Truck Drawer System: How I Built Out My Pickup Bed

Filed under: Camping  Motors  Travel  Truck 

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This article is about a drawer. Well, actually, it’s about how a drawer helps you adventure more. Let me explain.

The least discussed — and arguably most crucial — part of nomadic life is storage. It’s not sexy, badass, or terribly fun to write about. But a well-designed storage system is absolutely necessary for full-time life on the road.

Keeping your vehicle organized as you travel allows for more spontaneity, happiness, and adventure. It all starts with plywood, screws, and thoughtful design.

Our editor, Andy Cochrane, built out his Tacoma for life on the road. Check out his storage plan for ideas on how to get out and stay organized.

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Truck Bed Storage: Drawer, Roof Mount, Glovebox

My truck is now on its sixth iteration, with some updates bigger than others. There have been laughable oversights and miscalculations along the way — and some creative carpentry.

Progressively, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. Begrudgingly, I’ve ripped it all out and to start over more than once. My one piece of advice? Keep it as simple as possible.

Drawer

My storage system’s centerpiece is the drawer in my truck bed. It’s simple and handmade, constructed primarily with ⅜-inch plywood and half-inch screws. It’s 6 feet long, running the entire length of my truck bed, and 6 inches high. This leaves enough room to sit up in the back of the truck while still fitting large pots and pans inside.

The drawer functions as my pantry, kitchen, bookshelf, and miscellaneous storage bin. It carries everything: supplies, snacks, spare batteries, tools, tape, rope, stoves, filters, water bottles, and much more.

Without it, my truck would be a mess, slowing me down and ultimately mitigating adventure opportunities. Not cool.

Roof Mount

The next key part of my storage system is my Thule Motion XT Alpine, mounted on the roof. It’s far from the largest roof box on the market, but it has enough space for a couple pairs of skis, tents, sleeping bags, packs, and climbing and camping gear.

I mounted a 100-watt-hour flexible solar panel on top of the Motion XT Alpine, which is nearly invisible to most other cars. The Motion is easy to open, locks securely, and doesn’t wreck my gas mileage — which is the biggest plus.

Glovebox

For all of my smaller possessions — cords, electronics, knives, pens, pills, etc. — I keep my glovebox organized with the Toyota Tacoma Glove Box Organizer. This plastic device allows me to organize by the frequency of use and size as well as bundle similar items in groups.

For instance, when I’m packing for a trip, I can quickly grab my headlamp, first-aid kit, knife, chapstick, and good luck charm all in one fell swoop.

Truck Life: Backseat Thriving

The biggest innovation in the Tacoma is the storage in the back of the double cab. After a year of dragging my feet, I finally pulled out the back row of seats and built a custom setup, designed for my lifestyle. On the rear driver side, I keep my clothes (I don’t have many) under the bed for my dog, Bea. She refuses to travel in the front seat.

On the rear passenger side, I have a solar-powered sliding fridge, a Goal Zero 1400 battery, a 7-gallon water jug, and a 20-pound propane tank that fuels my camp stove. This took me a couple days to design and sketch, and a weekend to build with my dad. And it’s lasted two years without large modifications.

In the remaining nooks and crannies, I fit miscellaneous camera gear, dog accessories, toiletries, mugs, foam rollers, hard drives, and snacks to keep me fueled on the go. I’ve learned how to be judicious about what to bring and when to say no, especially with large and bulky items.

More than the well-advertised freedom of nomadic life, the biggest lesson and joy has been simplicity. The less you have, the happier you’ll be.

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