Fold-out car trunk table for road tripping


Made for a two-week road trip with friends from Los Angeles to Seattle in summer 2015, this car table was meant as a simple and useful solution to the problem of food preparation on the road. Constructed of stained and sealed plywood, the table folds up vertically to take up minimal trunk space when not in use and flips down and out easily when needed.

Unfolding the car table.

The table is anchored via two gate hinges, two L-brackets, and bolts to the spare tire cover of our 2007 Toyota Camry. The trunk carpet goes over the hardware, leaving the interior of the trunk clean and uncluttered. Weight in the trunk helps keep the table stable. The table is additionally supported farther along its length with cords, which are polyester clothesline tied using bowline knots to convenient grocery hooks on the inside of the Camry’s trunk. A small wooden block fits into the recess for the trunk latch in the lower part of the trunk opening to further constrain the table’s position when folded down.

Our road trip was the real-world test for this car table design, and it performed beautifully. The table never broke down, failed, or required adjustment, and served its purpose of providing a surface for food preparation. With the table, we were able to serve meals out of the back of the car without ever having to take the cooler out; this proved useful when we were tired, or pressed for time, or when it was raining. Instead of finding a picnic area or returning to camp to cook, we could make meals anywhere we could park the car. We even received a number of compliments on the table from other hikers and tourists.

One area of improvement might be the finish – it could have used additional coats of sealant, and a few parts of the wood started to absorb spilled water and liquids, taking on a few light stains in the process. But for a first version, this car table was a great little road trip tool, and succeeded in making food from a chore into something to look forward to.