A Slide-Out Kitchen That Makes Overland Camping Twice as Easy
With everything stored in an expandable truck-bed drawer, you can get straight to cooking
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It’s been over 100 degrees in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for weeks now. In need of an escape, my wife and I decided to drive up to a favorite overland camping spot at 10,000 feet near Silverton, Colorado, because we knew it would be at least 25 degrees cooler.
As happens on all good camping trips, it took us significantly longer than we expected to leave the house, so we didn’t get on the road until 12 p.m. It’s a five-hour drive to Silverton and then another hour up a 4×4 road to our spot. With pit stops, we didn’t arrive until 7:30 p.m.
By the time we set up our rooftop tent, we were tired and ready for dinner. I usually dread dinner because there’s always 30 minutes of prep time needed to get the kitchen unpacked and set up, and then another 30 minutes of cooking.
Fortunately, I had just installed a Truck Vault Base Camp 1 drawer ($3,600) in the back of our Toyota Tacoma. Inside the drawer is a full slide-out kitchen that takes all of two minutes to get ready.
The drawer is just over 10 inches high and takes up half the width and the full length of my six-foot bed. It slides out on rails to its full length and has three main sections. At the very back (closest to the truck cab) there’s a cavernous storage area where we keep pots and pans, cups, lights, cooking tools, and anything else we can jam in there.
The middle section is a huge—almost 30 inches by 20 inches—bamboo cutting board that comes with smaller slide-out drawers underneath, where we store spices and utensils. The final part of the drawer is a large shelf that slides out from under the cutting board and creates a platform for any traditional two-burner camp stove like my Eureka Ignite.
To get dinner going, I simply pulled the entire drawer out, attached my stove to a propane canister, found my pots, pans, and knives, and got cooking. We had a fully cooked, hearty meal of soup, bread and salad before the sun set at 8:30 p.m..
Afterwards, once we’d enjoyed our food and done the dishes, we threw everything back in the big drawer, put the stove away, and slid the entire kitchen back into the truck. Anything a mouse—or worse, a bear—might want to sniff or mess with was securely stored in the bed for the night.
We used the drawer at least three times a day for the rest of the trip, and it quickly became one of my favorite overlanding upgrades for its convenience and smooth operation. Even though it stuck out six feet, part of the drawer rested on the tailgate for support, and the rest was supported by a heavy-duty rail system that never left me feeling like anything was going to snap or break.
The drawer was also key in terms of kitchen gear organization. I never once had to search for a pot or a fork because everything either lived in or on the drawer. I’m guilty of going overboard and attaching things to my truck that look cool but prove unuseful. But it didn’t take long to realize that the Base Camp was 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 folks who don’t have a rooftop tent or don’t want to set up a ground tent, 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 equipment. If you want to use your truck as a truck, the platform will hold up to 2,000 pounds of equipment, construction materials, or whatever else you want to pile on top. Installation was easy enough and just required a friend to help me haul the drawer into the bed and bolt it down.
The only drawbacks are the weight and price. At $3,600, the Base Camp 1 is something you’ll need to use for years in order to recoup your investment. And my drawer, even as a half-width system, weighs 250 pounds. That affects my gas mileage, vehicle performance, and pushes me farther toward my overall Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. But, thanks to some careful prioritizing of my other overland gear, the truck functions fine—and I’ll always be happy to trade a slower truck for the ability to make a faster dinner.