Another Expo Box, Another Fail

I’ve built not one, two, or three “expo boxes” — but four. And the fourth isn’t really a box at all. If there was a trend of each iteration, it’s that each got more complicated. So it’s only natural that version four would go the other direction and be starkly simple. And it is.

It’s a shelf made of one-inch “furniture grade” schedule 40 PVC. On top is a 9-ply Baltic Birch 1/2″ plywood, covered with 1/4″ rubber mat. The whole thing fits with the back seats up or down and is held down with four, four-foot NRS cam straps. That’s it.

It’s lighter, faster (to install/uninstall), simpler, meaner… and well… better.

Why is this better? I’ve got my entire backseat back. Going from “travel mode” to “sleeping mode” requires the front seats get slid forward and the Action Packers put in the foot wells. Fast. “Sleeping mode” is completely incognito (no unpacking or gear needs to be outside the vehicle). When it’s cold or raining — there’s headroom to sit-up and hangout inside the car. (That also makes it 10x more comfortable for sleeping… especially with a dog.)

The Review

So how does it perform? I’ve spent two nights so far (solo) and about seven hours of driving on dirt roads with the setup. And currently, it’s strapped to the roof.

Fail.

Pros

  • It’s super light and incredibly easy to take in and out of the truck (and strap to the roof as a meaningless way of decreasing fuel economy). The ability to go “completely stock” on the interior inside of a minute was sorely missed.
    • You can take it out trail-side or in camp. In camp it works as a bench to sit on or as an addition to your kitchen setup.
    • The suspension and gas mileage both like the feathery weight.
  • I’ve got a back seat if I need/want it.
  • You don’t even have to exit the vehicle to go from driving to sleeping. Hell, you can even grab a beer or night cap from the cooler while in bed.
  • It’s versatile even when I’m not camping. You can stack groceries or treat it like a privacy cover.

Cons

  • While parked or driving on pavement — it’s quiet. Throw in some bumps and curves and it’s got too much give to support a full cooler. It’s a creaky, swaying mess. Does great with lighter gear, but…
  • With the cooler forced to the floor of the truck… all the pros are moot points.
  • It can’t be any taller (cooler height), and it’s too low for the dog to get under. That means you’re sharing the full width of your mattress with both the wife and dog.
  • With the weight and tie-downs all pulling the four legs into the floor — it dented  and scratched the floor.

The Verdict

I could modify the feet to more evenly displace the weight, and this would be a pretty slick setup for a paved road trip. The concept itself proved to be the best yet of any box I’ve built. But, unfortunately, the execution was a failure. And consider that so far in this trip I’ve driven 10 hours and only about three of those were on pavement… a “paved road trip” isn’t really criteria we can work with.

The good news? I’m continuing to learn, tweak and modify the setup. And I’ve got a new item coming that I think will out perform them all for our needs.