Stuff. There is too much of it. How do you pack a car for 15 months of travel? We need room for camping gear, hiking gear, clothes, food, work equipment, the list goes on. And on. Jessica aka "The Stuff Nazi" is guardian of the packing list.
Our best bet is to be smart about using the space we have. This means making a few modifications to the rear cargo area to fit more gear.
We decided to build a folding shelf, nine inches off the floor with the intention of storing odd-shaped stuff underneath like chairs, packs, boots, tents, fishing gear and sleeping bags. On top we'd put plastic bins to hold our daily equipment and personal stuff like clothes, cooking gear, food and toiletries.
The biggest challenge when building the shelf storage area in the back of our 4Runner was finding a way to make the stuff stored underneath accessible and easy to pack. After all, we'll be packing and unpacking a couple hundred times in the coming year and a half.
Jessica suggested a shelf that could fold open, sort of like a bird's wings. That would give us access to both sides with relative ease. What follows is the story of how we made it a reality.
We started by installing a supporting board, made from light-weight cedar we happened to have laying around. It is attached to the bed of the trunk by eight "L" brackets, 16 sheet metal screws and 8 wood screws. To attach the brackets we removed the carpet, padding and rubber bed, screwed down the brackets and cut slits in the covering layers.
Kobus made a shelf to cover the back area. This will give us a flat surface and provide some space behind the lock box to store random gear as we drive down the dusty trail.
Kobus and I build the main two-part storage shelf from 1/2" plywood and hardwood supports. The two halves are joined together with four door hinges and two dozen wood screws. It sits on the center supporting board and was trimmed to allow both sides to fold up past 90 degrees.
Here you can see how the shelf folds from either side. This will let us easily pack and unpack underneath the shelf.
Before we carpeted the new additions we decided to perform a test packing with our new cargo net. Needless to say we learned a few lessons
TA DA! Through the magic of photography, the storage area is carpeted. Now for the moment of truth, with the carpet in will the gear still fit?
Look at that... almost like we planed it. Beer anyone?