Words by Bill Dragoo | Photos by Susan Dragoo
Outfitting a purpose-built vehicle is one of the joys of overlanding. Our 2011 Tacoma GS, (so dubbed because of its Gelande Strasse or Land and Street capabilities) with its 5-foot bed may seem a bit small for some glampers, but for us, it’s just the right size. We intentionally built a machine that is nimble and capable over the most technical terrain, able to travel fast when needed, and comfortable. That means it must carry everything necessary for an extended backcountry trip including the usual cooking paraphernalia, a bed-top tent, solar charging capability, tools, recovery gear, and a pressurized water system large enough to support several hot showers. The Tacoma’s short bed fills up quickly, spilling over onto our BajaRack rooftop rack and into the stripped and modified double cab rear passenger area. Making the best use of bed space is paramount.
Decked drawer systems are made in America and designed to handle the rigors of a rugged, industrial environment. Using an HDPE composite similar to the Tacoma’s bed material, the assembly essentially raises the bed floor 12 inches and provides a flat surface which, without the intrusion of the wheel wells, actually offers more square footage for equipment than the original bed. Two “ammo cans” double as the rear deck support structure and fill the space behind the wheel wells. They also provide handy stash pockets for smaller items. I used one of ours as a place to install two 12 V outlets out of the weather and within easy access to our Engel MT 45 Fridge and LED area lighting harness.
Our truck must be convertible since, when we aren’t overlanding, we use it for small construction projects and daily transportation at home. The Decked system allows us to bolt on our tent set-up, strap down the water tank and disappear into the wilds within a reasonably few minutes.
This being my first attempt, installation was a half-day job. That time could be cut significantly next time around. Well written and at times humorous instructions suggest having a buddy or two on hand to thread a nut or to help heft a partial assembly, but I found it easy enough to simply one-man it by using a strategically-applied vise grip here and there to hold the stainless steel hardware in place while tightening. You are warned to only use hand tools but the makers of Decked accommodate our manly natures of assembling things with power tools by supplying a couple of spare threaded inserts and four extra bolts, just in case. It is imperative that the instructions are followed to the letter because assembly sequence is critical to being able to reach everything and making it all fit, which it did with considerable precision. The molded composite components are well formed, stout and sensible. Tight, overlapping joints should stay snug indefinitely and rust is a non-issue. The whole affair weighs just over 200 pounds, a reasonable investment in load capacity considering the added utility of the bed.
Large, cast aluminum handles make opening the boxes a simple graband-pull scenario and each drawer rolls effortlessly on four industrial grade skateboard style wheels, the upper ones within a steel C channel. This arrangement is less susceptible to grit and, unlike most drawer glide systems, requires no lubrication … plus, it’s quiet. We chose to install the optional locks on each drawer since the Tacoma’s tailgate is of the non-locking variety. A stainless steel rear trim section is marked in one-inch increments plus has a conversion chart for several industrial or overlanding-friendly measurements, and a handy bottle opener sits between the drawers.
Optional Core Trax adjustable rails provide a wide range of sturdy anchor points on top of the drawers. We rounded out our system with two form-fitting water- and dust-proof D Boxes, which fit nicely in the passenger side drawer. Plastic dividers prevent stored equipment from shifting fore and aft while driving.
Decked systems are warrantied for three years by the manufacturer. X1,
$1149.99 (INCLUDES SHIPPING), DECKED.COM