Modern four-wheel-drive wagons have rear seating that neatly folds away, to provide a big cargo space. The temptation is to stuff it full to ensure the trip away is comfortable, despite the intention being to enjoy the great outdoors rather than convert the camp site into a fully equipped home.

Even if you reluctantly return the coffee machine to the kitchen, you’ll have a sizeable stack of essentials, from heavy recovery gear to cooking utensils, bags of clothing, boxes of food, pillows and sleeping bags.

The mission to convert an arsenal of deadly missiles that could fire through the cabin in the event of a sudden stop into a safely transported and easily accessible storage cupboard is a tough one.

As with everything in life, there is no one perfect solution to fit everybody. Investigate all options before whacking in a set of off-the-shelf storage drawers and thinking “problem solved”.

If your vehicle is a daily driver for shopping runs or regularly uses all three rows of seating for half the sporting team, then bolting in drawers will seriously impact on this functionality.

If you use the vehicle for work then you may not want drawers permanently packed with recovery gear. Instead, a system where you can easily lift out boxes of camping gear and slot in your toolboxes would be better.

There are a number of quality drawer systems on the market from companies such as Department of the Interior, Outback 4WD, Boab and OffRoad Systems. All the leading 4WD chains offer their preferred brand(s), so visit a few stores and compare options.

Bear in mind some systems, such as those with lift-out tubs, are better suited to a dual-cab with canopy rather than a wagon interior as they tend to rattle more than the roller drawers cocooned in dampening carpet.

Fitting your own drawer kit is a definite option. Check the kit’s instructions in advance to see if the guide is vehicle specific rather than generic. Otherwise, if you order drawers plus slides, shelves and cargo barriers, you can end up tackling a jigsaw puzzle with a fuzzy vision of what it should look like when finished.

For those handy with tools and with more time than money, making your own system provides endless customisation options. Generic DIY kits can form the basis of your build.

When choosing a system, check the following:

•What is the load capacity? You could easily stack in more than 80kg with your recovery gear and tools. Always be careful not to exceed your vehicle’s permitted gross vehicle mass (GVM).

•Do the drawers slide smoothly and easily, and will they continue to do so if the vehicle is on an angle? Are the bearings heavy duty and sealed against dust?

•Can the drawers be secured to ensure they don’t burst open. And will the locks deter would-be thieves?

•Is the construction sturdy? Galvanised steel is cheap and strong but heavy. Extruded aluminium is strong and light. While more expensive initially, the weight saving will result in reduced fuel bills over time. Marine plywood is usually the best choice for tops — look for systems that use metal to reinforce the edges.

•Check for high-grade stainless- steel fittings rather than galvanised, with stainless-steel screws, bolts and nylock nuts.

Once you’ve found a quality system, check for usability and flexibility. Can you switch the fridge slide between sides, add extra components, transfer it to another vehicle?

Also, will it safely contain and secure your pile of camping essentials — including the coffee machine?


IMAGE: Via ORS OFFRoad Systems 4WD Storage Drawer Systems website

© The West Australian

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