Are you heading into the great outdoors this summer? No microwaves, Uber Eats, and or restaurants in the wild means you’ll need to bring food, cooking equipment and supplies. Here's what you need to know about planning your camp kitchen setup.
It's summer and you're looking forward to spending time together outdoors.
You dream of early morning fishing, afternoon hikes and evenings playing family board games by the light of a campfire or lantern. But wait — all that outdoor time means you'll be hungry.
Organizing your camping kitchen before your next camping trip can make all the difference between a miserable trip and one for the memory books. Take the time to plan your setup before you go so you can relax and enjoy the time outdoors.
What is a camp kitchen?
A camping kitchen is an organized outdoor workspace for meal preparation. It may include areas for prep and cooking, storage and washing. In addition, it often includes an open fire with a cooking grate or a portable cookstove, barbecue or grill.
From a portable camp kitchen to a simple frying pan and saucepan combo in a camp kitchen box, your outdoor cooking setup should reflect your camping needs and wants.
Looking for inspiration? Browse through hand crank kitchen tools that don't need electricity and could help you cook outdoors.
“I always set up a dishwashing station first. A tub for dirty dishes that can be filled hot with soapy water (use biodegradable dish soap!) and a collapsible tub for rinse water. Next, set up a stove with enough room around it to have ingredients and serving dishes at the ready before you start to cook.”
— Robin Donovan, All Ways Delicious
What do you need?
When planning a camp trip, it's a good idea only to pack items you'll use in your camping kitchen box. Food, water, a small cooler, frying pan and pot, outdoor serving ware and a portable grill or 2-burner Coleman camp stove may suffice for car camping. Always keep your storage space in mind.
You'll find many space-saving gadgets to simplify camping meal prep and cooking, but don't get tempted to waste your money on things you won't use.
“I love bringing my portable Blackstone griddle for camping. It runs off the little propane tanks, so there is no need to have a fire and worry about getting your cast iron to heat up correctly or getting ash into your food. You can make a variety of delicious and healthy meals on the Blackstone!”— Lara Clevenger MSH, RDN, CPT LaraClevenger.com
How to set up your own camp kitchen
Plan ahead to minimize the chances of forgetting something. This also gives you time to think about how to arrange the outdoor kitchen and storage area at your campsite.
Follow these five tips to save time, money and frustration outfitting and using your camping kitchen.
1. Consider your numbers
How many campers will be joining you? A family of four on a week-long camping trip needs more food, not to mention food storage room, table space and seating, than a couple camping for the weekend.
Set up your kitchen with a safe space between the cooking and seating areas, an important tip if camping with kids.
Review camping safety rules with younger family members, especially if you cook over an open fire. And honestly, learning to cook over an open fire is a great skill to teach if you aim to raise self-reliant kids.
Each camper will need a cup, plate, bowl and cutlery. Make a note of food allergies and preferences when planning your meals.
2. Cooking, grilling or cold food
Do you want to grill, barbecue or eat cold or prepared foods on your trip? This determines which food items, ingredients and kitchen utensils you'll need when camping.
Also, consider the climate and trip length when planning your meals. Don't overpack foods in your cooler, especially if you camp for more than 48 hours in hot weather. Ice packs may melt, causing food spoilage in warmer temperatures. Instead, make cold dinners or dishes using dry goods such as pasta, canned vegetables and legumes.
3. Research camp cooking equipment
Today's campers use various outdoor cooking equipment, from basic cookware to portable solar ovens. And by the way, this is a great DIY project for families.
Here are a few more kitchen supplies to consider.
- All-in-one food prep units or modular setups: Collapsible outdoor kitchens offer many cool features and space for food prep, cooking, and clean-up. However, they can be expensive and take up precious cargo space when traveling.
- Portable sink, drain tubs or buckets: Collapsible drain tubs or a small Rubbermaid bucket are a great option for a dishwashing station.
- Essential cleaning supplies: Remember items like biodegradable soap, scrub brushes, and dish towels.
- Often overlooked items: Pack a good knife set, matches and lighter, cutting board, tongs, spatula, can opener and oven mitts.
“We do remote tent camping, so preparation is everything, and because we are hiking long distances, we don't carry a lot of items. These items are a must in the camp kitchen: A water purifier, resealable plastic bags, which are small and lightweight and good for storing all sorts of things, waterproof matches for starting fires, a collapsible cooking pot, bowls, cups, and a plastic drip coffee cone, because we need our coffee in the wilderness.
— Jere' Cassidy, One Hot Oven
4. Camp cooking essentials vs. luxuries
Before you go, identify the camp cooking essentials and the luxuries you could do without. Pack camping gear and your camp cooking essentials first. Then add luxury items if you have space.
You likely need a good camp stove (and fuel) for preparing meals for car camping, especially in areas with fire bans preventing cooking over an open fire.
A portable or charcoal grill can be a great addition to your setup if you like grilled meats or veggies. If backpacking, choose a lightweight camp stove instead.
You'll also need some camping cookware. For example, a Dutch oven is a versatile piece of cookware for cooking, baking, and frying, but it's heavy. Alternatively, bring a cast-iron skillet to cook everything from pancakes to stir-fry.
You'll also need to get and store drinking water. Consider buying a portable Berkey Water Filter or LifeStraw if you're camping near a freshwater source. Bring a collapsible water container if your campground offers potable water.
5. Campsite features
When you arrive at your campsite, take a look around before unpacking because your campsite environment impacts your camp kitchen ideas and setup.
Do you see a shady area to store your cooler? Do wolves, or raccoons visit the area? If so, you may need to store your food in your vehicle overnight.
Are you camping in bear country? If so, bear lockers or canisters are the best way to store food. And if camping in an area with insects, invest in a screen tent to erect around the picnic table food prep and serving meals.
Plan your camp kitchen before you go
Take your time with outfitting and setting up a camp kitchen to make meal prep as easy as possible when camping.
Choose camping cooking equipment to fit your budget and menu style, invest in quality cooking tools and consider your campers’ food and meal prep preferences.
Whether planning a weekend camping trip with your friends or a week-long family summer camping adventure, a well-equipped camping kitchen can help make your next outdoor adventure a success.
This article originally appeared on Food Drink Life