Family Patrol Box: Trying Something Different

December 19th, 2011

A patrol box is a portable camp kitchen used by scouts to easily store and access items such as pots/pans, cooking utensils and other items needed while cooking and eating. Many troops have their own for use on campouts – you pack your items once and can easily retrieve/use them on car-camping trips. All the ones I’ve used with troops or at scout camp facilities look something like this:

I do a lot of camping with my family – some car camping and some backpacking. A few years ago I decided to make our own family patrol box to make the car camping experience a bit easier. I modeled after the scout patrol boxes I’d seen, but with some important modifications.

Modifications Needed

Make it Lighter: The tradition boxes are HEAVY. They’re most often made from 3/4″ plywood, which makes them durable but also so heavy that it takes 2 scouts to carry it and another 2 to help set it up (if you’re lucky).

Change the Size: Most I’ve seen were tall and relatively shallow. I wanted one that would be a little shorter, but also deeper, making it easier to transport and also to store things of varying sizes.

Make it More Reliable on Varied Terrain: Whenever possible I’ll simply set the patrol box on a picnic table. When that isn’t an option, though, they’re made with legs to stand alone. Traditional boxes, however, have fixed length legs which necessitates finding a very flat piece of ground – not always the easiest thing when camping.

The Process

While searching for plans that might meet my criteria, I started off with plans for lots and lots of the traditional boxes. Big, super strong – but also super heavy. Some of the plans even called for carts to help move the behemoth boxes. Those work under some circumstances, but we don’t have a family trailer to haul this thing around in. We needed something that changed the thinking.

After nearly giving up hope, I came across the site, which takes a “skin and bones” approach. Essentially, instead of constructing the entire box out of heavy, thick plywood they build a box structure out of 2×1′s (the bones) and then cover it with a lighter-weight 1/4 or 1/8 inch plywood (the skin). The result is a box that is nearly as strong, but at a fraction of the weight.

I purchased a set of the plans on the site, modified them for my needs and with the help of my dad’s shop and expertise built our family patrol box.

The Results

The end result matched all the goals. Lighter? Check – I can carry a fully-loaded box by myself (or easily with two). Different size? Check – it easily fits everything I needed, being several inches deeper than most. Good on varied terrain? Check out the legs! My dad had the brilliant idea of using large aluminum tent poles (the kind you’d use on large canvas tents) as the legs. They’re lighter and can be independently adjusted, standing the box at different heights and compensating for uneven ground!

The following are pictures of the box. As you can see, it’s made of a basic box shell of pine 2×1′s, covered in a thin plywood. We even added a paper-towel holder that lays flat against the box when the front door is up, but hangs down nicely when the box front is down and in use.


The patrol box in use at Golden Gate Canyon State Park here in Colorado. As you can see, it’s kept fairly level even though it’s on less than perfect ground (it was actually a steeper incline down the hill than it looks in the picture).

The only downside is that the skin/bones approach (at least when using the lighter/cheaper pine) is not quite as bomb-proof as the traditional box. Still plenty strong though – this box has been on several family and scout campouts and looks as good as new. With just a little respect, our family patrol will last for many years to come!

You may also like:



  1. Do you by chance offer plans for this?

    • Unfortunately, I don’t have plans for the box. And, if I were to do it again, I might make it a bit smaller. Generally, what I did was build a frame (to any size) out of 1×2′s and then cover it with thin plywood. Not much more too it then that. I know plans would make it easier to replicate, but as I did it a bit on the fly and only built one, I didn’t take the time (and don’t have the time at the moment) to look back and put some together.

      If you have any other specific questions about the build, though, feel free to post them here.

Leave a comment:

RSS Feed Facebook