DECKED Truck Bed Storage System Test and Review

patoz

Expedition Leader
DECKED Truck Bed Storage System Test and Review

As some of you know, I was selected by the good folks at DECKED to test, evaluate, and review one of their In-Vehicle Storage Systems. In my case the vehicle is a 2004 Ford F250 Super Duty 4x4, Super Cab and a 6’9” bed with an A.R.E. Z-Series Camper Shell.

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PLEASE NOTE! Just to be clear, I am not being paid for writing this review. DECKED chose me because they felt I was qualified and would be able to give an unbiased and fair evaluation of their product. I have been told that since there is no ending date for this review, the product is mine to keep no matter what my findings are, whether they be good or bad. Basically, that means no matter what I say about the product, they are not going make me send it back, so my review will not be influenced by that.

Why do I need a Truck Bed Storage System?

I’m a retired Firefighter/EMT and have enjoyed camping my entire life. Just about every truck I have owned has been 4WD, and I prefer wilderness camping over developed campgrounds. Over the years, my friends and I have built various storage systems, but none of them seemed to really do the job.

Now that I’m getting older, my days of sleeping on the ground in a tent or in the back of my truck are over with. I need a few creature comforts, so I decided to convert an older surplus ambulance to a camper trailer, which I should be able to drag off the pavement and into the woods to some extent, using my F250 as the tow vehicle.

I normally carry a couple of pretty complete tool boxes, off-road recovery tools, roadside emergency tools and supplies, medical gear (EMT), and survival tools and supplies, etc. Once a Firefighter, always a Firefighter!

In addition to all that, I will now be carrying support items for the camper trailer like wheel chocks and blocks, jack stands, extra chairs, coolers, grills, etc. and anything else that may not fit in the external compartments. I am constantly transporting building supplies and components, and going in and out of the back to retrieve items. The truck is my daily driver and is also used for working, shooting, general purpose hauling, and as a grocery-getter.

OK, enough about me, the truck, and why I need a storage system!

The System I Will Be Reviewing

DECKED Ford Super Duty 1999 through 2008 with a 6' 9" bed length - PART #DS1

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Here are just some of the key features -

  • Built from 100% recycled high density polyethylene co-molded to a steel sub frame.
  • Deck load rating of 2,000 lbs.
  • Standard bed unit weighs ~220 lbs., shipping weight is ~240 lbs.
  • No drilling needed; unit attaches to the existing tie-downs in your truck.
  • Drawers are engineered to hold 200 lbs. each while still rolling easily.
  • Over-sized handles make it easy to open the drawers with one hand...wearing gloves.
  • Drawers DO NOT fully extend. They only extend 48" for safety reasons.
  • Drawers are weatherproof to keep your gear dry.
  • Drawers can hold ice to keep your beverages cold (drain plugs sold separately).
  • Drawer measurements: 72.1" (L) x 18" (W) x 8.4" (H).
  • System height: 12". Height of truck bed wall varies by manufacturer.
  • Ammo cans provide four areas of additional storage on either side of the wheel wells, flip the lids and you have eight beverage holders or a handy place to store nuts, bolts, or screws when working on or near your truck. Ammo cans are not designed to be weatherproof or locked.
  • Stainless steel edge guard/ruler and a vert (center I beam) end guard/bottle opener.
  • DECKED can handle UV light, moisture, and extreme heat or cold.
  • Once assembled, system can be removed in about 30 minutes.
  • Three year limited warranty.
  • DECKED accessories are really cool and are sold separately. Check out the tracks, locks, dividers, trays, and drawer drain plugs and rail options.

The system will be coming with:

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  • DECKED D-Box, two boxes

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Other available accessories are:

  • DECKED Drawer Locks, set of two, with four load locks
  • 58" Core Trax 1000 tie-down tracks
  • 58" T-Track, silver, set of two (for Yakima/Thule racks)
  • DECKED Drawer Drain Plug, set of two

Format

Since the forum only allows us to post 10 pictures per page, I’m reserving the first four post of this review for first impressions, the installation process, and summary. This will preserve continuity and allow me to update it from time to time as need be. Questions and comments are welcome at any time, but they will start on post #5.

I think that about does it for the formalities, so let’s get down to business.


First Impressions

The main system arrived yesterday afternoon, which was a day earlier than I was expecting it. The accessories are due to be delivered today according to the tracking sheet.

I received a phone call to make sure I was home and 15 minutes later an 18 wheeler pulled up in front of my house. As I was approaching the rear of the trailer to help the driver who was struggling with the 243 lb. pallet mounted box, I noticed a strong scent of perfume or maybe air freshener in the air. As I got closer, I realized it was emanating from the box itself.

Since I wasn’t ready to install it yet, we set it in a small utility trailer I have so I could at least move it around. I had the A.R.E. dealer remove the camper shell from my truck so they can correct a few problems with the windows. Hopefully, I’ll get it back in a couple of days, and want to have it on the truck before I install the DECKED System.

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I had to sneak a peek, so as I was opening the box I took some pictures.

Various labels…

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What this red label means is, if you over torque the bolts you risk warping the deck itself which may allow water to enter the drawers thereby giving your tools or the contents a bath.

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Continued in Post #2.
 
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patoz

Expedition Leader
Everything in the box is organized and packed very well.

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This is the small parts box, and there are a bunch of them! Each bag of hardware is labeled with a number and a letter. The number corresponds with the installation step in the instructions, and each letter refers to the hardware's use.

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Now, back to that smell which is not unpleasant at all. Apparently, it is the product itself, and is more like walking down the laundry detergent aisle in a grocery store. This is a big box, so if you cut it into 3” squares, attach a rubber band to one corner, and hang it on your rear view mirror, you will never have to buy another air freshener for your vehicle again. :)


May 25, 2016

The box of accessories arrived, which contained a set of four drawer dividers and two D-Box kits. The D-Boxes are shipped unassembled and nestled inside each other. One bottom section also contained the dividers.

The Dividers

They are fairly heavy duty and fit he drawers very well.

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The D-Boxes

The unassembled kit. The black coil is the cord gasket for the lid. All of the pieces just snap together basically without any tools, however you may need to use a hammer to tap the stainless steel hinge pins in place. I was able to open and close the lid while pushing, and set the pins in place with just my fingers.

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The manual shows the gasket being installed after the lid is attached to the bottom, however I found it is easier to install the gasket first while the lid will lay flat on a work surface and then attach the lid to the bottom, however I found it is easier to install the gasket first while the lid will lay flat on a work surface, and then attach the lid to the bottom. The instructions don't mention it, but from past experience I know not to stretch the material while forcing it into the channel provided for it. This can allow shrinkage later on and cause the gap at the ends to possibly open up, increasing the opening size.

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The process took me about 5 minutes to do each one, and a cramp or two in my fingers. A nice addition would be for DECKED to include an inexpensive version of this tool which is just a pulley shaped roller mounted on a handle, and used to install the mesh fabric in window screens.

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The fully assembled box. There are two swing out handles, one on top so the box can be carried flat, and one on the front so it can be carried like a briefcase, however the box will not stand on the back side due to the taper and hinge lip. The latches are secure and VERY stiff, but I imagine they will loosen up some with use.

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The box also has molded in handles on each end, so it can be carried with both hands like it was a heavy box or crate.

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Technical Specs:
  • 20.5" x 17.5" x 8"
  • 1821 cubic Inches
  • 50 lb. weight limit
  • 9.3 lbs. weight of assembled box with two dividers

Manual - http://decked.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/D_Box_Assembly_FINAL.pdf
Assembly video - http://decked.com/video/dbox/

Sorry for the mediocre pictures of the D-Boxes, but my digital camera decided to stop working last night, so I had to use my cell phone for these. More to come about these boxes later!

As I removed and inspected each piece of the DECKED System, I noticed the attention to detail, the craftsmanship, and quality of materials used for each purpose, and it is all impeccable! There is absolutely no flashing or slag on the components left from the molding process, and no warping of the components. The only thing I found was a few curly cues from where holes were drilled to mount the hardware, and these just brushed away with my hand. These components are precision made and this is no cheap piece of junk! Everything about this system is heavy duty, and I have no doubt it will stand up to off-road use.


Continued in Post #3.
 
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patoz

Expedition Leader
May 28 & 29, 2016

The Installation

The old system – this is what I was using. Two Home Depot plastic tubs with a rope attached to them so I could pull each one back to the tailgate to get items out of them. Each tub weights about 70 – 100 lbs. because they contain things like hydraulic jacks, chains, snatch blocks, a bag full of various size shackles, a jumper battery, an air compressor, jumper cables, tow ropes & straps, tire tools, a couple of military folding shovels, etc. One also contains a case of bottled water and most importantly…a roll of TP! :)

The sheet of plywood functions as the sliding medium, but it still takes two hands and a strong back (which I no longer have) to pull a box toward you. If you look closely you will see two aluminum boat hook poles laying on top of each bed rail. These are used to retrieve smaller items and to push the boxes back into position at the front of the bed. Not a very efficient system, especially when there is a bunch of other stuff crammed in the back also!

The two tool boxes sitting in the rear corners contain electrical tools and supplies on the left, and a fairly complete mechanics tool set, including a half inch socket set, on the right. It weighs about 60 lbs. on its own. Since I already know these boxes will not fit in the DECKED drawers due to their height, the contents will have to be stored and organized somehow in the two D-Boxes.

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I have no idea how long it took me to install it, but DECKED says it takes about 2.5 hours if you are mechanically inclined, have the right tools, and a decent place to work. In my case I had the first two, but I’m getting older, no shop to work in, it was 90+° and I was working in the direct sunlight, so I took a lot of breaks to rest and re-hydrate.

I’m not going to cover each of the nine steps of the assembly in detail, because you can read the manual and see the video here:

DECKED System Installation Manual (Select your vehicle)

DECKED System Installation Tutorial

The Instructions/manual are easy to read and understand with pretty good diagrams, but there is one thing about Step 6E which was unclear to me at first. It states…

“The L-braces (loose in system box) have six holes - one round, five ovalled. Align brace with underside of drawer side lip. BEGIN INSTALLATION FIRST WITH THE ROUND HOLE and continuing to the ovals. Repeat for all drawer sides; bag 6E (4 times)”.

The ‘L-Braces’ are four pieces of angled steel which gets mounted to the underside of the lip on each side of the drawers. You would think there would be a right and left side with corresponding holes to match, but there is not. There are four pieces, all exactly the same.

Since I have OCD, my poor little brain couldn’t comprehend how this was supposed to work, and kept telling me I had received four left side and no right side pieces. I was right on the verge of calling DECKED to find out about this when I decided to watch the video again, and it all became clear. Two of the ‘left’ side pieces will become ‘right’ side pieces when you rotate those 180°, even though the hole sequence is backwards and the round hole is now at the rear of the drawer instead of the front near the handle, like it is on the left side.

So, if you’re OCD like me, you know this is not right…and will never be right, but it works just fine. I’m sure the reason for this is because it’s cheaper to produce one part that does two jobs, than it is to produce two separate parts to do the same two jobs.

Anyway, here are the highlights. I proceeded by laying out all of the small parts and my tools on a work surface nearby. OK, it’s an old morgue gurney but it serves the purpose. Have a razor knife or other sharp knife handy, because there are a lot of small bags to cut open. Open them one at a time, and only when called for. Do not mix the hardware either, because the only identification of each is the code on the bag!

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Then I set up an assembly table at the rear of my truck, which just happened to be the exact same height and made loading the completed sections very easy.

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This is the center I beam, or ‘Vert’ as it’s called, and the two outer roller channels.

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This is one thing I wanted to point out, because I didn’t see it mentioned in any of the literature or videos, so maybe it’s new. It’s a gasket that prevents any water sitting or splashing (think hard rain or pressure washer) on the deck from getting into the drawers.

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This is the driver’s side ready to go in.

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And this is the passenger’s side ready to go in.

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The following two pictures show how much usable space you lose down each side, but you get some of that space back by what you gain above the wheel wells, which you can now sit something on.

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And here is the finished product.

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I was able to install everything by myself, and only enlisted the aid of my much smaller, younger, and lighter neighbor, to crawl into the bed and attach the j-bolts to the front tie-down points, which I had previously swapped out for the lower ones provided by DECKED for my model truck. Between the two of us, we managed to get the deck centered in the bed and locked down. This will be much easier if there is no camper shell installed, because you can adjust the deck and tighten the j-bolts from the ground.

The 2004 F250 bed is wider at the front than it is at the rear (at least mine is) so the j-bolts were just barely long enough to center the deck up and get the nuts to thread on. Even then, the center seam of the deck was trying to open up some on that end. I’m hoping after the truck sits in the hot sun for a while, the deck will ‘relax’ a little and lose some of that tension. If it doesn’t, I may have to find some slightly longer j-bolts.


Stay tuned, more to come later...
 
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DECKED

Supporting Sponsor
Thanks for the thorough first impressions!

As for that smell - it looks (or smells) like you got one of a batch of "eau de DECKED" systems that have gone out recently. Because we use only recycled material for the plastic components, we think something scented made its way into the mix; this won't affect performance, and like most things scented, the smell will fade.

Looking forward to hearing how the system works out for you!
Happy Friday:)
 

patoz

Expedition Leader
Thanks for the thorough first impressions!

As for that smell - it looks (or smells) like you got one of a batch of "eau de DECKED" systems that have gone out recently. Because we use only recycled material for the plastic components, we think something scented made its way into the mix; this won't affect performance, and like most things scented, the smell will fade.

Looking forward to hearing how the system works out for you!
Happy Friday:)

Hahaha, and I thought I got one with a special new secret feature to keep the female campers and users happy!

I just now got my truck with the repaired and remounted camper shell back from the A.R.E. dealer, so installation will take place tomorrow morning. I'm sure I will have much more to add to 'First Impressions' as the unboxing and install proceeds.
 

patoz

Expedition Leader
Tagged. Looks like an install even I could do. : )
Thanks, and welcome aboard!


I have already moved the gear I normally carry into the drawers and filled them up completely. I had hoped the DECKED System would give me more storage space than what I had before, but that does not seem to be the case so far. However, I'm still rearranging things to see what fits where the best. This is also giving me some ideas on additional dividers, and how to better compartmentalize the D-Boxes to function as tool boxes.

Since the system does not come with the optional key locks, and even though I have a locking camper shell and tailgate on my truck, I went ahead and ordered a set so I can include them in the security section of the review also. It's raining here now, and we have heavy thunderstorms forecast for the next three days, so it may be a few days yet before I can get some decent pictures of any of this.

We have just entered Hurricane Season and already there is a low pressure system that is expected to form over the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico or the adjacent waters by tomorrow and move generally northward. Subsequently, this low is likely to develop into a tropical cyclone as it moves northeastward across the central and eastern Gulf of Mexico early next week. For those of us who live on the Northern Gulf Coast, things like this get our attention early.
 
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DECKED

Supporting Sponsor
I have already moved the gear I normally carry into the drawers and filled them up completely. I had hoped the DECKED System would give me more storage space than what I had before, but that does not seem to be the case so far. However, I'm still rearranging things to see what fits where the best. This is also giving me some ideas on additional dividers, and how to better compartmentalize the D-Boxes to function as tool boxes.
Are you able to carry everything you usually do, or have you had to make some concessions?
 

rlrenz

Explorer
You know, Pat, it's funny. Over the years, I've noticed that the stuff I used to always carry in my car, doesn't fit the next car I get. I finally reached the point of using a Rubbermaid container that's slightly larger than a copy paper box to hold the things that I can't stuff into my cars anymore - the container slithers around on corners unless I place it on a rubber mat, but at least I have it with me.

Nothing radical -- a couple of towels, first aid kit, a few tools, a road atlas, my portable GPS, some bungee cords/rope/stretch wrap. That's it. The spots that used to be there, aren't any more.

Are people just carrying a smart phone instead of bungee cords?

I'm following your review of this equipment closely - I may have to look for a version for my Explorer, or give up and go with a pickup truck.
 

patoz

Expedition Leader
Are you able to carry everything you usually do, or have you had to make some concessions?

After moving everything around several times, I managed to get it all in the drawers and one ammo can with the exception of my socket sets and a 4' x 6' furniture moving quilt, that I use to lay on under the truck if necessary, and could also be used as an emergency blanket.

I had all of my Recovery Gear in some very nice Blue Ridge Overland Gear Bags, but had to break down some of the bags and store the gear separately. I placed the chains, shackles, hooks, etc. in the Left Rear ammo can, which fit nicely. Since I have a camper shell, this stuff should stay dry and not rust. The Socket Sets are too long for the D-Boxes, so I'm looking at breaking them down into shorter socket holder strips, and then putting them in nylon tool bags or something similar. Not the ideal solution, but I want to see just what it will take to get everything I need to carry in there. There is no room for the quilt, so I may have to reduce the size of that down to something like a poncho liner, which will pack down much smaller.

There is no room at all for my large First Aid/Trauma Kit that I'm adding, so it will have to go in the cab somewhere. I did consider using a D-Box as the kit itself, but again there is not near enough compartmentalization as it stands right now. Maybe, I'll work on that later on too. If it works out you guys may have to start making some orange and yellow ones. :)
 

patoz

Expedition Leader
You know, Pat, it's funny. Over the years, I've noticed that the stuff I used to always carry in my car, doesn't fit the next car I get. I finally reached the point of using a Rubbermaid container that's slightly larger than a copy paper box to hold the things that I can't stuff into my cars anymore - the container slithers around on corners unless I place it on a rubber mat, but at least I have it with me.

Nothing radical -- a couple of towels, first aid kit, a few tools, a road atlas, my portable GPS, some bungee cords/rope/stretch wrap. That's it. The spots that used to be there, aren't any more.

Are people just carrying a smart phone instead of bungee cords?

I'm following your review of this equipment closely - I may have to look for a version for my Explorer, or give up and go with a pickup truck.

Bob,

I have always carried more than I normally need, but dropped it back down to the basics after I retired from the Fire Dept., and pretty much stopped going off-road to camp. Most of all that gear was replaced by tools for my Home Repair Business, which is now also history. It's time now to get back into back country camping and enjoying my retirement, so I need to get all the recovery tools and survival stuff back in the truck again, and it needs to be very organized.

I believe this system will work for me, but it will be a trade off in some areas. It's really too soon to know for sure what will be involved.
 

rlrenz

Explorer
Is it possible to stack two deck units, one on top of the other, for double storage?

Everything is a trade-off, unless you're buying file cabinets or foot lockers. Storage space doesn't seem to be a concern to dealers unless you're talking about a truck.
 
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patoz

Expedition Leader
Lock Set

The lock set I ordered showed up yesterday, so I decided to install it this afternoon. Unfortunately, this Kit is a huge disappointment. I am planning on reserving judgement (any bad stuff) for the end of the review, but there is no sense in waiting on this one.

Here is a stock photo of the Kit - DECKED PART # AD1

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The kit consist of two locks with two keys each, and they are all keyed alike.

Installation Manual - http://decked.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/LOCK-INSTALL.pdf

Step 1 of the manual tells you to install the Lock Brace first (see manual for details). Everything else I have come across on this system has had precision pre-drilled mounting holes, with the exception of these plates. So, after I went back and rounded up a drill and the proper size bit, which is not specified either, I mounted the plate on the passenger's side drawer. This is no big deal, but why not just have the holes accurately pre-drilled like the rest of them, and save the customer some aggravation?

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Step 2 tells you to install the Lock Barrel and tighten down the nut over the lock washer using a pair of needle nose pliers. The problem is, the Lock Brace you just installed is now in the way. There is also no room for your fingers because you are attempting to run the nut down 1.5" of threads into a narrow channel. This nut would not spin freely, and I ended up using a large pair of tweezers to get it close and then used the needle nose pliers to get it tight. A large 7/8" deep well socket would work, but I didn't have one.

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On the other side, I attempted to install the Lock Barrel first and then the Lock Brace, which would have worked fine with room to spare. However, the threads on this nut and/or Lock Barrel are so sloppy the nut would not even thread onto it. I could hold the nut and move it up and down the barrel like you would move a ring up and down your finger. At this point I was unable to continue the installation on this side.

Here are the individual components of the defective lock set.

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And here is the defective Lock Barrel and nut. I don't think the nut is supposed to look like that when it's properly threaded. Considering what it does, that nut needs to be much heavier duty also.

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I don't know if these lock sets were an after thought or what, but considering their poor quality and sloppy tolerances, they do not belong on the DECKED System, which so far has proven to be a very high quality product in general.

Even if I get these components replaced, this Lock Kit is more of a visual deterrent than it is theft proof. Looking at it's design, a small flat bar would pop a drawer open with little effort.

I'm sorry D-Guys, but this item doesn't make the cut in my opinion! Maybe, you need to source these from somewhere else in the future.
 
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rlrenz

Explorer
I wonder if the original locks that they received were different than the ones they have now?

Commercial products can be changed by the supplier without notifying the buyer. The product may have started out as US made, but these definitely look like a low-bid Chinese knock-off. I've used similar locks before, but I've never seen this poor workmanship.
 
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