Some people prefer to buy prebuilt expedition trucks or camper vans, but others like to build their own or just camp out of a simple, everyday vehicle. Trail Kitchens makes it easier for the DIYers, packing a functional kitchen into a metal box smaller than a cooler. Each Trail Kitchen is built to hold up to the trials and tribulations of rough, bumpy rides to camp, folding out upon arrival ready for you to slice, dice, sear and boil everything from hot dogs and salad to four-star gourmet meals – without rifling through the trunk looking for scattered appliances and utensils.

Trail Kitchens isn't breaking any new ground with its portable camping kitchens, as chuck boxes have been hanging around the intersection of vehicle-based travel, outdoor living and DIY woodworking for many decades. There's also a healthy market of collapsible kitchen boxes and roller carts already out there, including the Kanz Field Kitchen, the My Camp Kitchen, the Grub Hub and, the Rolls Royce of the bunch, the Camp Champ.

Trail Kitchens got started in this buzzing market in 2014 and has been developing and expanding its lineup of compact, portable kitchen and sink modules ever since. Its designs are similar in purpose to those we've mentioned, but like so much in the overlanding and camping markets, aim to attract customers with a unique construction and layout.

The heart of Trail Kitchen's lineup is its best-selling Camp Kitchen, which relies on stainless steel and aluminum construction, with the promise of carrying much lighter than all-wood chuck boxes. For a quick comparison, the 18 x 16.5 x 24.5-in (45.7 x 42 x 62.2-cm) TK Camp Kitchen weighs 39 lb (17.7 kg), while the 28.6 x 14.4 x 18.8-in (72.6 x 36.6 x 47.8-cm) My Camp Kitchen Outdoorsman weighs 35 or 45 lb (15.9 and 20.4 kg), with the legs and extenders used to set it up. Figures are based on the specs published on each manufacturer website, and the different figures for the My Camp Kitchen reflect different wood options.

The TK Camp Kitchen rides neatly next to other camping gear in the vehicle trunk, bed or load area, carrying all its shelves, legs and components in the single box. The camping stove is not included with the basic Camp Kitchen and packs separately. The Camp Kitchen is made to be compatible with two-burner stoves up to 22 in (56 cm) wide.

At camp, the Camp Kitchen's side counters and legs remove out of the top of the box. The box itself turns into the central body, and the shelves and legs secure to build up a functional kitchen within a few minutes' time using tool-free hand bolts. The stove drops in the space atop the body where all the hardware was originally stored, and drop-down shelves hang below each side counter. The telescoping legs work to adjust height between 31 and 34 in (79 to 86 cm) and level out the uneven ground below.

All told, the Camp Kitchen offers 12.2 sq ft (1.1 sq m) of table space and can hold up to 300 lb (136 kg), while a drawer and cabinet below the stove stand helps organize cookware and utensils. Available packages and accessories like 10-in wheels with pneumatic all-terrain tires, an integrated stove and a full set of cookware make the Camp Kitchen even more of an all-in-one solution, but, of course, add to the unit's size, weight and price.

As you'll notice, the Camp Kitchen doesn't include a sink or running water, but Trail Kitchens does offer a sink box that functions similarly to its fold-up kitchen boxes. The High Performance Hot Water Station packages a 34,000 BTU/hour propane hot water heater, 12V water pump and battery, faucet, shower wand with extendable hanger, and fold-out shelves. Feed water from an external container, and slide a collapsible sink bin under the faucet, and you have a functional camp sink/shower for washing dishes, people and gear.

The water station features the same style of aluminum and steel construction as the kitchen and holds up to 300 lb (136 kg), while the shower includes an 8-ft (2.4-m) hose and four-setting head, with a privacy enclosure available optionally. The entire unit packs up into a 58-lb (26.3-kg), 20 x 10.5 x 24.5-in (51 x 26.7 x 62.2-cm) box. Of course, water and propane tanks will also add to the overall size and weight of the system.

Trail Kitchens offers three water filtration options, from a basic carbon filter that pulls out large contaminants and improves taste, to a virus filter for tiny microorganisms.

For those that prefer their kitchen more neatly integrated into their camping carriage, Trail Kitchens also offers a vehicle-mounted slide-out that packages the Camp Kitchen and a hot water/sink box neatly, side by side. Designed for Jeep Wranglers and other utility vehicles, the hot water/sink includes an integrated 6-gal (22.7-L) water tank, water pump system, faucet, fold-out worktop and LED lighting. The Camp Kitchen is still removed and used outside. A hot water heater/shower package and fridge slide are available as options.

Trail Kitchens says the system installs without drilling and takes about five minutes to remove and install, making it easy to leave home during regular use and reinstall for camping trips.

The Trail Kitchens Camp Kitchen starts at US$699 for the basic model and jumps to $899 when you add either the integrated stove or the available cookware package. For those looking for something smaller and cheaper, Trail Kitchens also offers the $499 25.5-lb (11.6-kg) Compact Camp Kitchen. The Hot Water Station retails for $1,499, and the Wrangler Camping System for $2,490.

The video below gives a better feel for how Trail Kitchens' standalone utility boxes pack up, set up and ride in an SUV.

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