Camper equipment check – The Box

Here is the solution to a year of hard thinking about how to best use the interior of our Honda Element. Inspired by a design I found on the Element Owners Club,  I cut, screwed, routed, and sanded The Box.

Vanlife camp kitchen

Why it’s genius is that it is both a platform bed and also gives clear daytime access to the space below the bed, this is achieved by piano hinged sections which stow neatly on the 42″ X 27″ box.






In hindsight, I’ve probably spent too much time thinking about the box. But, now it’s here, I’m seriously impressed with how well it’s working. We haven’t spent the night, so in theory, the box is untested, but it looks fairly solid.

Behind the tailgate is our kitchen. Our main concern for the journey is a decent cup of tea, with the stove set up I can make a cup of tea while still in bed. Civilized, no? I’ve gone to such length as sanding the handle of our kettle to make it fit. We’ve also made a draw for pots and pans, room for a esky, a cutlery-and-more draw, and space for the surf gear.





I took some old Ikea foam mattresses and had a custom mattress made by Paco’s Upholstery , it folds in three and covers the 73″ X 27″ platform. The platform is more stable than I thought it would feel, and it should feel firmer again once we shove all our clothes underneath.



I slaved away on this thing, routed all the sharp edges, accurately drilled pilot holes, put on three coats of waterproofing polyurethane, in short, I made it with care and attention. It’s design and construction have focused my enthusiasm for the trip, thinking about The Box has meant thinking about the trip. And now it’s here. We leave in two days.  The next time you see The Box it’ll be in it’s natural habitat.

22 thoughts on “Camper equipment check – The Box”

  1. Great job Scott!! it looks like something I saw on Grand Designs (the one where some Poms made a house using plywood on a CAD-driven profile cutter). Very clever you is!! Catch you on the road. Safe travels.

  2. I love your mods. My partner and I are ultrarunners visiting various mountain town to run in. We are also living in an Element and modded it out. Although our choices were different (more storage, less internal hangout space) I think you might dig this video we made.

    I hope we meet up on the road. Have a great trip to Nicaragua.

  3. Woohoo!! That’s amazing! Go you good things, into the wild… Bobby and I are a little jealous, very proud and chuffed that we’ll see the box in the flesh (or wood?) pretty soon!

    1. sorry to double comment- but what are the measurements for both the platform and the box? height, width and length?

        1. But if I had my time again I’d make the box a little more narrow as I didn’t account for the metal tabs the tailgate locks to. The box fits in, just.

  4. Looking to do the same thing with my Element! Any chance you have the demes ions of everything and want to share? Cheers!

    1. Hey Sara, I originally designed the box in 3D software, but then my computer died and took all my plans with it! Otherwise, I would have made the plans available. If you’re interested in a specific dimension I can let you know, just ask.

      1. Hi Scott. I also had a question about dimensions.

        What type and size wood did you use? I was planning on purchasing two 4×8’s at 3/4″ thick but I wanted to check with you first. Will this work.


        1. Hey there Michael,

          I used 3 4×8′ @ 1/2″ pieces. If I did it again I’d buy two pieces at 1/2″ and another slightly thinner. In the end, the enemy is weight. You should only use 1/2″ for the top probably.

  5. Hey Scott, I noticed you added a big radius on the bottom left corner of the drawer. was that to clear the bump on the tailgate? I’ve been designing in 3D as well and realized I can’t have a full width drawer cause there’s a minor bump on the tailgate.


    1. Hey Miguel,

      Sounds as though you are dong a more thorough job than I did. In my designs I didn’t even take the metal brackets that lock the tailgate in place into account, there is also the issue of the bump either side of the tailgate. Fine if you’re not using a drawer, which is an option I’d consider, but as I had already put the drawer in I needed to find a way for it to work around the bump. Luckily, I’d made the drawers with 1/2″ ply so the join was thick enough that I just got my router out and curved that corner out, it slides past fine now.

  6. Hi Scott,

    How do you keep the box from sliding around. I know some people use the luggage racks is that your method as well? Great design!

    1. Hey Lauren,

      The box fit so perfectly it didn’t move at all, totally wedged in by the tailgate. However, I chain and buckled it down just in case. I believe I used the luggage racks but my memory is a little hazy.

    1. That’s probably one of the design flaws, but I didn’t figure a way around it. Luckily it slides in and out quickly, I never needed the spare tire but changing a wheel is an ordeal anyways sliding the box in and out just makes it a little more difficult.

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