Camp Cooking Essentials: Your Complete Packing List for a Functional Outdoor Kitchen
What's the only thing better than sleeping outdoors? Eating outdoors. Of course, good camp food starts with quality camp cooking equipment. That's why we've compiled a complete checklist of all the essential camp cooking gear that car and RV campers will need for a fully functional campsite kitchen.
If you're not planning on cooking over an open fire, an outdoor stove is essential to camp cooking. You don't need to break the bank to buy a good camp stove. Unless you're planning to cook gourmet meals in the woods, opt for a well-reviewed, no-frills option — like this simple, yet functional, two burner stove from Everest.
On-the-go grilling is easier than you think with the right equipment. Find a grill with a compact build and wind block panels for harsh weather conditions, like this portable Coleman grill. It delivers 11,000 btus of heat, is relatively lightweight, and is easy to clean when you're finished cooking.
Pack a sturdy Dutch oven for tons of campfire cooking possibilities. Don't reach for your expensive Le Creuset model, though. You'll need a pre-seasoned cast iron pot with legs that allow it to sit perfectly over the fire. Overmont calls its top-rated Dutch oven the Lifetime Pot, as it "will last a lifetime if cared for properly." You can use it inside or outside, so you'll get a lot of bang for your buck.
It's fine to pack the trusty, durable cast iron skillet you have at home for camping purposes. If you don't have a cast iron skillet in your arsenal, it's time to invest in one ASAP — this top-rated Lodge skillet is a great, affordable option.
Because we know you want to wake up on the right side of the sleeping bag. Earlier this year, we scoured the internet for the best outdoor coffee makers. Our pick? The Aeropress Go Travel Coffee Press — not only is it light and easy to pack, reviewers say it makes full-flavored java that rivals fancy French presses and pricey countertop coffee pots. Learn more about the Aeropress (and our other top-rated picks) in our comprehensive round-up of the best camp coffee makers on the market.
Experienced car campers know that a quality cooler is an absolute must. You don't need to spend a ton of money to keep your perishables cool and safe-to-eat: This $50 Coleman cooler holds 70 quarts and keeps food cold for up to five days in 90 degree heat. Plus, the cooler itself can serve as a two-person table or a one-person seat. The four cup holders in the lid are super handy for outdoor mealtime.
It's incredibly important to stay hydrated when you're camping outside. If you're staying close to your car, we recommend packing a portable water cooler — you know, like the ones you see at sporting events. That way, you can easily refill your reusable water bottle whenever you need a drink. You can get a 5-gallon, wheeled water cooler from Igloo for under $25 (though you may need a larger one depending on the size of your group).
Table and Chairs
Once you've cooked a hearty meal, you'll need somewhere to eat. If your campsite doesn't have a wooden picnic table and benches, it might be wise to pack some folding chairs and a folding table. This minimalist set, which features an elegant bamboo tabletop, comes with four collapsible chairs.
Utensils and Prep
A good knife (or, better, a good knife set) is an essential cooking tool inside and outside of the traditional kitchen. Find knives with plastic sheaths that go over the blades, as this will make packing and unpacking easier and safer. This 5-piece EatNeat set is ideal for camping: The sharp knives feature durable, soft-grip handles and plastic sheaths that are easy to wipe clean. Plus, it comes with a compact 8x11 cutting board and a travel knife sharpener.
There are certain cooking essentials you take for granted in your home kitchen, like your spatulas and large spoons, that may be easy to forget while packing for your next outdoor adventure. Don't overlook these staples, though! Your spatula will come in handy for flipping pancakes and making grilled cheese sandwiches and you'll need your spoon for stirring soups and browning meats. Here's a cheap, no-frills stainless steel set (which includes a spatula, a spoon, and a grill fork) that's made for camping, so you know it's built to last.
A lot of our favorite camp recipes call for store-bought canned goods, so this is definitely not something you want to skip. You don't necessarily need to have a can opener that's designated exclusively for camping purposes. However, if you're in the market for a good manual can opener, this OXO model — with non-slip handles and a built-in bottle opener — is a favorite among Amazon shoppers.
As cool as it would be to start a campfire by rubbing two sticks together, a lighter makes the whole affair much easier. Pack one with a long wand to keep your hands safe.
You'll need a cutting board (or a few cutting boards, depending on what you're planning to cook) to keep your workspace tidy, clean, and efficient. Wooden boards are difficult to pack and clean on-the-go, so opt for a set of flexible chopping mats made with plastic material that's easy to wipe clean. These budget-friendly mats, which make food prep easy and safe, are perfect for indoor and outdoor use.
If you plan to make a hearty soup in your Dutch oven, you'll need a ladle to serve it up. This is something else you really don't need to purchase just for camping. The one you already have in your kitchen will work just fine. If you need a new ladle, though, try this one from OXO Good Grips — it's only $6.99 and has thousands of 5-star reviews.
If you're going to drink bottled beer or wine, that is. You may have a fancy tabletop wine opener at home but, when it comes to camping gear, light and packable is key. Try this multi-functional all-in-one corkscrew, bottle opener, and foil cutter for just $12.
Surprise, surprise: Campfires are hot. A pair of heat-resistant gloves is a safety essential for outdoor cooking. These top-rated gloves can handle heat up to 1472 degrees F and they offer complete forearm protection.
Collapsible Work Station
Use a collapsible work station as your kitchen counter — use it to prep your ingredients, dice your veggies, and organize your meal. This $90 folding table with utility hooks also serves as a stand for your camp stove or grill, so you can keep everything you'll need all in one place.
Plates, Bowls, Silverware, and Drinkware
Skip the paper plates and plastic forks that are destined for the landfill. Instead, buy a reusable tableware set you'll use again and again. This 24-piece enamelware set, which features a vintage speckled design, is perfect for a nature-loving family of four. It includes lightweight plates, bowls, spoons, forks, butter knives, and camp mugs with stainless steel edges and double-coated enamel for durability.
Reusable Water Bottles
The importance of staying hydrated while camping can't be overstated. Make sure each person on your trip has a water bottle and access to clean water (this is where your water cooler will come in handy). These top-rated Nalgene bottles, which hold 32 ounces of water, are ideal campers and backpackers: They're lightweight, leak-proof, and their wide mouths make them easy to drink from while on the go.
Collapsible Trash Can
Whether you're in your kitchen or using an open campfire, cooking and dining will inevitably produce some waste. You can keep what you want (these top-rated Rubbermaid food storage containers will come in handy for transporting leftovers), but you'll need to dispose of the rest. Since littering is obviously not an option, you'll need an easy way to keep your campsite clean — that's where this $15 collapsible garbage can comes in. It features a zippered top, is made of easy-to-clean polyethylene material, and holds two 30-gallon trash bags.
You'll be thrilled to have a collapsible sink (and a clean sponge!) when it's time to wash dirty dishes. The dual handles of this $15 wash basin are sturdy enough to carry a sink full of water. Plus, when it's not in use, it can serve as a carrying basket or water bowl for large dogs.
An all-natural, biodegradable soap like Campsuds is essential for outdoor hygiene. Just a few drops of the easy-to-pack formula effectively cleans your body, your hair, and your dishes. It's tough on stuck-on food grease, but gentle on your skin.
These tiny tablets are surprisingly powerful: You only need one tablet per gallon of water to make a cleaning solution that kills food-borne illnesses. Used by the bar and restaurant industry to sanitize quickly and effectively, this lightweight bottle is easy to pack with your other camping gear.