It’s easy to get overwhelmed when shopping for the essential items for your camp kitchen. There are dozens of different options, from super minimalist to all out gourmet style setups. I tend to stick towards the more minimal side of things, though I am not without some luxuries (see: our entire coffee setup). Here’s our current setup for car camping – we pare down as needed for motorcycle camping, and take only the very basics for backpacking.
When car camping, we typically bring along two stoves because we have the room and it makes life (particularly mornings) easier. The first stove we bring is a two burner Coleman propane stove. This stove is great because it’s fairly compact (for what it is!), the fuel is easy to find, and we can cook with our pot and cast iron skillet at the same time. The second stove we bring is a JetBoil. This stove might be superfluous, but we keep it around because it is a champion in the mornings when we want a cup of coffee, and we want it fast! This thing boils water in no time at all, whereas it would take longer to get coffee boiling in a pot on the stove. Honestly, the time difference is a matter of minutes, but if you’ve seen me in the mornings, you might understand why this is important. We also use this stove while backpacking and all we need to do is heat water to rehydrate our dinners. If we are motorcycle camping, we’ll ditch the Coleman stove and take this MSR PocketRocket stove, which screws right onto a fuel canister and allows us to save space but still use either a pot or a skillet (opposed to only being able to boil water, as with the JetBoil).
Our cooking system is pretty minimal. We use an enamelware pot, which you can get online or at any Army surplus store, and an 8″ cast-iron skillet. These can be used on a camp stove, or over a campfire with a grill gate, so they are both fairly versatile.
Both Michael & I are coffee junkies, so this gets it own category! There are tons of different approaches to making coffee in the wild, but this is our current setup. We bring whole beans with us and use a Porlex hand grinder. You could totally skip this and just bring pre-ground beans, but your beans remain fresher if you wait to grind them, which makes for better coffee. Plus, hand grinding gives you something to do while you wait for the water to boil. We use an Aeropress to make our coffee. It’s a neat, compact coffee press. I’ll do a future in-depth post on how it works, but the jist is that you use a small filter, add your ground beans, add water, and then use the plunger to press the coffee through the filter. It only makes one cup at a time, but the process is pretty quick so it’s not that much of a hassle. Our favorite mugs are Snow Peak’s titanium double wall mugs. They are on the pricy side, but we decided to upgrade from the classic enamelware camp mugs to these guys because they retain heat better, so your coffee stays warmer and the mug never gets too hot to hold in your hand. Michael likes this mug so much that he now drinks his coffee at home from it, too.
Our dishes are enamelware plates & bowls. You can get these at any Army surplus store for a few bucks each. Amazon also has some good bundles – you can get a 4 person set of dishes & utensils here.
I try to keep my cooking utensils to a minimum. Just like at home, it’s easy to go overboard with gadgets! Right now my arsenal includes a chef’s knife, can opener, wooden spoon, spatula, and measuring cups and spoons, and a cutting board. I think it’s best to figure out what will make your camp cooking experience the easiest and then build your kitchen around that. Maybe you’ll want a ladle for soups (I usually just pour straight from the pot. That can be messy…), or if you cook meat often you might want to get a plastic cutting board instead of wood. The big thing I stand firm on is to include a decent chef’s knife. I always bring the knife that I use for cooking at home because it’s high quality, and it makes a huge difference in my outdoor cooking experience. Don’t buy a crappy knife – use a good one and take care of it, and it will make everything easier. I use an 8″ Wusthof chef’s knife but there are tons of options out there!