In the Pacific Northwest, camping is a way of life, and packing up the car and heading to a beautiful destination is a weekend ritual. Who doesn’t love a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, especially when the break is surrounded by incredible scenery? But I've found that getting all my gear and luggage into the car is one thing, and trying to keep things organized once I get to the campsite is a whole different game!
That's why I made these camping crates. They're the perfect size for any car and an essential addition to your camping gear. (These ones fit perfectly in the back of the Dunn DIY-mobile.) The two small crates stack on top of the large crate, making them easy to transport. Before you head out, you can organize clothes, cooking equipment, blankets, and any other miscellaneous items that need a home and put them neatly in the back of your car. Once you get to your campsite, they can settle in your tent or provide extra seating around the campfire. One of my favorite features is the top of the large crate, which transforms into a tabletop, perfect for dinners, breakfasts, and card games.
Step 1: Make the Cuts
With a circular saw or a chop saw, cut the wood to size according to the diagram.
Step 2: Start the Two Smaller Crates
Using a jigsaw and the end of a 2" x 2" as a guide, cut notches in both ends of two of the 15" 1" x 4" pieces.
Step 3: Assemble the Crate Bottoms
Line up the four 1" x 4" bottom slat pieces (with the notched pieces facing out [outside corners]). Measure 5 3/4" from the end of each piece and draw a line across using a combination square. This is where the other 1" x 4" cross piece will go.
Line up the pencil marks on the outside boards with either end of the cross piece. Use a straight, scrap piece of wood to make sure the ends of the boards are even. Glue, pre-drill, and screw in place using 1 1/2" Screws. Don't sink the heads of the screws in too deep or they'll pop up through the bottom of your box.
Position the two inside bottom slats and line up the pencil marks and the ends of the boards with the scrap piece. Use plastic spacers in the middle of the two inside boards to keep them parallel. You'll have to eyeball the spaces between the inside and outside slats because wood dimensions vary ever-so-slightly. Glue, pre-drill, and screw down the inside slats.
Step 4: Add the Legs
Flip the box bottom over. Balance the crosspiece on a scrap of two-by-four to raise it up while you're working on the legs. Use a level across the length of the bottom slats to make sure everything is flat.
Apply glue to the sides of the notches, then position the 11 1/4", 2" x 2" legs in the notches. Clamp in place with a bar clamp and pre-drill the holes. Secure the legs in place with 3" screws.
Check for imbalance/out-of-plumb as you secure each leg. Add weight or support to corners of the box to manipulate the bottom while you're securing the legs. You may need to unscrew and reposition one of the legs. We did, and trust us—it was totally worth it!
Step 5: Add the (Bottom) Sides
Turn the box frame on its side so the bottom slats are vertical. Measure 1 1/2" from the bottom of the legs and draw a line across with the combination square. On the outside corners of the legs, mark the height of the 3" screw. You'll need that mark later.
Now we're going to add the 1" x 6" slats on the side. Throughout this process check to make sure the 2" x 2"s are staying square or you might end up with an oddly shaped box. Apply glue to the legs and ends of the bottom slats. Position a 15" 1" x 6" board above the lines on the legs. Pre-drill holes in each corner keeping about a half inch from the edges and making sure you don't run into the screw underneath (use your mark as a reference). Attach with 1 1/2" screws.
Step 6: Add the (Top) Sides
Use the 1/4" spacers as a guide for the second 15" piece. Glue, pre-drill, and attach with screws. For the upper corners of this piece keep the holes about an inch down from the top of the 2" x 2".
Step 7: Repeat
Repeat steps 5 and 6 with the opposite side of the box.
Step 8: Finish the Small Crates
Turn the box sideways so that the bottom slats are horizontal now. Apply glue and position the 16 1/2" 1" x 6" pieces so the ends line up on top of the ends of the 15" pieces. This time, pre-drill the corners of the piece about 1 1/2" from the bottom and top of the board and about an inch in from the ends (remember, we're now avoiding both screws underneath). Attach with screws. Apply glue and line up the top slat. Secure the top corner screws on this board right at the top of the 2" x 2"s (that is, above the top screw on the perpendicular side). Repeat with the opposite side of the box, and voilà!
Step 9 : Add 4d Finish Nails
To add stability, hammer 4d finish nails through the outside wall and into the ends of the bottom slats.
Step 10: Make the Large Crate
Line up the 33 1/8" slats for the long side of the crate. Use 1/4" spacers between them, and a straight edge to line up the ends. On either end of the slats measure down 1 1/2" from the top and mark a line with a combination square. Draw another line perpendicular to this one, 3/4" from the end of the slats. Apply glue to the area and position one 8 1/2" 2" x 2" support piece on each end. Pre-drill at either end of 2" x 2"s and screw in place with 2" screws. Repeat with opposite side of crate.
Step 11: Add the Ends of the Crate
Now it's time to add the ends of the crate. Apply glue along the 2" x 2"s and then line up two of the 15 1/8" pieces at the ends of the two long sides. Clamp in place. Make sure you fit both end pieces in before clamping and drilling in place. If you do it one at a time it might be too tight of a fit for the second piece. Pre-drill inside of the screws already in the 2" x 2"s. Attach with 2" screws. Repeat with the opposite side.
Step 12: Cut the Plywood Top
Lay out your sheet of plywood over the top of the box frame and mark the exact measurements of the inside of the box. Use a straight edge or a carpenter's square as a guide.
Clamp the plywood down to a set of sawhorses or a workbench and cut along the lines with a circular saw. Make sure the plywood fits inside of the box and adjust if necessary. Now take this piece and use it as a template to make another piece the same size. Now you have a top and a bottom to your box.
Step 13: Attach the Top
Turn the frame of the box upside down (this way the distance between the top of the slats and the top of the 2" x 2" is 1 1/4"). Place the plywood inside of the box so that it rests on top of the 2" x 2"s. The four 15" 2" x 2" pieces will be used to secure the bottom of the box in place. Measure down the length of the box and mark at 14" and 19". Now lay out the 2" x 2"s spanning the width of the box, one on either side and two in the middle just outside of the two pencil markings. Secure with glue, pre-drilling and inserting the 2" screws through the side of the box into the 2" x 2"s.
Flip your box back over. If the bottom is uneven, unscrew one of the 2" x 2"s at either end and reattach it while the box is right side up. With a 7/8" drill bit, make a hole in the other plywood piece. This piece can now fit into the top of the box and be easily lifted back out because of the finger hole you just drilled.
Step 14: Go Camping!
Now pack up your car and ...