DIY Truck Vault for Tacoma Camper


I took the last couple of weeks to clear my mind of all abstract conceptualization and pour myself into a tangible project – balance the “being” with the “doing”. šŸ™‚ I plan to take a week long trip to Colorado at the end of September when the Aspens are in full glory, and I will be camping the whole time. Back in the day before my hips became arthritic, I would have spent a week exploring with a backpack. Now I can go exploring with my truck. With my DIY Truck Vault, I can lay on top of the platform and store gear in the drawers beneath. I can camp wherever I choose to park. Below are some pictures, a video, and a how-to in the captions. Total cost of the project was $1292. An actual truck vault runs about $2600.

Completed

(Almost) finished product.

I took some measurements of my truck bed, and some measurements of the lumber available at Lowe's and then built a 3D model.

I took some measurements of my truck bed, and some measurements of the lumber available at Lowe’s and then built a 3D model in SolidWorks. I left two removable pieces in the back make it easy to clean out behind the drawers or retrieve anything that might drop down back there. The center piece is as wide as the narrowest point on my truck, so that it will slide in more easily. The skinny side pieces take up the gaps.

Upside down, screwing the platform (3/4" Maple Plywood) to the vertical supports (2"x10" Pine) using some angle brackets and #10 - 3/4" countersunk screws. 1/8" pilot drill required.

Upside down, screwing the platform (3/4″ Maple Plywood) to the vertical supports (2″x10″ Pine) using some angle brackets and #10 – 3/4″ countersunk screws. 1/8″ pilot drill required.

These brackets were expensive! $4 each ...so I only used 6 of them, and used some cheaper L-brackets as well.

These brackets were expensive! $4 each …so I only used 6 of them, and used some cheaper L-brackets as well.

I flipped it over and screwed in a bunch of #14 - 2-1/2" countersunk screws.

I flipped it over and screwed in a bunch of #14 – 2-1/2″ countersunk screws.

Then I primed everything with black spray paint, and screwed in the 60" heavy duty drawer slides which I bought on Amazon ($557 for both pair). Also, since the bed of my truck does not have ridges in all places, I screwed/glued some wood to take up the gaps.

Then I primed everything with black spray paint, and screwed in the 60″ heavy duty drawer slides which I bought on Amazon ($557 for both pair). Also, since the bed of my truck does not have ridges in all places, I screwed/glued some wood to take up the gaps.

Next, I cut out the drawer sides (3/4" Maple Plywood) and screwed them to the slides.

Next, I cut out the drawer sides (3/4″ Maple Plywood) and screwed them to the slides.

And screwed in the drawer ends with 4 L-brackets each. I was worried tolerances and out-of-squareness would make one of the drawers hard or impossible to slide all the way out, but both slid very well.

And screwed in the drawer ends with 4 L-brackets each. I was worried tolerances and out-of-squareness would make one of the drawers hard or impossible to slide all the way out, but both slid very well.

Then I glued/screwed/and braced in the drawer bottoms using Gorilla wood glue, then screwing in with some 2-1/2" deck screws, then further bracing the corners with some 2"x1"x1/8" aluminum angle which would have been really expensive had I not found it at a local scrap yard. It was 1"x4" z-channel which I sawed in half. Again using #10 - 3/4" countersunk screws.

Then I glued/screwed/and braced in the drawer bottoms using Gorilla wood glue, then screwing in with some 2-1/2″ deck screws, then further bracing the corners with some 2″x1″x1/8″ aluminum angle which would have been really expensive had I not found it at a local scrap yard. It was 1″x4″ z-channel which I sawed in half. Again using #10 – 3/4″ countersunk screws.

Sawing the Aluminum Z-channel in half with a table saw. I found that the saw didn't cut very cleanly until I lubricated it by pushing a piece of candle wax through it ever 6 inches or so.

Sawing the Aluminum Z-channel in half with a table saw. I found that the saw didn’t cut very cleanly until I lubricated it by pushing a piece of candle wax through it ever 6 inches or so.

Put some wood filler in the countersunk pits on top. Got 3 other friends to help me lift the 260 lb assembly into the back of the truck. Screwed down the side pieces. Then painted with 2 coats of Herculiner. The instructions say to wear gloves... I thought... I'll be careful. I had stained black hands when done!

Put some wood filler in the countersunk pits on top. Got 3 other friends to help me lift the 260 lb assembly into the back of the truck. Screwed down the side pieces. Then painted with 2 coats of Herculiner. The instructions say to wear gloves… I thought… I’ll be careful. I had stained black hands when done!

Before installing the assembly in the truck bed, I stuck some foam weather stripping tape to the bottom to ensure a good surface contact, eliminate any squeaking, and provide a little vibration dampening since my main fear is that over time, vibration will cause screws to work loose.

Before installing the assembly in the truck bed, I stuck some foam weather stripping tape to the bottom to ensure a good surface contact, eliminate any squeaking, and provide a little vibration dampening since my main fear is that over time, vibration will cause screws to work loose.

Got a couple of locks. Thinking that the wood would be the weak link, I foolishly welded the two tabs together thinking the longer reach would allow me to mount the lock where there would be more material to resist breakage. The only problem, was the increased lever arm causes the metal to bend more easily. So the locks are unfortunately mostly for show and to prevent the drawers from falling open if I park on an incline.

Got a couple of locks. Thinking that the wood would be the weak link, I foolishly welded the two tabs together thinking the longer reach would allow me to mount the lock where there would be more material to resist breakage. The only problem, was the increased lever arm causes the metal to bend more easily. So the locks are unfortunately mostly for show and to prevent the drawers from falling open if I park on an incline.

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Got a Bedrug from Amazon for $100 and cut it to fit. Works great! 3/4″ thick closed cell foam padding covered with polypropylene. Makes a good surface to lay anything on including my bed for camping. I also ordered a 4″ thick memory foam Twin size mattress topper which I will trim to fit.

Lastly, I cut out a 2' x 4' piece of 3/4" plywood to serve as both a bed extension or a table. It lies neatly on top of the partially pulled out drawers. Also tied some rope through holes in the drawer face to serve as handles.

Lastly, I cut out a 2′ x 4′ piece of 3/4″ plywood to serve as both a bed extension or a table. It lies neatly on top of the partially pulled out drawers. Also tied some rope through holes in the drawer face to serve as handles.

Lastly, I bought an A.R.E. Z-series truck cap with sliding windows, pet screen protectors, dome light, and Yakima Whisp Bar roof rack for about $2500. I am very happy with it!! šŸ™‚

Last night I added some removable slide-in drawer dividers by screwing aluminum channel to the sides of the drawers.

Last night I added some removable slide-in drawer dividers by screwing aluminum channel to the sides of the drawers. The dividers can be easily removed for long items (shotgun?) or put back in so smaller items don’t roll around too much.

Last night I added some removable slide-in drawer dividers by screwing aluminum channel to the sides of the drawers. The dividers are 1/4" oak board.

Last night I added some removable slide-in drawer dividers by screwing aluminum channel to the sides of the drawers. The dividers are 1/4″ oak board.

Deck Cutout Drawer Cutout

Update 12/9/14: I’ve been on a couple of week long excursions to Colorado exploring many rugged and bumpy 4×4 roads and I’ve driven about 33,000 miles in the past year or so since I installed this DIY truck vault. No problems so far! Recently got some SCS F5 Matte Bronze wheels with Goodyear Duratrac 285/75/R16 tires. Had to trim a lot of plastic and metal to fit, but the result looks great and handles some pretty tough 4×4 roads like a champ.

2014-09-09 12.26.59 HDR

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18 Responses to DIY Truck Vault for Tacoma Camper

  1. Aras says:

    thanks for taking the time to document your project. Lots of really good ideas in there. I am planning to make this before our May long weekend camping trip this year. Right now just jotting down some ideas. I am planning to ember a camping stove in one and add a cover to one of them to use it as a picnic table. Have you modified your designs or are there any lessons you leaned after using this for a while now?

    • simcah says:

      Thanks for taking a look! I’ve taken it on a couple of camping trips now including a week to Colorado. It worked great… Got a 6″ memory foam mattress topper and laid back there with my dog and stayed warm even though it was in the 20s some nights. I’ve also deer hunted out of the back of it. I have a 4’x2′ piece of plywood which can be laid long ways over 1 drawer to make a table or laid over both drawers flush up to the back for a bed extension. The drawers still work great although one of them has always been hard to open. This is because the 3 main vertical members were not precisely parallel so one drawer gets in a bind at full extension. So that would be the main thing I would do different is take extra care to make sure the drawers are not going to be in a bind at all. Also, getting this into the back of your truck will require 2 or 3 other men to help lift it back there. If you’ve already got the camper shell on, you might want to remove it first to make it easier. The whole project took me a number of weeks to complete, but I’m slow and have a tiny garage to work out of so you could probably get it done by May. Good luck!

  2. Joe says:

    Do you still have the measurements or the solidworks file?

    • simcah says:

      Joe, sorry it took me so long to respond. I have added links at the bottom of this post to the PDF’s of the cut out dimensions. Hope this helps.

  3. Chris Urban says:

    I am interested in the truck pullout drawers that you are showing you built. Please e-mail some information. My e-mail me. thanks
    Chris Urban

  4. Devin says:

    Are you open to sending me the solidworks model? I have a Tacoma and would like to do this project.

  5. Hi,

    Did you anchor your drawers to your box in any way other than pressure? I’m planning to build a surface on the drawers for cooking etc, an I’m wondering if at full extention the drawers might want to tip the rig forward? Any issues with this?

    • simcah says:

      I did not anchor the assembly to the bed. It is heavy enough and wedged in there tight enough I haven’t had issues with force on the extended drawers levering the assembly up.

  6. TJ says:

    Hello,
    Just curious, is your truck the short or long bed? I have a short bed double cab and I’m planning to build the storage platform. Thanks for all the drawings and information.
    TJ

  7. TJ says:

    One more question, Im planning to buy an assemble the platform and vertical supports with Pine 2×10, what is the length of Pine boards? I measured 5ft (60inches) Does that sound right? Thanks.

  8. TJ says:

    Awesome, thanks again for all the information!

  9. TJ says:

    Do you have the dimensions of the wood spacers you installed underneath after you primed the platform black? Just wondering how much it’ll raise the whole assembly. Thanks!

    • simcah says:

      I don’t recall… 3/8″ or 1/4″ probably… they are not intended to raise up the assembly, just to make contact with the bed. The bed has raised ridges that the assembly sits on, but these raised ridges are not in all places, so to get complete contact I put these shims in the gaps.

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