Stripped of all the comforts of your home, the outdoors provide you with a thrilling, refreshing sensation, allowing you to feel brand new as you take a vacation from the monotony of the digital world. However, the one comfort you need to bring to the backcountry is a compact kitchen to help you fuel up properly. Without the right equipment for a proper camping kitchen, your experience in the wild will be hindered immensely. Sure, you can eat dried goods all day, but after a strenuous hike wouldn’t you rather grill up a juicy steak sizzling with butter and thyme?
Putting together the perfect camp kitchen takes time, patience, and planning. There’s plenty of gear to consider, but you ultimately want to build a camp kitchen that works for you. In crafting the ultimate camp kitchen, you won’t have to sacrifice a good meal just because you’re out in the backcountry. We know how overwhelming it can feel to form a superior camp kitchen with everything you need, so we’re here to help you along the way. We’ll be going over the types of food you can bring, how to pack it and, make suggestions for heavy-duty cooking essentials, storage, cookware, tableware, and cleanup gear.
Grub To Go
Keep Your Camp Food Simple
No matter what you decide to bring, you’ll need to pack your food the proper way so it’s easy to access and won’t spoil quickly. When you’re packing your food supplies, measure the ingredients of each meal ahead of time and pack them in ziplock bags and Tupperware. You’ll save time and it’ll be much easier to cook meals if everything is organized so you don’t have to fumble with measuring cups outdoors. For further organization, you can use tape and label your food with dates, marking what days they’re going in your belly.
The number one rule is if the food is a perishable item, freeze it and store it in your cooler. Season or marinate your meat before freezing it so all you’ll have to do is throw it on the grill and enjoy the aroma as it sizzles to perfection. If you want to bring soups, stews, or chili, you should freeze them too then all you’ll have to do is reheat your clam chowder over the fire and enjoy a warm treat under the stars. Remember to eat all your perishable foods first and save your dry goods for the tail end of the trip.
When choosing what you’ll eat on your camping trip, keep meals simple. You don’t want to slave away cooking up a gourmet meal outdoors. Your food should be almost effortless to cook, such as steak, bacon, sausages, chopped red potatoes, boiled eggs, grilled vegetables, and of course, s’mores.
Camp Cooking Essentials
The Dynamic Duo
The heavy-duty camping essentials you’re going to need are a reliable, portable camp stove and a sturdy, adjustable table to flex your chef skills. This is the one-two punch you’ll need to build the foundation of your kitchen, so choosing these items is crucial to your outdoor cuisine experience.
Sure, you can fair well with a one-burner stove, but for convenience, a two-burner stove is ideal for your camping trip. You’ll be able to cook more and do so faster so you can enjoy your sustenance and continue your adventure without skipping a beat. Grabbing a refillable propane tank is also a necessity so you can fire up your grill for plenty of trips to come. Using a propane distribution tree might also benefit you if you want to connect multiple stoves, using one for cooking and the other for boiling water. Here’s what you’ll need:
Camp Chef Summit Two Burner
Packing two high-pressure 20,000 BTU burners under the hood, Camp Chef’s stove is a compact cooking machine built for adventure. It fires up quickly with its matchless ignition system and its nickel-coated steel cooking grate is burly enough to hold your pots, pans, and cast iron skillets. This camp stove also has adjustable feet, allowing it to rest flat on uneven surfaces for excellent stability. With a locking lid and carrying handle, it’s easily transportable.
Primus Profile Campground Stove
For your weekend adventures in the backcountry, this campground stove is ideal for open-air cooking. Each burner on this stove has an output of 12,000 BTUs, allowing you to cook your meals thoroughly. It features precise dial controls, so you can warm up your chicken noodle soup or fry up some thick bacon. For gusty days, it also comes with windshield panels. Last, it has a locking top and built-in handle for an easy set-up and break down.
JetBoil Genesis Basecamp System
A convenient all-in-one outdoor cooking system, Jetboil’s Genesis Basecamp System is a two-burner stove ready to fire up your meals. It has a Jetlink fuel output port for Jetlink compatible stoves or a Luna satellite burner. This stove has precise simmer control, level igniter, and is regulated for consistent performance down to 20°F. In case of windy days, it comes with an attachable windscreen. Compatible with standard 16.4 oz propane bottles, this stove can fold up easily when you’re all done.
It might be overlooked, but a sturdy, heat-resistant table is a must for your camp kitchen. Without a reliable table, you’ll struggle to get your gear organized, lengthening your cooking sessions. Look for a table that’s portable and spacious so you can play camp chef without issues. Tracking down a table with multiple places to set your pots and pans is also a plus to make things even easier. Here’s what you’ll need:
GCI Outdoor Camp Kitchen Cook Station
If you’re looking for a little more organization, the GCI Outdoor Camp Kitchen Cook Station provides plenty of storage space. This portable folding cook station can hold a camping stove or grill, cookware, and tableware. It’s made with a one-piece powder-coated steel frame, unfolding to produce an aluminum countertop, storage rack, and four plastic fold-out tables. The heat-resistant aluminum countertop has a weight limit of 48 lbs, which is more than enough for most camp stoves. The lower rack has a weight limit of 35 lbs and the four fold-out tables have a weight limit of 30 lbs each. This table folds flat for easy storage and has handles for your carrying convenience.
REI Co-op Camp Roll Table
Boasting a roll-top design for portability, the lightweight REI table is perfect for camping, giving you a solid base to hold your gear. It has aluminum legs and a heat-resistant aluminum slat top for reliable stability. The rigid work surface is perfect for setting up your cookware and dining. There’s plenty of space for a camp stove, pots, pans, and plates so you’ll have the freedom to cook in comfort. Once you’re done, it packs up into a stuff sack for easy storage. This table has a weight capacity of 100 lbs.
Alpine Mountain Gear Roll Top Kitchen Table
Alpine Mountain’s quality kitchen table allows you to bring the comfort of your home cooking space to the outdoors. It has two aluminum roll-top table stations, as well as a third table with adjustable legs. And, you can get to cooking quickly with a setup time of under a minute. When you’re all set to head out, it folds away and comes with a carry bag for easy storage.
Storage And Containers
Homes For Your Meals
Keeping all your prepped meals and water supply in reliable containers is mandatory when you’re out camping. Proper storage won’t just protect your food, but will also keep it fresh for the duration of your trip; investing in quality containers is a smart move. Remember, you’ll be using this gear for plenty of adventures, so choose wisely.
Sure, you might be able to get by with a budget cooler, but ice chest technology has grown tremendously over the past few years, allowing new coolers to do much more. Invest in a quality ice chest and it could last you a lifetime. Some coolers are even built to be indestructible, keeping your frozen goods safe from even a bear encounter. Consider grabbing a wheeled cooler for smooth transportation. Here’s what you’ll need:
Pelican Progear Elite Wheeled Cooler
Constructed with a freezer grade gasket, this Pelican cooler is capable of retaining ice for up to 10 days. It has 2-inch polyurethane insulation, molded-in tie downs, a molded-in lock hasp with a stainless steel plate, press-and-pull latches, and heavy duty wheels. If you happen to go fishing on your trip, it also an integrated fish scale on the lid. And, this American-made cooler is guaranteed for life.
Yeti Tundra Haul Cooler
Yeti’s Tundra Haul Cooler is made with ‘Rotomolded’ construction, making it a virtually indestructible ice chest. It has two ‘Neverflat’ wheels with single-piece construction that’s impact- and puncture-resistant. For undemanding transportation, the Tundra Haul has a sturdy welded aluminum curved arm with comfy grips. To keep your food ice cold, it has ‘PermaFrost’ insulation with a freezer-quality gasket.
Speedbox Endurance 40
If you’re looking for a heavy-duty cooler, Speedbox Endurance 40 is a military-grade ice chest that’s built to endure the toughest situations. Capable of holding up to 300 lbs, this cooler is used by Army Special Forces, Navy EOD, and Air Force Pararescue jumpers — so it’s safe to say it can handle your camping trips. The shatter-resistant, roto-molded polymer cooler has a stacking and interlocking system, ‘No-Flat’ off-road tires, a ‘Never-Fail’ handle, airtight protection, and a heavy-duty latch. This box can be used both as a regular container or a cooler with its built-in gasket.
No matter where you’re at in the world, you’ll need plenty of water. For the outdoors, you’ll need water to drink, wash dishes, and wash up, making water storage necessary. For water storage bags or carriers, you’ll need to look for a durable option with a level indicator so you can ration your water well. A water container made from a rugged material like denier is ideal.
Coleman Water Carrier – 5 Gallons
This may be the most affordable out of the three water carriers, but it can definitely get the job done. Coleman’s water carrier is made from durable polyethylene capable of resisting dents and cracks. It also has an opening large enough to insert ice cubes, allowing you to enjoy a refreshing cold mug of water to wake up your body. When you’re ready to store it, this water carrier folds flat for easy transportation.
Reliance Aqua-Tainer – 7 Gallons
Constructed from robust polyethylene and an ergonomic, reversible spigot cap with an on/off switch, this water container will help keep your camping crew hydrated. It has a liquid level indicator, a special contour grip for portability, and a screw-on vent cap. The Reliance Aqua-Tainer is simple water container, but provides you with exactly what you need.
MSR Dromedary Bag – 10 Liters
Armored by an incredible 1,000-denier exterior with a BPA-free food-grade lining, which makes your water taste better, this 10-liter bag is exemplary. The water bag is able to endure freezing temperatures and handle the toughest abuse outdoors. It has a low-profile 3-in-1 cap, letting you fill, drink, and pour without any problems. This water bag also has no-hassle attachment features for easy carrying and hanging anywhere.
Camp Kitchen Cutlery
When it comes to cookware, you’ll need to consider which meals you’ll be bringing on your trip. However, there are some cookware essentials you’ll need on your kitchen utility belt no matter what you’re packing in the cooler. In choosing your cooking tools, make sure they’ve got sturdy handles, made from aluminum, stainless steel, or titanium, and most importantly, built for rough conditions. Aluminum cookware is the most affordable and heats up fast but it’s susceptible to wear and tear. Stainless steel is rigid, fantastic at distributing heat, and easier to clean than titanium, however, quick-cooking food will stick to it. Titanium is the lightest option and fairly easy to clean, and also the most expensive. Choose only the equipment you need to work your meal magic outdoors. You can always add to your cookware collection later if you need to refine it.
What you’ll need: Pots and pans, cutlery, spatula, cast iron skillet, tongs, metal skewers, heat resistant gloves, cutting board, serving spoon, cheese grater, dutch oven, bottle opener, and a can opener.
MSR Alpine Folding Utensils
These folding utensils by MSR Alpine are lightweight and outdoor-ready to help you create delicious meals by the campfire. The set includes a foldable spatula, grater/strainer, and spoon calibrated for common measurements. Improving the functionality of the set, the spatula has a serrated edge to cut food like cheese or tender meat. In order to pack the utensils, all you need to do is squeeze the handle to fold them up.
Gerber Freescape Camp Kitchen Knife
Gerber’s Santoku-inspired knife is shaped with a masterful full-tang construction. The blade has an ergonomic, rubberized get so you can slice your food with precision and control. This 4-inch blade is also dishwasher safe and comes with a sheath complete with a belt loop.
Barebones Cast Iron Cooking Set
Grab this rugged set by Barebones and you’ll be all set to cook a variety of food outdoors. This cooking set includes a skillet, dutch oven with a matching lid, serving trivet, and a cleaning mesh. With this durable cast iron set, you’ll be equipped to fire up cuisines to tame your hunger. The only thing this set is missing is the seasoning paste.
Backcountry Grub Gear
To build the ideal camp kitchen, you’ll want to pick up solid tableware to enjoy your hard-earned meals. Stay away from plastic plates, cups, and utensils. The whole point of being in nature is to enjoy it without aiding in killing it. Yes, it might seem more convenient to bring plastic tableware, but getting quality plates, cups, and utensils has many more upsides. Look for tableware made from lightweight, durable materials that are easy to store and clean.
What you’ll need: Plates, utensils, cups, bowls, tea kettle, marshmallow skewers, mugs, thermos, paper towels, and serving spoons.
MSR Mountain Plate
With a stainless steel construction, MSR Mountain Plates are rugged, lightweight, and stay cooler than aluminum. They feature an ingenious rolled-edge design, making them easy to clean since they have no sharp edges. Grab a few of these 4.4 oz dent-resistant plates to help you grub and refuel to keep up with Mother Nature.
Paria Outdoor Mug
Paria’s insulated double-wall titanium mug is the best way to savor a warm cup of coffee right after you shake off the morning cobwebs. The corrosion-resistant mug can hold 15.2 oz of your preferred drink and it keeps the mug warm to the touch without burning your hands with a perfected insulation. According to Paria, this outdoor mug is made to last for decades.
Esbit Lightweight Folding Titanium Utensils
This set of lightweight titanium utensils comes with a fork, knife, and spoon. You’re able to fold each one to less than 4.2 inches, saving plenty of space in your camping bag. The set is heat-resistant, non-corrosive, and non-magnetic. Also, the entire set is made of polished titanium with no metallic taste to ruin your meal.
Leave No Trace
Disposing of your waste properly and cleaning up after yourself is paramount in the great outdoors and is noted specifically in the Leave No Trace principles. Everything from rinse water to human waste should be cleaned up, so picking up reliable cleaning items for your camp kitchen is mandatory. The best practice for washing dishes is to carry your water 200 feet away from a stream or lake you acquire it from and only use minimal amounts of biodegradable soap. The cleaning items you grab should be durable, portable, efficient, and safe for the environment. Here’s what you’ll need:
What you’ll need: Collapsible sink, biodegradable soap, chamois cloth, sponge, washing gloves, metal strainer, trash bags, and foil.
Campsuds is a biodegradable, all-purpose soap to keep Mother Nature healthy. With only a few drops of Campsuds, you’ll get sudsy soap water to clean dishes or wash up. The bottle is built with a suitable dispenser cap, ensuring no soap goes to waste. Campsuds is made with purified water, vegetable-based biodegradable anion and non-ionic cleaning agents, natural fragrance, oils, and germaben.
Steramine Quaternary Sanitizing Tablets
You can never be too cautious with your cookware and tableware, which is why Steramine’s Quaternary Sanitizing Tablets are a must. Used by commercial bars and restaurants, this is an amazing sanitizer for everything that comes into contact with food during your outdoorsman adventure. One tablet can be used with one gallon of water and the solution is odor-free, non-corrosive, and doesn’t irritate the skin.
Sea to Summit Kitchen Sink
No one likes washing dishes, but the Sea to Summit Kitchen Sink will make it an easier task to tackle. This camp kitchen sink has a stainless steel stiffening ring, preventing the sink from collapsing when it’s full. It’s well designed, as the base is broader than the top so it’s incapable of tipping over when you have to take care of the dishes. In addition, you can use it with hot water up to 140° F and detergent to give your dishes and utensils a thorough cleaning. This sink also comes with wide webbing carry handles and a zippered storage pouch with a drain hole.
12 Best Camping Foods For Adventure
Since you’re set with all the gear to assemble the ultimate camp kitchen, it’s time to think about food. Check out our list for the 12 best camping foods for adventure and get your grub on.