a top lid in order to get to the supplies, which is pretty annoying when cooking. However, there are some tool boxes which make good chuck boxes. They should have drawers or slide-out compartments – then you’ll have easy access to supplies inside.
The Dewalt mobile work station and Stanley Fatmax work station both make good chuck boxes. This Keter tool box also would work if you don’t mind being closer to the ground.
Stalwart Rolling Tool Box
There are a lot of features which make this tool chest a great chuck box. Most importantly, the bottom two compartments have drawers which pull out – meaning you can access supplies even when they are stacked. The top compartment does have a lift-open lid. However, if you remove this from the stack, you could (carefully) use the top of the second compartment as a stove stand. Get it here.
Quick Cart on Wheels Chuck Box
This cart on wheels make a pretty good chuck box too. There are 30 storage compartments on the sides for your utensils. You can get it here. There’s also this one which has 25 pockets.
Where to Buy Chuck Boxes
If you want a perfect chuck box but don’t want to make it yourself, your best bet is to look for locals who make and sell them. Etsy has a lot of people selling them. There are very few brands which sell chuck boxes nationwide. I’ve listed the ones I know of below.
Yoke Chuck Box
The Yoke chuck box is a really cool chuck box. It’s compact and has some nice storage features. It is made from roto-molded plastic, which is very tough and durable but still allows it to be lightweight. While not the cheapest chuck box you can buy, it’s definitely one of the best. I also like that it’s made by a women-run and family-owned company – not some big corporation. 🙂 You can see it here.
King Charles Chuck Kitchen
The company Trail Kitchens makes a chuck box called the King Charles. It is a lightweight aluminum camp box with cool features. Unfortunately, it comes at a fairly high price tag. See it here.
Portal Chuck Box
Here’s a more affordable chuck box you can buy. The compartments are insulated so you can also use them as a cooler for food and drinks. I like that the chuck box has legs so you essentially get a table out of it. This is also one of the lightest weight chuck boxes you can buy. Get it here.