Preparing Your Camp Kitchen

I admit, prior to meeting my husband I never thought about a camp kitchen, much less how to prepare one. Meals consisted of food we did not have to cook, and as our trips got longer I bought a backpacking stove to boil water and heat up canned food. Camp cooking was more like camp reheating. When we would camp with friends, we would tag on to their more elaborate meals and enjoy them, but as someone who does not cook much at home, I could not say I was inspired. Then I met my husband, who had an entirely different idea of cooking when camping. He took putting our camp kitchen together very seriously.


Creating your Camp Kitchen

This will of course vary based on your particular needs. There are some items that are pretty standard:

First, you will want a large storage bin (around 20 gallons) that will fit all of your kitchen items. Durable plastic is ideal.

Things for cooking:

  • Camping or backpacking stove (or both): Our camp kitchen consists of a camping stove as well as two backpacking stoves. My husband enjoys cooking so much he sometimes uses all four burners! A backpacking stove is simple to set up and is what I use in the morning to boil water for coffee.
  • Propane for the stoves
  • A lighter or matches: this one seems simple but we forgot both on our last trip. Particularly when backpacking where you will have no neighbors to get a light from, you will want to confirm you have a way to light a fire.
  • Camping cookware: I would recommend having one pot and one pan. The sizes will depend on how many you typically cook for. Cookware that is made specifically for backpacking or camping may be light and portable, as well as easy to clean. Should you mainly car camp and not be short of space, you can use the same pots and pans you use at home if you prefer.


  • A Dutch oven: this is not necessary but a great option for camp cooking. Should you plan to cook using a Dutch oven, you will also want to bring coals.
  • An oven mitt for when your pots or pans get hot.
  • A cutting board: many of the things that we cook require chopping vegetables or other items. If you plan to do any cutting while making your meals, a small cutting board will be very helpful.
  • A collapsible strainer: this is great for draining water from pasta or to wash fruits and vegetables.
  • A good knife with a cover: In our case this is important for all of our chopping and cutting. It is also helpful outside of the kitchen, say when you need to cut rope to hang a clothesline to dry wet items.
  • A coffee pot: we tend to make our coffee just by boiling water and pouring it over the coffee grounds, but a coffee pot may be preferable.



Things for serving:

  • Tableware: there are so many options available that it is hard to know where to start. I recommend starting simple; make sure that you have a cup, a bowl, a spoon and a fork for each regular camper. You can add from there. Options for camp tableware vary; there is “enamelware” which consists of durable steel that is covered with enamel, plastic and stainless steel. I recommend cups that can hold both hot and cold drinks, so that campers can enjoy some hot chocolate or coffee in the mornings.
  • A ladle or serving spoon
  • Spatula: at least in our family, burgers are nearly always on the menu when camping. A spatula helps us to flip them and get them off the heat.
  • Tongs: great for hot dogs, sausages or veggies that are cooking and need to be taken off the heat.

Other important items:

  • A cooler: this is a must-have item to store any perishable foods you are bringing with you.
  • A large water container with a spigot: there are several reasons for this; first is to store water that you will drink (you can refill your water bottles from the water container). Second, this will be a place where you can get water to wash your hands or clean your dishes. While some campgrounds offer sinks and bathrooms, many do not.
  • A water purifier, particularly if you will be drinking water from a river or stream.
  • A can opener
  • Corkscrew/bottle opener: should you enjoy a glass or wine or a beer when camping, this should be a part of your camp kitchen.
  • Soap and a sponge to clean your items
  • Paper towels
  • Tin foil: can be used for cooking or to wrap up leftovers or unused items.
  • A lantern: we tend to get caught up in the day’s activities and get a late start to cooking. Which sometimes means that we have to finish creating a meal or cleaning up when it is dark. The lantern makes this possible.
  • A hatchet: depending on where you are camping, there may be a need to chop wood. A hatch makes this possible.
  • A tarp: depending on the possibility of rain where we are camping, we will sometimes bring a tarp to hang above our kitchen area. This will keep us dry when cooking in the rain.

Then, of course, there are the less standard items.  My husband has created portable “spice rack” that is ready to go for all of our adventures. This has been incredibly helpful, particularly for longer trips where we will have a greater need for some variety in our meals. To create this, he took an old, unused video camera bag and cleaned it out. He then did the following:

  • Found an assortment of small containers
  • Filled each container with some of the spices or seasonings he cooks with on a regular basis
  • Included small containers for olive and canola oil, as well as soy sauce
  • Added packets of hot chocolate, coffee, hot sauce and sugar

The portable spice rack is amazing! It ensures that we have everything we need to make a variety of foods with a variety of flavors. And it makes it easy to get everything ready when packing for a trip. Almost everything in the bag is ready to go. He usually just has to refill a few items for any particular trip. .

Your Camp Kitchen is Unique

It is important to remember that while this is a guide to creating your camp kitchen, everyone’s will look a bit different. They key is to consider your cooking and eating habits and plan accordingly. For some, bringing all of these items would be unnecessary and for others, bringing all of these items would not be enough.

For example, some campers will add a small folding table to their kitchen, giving them a place to set up their stove, or to prepare food items for the meal. There are also stands available to place your camping stove on top of. We do without these items, however they do make things easier and more convenient. Because they take up more space in the car, we have decided to leave them off of our list. This may change in the future, but for now we make it work.

What items do you feel are important in your camp kitchen? What camp cookware do you recommend? Please share you experiences.


Ilyssa is a mother of four who is employed full-time as a grant writer and who enjoys writing freelance articles in her spare time. Ilyssa has a great love of adventure and the outdoors, which she hopes she is passing along to her children. Last summer Ilyssa and her family took a five week road trip, camping and exploring most of the western United States. The trip inspired Ilyssa to work towards achieving flexible employment and/or financial freedom, so that she and her family may continue to travel and explore all nature has to offer, and not just for a few weeks out of the year.