How to build a 4×4 drawer system

Posted on 18 October 2011

If you’re a regular overlander, you’ll know the need for good organisation and easy access to your gear. Spurning complicated and expensive factory-made drawer systems, my dad, Robin Haussmann, built his own for under R1 000.

Hey dad, why not just buy one?

I chatted to a number of overland guides and experienced 4x4ers and the theme soon became obvious – simplicity is key to equipping a vehicle for overlanding. It’s great to have a host of drawers on runners, but these are expensive and complicated. There’s just more to stick, break, snag and go wrong. Plus, they’re heavy and the last thing you need is more weight when you’re carrying a number of extras, such as fuel, water and supplies. By building your own system, you’re able to customise the set-up to your needs and spend money on trips rather than stuff.

What difference does a drawer system make?

You can organise all your gear, which takes up less space. The top deck creates a big, flat area where you can load even more ammo boxes or cheaper plastic containers, which come in various sizes and work perfectly well. Some of these even have rollers for easy loading and offloading. Another advantage is two people can easily sleep in the back if the tent blows away (don’t ask) or somebody is
scared of the lions. I cut a “˜trap door’ into the cab-end of the deck to gain access to the space behind the drawer. It’s where I store tools and recovery equipment. The dual battery fi ts snugly in the space between the wheelwell and tailgate.

Which materials did you use?

The system is constructed from 16 mm medium-density fibreboard (MDF), or Supawood, which is easy to find, inexpensive to buy and simple to work with, yet strong enough to take the loads it’s subjected to. I wanted to avoid costly runners and opted for a four ammo-box drawer which slides over the truck bed smoothly and rests perfectly on the open tailgate.

What were the alternatives?

It’ll be pricier and labour intensive, but if you want to make the unit lighter, Connect-it has an aluminium square-tubing system. You could clad such a frame in strong, lightweight plywood.

What improvements will you make now that you’ve done a few trips?

For ease of loading, I’m going to fit nylon wheels on the cab-side uprights and rubber stoppers underneath. The rubbers will lift the wheels off the bakkie bed when the rack is dropped into position.

Click here to see full PDF and diagrams for how to build a drawer system.

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