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Handy Slider: We Build A DIY Sliding Cargo Storage Tray For Our 4x4

Handy Slider

Bruce W. SmithPhotographer, Writer

Wheelers like to be prepared for whatever they may encounter off-road. Being prepared often means not only having basic self-recovery items handy but also extra fuel, water, and spare parts. Maybe even a chainsaw, generator, camping gear, and provisions. All of these things find their way into the bed of our pickups or the cargo areas of our Jeeps and SUVs.

If there’s a downside to the cargo-carrying attributes of lifted fullsize pickups and SUVs, it’s trying to reach all those things we bring along on such outings without climbing into the bed or leaning deep into cargo area to get the item that’s needed. As every four-wheeler knows, there’s some mysterious force that seems to place the very item we need just out of reach, whether that’s a towstrap, spare part, or toolbox.

An easy and inexpensive cargo storage solution to such a dilemma is installing a homebuilt sliding cargo tray so you can load and unload what you need without having to do the “belly balance” while leaning over the bedside or dropping the tailgate to hoist yourself into the bed.

Aftermarket “cargo slides” have been available for years. But instead of spending hundreds on one, we built a tray based on nothing more than the drawers you find in your kitchen or shop. What’s nice about making your own sliding cargo tray, like we did, is it can be made to fit any size pickup, SUV, or even the cargo area of an RV or toy hauler, using whatever quality of tray material and slide mechanisms your budget allows.

The critical part of building your own cargo slider is selecting the right slide mechanisms because they’ll support all the weight when the tray is pulled out. Most full-extension slide mechanisms found at do-it-yourself centers extend only 18 inches to 24 inches, and they don’t have the load rating or the length needed for off-road-vehicle applications.

On the other hand, heavy-duty, full-extension 36-inch Hettich drawer slides ($90 per pair), which can support loads up to 500 pounds, are a great choice for building a slider cargo tray. That length places the back of the tray about mid-way of the wheelwells of a pickup (or at the back of the rear seat of a fullsize SUV) when it’s closed, and the front of the tray extending just beyond the tailgate when it’s slid fully open.

Our cargo slider, which is built out of 3/4-inch AC-grade plywood, measures 36 by 44 by 4 inches. It can easily support all the tools and gear we need for wheelin’ out in the boondocks and slides it all within an easy reach when needed.

As you can see by the photos of our little do-it-yourself woodworking project, this is a very handy cargo storage upgrade that any four wheeler with basic carpentry skills and handtools can whip out in a couple hours without breaking a sweat.

Shopping List

(Estimated cost: $130)
(2) 36-inch Heavy Duty Hettich Drawer Slides
(1) 4-foot x 4-foot x 3/4-inch AC-grade plywood
(2) 3-inch x 3-inch x 36-inch x 3/16-inch 6063-T52 aluminum angle
(24) #8 x 1 1/2-inch wood screws (for tray build)
(8) #10 x 3/4-inch countersunk pan head screws (slide to tray)
(8) #10 x 3/4-inch countersunk machine bolts (slide to angle base)
(6) 3/8-inch x 1-inch countersunk machine bolts, nuts, lock washers, fender washers (angle bases to bed/floor)
(1) 5/16-inch x 1 1/2-inch cotterless hitch pin

Other Options

If you don’t have the time or interest in building a cargo tray but wish you had a cargo tray/drawer, there are a number of aftermarket trays available (including some vehicle specific) from companies including ARB USA (arbusa.com) and Tuffy Security Products (tuffyproducts.com). Peruse some of the offerings at 4 Wheel Parts (4wheelparts.com).