Building for Adventure Part 1: Storage Drawers
Updated: Oct 6, 2020
Earlier this year, I decided I would take a little more time for travel this summer. The longest overland trip I had been on up to that point was around a week. I had aspirations of making this trip last two or three weeks. Maybe even longer. I'd been out west in my 100 series three or four times, so I felt like I had a pretty good idea of how to build a Land Cruiser for adventure travel but I knew there was a lot of research and work to do. In this Building for Adventure series, I'll walk you through what I did to get ready and also share some of my experiences and tips.
Fortunately, I was starting with what I consider to be the best overland/adventure platform in North America: the 200 series Land Cruiser. The 200 series is insanely adventure-capable right out of the box. It's full-time four wheel drive with a 380hp ultra reliable V8. The 200 is roomy for long days, helping to fight driver fatigue without being too big. It's coilover suspension plus KDSS allow it to shine on and off-road. There's just so much that make the 200 the King of Long Distance Adventure Travel. Truly an awesome machine.
Storage for the long haul could definitely be improved though, so that's where I decided to start.
Luckily, I had a leg-up because I've spent the last five years building a 100 Series Land Cruiser. It was a slow build and I learned a lot. Some things I learned the hard way. I had a plan in mind that would hopefully correct some of the small inconveniences that I ran into with the 100.
The 200 has a rather large cargo area but in the USA it comes with fold down 3rd row seats that are generally not very useful for overland or off-road trips. My first order of business was to remove the 3rd row and install a drawer system. There are several aftermarket drawer options available and some people even build their own. I chose to go with ARB drawers. I started using ARB drawers in my 100 about four years ago and they have never let me down. For the 200 series, ARB offers three different heights, roller top or fixed top options, and a fit kit that ties the drawers in nicely with the sides of the cargo area. The ARB 1045 series drawers for the 200 series have a depth of 41 inches, a width of 21 inches, and an overall height that ranges from 5.5 inches up to 11 inches.
Once the 3rd row seats are removed, most people opt to use two of the drawers plus the fit kit to utilize the space in the cargo area. In my 100, I chose two of the 11-inch high drawers: one with a roller top for my fridge and one with a stationery top for cargo. I've found that while this gives a TON of storage it puts the fridge so high that its very difficult to see inside. While this didn't seem like a big deal at first, it became a huge inconvenience on longer trips and at night in the dark.
Early on, I decided one of my biggest goals of the 200 build would be to make everything a little more user-friendly. Bringing the fridge down to a more usable height was a big part of this vision. After looking at a few options, I decided to go with the ARB 3.5-inch roller top drawer and the 11-inch fixed top drawer plus the fit kit.
This setup definitely solved the problem of my fridge being too high and there's still storage left below the drawer. The lower height of the 3.5-inch drawer plus roller top means I can slide the fridge out and see inside super easy.
I use the storage below the fridge for things like hammers, pry bars, tire repair kits, breakers bars, torque wrench, etc.
I use the 11-inch drawer to store impact drivers, ratchets, sockets, wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, chisels, drills, wiring supplies.... basically anything that could be needed for a repair on-the-road. The drawer handles the weight with ease and locks in place when pulled out.
I added tie-down tracks to the top of the drawers to secure the fridge and anything else that I might decide to carry. 36-inch tracks are perfect for the fixed top and I used 5-inch tracks for the roller top on the fridge side. The tracks offer a ton of versatility and the tie-downs can be removed in seconds.
I've used this drawer setup for close to six months now, traveling over 20k miles. I've driven across the country and spent seven straight weeks living out of my truck. I can confidently say that if I had to do it again, I wouldn't change a thing. The drawers are a great foundation for adding accessories. I've added power ports, solar, and a few other tidbits to make life easier. They were a great first step in making the 200 a do-all adventure rig.
Next up in the Building for Adventure series, I'll cover rooftop storage, plus give some tips on packing for long adventures,