Camping Kitchen Chuck Box Plans

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Free woodworking plans to build a portable kitchen you can take camping.

About the TBS Chuck Box

A Chuck Box, also known as a Camp Kitchen or in the Boy Scouts as a Patrol Box is a cabinet that is used to hold and transport your camping cooking equipment to and from your campsite as well as to serve as a cooking station. So far I've just been using a large tote but everything needs to fit in the tote a certain way for it to fit but it usually means I have to take everything out to get the stove out and that was very inconvenient and wasted a lot of time I could have spent in the hammock instead!

For me I needed it to hold my 2 burner propane stove and propane, grill, frying pans, cooking kits, enamel dinnerware set, flatware, cooking utensils, kettle, mixing bowels, spices and my coffee maker. If you're interested you can check out the camp cooking gear I put in my chuck box.

I like to have a lot of surface area to work on when cooking and I also needed to store a lot of things. To accomplish this the top folds out on each side to double the working area. The front doors open up revealing shelves that contain items I'll need while cooking.

The back of the Chuck Box folds down to create a secondary work surface. This is a good spot for someone else to do some food prep or even dishes at the end of the meal.

At the same time the Chuck Box needed to be portable. When the Chuck Box isn't in use it doesn't take up much space as you can see here with other common items.

My main goal was to make it fit nicely in the back of my crossover SUV's cargo area with my other camping gear such as tent, cooler and camping tote, without having to fold down the rear seats. I took measurements of the cargo area to maximize the space but still have it fit. You might want to do the same with your vehicle in case you want to make adjustments to the size.

I also wanted the top of the box when unfolded to be at 36" so it was about the height of a standard kitchen counter. Most of the cooking is done by me and I'm not a short man. The final box wound up being 22-1/4" Wide x 15" Deep x 20-1/4" High. Here are images showing some of the other dimensions.

What You'll Need



Cut List

  • (1) 22-1/4" x 15" Top
  • (1) 22-1/4" x 14-1/2" Bottom
  • (2) 11-1/16" x 15" Swing Tops
  • (1) 22-1/4" x 5-3/4" Back Bottom
  • (1) 22-1/4" x 14-12/" Fold Down Back
  • (1) 21-1/4" x 11" Shelf
  • (2) 18-3/4" x 14-1/2" Sides
  • (1) 11" x 11" Small Shelf
  • (2) 13-7/8" x 11-1/16" Door Backs
  • (4) 13-7/8" x 3" Door Sides
  • (1) 11" x 8" Vertical Divider
  • (2) 10-1/16" x 2-1/2" Door Bottoms
  • (1) 10-1/16" x 2-1/2" Door Shelf
  • (2) 10-1/16" x 3" Door Tops
  • (1) 10-1/16" x 4-3/4" Shelf Front Left
  • (1) 10-1/16" x 3-3/4" Shelf Front Right Bottom
  • (1) 10-1/16" x 2-1/4" Spice Shelf Front
  • (1) 4-1/8" x 21-1/8" Stove Door

Cut Plan

I decided to use 1/2" MDO Plywood for this build. MDO plywood is used to make outdoor signs. It uses a weather resistant epoxy to glue the plys together and has a paper face that is good for painting on both sides. It seemed like a good choice for this chuck box. I will paint it with a nice exterior paint to finish it off.

You can also use 1/2" Plywood and use spar urethane or similar to seal it. I created the cut plan in a way that the grain pattern will look nice in case you want to go with plywood with a clear finish.

Step 1: Mortise Flip Hinges

The flip hinges for the top need to be mortised. Clamp the 3 top pieces together and position the hinge so it's about 2-1/2" from the edge. Trace the outline. The diameter of the round part of the hinge is 30mm so I'm using a 30mm Forstner bit to do the bulk of the work then cleaning up the edges with chisels until the hinges are recessed properly.

After testing the hinges remove them for later.

Step 2: Top, Sides and Bottom

The basic box consists of the top, bottom and 2 side pieces. Use wood glue and pocket screws as shown to attach them to form the main carcass of the camp kitchen cabinet.

Before we go any further, this is a good time to mortise out the 1-1/2" hinges on the bottom that will be used for the camp stove door. The hinges should be centered 3-1/2" in from the inside edge. If you forget to do it now it will be difficult to do later.

Step 3: Bottom Back and Braces

Attach the fixed part of the pack and the top corner braces as shown using wood glue and pocket screws. 

If you plan on using plugs in the pocket screw holes, now is a good time to fill them as it will be hard to access them after the next step.

Step 4: Bottom Shelf

Using wood glue and pocket screws we'll attach the bottom shelf, creating the area for the grill and camp stove storage. The shelf should be flush with the fixed back and front sides of the cabinet.

Step 5: Vertical Divider

The rest of the dividers in the main chuck box can just be screwed in without glue. This will make it easier to reconfigure the interior later if necessary. We'll start with the vertical divider that creates the cubbies for the enamel dinnerware and frying pans.

The side needs to be 11" from the right side and sit 1/2" from the back so it only covers the shelf and not the fixed back. If you're using different brands of dinnerware or frying pan you might want to check the fit before attaching it.

Step 6: Inner Shelf

The inner shelf gets screwed to the sides and vertical divider using pocket screws as shown. Glue is optional here and allows for reconfiguration in the future.

Step 7:  Divider

The last part of the main cabinet body is the divider that separates the frying pan storage from the dinnerware storage cubby. A small 3/4" x 3/4" notch needs to be cut out of the back first to accommodate the lid supports that will be installed alter.

Then the shelf is installed with pocket screws as shown creating a 4-3/4" tall cubby on the bottom and 2-3/4" on the top. Before finalizing the position you might want to double check that your items will fit and make adjustments as necessary.

Step 8: Test Fit Doors

Before going any further, take some time to make sure that all the doors will fit properly. This includes the door for the stove compartment, the backs of the swing out shelves and the flip top back. A 1/16" gap should exist around the doors.

Step 9: Door Boxes

Construct the two door boxes as shown, securing them with wood glue and pocket hole screws.

Step 10: Door Shelves

Complete the door shelves by attaching the additional shelf and the shelf fronts as shown. Just pocket screws can be used here to allow for easy reconfiguration later.

Step 11: Check Fit Again Prep For Finish and Paint

Do one more test fit of all the components to make sure all the pieces fit together as they should.

Then prep all the pieces for finishing.

Since I'm painting I'll sand the edges of the MDO then fill in any voids with the siliconized acrylic caulk and squeegee off the excess.

If you're using plywood you can sand and attach edge banding or fill any voids in the edges with wood filler.

After the caulk (or wood filler) has dried I'll prime and apply two coats of paint before attaching the hardware. I used a Behr Oil Based Enamel in Oregano Spice color.

Step 12: Attach Hardware

Modern water based paints can take 2 weeks or up to 30 days depending on conditions before they are fully cured and hard. In about 3 days or so the hardware can be attached with care.

The 48" continuous hinge can be cut in 2" increments. Cut 2 12" long sections, one for each of the swing out shelves.

Attach the flip top hinges to the top and the swing out hinges for the bottom compartment. The 2 double roller catches will be used to keep the door closed. I'm using some webbing I had as the pulls screwed into the front of the door with some scrap from the piano hinge to act as a washer and make it fit the brass look on the rest of the cabinet.

Cut the remainder of the continuous hinge to 22" and use it to attach the flip down back. Use the two catches (one on each side) that have the shorter catch to hold the back closed.

When attaching the handles, make sure they're installed far back enough so the shelves can swing out fully.

The last bit of hardware was a couple of eye bolts and some chain to hold the lid in place. I thought I could use these lid stays but it didn't work out as I expected and went with chain.

Step 13: Chuck Box Stand

For the stand I wanted to keep things simple, small and sturdy so I just used 2 pairs of saw horse brackets and 2 2x4's to make a short set of stands that puts the top of the box at about 33-1/2" so that it's about 36" with the stove in place. This gives me a comfortable height to work on the stove or just the top of the chuck box.

Cut 8 10" long sections of 2x4 with a miter on one of the ends. In my case it was 10 degrees but double check your saw horse brackets. I screwed the legs to the bracket using deck screws. If you're using pressure treated 2x4's make sure the screws are compatible. I only attached the 15-1/4" cross member with screws on one side of the saw horse. This allows me to fold the saw horse for storage and travel. I can even remove the 2 screws if it helps fit.


  1. Awesome instructions, Thank you for the great steps and details. I did have a couple questions, as I am following along to build my own box, only I'm adding two inches to the depth and 4 inches to width but keeping the box the same height (this is so that it matches the size of my cooler, as to better conform for when I'm packing).

    My first question has to do with the pocket hole locations. It looks as though you drilled them all on the inside of the box? was this simply to hide the holes when the box is closed? I'm worried about the integrity of the joining corners. has the box held up with this style? The alternative as far as my understanding goes, would be to drill the pocket holes from the outside giving more support to the woods, natural fibers. I'm new to this so I'm curious if there's something I'm missing for screwing from the inside.

    The second question is what trouble did you have with the Lid stays you were going to use for the back door, and instead went with eye hooks and chain? I loved the design with lid stays, though if its going to be too much of a hassle, chain works great.

    Thanks again for your brain power on this. It is very much appreciated.

    1. Box is holding up fine and it's been on a few trips. It's very heavy. Never really seen tests for top or bottom strength. If you have any I'd be interested in seeing it. I have seen for the HD jig but that didn't deal with this particular question. I think that making sure to provide square cuts, the appropriate type, size and quantity of screws and use wood glue provides sufficient strength for my application.

      I forget the exact problem but I couldn't figure out how to install them properly so they closed. Might have been a situation where it was late and I wanted to finish. Those lid stays are traditionally used to hold a lid not leave a lid down. I think if I turned the chuck box on the front I might have been able to do it but that didn't occur to me at the time. If you manage to get it to work let me know.

  2. I built my own chuck box earlier this year since I had extra time due to corona virus. I installed a flip down door as well, but did not want to notch the shelves. I installed chains, but had to slightly open up three chain links, near each end and in the middle, to allow me to stretch a rubber band through the chain, so that it would retract as I folded up the door to close it. When the rubber bands wear out, I may use a couple of my wife's hair bands, since they'd likely be more durable.

  3. The plans were great and the box I built came out nearly perfect. I think if I was going to do it again I might go up to a thicker sheet stock. I know this would add weight, but at 1/2 I had to cut down almost every hardware screw I used and 1/2 stock leaves very little material for the pocket screws to grab into.

    All in all I'm really happy with the outcome and these are the best chuck box plan I could find on the web

  4. Amazing job. Yours is the best-documented build of a chuck box I've seen online.

    I'm curious why you put your work surface on top of your cabinet rather than at the bottom (with fold-out front/back panels). I have not built one yet, but I'm leaning toward one of the two Boy Scout designs at . Do you find it's inconvenient to have your storage under the work surface?

  5. I'm tall and wanted to have the with surface at normal working height so I didn't need to bend over while cooking. Wanted a compact design too.

  6. Thank you so much. I've been studying a lot of plans and yours suits me the best. Although I do not have any experiences in 'Wood -Working', I'm sure it can be done with some help from some friends. Since my cookware and kitchen utensils are meant for camping and hiking. they are not heave. Thus, I'm sure I can use 3-ply with some binding support at the corners. Thanks again.

  7. I'm just finishing up my box built from these plans. I did notice one discrepancy on the cut list. The fold down back should be 14" high and the back bottom 5-1/4". Built to the existing plans, the back bottom is 1/2" too high and doesn't meet the bottom shelf flush. If I build another one, I'll make this adjustment.

    1. I'll have to check mine again. A little lip isn't the worst thing as it can help prevent things from rolling out. Can you email me pictures to add to this page? Check my Say Thanks To Tom page for email address.