Expo Box Version 3.0

Update 6/1/2016 – After spending a couple of weeks (combined weekends) with the new box… it’s my least favorite yet. It does everything I thought it would… but like the first version, I hate the “coffin” style sleeping (especially with a dog). The other issue I have is with the amount of gear that we still have to put on top of the box. In short, it feels like we made a lot of compromises and the resulting benefit simply isn’t there. Version 4 is in the works…

About two-and-a-half years after building my first I completed my third sleeping, storage and kitchen system for my Nissan Xterra (Sebastian). (I call them “Expo Boxes”.) Each “perfectly planned” and then flaws revealed through use. The addition of June (our Vizsla) to the family created a new flaw that had us planning version 3.0. June really needed to be (for both comfort and safety) on a seat with access to a seat belt buckle for her leash to clip into.

Version 2.0 of the box was terrible at this. It was designed to work without the back seat bottoms installed and the platform extended for the length of the trip. That means that in order to use the back seat, a complete disassembly/assembly at each camp. Our previous two-minute setup turned into fifteen-minutes and almost everything had to be touched and re-arranged. While I realize that doesn’t sound terrible… it meant unloading everything we had packed, putting it on the ground (rain, snow, mud), prepping and unfolding the platform, and then re-packing the truck. First world problems.

With no way to really salvage the latest version, it was back to the drawing board. And here is what I came up with…

Key Features

  • Cooler integration… no more packing and un-packing the cooler to setup camp. In fact…
Cooler is fully functional while strapped in, meaning it never needs to be removed to setup camp or grab lunch.
  • Setup now requires zero packing/un-packing.
  • The “60” side of the rear bench remains, keeping four seat belts and not requiring seat bottom removal to setup camp. That means most of the time June has the whole thing to herself and is always safely buckled in.
60 bench (and two seat belts) remain and the 50 quart cooler is held snugly in place by two 1″ cam straps, as well as, wedged between the front passenger seat and box.
  • An accordion of 1x10s folds up under the platform for storage and fills the void between the box and seat bottoms to complete the sleeping platform.
Accordion installed — flush with cooler top and rear box. Hinges on opposing sides allow it to collapse down to a 9 1/4″ x 3″ profile.
View from the front. About 5′ 6″ in length. Moving the front seats forward gives well over 6′ of room head-to-toe.
Cotterless ring pins hold the “accordion” in place.
Rear looking forward. The “accordion” that makes up the front part of the platform between the cooler and driver’s side passenger door fits in the long cubby along with chairs, tables and our “couch” hammock. All completely concealed with the hatch closed.
  • Large drawer on heavy-duty (500lbs capacity) slides that locks both open and closed.
  • Drawer incorporates a removable prep surface (cutting board).
Cutting-board removed to access the 10″ deep drawer. IKEA lunch and sandwich bags make it organized. Pictured here with the entire kitchen… room for all the dry food too!
28″ full extension, locking open/closed drawer. Cut-outs for a 20″x15″ cutting board create a prep surface.
  • A “cubby” keeps everything not in the drawer or cooler completely out of sight for better urban security.
Close-up of the cubby.
  • The top is the widest it’s been since the first version, which increases the sleeping space. But this time includes “wings” that still allow for easy access to gear below
“Wing” folded back.
  • Integrated tie-downs. Digging for the channel tie-downs around a platform and under gear is a nightmare of the past.
Both side has “wings” that fold-up and allow for easy access to the outsides of the box. A hole saw created flush access to 1″ webbing tie-downs on all four corners.
  • The whole thing mounts to the truck (no more friction fit) using the channel system. This is really important this time as the fully-extended drawer is heavy and gets heavier as a prep surface.
There are four of these holding the box in place. See “Materials List” below for details on parts used.
  • A custom cut rubber mat lies on-top of the platform to protect it, make it more comfortable to sleep on, dampen sound, and to prevent gear on-top from sliding.
View from front looking back.


I included Part Numbers for McMaster-Carr where applicable. All-in there was about $300 of stuff to buy.

  • 1x 3/4x4x8 Birch 2UV Plywood (using this pre-finished plywood had its quarks… but I hate painting/staining so much it was worth it). I couldn’t find finished maple, but that would have been my preference.
  • 1x 1/2x4x8 Birch Plywood (a half-sheet is actually all you need)
  • 1x 1x10x8 Common Board (I wanted birch or maple but couldn’t find either in a 1×10)
  • 3/4″ edge banding (more than helping it look nice, plywood edges chip easily and this stuff helps tremendously in preventing that)
  • 4x Strut Channel Stud Nut, 7/8″ Thread Length, 1/4″-20 Thread Size 3580T11
  • 4x Bracket Galvanized Stell, 1-7/8″ & 2-3/8″ Length of Sides 15275A63
  • 1x High-Capacity Side-Mount Drawer Slide 6603A51
  • 4x Type 304 Stainless Steel Piano Hinge 12075A88
  • 5x Webbit Guide 8030T15
  • Stanton Trading 15 by 20 by 1/2-Inch Cutting Board
  • 4’x3′ rubber mat, cut to fit
  • Various odds-and-ends (glue, screws, hardware, etc.)