With everything stored in an expandable truck-bed drawer, you can get straight to cooking
Temperatures in Albuquerque, New Mexico have been over 100 degrees for weeks now.
To escape, my wife and I decided to drive to a favorite overland camping spot at 10,000 feet elevation near Silverton, Colorado, because we knew it would be at least 25 degrees cooler there.
As often happens on all good camping trips, it took us a long time to get out of the house, so we weren’t on the road until 12 midnight. It was a five hour drive to Silverton and then another hour on the 4×4 road to our location.
With stops, we didn’t arrive until 7:30 p.m.
By the time we set up our tent on the rooftop, we were tired and ready for dinner. Dinner always requires 30 minutes of prep time to clean up and organize the kitchen, followed by another 30 minutes of cooking.
Luckily, I just installed a Truck Vault Base Camp 1 drawer ($3,600) in the back of our Toyota Tacoma. Inside the drawer is a fully slide-out kitchen that takes just two minutes to get ready.
The drawer is just over 10 inches tall and takes up half the width and the entire length of my 6-foot long bed. It slides full length on rails and has three main parts. In the back, there’s a cavernous storage area where we keep pots and pans, cups, lamps, cooking utensils and anything else we can fit in there.
The middle section is a giant bamboo cutting board measuring almost 30 inches by 20 inches, accompanied by smaller sliding drawers below where we store spices and utensils. The final section of the drawer is a large shelf that slides out from under the cutting board and forms the base for any traditional two-burner camp stove like my Eureka Ignite.
To prepare dinner, I simply pull out all the drawers, attach the stove to the propane canister, find the pot, pan, and knife, and start cooking.
We had a hearty meal of soup, sandwiches, and salad before sunset at 8:30 p.m.
Then, once we’ve enjoyed the food and done the dishes, we throw everything into a large drawer, put the stove away, and push the entire kitchen back into the truck. Anything that a rat—or worse, a bear—might want to sniff out or cause trouble with is kept safely in the bed overnight.
We used the drawer at least three times a day for the rest of the trip, and it quickly became one of my favorite overland upgrades for its convenience and smooth operation. Even though it’s 6 feet long, part of the drawer sits on the back door for support, and the rest is supported by a heavy-duty rail system that never felt like anything was about to break. or broken.
Drawers are also key in organizing kitchen appliances. I never had to look for a pot or fork because everything was in or on the drawer. I’m guilty of going overboard and putting things on my truck that look nice but turn out to be useless. But it doesn’t take long to realize that Base Camp is a smart and worthy upgrade.
The company also makes a system that’s the entire width of a truck bed and comes with another giant drawer for storing other camping gear like pads, sleeping bags, or water. For those who don’t have a rooftop tent or don’t want to pitch a tent on the ground, the full-width system can double as a two-person sleeping platform.
As an upgrade, Truck Vault will equip the second drawer on the full-size Base Camp 1 with a locking handle so you can transport firearms or camera gear in addition to camping gear.
If you want to use your truck as a truck, the platform will hold up to 2,000 pounds of equipment, construction materials, or anything else you want to load on top. Installation was quite easy and only required a friend to help me drag the drawer into the bed and latch it down.
The only drawback is weight and price. At $3,600, the Base Camp 1 is something you’ll need to use for many years to recoup your investment. And my drawers, even as a half-width system, weigh 250 pounds.
That affects my gas mileage, vehicle performance, and pushes me further toward my overall Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. However, thanks to careful prioritization of my other overland equipment, the truck performs well — and I’ll always be happy to trade for a slower truck so I can prepare dinner faster.