Kia Sorento cargo shelf

For four years now, Ms. A.  and I have owned a 2005 Kia Sorento.

Though I loved my 1999 GMC Sonoma in many ways, it was not a good Colorado vehicle. A light, small 2WD pickup was er, interesting, to drive at times in the winter.

So for the rough jeep roads we sometimes travel on,  the snow found on paved and dirt roads and also wanting enough space for the outdoor activities we do, we settled on a used Kia Sorento.  Kia, and its fraternal twin Hyundai, are what Hondas and Toyotas used to be in my opinion: solid, dependable vehicles at a good value.

The 2005 Sorento is a 4WD vehicle  built on a truck frame  with 8.2 inches of ground clearance. (2010 and later models are AWD, have unibody construction and have 7.2 inches of ground clearance)  As a comparison, a 2015 Toyota Land Cruiser has 8.9 inches of ground clearance, a 2015 Jeep Cherokee has 8.7 inches, a 2015 Nissan Xterra has 8.2 inches and a Subaru Outback has 8.2 inches.  Unlike the Outback, the 2005 Kia is 4WD and has a 4H and 4L setting as well.  A bit more versatile for non-pavement driving.

The vehicle works well for light “off-roading” (rougher jeep roads for us, really) where we can access off-the-beaten path dispersed campsites, go to some trailheads in more remote areas and, with appropriate tires, not be as white knuckled driving vs my old pickup during winter conditions.

In short, the Kia is a good outdoor vehicle for our needs. Surprisingly rugged for a vehicle that is mostly associated with suburban shopping vs say, the Utah backcountry. What does that mean? It costs less than a comparable vehicle that is perceived to be “better”.

As a bonus, with our 5’6″ and 5’3″ heights, we can sleep in the back of the vehicle for trips when there is a lot of snow on the ground. Being able to sleep in the back was a requirement for us as well.

It is not the best on gas (sigh), but we are a one car family…so I don’t have to hand in my Boulder passport quite yet. 😉

Knock-on-wood, it has only been routine maintenance on the car (except for one unfortunate incident).

We just put in a new timing belt so we will have this vehicle for a while yet.

Which is long, rambling prelude to a little project I completed about a month ago.

We use our vehicle with out seats folded down ala my old pick up.  It is usually just Ms. A. and I or perhaps a buddy and myself.

However, the back was starting to become cluttered: Shopping bags, a spare sleeping bag, camp chairs, pads, my day pack that is usually in the car, a car emergency kit, etc.


I hate clutter.

So what to do?

I stumbled upon this link for a Honda Element. And thought “Hmmm???”

So I bought ~$80 worth of lumber , carpeting scraps and other misc items and I modified the example in the above link for our needs.

We do a good amount of car camping in off-the-beaten path and/or dispersed places and take the appropriate gear. And, I must confess, when car camping, I don’t see any reason to not bring a luxury item such as a cooler full of drinks, some good food and a well stocked and supplied camp kitchen.

So I wanted to build something that would work for our outdoor needs.

I wanted a platform that would also have underneath storage. And it would be in two pieces so we could fold up the seats if need be.  Secondly, the front shelf would be smaller and fit inside the rear shelf.  And, perhaps most importantly, it would all meet a certain someone’s approval! 😉

So here’s what the end result is:


Yes..I know there are dangly threads. 🙂 They will be removed…

  • I can (and have) slept on the platform solo. Have to remove it for the times we are both sleeping in the vehicle. Does not happen often, but it is sometimes a need. The shelf fits underneath the vehicle bumper.
  • Due to the wheel wells and pre-existing storage areas, there is space on the sides for a battery booster, socket set, vise grip,  tow strap, ratchets, motor oil, shopping bags and windshield washer fluid. Same items I had before. Just not taking up precious cargo space as much.
  • I added a cargo net to keep items in place (esp useful for groceries)

Sleeping pads, chairs and our camp table fits underneath the front side of the platform rather well.


And more by accident than design, our water jug and propane tank fits in the space created by the smaller footprint of the front cargo shelf rather nicely. I’ll take it! Naturally, this happy accident also means the water jug is easily accessible simply by opening the door.


And here’s how it all looks:


The cooler is behind the driver’s seat so the rear view is not obstructed and the passenger can easily get into the cooler to fish out a cold drink while on the road. Also on top is the “pantry” tote (dried goods such as coffee, tea, Nido powder, munchies, spices, olive oil, etc) ,my flyers kit bag with all my personal gear and the tote with our tent and camp kitchen (stove, utensils, cooking ware, etc) and Ms. A.’s sleeping bag.

Having the cooler and pantry tote so easily accessible also makes it every easy to have meals on the road,too (less time and money spent on the way to places!) .

Underneath there are hiking poles, my shoes, a duffel and an ever useful scrap of blue foam that is handy.

In the winter, for day trips,  I anticipate the skis going on top, the boots and other gear underneath. I‘ll re-add the winter emergency kit as well.

All in all, I am pleased with this simple, but useful addition to a vehicle we hope to have for a while yet.

EDIT June 2020:  The Kia went to the auto heaven in the sky after over 200k miles. We went with a Toyota Tacoma. We still have the same perma-camping kit, but many of the items now all fit into a tote. As of this writing, a camper shell is on the way. Due to COVID, there’s a six-week delay. I owned a 1999 GMC Sonoma (S-10) for five years and I missed owning a truck.


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RIP Kia Sorento 2005 – 2020. … For ten years I’ve had this vehicle and it took me from one coast to another, up and down the mountain roads, and through the desert. And I spent nearly a year essentially living out of it. … The 2005 Sorento is now a rarity in 2020: A mid-sized SUV built on a truck frame with 4WD and 4L and 4H. And the reason why I partially held on to it so long. It took us to many great places and made an excellent vehicle for our outdoor jaunts. Always packed with a “permacamping” kit, we could be out the door with it in under an hour. Or less. … Alas, after over 200,000 miles and a used engine put in a while back, it is at the point of no return. In the space of 10 miles, “something” happened, the temp gauge spiked, and the sickly sweet smell of coolant permeated the air. Even after immediately stopping, smoke still came from the engine. You don’t have to be a mechanic to know that a hot Utah day and an overheated engine = a ruined engine. Luckily it all happened on pavement and within a pocket of cell reception. Luck indeed in our neck of the high desert. … I signed over the title to a charity today and the tow truck took it away. … Saturday we get a new-to-us Toyota Tacoma. But that’s another story. … So long Kia, and thanks for the places you took us. … #kialife

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8 years ago

I built pretty much the same thing for our ’02 Yukon, and used it for a couple of cross-country camping trips when the back was just packed with stuff. I didn’t have to build supports, as the Yukon has large flat areas on the side to hold it up (though it’s much tougher to get in and out, so I just leave it in). As a bonus I can keep stuff under the shelf and no one knows it’s there.

Now that we’re using a Forester for long distance travel, I need to start building again.

8 years ago

Cool! And it sounds like a fun project. This reminds me something else I’ve had kicking around in the back of my mind – what about installing curtains/drapes in the back windows? Seems like it would make occasional in-car camping at trailheads, Walmart parking lots, etc more enjoyable – a little more privacy and ability to sleep in longer. Ideally, something you could quickly draw up and out of the way for normal use.

5 years ago

What were the measurements of the platform.