Full disclosure, I know a guy who knows a guy, so I did get an industry discount on the drawer. I was prepared to pay full price, so while nice, it was not a deciding factor in going with the Truck Vault drawer.
With that out of the way, I will just come out and say that I am a fan of easily accessible lockable storage for my vehicle. While a daily driver, a lot of my daily drives include accessing trailheads/hiking areas that may or may not be easy to get too due to weather or road conditions. Add to that a firm belief in being prepared, and the result is that a fair amount of stuff lives in my truck, because I never know when A drive is going to be That drive. Most of that stuff gets used rarely as long as I don’t make stupid decisions. However, when I do need it, I might not be able to unload the truck to get at what I need, and it would certainly be unfortunate if I left something at home thinking I was just going on a three-hour tour. I want to be able to easily access stuff like chains, recovery gear, air compressor, hand tools without any unloading (nothing worse than a yard sale on the side of the road), and quickly. At the same time all that stuff isn’t cheap, so I want it under lock and key. All of which means I want a way to store a fair amount of stuff that I can access easily and quickly but is still locked up and out of the way the majority of the time.
The stuff that lives in the drawer. You can also see one of the duffels I used to start as compared to the PalsPocket.
I carry way to many straps, but for some reason I feel a lot of hesitation about pulling some out.
Over the years I have tried a variety of different ways of storage and in each case, I have ended up moving on for one reason or another. To date I have tried both full width and behind the wheel well truck boxes, locked cases on the roof/topper or in the bed of the truck or back of the jeep, under the seat (or under the back deck in my jeep), duffels or other bags and locking the topper, slide out boxes from under a bed platform, and a contractor topper with toolbox on the side. I have been aware of the drawer systems for several years, but until last year I thought only full width systems were available. Last year I found out that Truck Vault makes a half drawer.
One of main uses for the bed of my truck is as a mobile home. Historically, I have used short cots, but for my current truck, I built a sleeping platform half the width of the truck and a shelf system for along the opposite bed wall. That allowed me easier access, a place to put my feet if I am sitting on the platform, and a full height location for things like mountain bikes. I didn’t want to lose that half full height setup as a result. It also gave me a lot of storage space under the platform all of which was light and easily configurable. The contractor topper toolbox gave me the easy access lockable storage area. While the contractor topper is a different topic for a different post, once I decided to go back to a regular topper the search was on for easily accessible storage. Remembering the heads up that a half bed drawer was possible, I decided to give Truck Vault a shot.
Works great as a sleeping space and I still have access to everything underneath.
When I built my platform, it was designed to barely clear the top of the wheel well so that I had as much “sitting” up height as possible on the platform. After some back and forth I figured out that the lowest drawer height available from Truck Vault was essentially the same height and width as my sleeping platform all in. Actually, a bit wider as it fills in the contours of the bed side better than my home build did. I also decided to go with their All-Weather design so that I can just hose the back of the truck out without worrying about getting the stuff in the drawer wet. The drawer itself has drain plugs so I can also hose it out.
I have had the vault in the back of my truck for a couple of months now and have slept on it and worked around it for daily use, and so far I am very happy. It works great for a sleeping platform and has enough space to fit in everything I want to have in there, with a couple of exceptions. The contractor side toolbox was essentially twice the amount of space, so I was able to keep a large, 0 degree sleeping bag in the side box, as well as a set of snowshoes. Simply due to the form factor of the drawer and the sleeping bag, it doesn’t fit. I could probably shove it in there and make it work, but the sleeping bag would take a up a lot of space. With regards to the snowshoes the bindings make them way bigger than they have to be so again I can get them in there with the other stuff, but it is a pain and shoving match. Once my new topper gets here, I have a few ideas about the shelf system for the offside that will accommodate both items. Everything else, including my camp chair, fits in with no problem, and with space to spare. It is also pretty nice to not put a sleeping platform in and out like I did with the wood one. It is just one less thing to mess with to get out the drawer or when I get home.
As far as loading, I used a first in last out layout along with being cognizant of weight distribution in the truck. That means all of the heavy stuff is in a row along the center of my bed more or less and then loaded so that I have weight behind the back wheel. One cool thing about the drawer is that even with a first in last out setup I can pull it out far enough to get at the stuff towards the front without having to remove anything. For organization, I ended up using a couple of old PalsPocket from the gear box as storage bags and they fit dang nice. I also tried some inexpensive Cabela’s duffels for a while, which is what I used in the Contractor topper, but they were a bit taller than I would have liked and being soft they seemed to always end up getting in the way of easy opening and closing of the drawer. The PalsPockets have a better, more defined shape. I would not mind if they were a bit taller, but they seem to be about half of the width of the drawer exactly. In one of the taller drawers, they could be stacked to give you two organized bags in one footprint.
Everything is accessible, just depends on how far a pull it out.
Handtools do live under the camp chair
I can pull it out just enough to get at what I need. You can also see the bag/packing evolution in play.
Okay, now for the dislike. The drawer comes with a side platform setup that fills in between the drawer box and the edge of the bed, which is awesome and plenty sturdy. However, they way they do that is a peg and hole setup with large supports. It works just fine, but the pegs can be a bit hard to get in and out unless the angle of the dangle is just right, and the supports are pretty large. That means that it can be a bit hard to get stuff into the storage spaces, which is surprisingly large, unless it can be squished in around the supports. I would love to see a piano hinge or similar setup and smaller supports, but without knowing the load rating they were going for it is hard to tell how much smaller they could be. Down the road I might end up experimenting with other options, but for now they are just fine, and the areas are getting used for stuff I can squish in, which means their design may not be an issue after all, time will have to tell on that one.
One of the things about load carriage is that it is pretty much a universal truth that you want weight down low at the center of gravity of your support system. I have been told that the formula for weight carriage is that the dynamic weight at the height of your roof is equivalent to 3 times that amount of dynamic weight at the bed floor height. Put another way 100lbs on your roof is the equivalent of 300lbds in the bed. One thing I have certainly found over the years is that I can feel the addition of weight up higher even if it is not that much weight. One of the arguments against the drawer system is that it adds a bunch of weight, and I am not going to argue with that. It is a sturdy large piece of equipment, and there is no away around that, but it puts the weight down low unlike some of the roof/topper mounted options I have tried. If you have limited load capacity then a drawer may not be the best option due to weight, but in my Tundra it is not an issue. Either way the amount of weight you are adding to your vehicle and where it is carried is always something to think through carefully. As far as the dynamics of the box and driving. I have noticed one very big difference and one smaller difference. The first is that I have way more traction. The box itself and the way I have it packed has put more weight on and behind the rear axle, which on a truck is a very good thing. Previously, I kept water in the rear of the bed and the contractor box was packed in a way to put the weight backwards, but it just does not compare. I can still spin the tires on wet or soft stuff, but I do not shimmy, they spin a bit and then catch, and I drive away. The smaller, but noticeable item, is that I get less roll and more push. Meaning when I am going around a curve the tail end pushes around rather than rolls around from the top. I am not sure I am describing this well, but the difference is really a feeling for where the weight is being carried when I corner hard. The rear end comes around with more authority, while it used to be more of a top roll around due to weight in the contractor box. The difference kind of caught me by surprise early on, but now I do not even notice, as I have become used to the way my truck moves while driving. I will say that I like the feeling of the push more than the upper roll as the truck feels way more planted.
In answer to a question, it is not a quick in and out setup. It has to be unbolted and then removed, and while not too terribly heavy it is somewhat awkward due to size. That means I am giving up some of my bedspace for larger items like furniture (although having a reason to not help folks move furniture is not a bad thing) or two folks sleeping side by side. However, a full width platform would be one solution to the latter issue.
The question now must be asked, would I recommend one? I really do not like making recommendations on something until I have worn out the item or have given it a lot of use. I don’t think I will be able to wear out this drawer any time soon, so that criteria is out the door. Time will tell if this is the right setup for me, but for now I am happy, and feel like I can give it a qualified “if it fits your needs” recommendation. Everyone I talked to with a drawer system also had nothing, but good things to say about them, which was part of my decision to spend the money. I have no buyer’s remorse and would be 100% willing to buy it again at full price based on my use so far.