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Guide and checklist for the ultimate portable camping kitchen setup, including camping cooking gear, supplies, and outdoor storage and organization ideas.
Camping cookware is one of the first things I pack for every camping trip we take, whether we're camping in one of our favorite off the grid Arkansas camping spots or roadside camping in Texas. We have to eat, and since we do our best to include most of our food in our usual grocery budget, we need to make sure our camping kitchen is ready to go.
We really try our best to keep things affordable, simple, and efficient when it comes to camping gear, so we've put a lot of thought into our set up and take down. And because we prefer wild camping, we usually end up in the middle of nowhere, where bears or wolves can be an issue, so we have to be able to pack things up tight at night to keep everyone safe.
Our camp kitchen has come a long way since our early days of camping.
While our setup isn't really fancy, it definitely works for us. We constantly look for ways to affordably improve it, but I have to say… We eat pretty darn good when we're on the road.
If it's camping recipes you're looking for, we've got you covered.
WANT TO SEE HOW WE COOK WHILE CAMPING? WATCH OUR VIDEO!
FOOD STORAGE IDEAS FOR OUTDOOR COOKING
When it comes to packing up our food, I like to stop and think before I ever pack. The way I pack is how our food will be stored while we're traveling, so it needs to be both efficient and easy to get out/put away.
WE USUALLY PACK 2 TO 3 ICE COOLERS:
- One large cooler for most of our food
- A drinks cooler with water (because I prefer cold water in my water bottle, especially during the summer) and maybe a few juice boxes
- And sometimes a “lunch” cooler for sandwich and lunch materials
WE ALSO HAVE 2 FOOD BOXES, AND WE PICKED UP PLASTIC BINS FOR THESE.
- One food box holds all our non-perishable food items.
- The other we like to call the snack box because it holds all our snacks and foods we may want to get into through the day when we're not necessarily sitting in a campsite but out exploring.
PACKING AND STORAGE ACCESSORIES
- Ziploc bags
- Egg Holder – This protects eggs from any breakage or mess.
- Water Jugs – We like the jugs with a spigot, since it can act as both water storage and a faucet.
WHAT TO PACK IN YOUR CAMP KITCHEN BOX
The portable camp kitchen box is the heart of your camping kitchen. It's important to pack all the necessary campfire cooking equipment you'll need for cooking meals while gone.
These include kitchen tools, utensils, dishes, and cookware.
We love cooking with cast iron, which goes hand in hand with cooking over a campfire. Cast iron works well on a camp stove too, so it's a winning choice.
- Dutch oven with Dutch oven tripod – Our Dutch oven helps us make all sorts of meals, from beef stew to nachos. It's also great for baking up biscuits or desserts.
- Cast Iron Skillet – Our 10.25-inch cast iron skillet is our go to skillet for just about everything, from camping tacos to cheeseburger pizza. We also love our larger 12-inch skillet and deep dish skillet.
- A griddle comes in especially handy for making pancakes or eggs.
- While we love the griddle, a lot of times we'll use our pizza pan instead. It works especially well for eggs, as well as chicken nachos.
- Camping just wouldn't be camping without a set of roasting sticks.
If you're cooking solely on a camp stove, you might be able to get away with just a set of nesting pots.
We always need a few tools to help us make our meals. Things like…
- Can Opener
- Vegetable Peeler and Grater
- Collapsible mixing bowls
- Collapsible measuring cups and spoons
KNIVES AND CUTTING
MAKING COFFEE AND TEA OVER THE CAMPFIRE
My guys have recently started drinking coffee, and Jacob loves a warm cup of tea, so we've added a few things to our camp box.
- Percolator – Our favorite way to make coffee over the campfire is to cook it the cowboy way, with coffee grains added right into the water. A percolator gives options for making your morning brew.
- Tea kettle – Ok, so we don't actually have a tea kettle; we just use a pan for boiling water. But I'm thinking we definitely need this.
- Insulated Mugs – Insulated will protect your fingers. Go with insulated.
Of course, we can't eat without all the little things we take for granted at home. Things like…
- Plates, bowls, and cups – If you really want to keep it simple, you may find cheap summer picnic ware at a local store like Walmart. It's usually plastic, but it's definitely cheap.
- Water bottles
- Silverware (or plastic eating utensils)
MORE CAMPING COOKING ACCESSORIES
- Camp stove toaster
- Aluminum foil
- Pot holders or welding gloves – These gloves work so much better than ordinary heat resistant gloves.
CLEAN UP SUPPLIES
When you're camping, there's not a ton of mess to clean up, but you still have dishes. Dishes will always be there, no matter what.
And sometimes you have a bit to clean up from raw eggs or meat. So, it's a good idea to keep a few things in your clean up kit.
- Collapsible Wash Basin or Sink
- Scrubbing pads and wash cloths and quick drying towels
- Campsuds – We carry Campsuds with us on every trip. It's perfect for washing dishes and even yourself.
- Paper towels and paper towel holder
- Trash bags
Also, don't forget to pack a first aid kit, a must have for any camping trip.
BIGGER CAMPING COOKING EQUIPMENT
In our early days, we relied on a small table that folded out the back of our old Honda. It was super small, but it helped a lot by giving us extra space to prep food.
With overlanding and dispersed camping, you don't usually have any of the perks of campground camping, like a picnic table or a grill. You're lucky if you have a stump, and sometimes you have to improvise.
Outfitting your kitchen is a necessary improvisation for camping with a family. Just a few items we recommend…
We bought this back when we first got our rooftop tent. While we don't necessarily use the sink part, we use the table more as a prep area and place to hold our cookstove and set things like plates, condiments, and utensils when we're making breakfast or dinner.
This table has come in handy more times than I can count.
Cons: It's pretty heavy (and a little bulky). But it works for what we need.
Sometimes we cook over a campfire, if we're allowed to have one. But there have been many times when we're not allowed to have a fire (when there's a burn ban in the area we're exploring). We use the heck out of our stove.
We love using our semi-homemade tripod grill, but since ours is homemade, it does have a bigger grill on it. A grill like this works really well for cooking just about anything you want to cook over the fire.
Sometimes we take our grill along, and other times we leave it at home. It's definitely nice to have with us when we're craving a nice juicy burger and don't want to spend the money to eat out.
Take my advice. There are times you will roll into a campsite after dark, your whole family is hungry, and you've got to cook a meal. Invest in a lantern or two.
WHAT TO READ NEXT…
- Packing List for Camping
- 6 Tips for Quick and Easy Campfire Cooking
- Under $20 Camping Gift Guide
- How to Find the Best Free Camping in the USA
WHO'S READY TO GO CAMPING? (RAISES HAND)
After writing this post, I'm ready to hit the road and go camping. Just writing about it gets me excited for our next trip.
Are you feeling a little more prepared to organize your own portable kitchen? What did I leave off the camping cooking gear list that you would add?
If you have any questions about our setup or any of the cooking gear we've mentioned, don't hesitate to leave a comment or feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We love sharing tips and tricks we've learned along the way, and we love to talk about taking your family camping. Happy camping!
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