Some might say that packing space when camping is more valuable than having enough water on your trip! Ok, not really, but it is an important factor when planning for and going on a camping trip. According to some campers, arranging your gear and foodstuffs in your vehicle is a fine art and having the right kind of storage boxes can make your packing arrangement look like the Mona Lisa of camping. We tested and reviewed the Camp Master Utility Box storage units and here's what we think of them.
Our packing system started off with one large, plastic, black "Addis" tub on wheels and removable lid that could indeed hold most of our camping gear but was a) large and cumbersome, b) heavy when full and c) caused immense frustration when trying to find anything inside, especially at night in camp. So just before our trip to Khutse in April of 2018 (read about that trip here), we decided to upgrade our storage system to something more practical. Luckily at the time I came across the Camp Master "Utility Box" storage units on sale at our local Builder's Warehouse and immediately bought two!
Made of a hard and tough, black PVC plastic, the boxes have removable lids with four metal clamps (two on each side) that keep the lids firmly in place. The units have wide handles on either side that make for easy carrying to and from your vehicle and the design of the boxes is such that they are stackable, so that they can slot in place one on top of another, kind of like big Lego blocks for campers! :) The lids also have two circular grooves on top to hold your mug/can/bottle as you sit by the campfire or stop by a hippo-inhabited waterhole for sundowners.
The "stackable" functionality of the units come in handy when packing your vehicle as we found out, as are more sturdy as one mini-tower, are easily accessible and the rectangular, boxy shape makes them fit conveniently in the boot of your vehicle, on the back seats or even on your roof rack if you have one. We did notice, however, that you do need to wiggle them a bit to get them to slot properly on top of each other, so if you are intending to buy them, make sure that you test them first and find the two (or more) that fit the best.
We divided their duties between "Food Stuffs" and "Kitchen Items" and made laser-engraved labels for each so we would be able to quickly and easily find what we needed. The "Food Stuffs" one stored all of our food (that didn't require to be kept cold, obviously), like our bread, packets of noodles and soup, snacks, pasta, canned beans etc. And the "Kitchen Items" one, well, kept our kitchen items - kettle, mugs, tumblers, plates, cutlery etc. We found this combo to work best for us and will maybe add one more unit for general camping gear, e.g. flashlights, matches, binoculars, maps and the like.
Each unit has two small holes in the inside which we only really noticed and simultaneously realised what their purpose was when we returned from our second trip with the boxes to the Moremi Game Reserve (read about that trip here). As with most (if not all) camping trips, especially in Africa, dust will get into every nook and cranny of your vehicle and gear, including these storage units. The snug-fitting lids and clamps will keep the dust out when closed, but if you leave the box open in camp while you're making your lunch, some dust is bound to find its way inside. When we got home and started unpacking the boxes we thankfully figured out that we could just pour water directly into the boxes to clean them and the water will just drain out through the small holes at the bottom. This is also convenient if something spills inside the box.
Measuring 50cm in length, 40cm in width and 23cm in height and with a carrying capacity of 46 litres, these Camp Master Utility Box storage units are big enough for your essential camping gear and more, yet not too cumbersome to take up a lot of space in your vehicle. We found that stacking two on top of each other gave an acceptable overall height of the boxes, which were packed among our other gear in the spacious rear of our Toyota Prado, but if you were to stack three, they might tumble over. So we'd recommend stacking a maximum of two or using a bungee cord or rope to hold down three.
With frequent opening and closing of the units we did, at times, feel that it would be more practical if one side of the lid had hinges that will allow the box to be opened and closed much more easily, instead of having to always put the lid down and then fiddle with putting it back on when you need to close it. This isn't a deal-breaker for us though and the build quality, 'stackability' and decent size of the units are what we found to be the more enticing factors.
There are other brands of similar storage units on the market as well, but for what we paid for them, these Camp Master Utility Box storage units suit our camping needs just fine and we'd definitely recommend them to other campers on a budget who need to sort out the chaos in their vehicle with regards to packing and storing their camping gear, food, kitchen items, clothes or tools when going on a trip.
*Road Beneath Our Feet and its founders have no affiliation with the mentioned brand or camping gear manufacturer. All comments are based on our personal experience and we aim to inform other travelers based on that experience and our point of view only.*
"We are a Botswana-based family of 3, with a passion for going out into nature and the bush any chance we get!"