Continuing on our journey towards building the ‘Ultimate’ Expedition box has seen us getting an education in the use of Design and Engineering companies, CAD, plastic compositions, recycled materials, injection and roto-moulding techniques, as well as vac-moulding, alloy extrusions, anodizing and the design of stainless fittings like hinges and latches. Not to mention protection of Intellectual Property, sourcing funding, and business models. A steep learning curve to say the least, and one that so far could be described as satisfying, but tempered with more than a little frustration, and worry at overall costs and being completely out of our depth. Discussing it in the form of these blogs has been somewhat therapeutical as well as helps us gauge whether there is any real interest or not, and so far we have been gladdened by the feedback and suggestions.
To start with, we decided to seek the help of people who had already been there and done it with their own products, as well as the selection of a design company who were heavily involved with the design of MaxTrax. This resulted in our concept being converted from the ether of our brains to a series of sketches on paper, which were then further refined as we ran into design challenges, material limitations, and simple dimension restrictions. We also collaborated extensively with Shane Stroud from Decked Out Fabrications (who built the custom canopy on my 79 series dual cab tourer), and a number of experienced operators in the marine industry, oil and gas industry, ADF, and aviation logistics.
Our highest priorities with this new box design are to have a quality product that is water and dust proof and has dimensions that are much better suited to use in vehicle cargo bays, and yet not too heavy to throw on the roof. After this, we want these boxes to be versatile and loaded with features that were invisible and yet integral to the intended use. Stackable, lockable, being able to sit on them and being able to utilise them with a variety of tie-down methods all came next. This is how it is starting to shape up…
The box itself is going be about 580 x 440 x 325H, with 3.5mm wall thickness, a flat floor, smooth but stepped walls and about 55-litre volume.
The box lid has been designed with grooves to align ratchet straps, both crossways and lengthways and to allow other boxes to be stacked on top. It also has reinforcing ridges incorporated on the inside to help cope with being used as a make-shift chair or step and we have tested it with 120kg and not broken the seal. The lid is also raised to prevent the pooling of water on top if left out overnight in camp and to house those taller items like cereal boxes and wine bottles.
The water/dust seal is a combination of a raised lip, and a replaceable compressed rubber material contained in an opposing groove. The lip is raised to assist in keeping water out, even when under pressure from driving rain and a vehicle moving at highway speeds. In fact, the seal is so good we had to incorporate a Goretex pressure equalisation valve to prevent the lids locking down with changes of temperature or altitude.
The rim of the box is reinforced all around and has inbuilt comfort grips on the ends to prevent fingers jamming when carrying the box, which is something that happens with those cheap plastic boxes from the supermarkets.
It also has integrated and reinforced tie-down points for use with turnbuckles, or up to 12mm rope, to allow convenient use with roof racks or ute trays, whilst still allowing the ability to open the lid without undoing everything. After feedback from a logistics expert, we designed the box rim so it can be used within a frame or rack system and be strong enough to comfortably hold full weight.
The box hinges and latches were particularly challenging to work out but have been fully recessed to prevent damage or catching on anything and contain no metal, so there will never be rust. This was a ‘must have’ request from contacts in the Trawler industry, Marine Parks, Fisheries Department and even the Water Police.
We also desperately wanted to avoid the need for a wire cable or similar to hold the lid open. Those cables are a pain in the butt and always seem to twist sideways and get caught under the lid as it closes. The hinge we’ve designed is integral the box itself, rock solid, will hold the lid open at about a 70-degree angle backward, and yet still allow it to be removed without the need for tools.
The inside of the box can easily be hosed out without the annoying inner lip on some of the larger roto-moulded boxes that retain the water and dirt and frustrates the clean-up after a trip. The sides of the box are all nice and smooth with rounded corners, so wiping it out with a rag is super easy.
With the lids removed, boxes will nest into each other to save space when not in use, much like the good old Nally bin does. A handy drop in tray also nests into the top section of the box for storing those smaller items. Two trays will fit if required, and they have a nice grab handle for ease of use.
The box is made from a Polypropylene variant that is super tough and hard wearing, chemically resistant to just about everything and intrinsically safe (no sparks) as there are no metal parts. It will also handle temperatures from well below freezing, to +65C and not warp. I know that the back of an alloy canopy, when left in the sun all day, can get bloody hot, and it was minus 2C in the Simpson Desert when we last visited. We will also likely choose a selection of colours to easily allow identification of the box contents at a glance. I currently use four different coloured bins in the back of my Landcruiser and find this makes life a lot easier when asking one of the kids to grab something for me. They also very quickly work out which boxes contain food related items and haven’t yet needed to be told a second time…
Design applications have all been filed and best of all, this premium grade expedition box is 100% designed, and will soon be prototyped and made here in Australia – in Queensland to be exact.
“Des. Appl. No 201712946”