Camping Kitchen Essentials – The Ultimate Guide

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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 kitchen essentials, including tripod grill with cast iron skillet over campfire

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.

cheeseburger pizza cooked with camping cooking gear essentials

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.

Most of our camp cooking essentials are from our own kitchen, and we’ve designated all of them for camping (not all but most). So they live in our camp box and/or camp trailer.

These include kitchen tools, utensils, dishes, and cookware.

cooking bacon in a cast iron skillet on a camp stove

CAMPING 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.

cooking chicken nachos over campfire using campfire cooking equipment like a cast iron pizza pan or griddle

If you’re cooking solely on a camp stove, you might be able to get away with just a set of nesting pots.

COOKING UTENSILS

We always need a few tools to help us make our meals. Things like…

campfire for outdoor cooking

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.

coffee percolator with coffee mug for camping cookware
  • 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.

SERVE WARE

Of course, we can’t eat without all the little things we take for granted at home. Things like…

MORE CAMPING COOKING ACCESSORIES

camping cooking equipment, including camp stove, cast iron skillet, and camp stove toaster with bread toasting

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.

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…

man cooking chicken fajitas outdoors on camp stove on camping kitchen table

Coleman Pack-Away Deluxe Kitchen

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.

Coleman 2 Burner Stove

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.

Over the Fire Grill or Tripod Grill

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.

making coffee over campfire on tripod grill, campfire cooking

Portable Charcoal Grill

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.

Propane Lantern

We use a Coleman Distribution Tree with an extension hose for ours, and it lights up our whole campsite, plus saves so much money.

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…

cast iron pan with s'mores dip and forks on stump, camping food

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 mel@adventuresofmel.com. 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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Camping kitchen essentials - the ultimate guide

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