I have been working to customize my truck so that it is the best range/family travel truck it can be. Part of that customization revolves around having an organized truck bed storage system. This past week I built one.
Why I Want a Truck Bed Storage System.
On a regular basis, I use my truck bed as a truck. Every once in a while, I use it as a truck bed to haul mulch, stone, dirt, or other more trucky type things. As a result, I want to have a system that helps me to use my truck as efficiently as possible, yet still lets me do the things only a truck can do.
Having an organizational system for my range truck offers some serious advantages for me. When everything has a place and every place has its thing, life runs much more efficiently. I regularly work out of my truck so having it organized is particularly important to me. I need a place to keep my gear handy on a trip to the range. It is super helpful to have the ability to quickly access what I need without disturbing what I don’t need.
My range work is much more efficient when there is a routine location for everything, whether it’s camera gear, shooting gear, ammunition, extra layers, or even a cooler of drinks a food. Also, it’s very easy to see when a piece of gear is missing, which reduces the likelihood of leaving something important at home or at the range.
My truck has a locking tailgate and a tonneau cover. Together, they offer concealment, but I need more than that. With just the cover, a knife would give access in seconds. A solid drawer system of some kind actually provides some security. I understand it isn’t Ft. Knox, but with a solid decking-and-drawer system and a locked tailgate, it’ll take time and tools to access the contents of my truck bed. Since the system will make access that much more difficult, running into a gas station to use the bathroom will be an option when I have valuables in the bed.
When driving with stuff in the bed of a truck nothing stays put. Gear constantly slides around, which is a hassle. Depending on the gear, it can result in damage. An organized drawer system keeps things where I put them. It also allows me to leave some gear in the truck long term. A great example is the grip gear I use when shooting video at the range. Tripods and stands no longer have to come in the house every time I get back from the range. They don’t need to be loaded up every time I get ready to head to the range either.
When I garage my truck, I back in so the tailgate is against the wall of the garage. There is no man door on the garage. On days when I’m making back-to-back range trips, it is even reasonable for me to leave guns and ammo in the drawers. So, access would be very difficult without moving the truck.
Potential Sleeping Platform
There is the possibility of adding a truck topper to the Ram at some point. If that happens the deck system will provide a very capable sleeping platform in the back of the truck. It could be very handy on long road trips or long weekends at the range. This past weekend, I spent 38 hours over 3 days at a training class at a local range. We wrapped up at 1:30 am Sunday morning. With a truck topper, I could have simply crashed right there instead of making the 50-minute drive each way to return for the 9:30 am start time later in the morning.
There are plenty of reasons why a deck and drawer system makes sense for the back of my truck. There are some other decent options as well.
Commercial Truck Bed Storage Systems
You don’t have to be handy or get dirty to have a good storage system in the bed of your truck. You can simply buy one.
The Decked system is rugged and waterproof. It looks like it is well made but there are a couple of things that kept me from buying this system. I would need help installing and removing the Decked system when I needed to do truck things. Decked is waterproof, so a load of dirt could go on top of the deck, but that would limit capacity and be a pain to clean up.
It also wastes a lot of space with its drawer slide system. We plan on using the truck for family road trips to climb around the country as well as my trips to the range. This puts space at a premium.
There around 1200 other reasons. I think the Decked system is expensive. If you get into the dividers and boxes it is even more so.
Truck Vault has a couple of options, but they seemed a bit too refined for my needs. I need versatility and durability. I also don’t want to get worked up when something gets wet or damaged.
The Truck Vault products also come with a premium price tag.
I’m relatively handy and I have built storage systems in vehicles in the past. I literally used to live in a van down by the river for most of the summer each year. I did so in a home-built system. That is what I decided to do for the 2019 Ram.
I decided on a simple plywood base, supports and deck assembled with a Kreg Jig and pocket screws. In the past, I’ve used butt joints very successfully but I wanted to reduce weight and materials while still maintaining strength. Pocket screws seemed to fit that bill and it was something new to me. My brain likes new.
The Pocket Screw kit and clamps I purchased ran me the same amount as my materials. $250 each for a total of $500.
Home Depot’s lumber is generally crap, but I actually like using their Sandee Plywood. It is lighter and less dense than higher-quality commercial plywood. With good techniques, it can be quite strong in this kind of application. It’s also a lot cheaper than more sturdy stuff. It makes for a good option for this kind of build.
The majority of the system is built from the ¾” (actually 18mm) Sande ply. The sides of the drawers are ½” (12mm.)
I skipped the drawer slides altogether. With a couple of coats of polyurethane and some wax, these drawers will glide like they are on ball bearings. I mean, “it’s all ball bearings these days…”
I went with a 2 drawer set up. This provides support over the 51” span of the decking and makes the drawers small enough to manage. At the same time, they are big enough to fit the things they need to fit.
I got two quick coats of poly on the system before the first test just to make sure a bit of water wouldn’t destroy my efforts, but I need to go back and sand her down and put a couple more coats on.
I also need to start planning where the drawers will get some dividers so that gear stays exactly where I want it.
I am very pleased with how the v1.0 of the range truck bed storage system turned out. I can move it in and out of the truck on my own very quickly when I need to. The build took me a total of 12 or so hours including my trip to the store to get materials and my pocket screw jig kit. The only tools I needed were a circular saw, a drill, a driver, the Kreg jig, a router for rounding over the edges, a 2” Forstner bit and a scroll saw for the handles, a whole lot of glue, and some polyurethane.
If you have the tools and are handy, this could be a great project to help you keep the back of your truck organized. Or you could go with a premade system like the Decked or Truck Vault. Either way, some in-bed storage can make your life better when you get ready to head to the range. Keep in mind this isn’t just a pick-up truck option. My wife’s Jeep Grand Cherokee is all set up as well.