How to Build a Removable Cargo Shelf for Your Chevy Trailblazer EXT on a Budget ($14 DIY Guide)

How to Build a Removable Cargo Shelf for Your Chevy Trailblazer EXT on a Budget ($14 DIY Guide)

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In my quest for the ultimate outdoor adventure, I found myself craving the open air and seeking ways to elevate the car camping experience in my trusty 2002 Chevy Trailblazer EXT. While sleeping in the back with an air mattress was a decent attempt, I encountered a recurring issue— an inconvenient 3″ drop in the rear section that caused the mattress to slope awkwardly beneath my knees and feet. Far from the optimal comfort I was aiming for.

I have seen a few OEM cargo shelves like the one below on eBay, but they cost $80-100 which didn’t seem worth the expense.

2002 Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT. (X03CT_TX02)

Doesn’t she look so happy with her removable cargo shelf? I want to experience that level of happiness, but without dropping $100 for an accessory for my extremely old SUV.

Alternatively, you could buy an aftermarket retractable trunk shielding shade which I have currently on two of our vehicles. They are nice because they retract out of the way when not in use. NOTE: They are not load-bearing like the DIY approach described below is, but still very helpful.

Affordable DIY Cargo Shelf for Chevy Trailblazer EXT

A cargo shelf is a game-changer for anyone looking to optimize their Chevy Trailblazer EXT’s storage space. This simple addition offers numerous benefits, providing a dedicated platform to organize and secure belongings during travels. Not only does it enhance the overall organization of your cargo area, but it also allows for efficient stacking of items, preventing them from shifting during transit. What makes this solution even more appealing is its wallet-friendly nature — the entire project can be executed for a mere $14, making it an affordable and accessible option for budget-conscious readers. 

I surveyed the situation and took some measurements before heading over to Lowe’s with the mission of spending as little as possible while keeping the construction as simple as possible.

The Trailblazer EXT has built-in slots to hold the removable shelf. The shelf can be installed in an upper and lower location. The purpose of the lower location is to provide a nearly level cargo area when all the seats are lying flat. This will solve that sloping mattress issue.

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The slot is 1″ deep so I was thinking a 1″ thick board would do the trick. I later realized that a “one inch” board is actually only 3/4″ thick. Close enough!

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The depth of the shelf slot is 14 3/16″ so my goal depth for the shelf was 14″. 

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The height of the lower shelf position from the floor is 3 1/16″ so I needed to create supports so that my shelf wouldn’t buckle under the weight of an air mattress with 1 or 2 people sleeping on it. I figure 3″ would do which is the thickness of two 2x4s.

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After looking at the options available to create a shelf that is 14″ deep, I opted for a 1x8x10. A 1×8 board is actually 7 1/2″ wide so two of them side by side will be 15″ wide which is fine after cutting a 1/4″x1″ notch in each end of one of the boards.

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Lowe’s is always happy to make a few cuts for you so I had the board cut into two 49″ pieces.

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Luckily my neighbor Eric had some scrap 2×4’s to construct the 3″ high supports for when the shelf is in the lower location and needs to support more *ahem* weight.

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We attached the supports 13″ from the ends to keep the supports from resting on a storage compartment in the floor of the Trailblazer.

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Eric used a grinder to cut off the ends to the screws so there aren’t any dangerous pointy parts on the bottom of the shelf. Thanks, Eric!

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Our 1/4″ x 1″ notch works perfectly!

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Cargo shelf installed in the lower location with seats down ready to receive an air mattress:

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Cargo shelf installed in the upper location with seats up ready to receive groceries or whatever: 

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Another benefit of this shelf in the upper location with seats up is added security for items stowed underneath.

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  • one 1x8x10 ($14)
  • two 14″ pieces of 2×4 ($0)
  • two 4″ pieces of 2×4 ($0)
  • twelve 2″ wood screws


  • radial saw
  • drill
  • grinder (optional if you have shorter screws)

Next steps:

  • wrap in industrial carpet (hopefully scrap piece at no cost)
  • sand and paint any exposed wood surfaces

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