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photo courtesy Warren de Jager.

We’ve all been there. First, when packing up, you need to load up your camp stove, plus the fuel to run it. Oh, and don’t forget the plates, cups, silverware, cooking utensils, pots, pans and the few other things that you use when cooking at camp. Then, once you get to camp, you are looking through everything to find that lighter to get the camp stove going. Or you misplaced the spatula you need to make pancakes in the morning. Or the plates have disappeared, or you only have one cup for five people. It can really be a pain in the butt if these things aren’t in a central location in your gear. There has to be a better way, right?

Enter: The Chuck Box

First, what the heck is a chuck box? Well, allow me to give a very brief history. The chuck box is commonly believed to have evolved from the chuckwagon of more than a century ago. The chuck wagon is essentially a field kitchen. The wagon would hold all of the necessary items that one would have in a home kitchen, but is obviously portable. Since chuck wagons would be feeding dozens, if not hundreds of people, it made sense to devote at least one wagon to the activity of cooking. When camping, we don’t need to feed that many people, but we still need a way of having our kitchen needs with us. The chuck box fulfills this need in our modern times. It has compartments to hold the most needed items to cook and serve with. Often these chuck boxes are outfitted as the family needs, so no two chuck boxes are stocked the same.

What Goes In A Chuck Box?

Now that you know what a chuck box is, the next question you might be asking is what do you put in a chuck box? Many people start with their camp stove or burner, simply because much of cooking starts with this. This is a personal choice, as many stoves are already designed to be carried by themselves with a built-in carry handle. Also, these are typically bulky items, and to help keep your chuck box as small as possible while still being useful, many opt to not include a spot for storing their camp stove in the chuck box. However, if you do keep your stove in your chuck box, plan to have a space for the fuel for the stove as well.

So, what else should you be putting in your chuck box? I would suggest starting big and going to small. What I mean is, start with the physically big things that you need, and then work your way down to the physically small things that round out your chuck box. So, some big things that you may want to include would be a fry pan, probably a pot of some size, and a lid that, ideally, would work for both pot(s) and pan(s). You’ll need to decide just how many pots and pans you want in your chuck box, but I would probably limit it to 2 of each, and hopefully you can nest these inside the chuck box. The next big thing you should look at space for are plates. Now these can be paper plates or the reusable kind, but you need a space for these in the chuck box. Some sort of coffee maker is probably also on the list, such as a percolator or even a simple water kettle. And of course, you’ll need some cups for that coffee, or for whatever beverage you like to have.

Now that you’ve gotten the bigger items squared away, it’s time to look at some of the smaller items that will round out your basic chuck box. A complement of silverware for eating is required, and you’ll want a few kitchen utensils as well, such as a spatula, serving spoon and large fork. Additionally, you may want to have a manual can opener and a small collection of knives for different purposes. Beyond that, maybe some pot holders and a few other odds and ends. Perhaps consider some items for washing those items as well.

photo courtesy Free-Photos, 10/29/2015. Photo was taken from: https://pixabay.com/users/free-photos-242387/

What Else Can I Put In My Chuck Box?

Honestly, you can put whatever you like into your chuck box. That’s the nice thing about them, they are fully customizable to how you camp. Some people include their cooking spices in the chuck box, which makes sense. Maybe you will start to outfit your chuck box with other items that you find you regularly use, such as a roll of tin foil or zipper bags for leftovers (what, you have leftovers? LOL). A cutting board, knife sharpener, cork screw, toast maker and other items can also be included, if they are things that you use and want. Anything goes for your chuck box, as its meant to service the way YOU camp, and no one else.

Hold Up! I Have An Exception

Just as soon as you lay down some rules, there will always be an exception that arises. Just above I wrote that “anything goes for your chuck box” in regards to what you can put in it. Now that I’ve said that, I’ll say that for me, that’s not entirely true. Allow me to explain.

I’ve seen people use the term “chuck box” very generically. They will refer to containers that, yes, do have some kitchen items in them, but also have a lot of other camping gear in them. I don’t like using “chuck box” for these generic containers of camping gear. Call them “gear boxes” or “camp boxes” or something else. I’ll refer back to the history of the chuck wagon from which the chuck box gets it’s name. Those chuck wagons only were for cooking and kitchen duty, nothing else. The chuck box should be the same way – keep it only for your kitchen and cooking items for camping.

I will say that I’ve found some really awesome “gear boxes” in my research on chuck boxes, and maybe at some point I’ll do a post about the different gear box options I’ve come across. It is important to have your gear together and easy to access and use, as this facilitates going camping more, and your chuck box is no different. Have the chuck box for your kitchen gear, have a bag or tote for the tent gear, and have another container for your games and such. That way you always know where to look for things and they are always where you need them.

Where Can I Get A Chuck Box?

There are some commercially made chuck boxes that you can buy. Amazon has some, but you’ll have to page through their offerings to see some actual chuck boxes; much of what they have are camp kitchens. These commercial chuck boxes are okay, but they aren’t designed for how YOU camp, but how a generic family camps. This is why so many people end up making their own chuck boxes themselves.

There are countless videos on YouTube and other places that show you how to make different chuck boxes. So you can build your own, and you can put in different cubbies and other places to store everything you want in your camp kitchen. However, if you aren’t that handy, you could try a third option.

This option is to find some existing container or box-like item, and then convert it for your chuck box. I asked this question on a Facebook group that I’m in, and the answers back from people were extremely creative, and many shared pictures of their chuck boxes. One person built a big chuck box that spans the width of the bed of his truck, and his tailgate is a makeshift table that’s always with him. Another person used a stacking Stanley branded rolling toolbox that had two boxes with it. Another woman built herself her own “chick box” as she calls it, and it is amazing what she can fit in this home-built chuck box! And another man who lives in a different country repurposed a fishing tackle backpack for his. Yet another woman repurposed two old military medical supply cabinets for hers. When you start looking at things for purposes other than their intended one, you start to open up possibilities for what your chuck box might look like and how it might serve you. I urge people to look around at what others have done to get some great ideas!

photo courtesy rawpixel.com, 11/2/2018. Photo was taken from: https://www.pexels.com/@rawpixel

Wrap Up

Chuck boxes are a smart investment for your tent camping adventures. They allow you to have all of your kitchen and cooking needs in one spot, making cooking, cleaning and camping so much more enjoyable. They also should be custom to how you camp, because no two families camp the same. Incorporating a little creativity in your chuck box will allow you to have a neat conversation piece when you camp with friends, or if you visit with others in the campground. But don’t think you need to built it yourself, there are many options available in premade containers, just be open to looking at things differently. I saw someone do a video on a Rigid stacking toolbox that had 3 different sized containers that stacked on each other and had wheels for easy moving. She used it as gear storage, but there is no reason you couldn’t use it as your rolling chuck box.

Got some feedback on this topic? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below, send me an email or share it on social media! Happy Tent Camping!

Featured Image photo courtesy Paul Majkowski.

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