Hotdogs and s’mores have long been the quintessential camping meal, providing simplicity and accessibility to campers. While these staples may still appear on our camping menu, technological advancements have allowed us to step up our game and get creative with our mealtime prep. Camp cooking can be an enjoyable activity for the whole family.
What you choose to pack for your camp kitchen will rely heavily upon the menu you’ve created beforehand. Once you’ve planned your meals and determined the type of cookware you’ll need, you will have a better idea of how to pack for mealtime. This article will highlight your camp kitchen essentials and provide a complete guide for kitchen success.
Let’s get cooking.
1. Camp Stove
We’ve placed the camping stove at the top of the list because it provides efficiency and convenience for the camper. Camp stoves are small, portable stoves that provide a means for whipping up incredible meals and snacks. The cook station you need will depend on the space you have.
Camp stoves are fairly user-friendly, often requiring only propane to light the flame. Once you’ve attached your propane cylinder and ignited a flame, you’re ready to cook. Camping stoves offer you the freedom to cook almost any stovetop meal you enjoy at home.
2. Portable Camp Kitchen
Investing in a portable camp kitchen is also a great idea for camping enthusiasts or those who want the comforts of a home-cooked meal outdoors. Portable camp kitchens typically include the essentials when it comes to cooking spaces and kitchen conveniences.
Camp kitchens often feature collapsible side tables for storing food or for prepping. They also provide countertop space, giving the passionate camp chef a solid surface for cutting and food prep for mealtime.
Camping kitchens may also include a tabletop for eating or extra storage compartments underneath. Other conveniences include paper towel holders, utensil hooks, and lantern poles.
Some deluxe versions of camp kitchens include kitchen sinks with faucets or wash basins. Outdoor camping kitchens make mealtime prep a breeze and provide you with everything you need for cooking and cleanup.
For instance, if you’re overlanding, you might have the space for a folding camp kitchen, complete with counter space and a built-in stainless steel sink in your van. If you’re backpacking, you might only have space for a tiny, all-in-one butane stove.
3. Pots and Pans
Pots and pans are the bread and butter of camp cooking. Without these, you are heavily limited in what you can cook. While kitchen cookware can be used while camping, you may want to consider investing in camping-specific pots and pans. Like other camping gear, outdoor-safe cookware is specifically designed to withstand the elements.
Camping cookware is generally lightweight and collapsible and often includes insulated heat-resistant handles. Camping cookware is available in cook sets or for individual sale. You can invest in a pack of camping pots and pans or build your own set over time.
The type of camping cookware you choose to bring will depend upon the recipes you are making. For scrambled eggs or bacon, a simple frying pan is all you need.
For more complex meals, you can bring dutch ovens or cast-iron skillets. Cast-iron skillets are compatible for camping because they have a natural non-stick nature and retain heat well. They also make for easy clean-up.
An outdoor kitchen setup is specific to not only each individual but each situation as well; the “best camping kitchen ever” is entirely subjective.
4. Kitchen Utensils
Kitchen utensils are another essential for your camping kitchen. Forgetting kitchen utensils at home will put a damper on your camping experience because like pots and pans, you’ll be limited in what you can cook without your utensils.
Before your camping trip, make sure to purchase a kitchen utensil set. This will be more convenient than piecing together items from your kitchen and risk leaving something important behind.
Essential kitchen utensils include spatulas, tongs, silverware, kitchen spoons or ladles, can openers, knives, and cutting boards. Many portable camping kitchens will provide storage space for all of your kitchen utensils.
While kitchen supplies are essential here, we cannot forget about the food. Bringing a cooler is necessary for camp cooking of any type. High-end coolers offer temperature retention for days, ensuring your food stays fresh throughout the trip.
You’ll want to bring a hard-sided cooler on longer camping trips because they are built to withstand external factors such as weather and wildlife, unlike soft-sided coolers.
Some campers prefer to bring two coolers: one for food and one for drinks. This is because your drink cooler will be opened more frequently, exposing the ice to warmer external temperatures.
This will cause the drink cooler to increase in temperature and the ice to melt faster. Having a cooler specifically for your food ensures it stays fresh longer, and you won’t have to change out the ice as frequently.
When it comes to packing your cooler, you’ll want to ensure that you have a 2:1 ratio of ice to cooler contents. Having twice as much ice as cooler contents ensures that food stays at the optimum temperature. Pack your cooler full, leaving little room for excess air.
6. Camp Table
Sharing a meal around the table is a special experience and worth the investment of a camp table. Check before you leave on your camping trip to see if your campsite includes picnic tables. If so, a camping table may not be necessary. However, bringing a collapsible, folding table is a simple addition to your packing list that offers the opportunity for conversation and fellowship around a table.
Additionally, camp or kitchen tables are also great for playing card games or other activities. Camp tables can also double as food prep tables or grill tables.
7. Camp Chairs
Camp chairs are fold-out lightweight chairs, typically made from canvas material that is weather resistant. Camp chairs are perfect for sitting around a campfire or for mealtime. Some camp chairs even include a cup holder or a carrying case.
Camping chairs offer a comfortable place to sit off of the ground. When choosing your camp chair, there are various styles and weights to choose from. The classic camp chair is a four-legged chair with a straight back and typically includes armrests. There are also low chairs, rockers, two-legged chairs, three-legged chairs, and scoop chairs, to name a few.
8. Portable Coffee Maker
If you’re among the 62% of Americans who start their day with a cup of coffee, you’ll want to remember a portable coffee maker for your morning cup of Joe.
There are countless camping coffee makers on the market that will give you your caffeine fix. Stovetop espresso makers are a fun and easy way to enjoy your morning coffee. Camp-friendly French presses are also available to the coffee enthusiast.
Boiling water on the stove for an Aeropress is another creative way to make your coffee on a camping trip. No matter your preferred brewing method, you can find the right portable coffee maker from your preference.
9. Plates, Bowls, and Cups
Ending our camp kitchen checklist are plates, bowls, and cups. Paper plates are not ideal for camping trips and can quickly become litter if not disposed of properly. Investing in reusable camping dishes is the best option for the environment. They also create the ambiance of a proper dining experience.
There are plenty of options when it comes to camping dish sets, including stainless steel. We love stainless steel — it’s built to last and is almost completely scratch-resistant, making it perfect for reusable water bottles.
Cleanup with camping dishes is fairly straightforward. Select a large pot and fill it with water. Then you will heat the water on the stove or over the fire until your water is warm. Once warm, use this water to wash the dishes. (Deluxe camp kitchens that include a sink make cleaning up much faster but are more hefty and cumbersome.)
The Camp Kitchen Workspace: Unique to All
Camp cooking doesn’t have to be a chore: With the right supplies and proper preparation, you can bring gourmet cooking to the outdoors. The type of camp kitchen supplies you bring will depend on the types of meals you plan to prepare. However, there are some essentials you’ll want to ensure are on your packing list.
No matter where you’re headed or what you carry, camping is one of the best ways to reconnect with nature and your family and friends.