What’s in your camp kitchen? We share all the essential camp cooking equipment you need (plus some extras) to build your own car camping kitchen setup.
What car camping cooking equipment should I buy? What gear would you recommend? Ever since starting Fresh Off the Grid, a lot of people have asked us about the type of camp cooking equipment we use. Especially if we have any specific gear recommendations. So we decided to put together this comprehensive list of camp cooking gear.
While we’ve used a lot of camp cooking gear over the years, we obviously haven’t tried everything out there. Our car camping gear setup is constantly being upgraded and improved, so it never stays the same for very long. We don’t believe there is such a thing as the “perfect” setup. Just like at home, your kitchen should be tailored to your cooking style. We believe your gear selection should evolve as your cooking skills improve. The goal of any camp chef is to make delicious meals, not acquire the fanciest equipment.
So below is a list of the camp cooking gear we’ve personally used before. For each item, we give our thoughts on what we like about it and what we don’t. At the end of each section, we also include a few items that are currently on our wish list.
Have a favorite piece of camp cooking gear that we didn’t list here? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll check it out.
Cookware | Cooking Tools & Accessories | Knives | Tableware | Drinkware
Coffee System | Sink & Clean Up | Printable Camp Kitchen Checklist
1.) Camp Kitchen and Pantry Organizers
Before you can even get to all the cool gear, first you need someplace to put everything. Having a good organization system will make cooking easier and reduce the risk of accidentally forgetting something at home.
Action Packers – We currently use custom wooden boxes designed to fit in our car, but prior to that we camped with two 8 gallon Action Packers, one for our camp kitchen and one for our camp pantry. They’re rugged, fairly priced, and did a great job of keeping everything organized.
Plastic Egg Holder – There are a lot of bogus camping accessories out there, but a plastic egg holder is actually worth it. We lost a lot of good eggs before we decided to get one of these.
Collapsible Water Jug – We went through two of these over the course of two years. But for $12 a piece, what could we expect. While the collapsible aspect is nice, the durability of the plastic with extended use isn’t great. Still, if you’re tight on space they can be a really good option.
Hard Sided Water Jug – Much more rugged than the collapsible type, this hard-sided 8 gallon jug allowed us to spend more time camping off the grid without needed to go back into civilization. Unfortunately, it’s not theft-proof and ours was stolen at a campground in West Virginia 🙁
Foldable Tables – Most campgrounds have picnic tables, but if you do a lot of off the grid boondocking like us, finding a flat surface to cook on might be a problem. On these occasions, we’ve used collapsible tables to give us a counter top on work on. Even at an established campground, being able to set up a table wherever you want (e.x. in the shade) can be invaluable.
Camp Cooking Station & Organizer – So this might be a little over the top for some people, but we do a lot of camping in places that don’t always have picnic tables. A dedicated workstation like this would be really nice.
If you’re looking for tips on how to set up your camping pantry, you can check out our to guide about it here.
We camped for a very long time without a cooler. Some might say too long… While there are plenty of very passable budget coolers out there, for us it was time to invest in some top-notch chill. Cooler technology has advanced tremendously over the past couple years and we wanted to get in on that space age ice chest action.
Yeti Tundra 35 – After shopping around, we finally landed on the Yeti Tundra 35. It’s super rugged, insanely insulated, and just the right size for a long weekend. We know Yeti gets a lot of hype, but we can say without a doubt that ours has lived up to expectations.
Yeti Hopper Cooler – While we love our Yeti Tundra 35, it would be nice to get a second, smaller cooler just to hold beer. Since the beer cooler gets opened a lot more frequently, having dedicated beverage cooler would keep our main food cooler colder longer. A smaller cooler would also be great for shorter day trips.
3.) Camp Stoves
The two burner propane stove is the powerhouse behind most camp kitchens. But there are so many options that figuring out the best one can be a challenge. We’re still searching for the “perfect” camp stove, but there are some solid options out there.
Coleman Camp Classic – This was our first camp stove. Solidly built, reliable, and never failed. The reason we switched was because the paint was chipping and the metal underneath was starting to rust. It also had pretty poor simmer control. Nevertheless, it was a great starter stove at a great price.
Eureka Spire LX – This is the stove we are using currently. It has adjustable legs, risotto-level simmer control, and an auxiliary fuel port. This aux port allows us to daisy-chain another stove to it or power a Jetboil satellite burner (all off of a single propane fuel canister). We’ve had a few problems with the electronic starter, which has stopped working entirely on our model. But lighting it by hand hasn’t been much of an issue.
Camp Chef Summit 2 Burner – A lot of people we know have said some very good things about these Camp Chef Summit stoves. We’d love to give one a spin sometimes.
3.1) Portable Grills
The power to grill wherever we want. No firepit required.
Biolite Basecamp – We were skeptical at first, but we’ve come to really love our BioLite Basecamp stove. Using small pieces of firewood for fuel, this thermoelectric stove converts heat to electricity which powers a fan to increase burn efficiency. It can also charge devices via a USB port. The large grill has room for roughly ten burgers, making cooking for a group easy, while the one-touch lever lets you control the flame for if you need to switch over to boiling water or simmering a stew. When combined with the Pizza Dome, this is a super versatile cook system.
Gonzo Grill – We just received this grill so we’ll be adding a more comprehensive review soon. But the general concept is it’s a single burner propane stove that can function as both a grill and griddle. The burner heats a reversible cast iron grill/griddle that can be covered by a lid. Because it runs off propane, we will still be able to use it if there’s a fire ban in effect.
Snow Peak Pack & Carry Grill – This is a portable, foldable grill system that comes with a ton of add-ons like a grill grate, cast iron griddle, and even a Pizza oven. While it’s crazy expensive, it’s also crazy nice. So it’s likely this is a piece of gear that will indefinitely live on our wish list.
UCO Flatpack Grill – Similar to the Snow Peak foldable grill above, but for a fraction of the price. This would be a fun option for off the grid camping, where we want to have a fire but there isn’t an established fire pit.
Camp Chef Over-the-Fire Grate – It’s unclear why we don’t own this already. True, most campgrounds have campfires with grates, but it would be great not to be bound by that. A collapsible metal grill grate like this would be super useful for boondocking out in the desert.
3.2) Water Boilers
Whether you’re making coffee or washing dishes, sometimes you just want hot water, fast. Sure, boiling a pot of water over your camp stove will work too, but we’re super impatient (especially before our first cup of coffee in the morning). Also, at the end of the night sometimes all our pots are dirty but we still want hot water to wash dishes. So perhaps a dedicated hot water maker is something that makes sense for you, too.
Jetboil Sumo – We’ve had this one for a long time, but it’s still kicking. When we’re doing boil-in-bag meals this is what we bring backpacking, but now it stays with our car camping kit. We use to run it off its own fuel canister, but since switching to the Eureka Spire LX we can just daisy-chain it into the main stove.
MSR Windburner – This is sort of a new addition for us, which might have more applications for backpacking. Similar to the Jetboils, this cook system rapidly boils water, but it’s patented burner has exceptional performance in high wind conditions. If you find yourself needing hot water (or food) in high wind conditions, this might be worth checking out.
It’s not what you cook, it’s how you cook it. And no part of your camp kitchen setup influences how to prepare a meal more than your cookware.
10” Cast Iron Dutch Oven – Hands down, the most versatile piece of camp cookware we own. A Dutch oven opens up a whole new world of cooking options: cook stews, bake lasagna, braise chicken, make nachos, you name it! Because it’s made entirely of cast iron, it can be used on a camp stove or directly over the fire. The short legs and rimmed lid allow you to place embers/coals on top as well as underneath, cooking your meal from both directions. Ever since we started learning the art of Dutch oven cooking, our camp meals have never been the same.
10” Cast Iron Skillet – While our Dutch oven is our most versatile piece of gear, our cast iron skillet is our camp kitchen MVP. With no plastic or synthetic components, this skillet can be placed directly over an open flame or nestled in a bed of embers. The superior heat retention of cast iron allows us to toast hash browns, sear steaks, and even bake cornbread. Virtually every meal we cook while car camping uses either this skillet or the Dutch oven above.
8” Cast Iron Skillet – We really like having a smaller cast iron skillet on hand for making side dishes or desserts. While we’re big advocates of one pot meals, sometimes it’s nice to have two things going at once.
Cast Iron Griddle – When we’re cooking for large groups, sometimes we bring out this cast iron griddle. Made entirely out of cast iron, this griddle/grill combo can be used over an open fire, on top of a campfire grate, or even placed on a two-burner camp stove.
GSI Glacier Kettle – Whether we’re boiling water for tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, this camp kettle is great. Made entirely from stainless steel without any plastic parts, this kettle can be used on a camp stove or place over an open flame. Its short spout offers exceptional pour control, making it ideal for making pour-over coffee.
MSR Ceramic Flex Skillet – When having a non-stick surface really matters (like cooking fried eggs in the morning), this MSR ceramic flex skillet is great. This is a recent addition to our gear closet but we’ve been pretty impressed with it so far. Our only criticism is that the ceramic coating doesn’t hold up well under high heat. So keep things mellow with this pan.
Halulite Pot – We do most of our pasta boiling in our Dutch oven but it would be nice to have a secondary pot. This anodized aluminum pot by GSI has been on our radar for awhile.
GSI Bugaboo Skillet – While we like the MSR Ceramic Flex skillet, we’d be interested in trying out some different non-stick options. We’ve heard good things about this one from GSI but would love to test it out ourselves.
5.) Cooking Tools & Accessories
Buying dedicated camp kitchen utensils is one of the smartest things we’ve done recently. It’s so much easier to have our dedicated gear stored all in one place rather than hunting around the kitchen and trying to multipurpose items right before we head out the door. It really reduces the risk of arriving at the campsite and realizing you’re missing a critical piece of gear.
Tongs – We carry a pair of metal tongs with us, which we use either for food or for shuttling charcoals around when we’re cooking with our Dutch oven
Can Opener – Do it. Buy a second one just for camping. It’s like the one item that if you forget, can really throw a wrench in your whole meal plan. Don’t risk turning your entire camping trip into a dark comedy about being marooned on a desert island.
Wooden Spoon – For stirring, sauteing, serving, and shooing away children when they try to sneak a marshmallow before finishing their dinner.
Spatula – Another critical piece of kitchen gear that is often forgotten at home. Try flipping pancakes with a fork. You can do it, but it’s not pretty.
Metal Skewers – If roasting kebabs over the open fire is your thing then metal skewers are perfect. They also can double as spacers for your Dutch oven.
Collapsible Measuring Cups – The number of meals we’ve ruined because we thought we could “eyeball” the measurements are more than we’d like to admit. These collapsible measuring cups don’t take up a lot of space and keep our camp cooking accurate.
Heat Resistant Gloves – These gloves have made a huge difference. Working with cast iron over the fire, our hands used to be covered in minor burns. These gloves prevent all of that and give us the confidence and dexterity to handle the heat.
Beer/Wine Bottle Opener – Don’t risk the unspeakable tragedy of setting up your campsite only to discover you have no way of opening your beer/wine.
Whether you’re slicing steaks, chopping vegetables, or whittling the perfect s’more stick, having a good knife is essential when you’re preparing a meal in the outdoors. Just like in your home kitchen, the quality of your equipment is important, both for function and for your safety. So invest in a good set of knives for your next camping adventure.
Opinel Chef’s Knife – Don’t risk injury by trying to chop an onion with a tiny pocket knife. Invest in a good chef’s knife. We use this nice wood-handled Opinel Chef’s knife.
Opinel Bread Knife – Now this one might be a little excessive, but a good bread knife can make quick work of slicing a baguette, halving burger buns, cutting pieces of French toast.
Opinel 10” Corkscrew Knife – This stainless steel Opinel knife is perfect for slicing cheese and salami as well as uncorking a bottle of Bordeaux. Whether you’re having a rustic lunch or a fancy outdoor dinner, this 2-in-1 knife has got all the important bases covered. #Priorities
Cutting Board – We’ve seen plenty of grimy, splinter-city picnic tables to know that bringing along a cutting board is not optional. We usually pack two – one for chopping vegetables and one for meat.
Snow Peak Chop Box & Knife – We are always down to save space, so this 2-in-1 cutting board and knife sounds like it would be right up our alley.
Ceramic plates are too fragile and plastic forks & knives seem too wasteful. If you’re serious about camping, it’s worth investing in some dedicated outdoor tableware.
GSI Enamel Plates – These iconic speckled enamel plates are essential camping cooking gear. They’re durable and easy to clean. We have two of them.
GSI Enamel Bowls – The bowl version of the above-mentioned plates, these also capture that vintage camping aesthetic to a T.
GSI Silverware – Silverware from home will work just as well, but in the spirit of having dedicated gear for camping, picking up some enamel silverware means you’ll always have the right number of forks to knives.
White Enamel Plates – For all the Sunset Magazine readers out there who want to class up their outdoor table service, you can also go with these white enamel plates. We also have two of these.
Snow Peak Tableware Set – While we love the look of enamel, we would love to give a Snow Peak’s stainless steel collection a try.
Bottoms up. Coffee in the morning, water in the day, beer in the afternoon, and cocktails in the evening. We don’t intend for car camping to be an all-day drink fest, but sometimes it just is.
GSI Enamel Mugs – The best things about these mugs are their vintage camping look. Everything else about them is TERRIBLE. Because steel is a great conductor of heat, they get scalding hot as soon as you pour coffee into them. And then, moments later, your coffee is freezing cold. We sometimes use these as props in photos, but if you’re serious about camping, you can skip these and read on.
Snow Peak Insulated Mug – These mugs were game changers for us. Before we got them, we used to have to quickly gulp down our coffee before it got cold (cough cough enamel mugs). Now, these double-layer vacuum insulated mugs allow us to slowly sip our coffee all morning long. Definitely worth the investment.
HydroFlask Tumblers, Pint Glasses, Rocks Glasses – Want to keep the temperature of whatever you’re drinking the same? Hydro Flask has got an incredible lineup of insulated drinkware. We currently own a pair of tumblers, pint glasses, and rocks glasses. All of them are solid investments.
GoVino Shatterproof Wine Glasses – Glass stemware is not really cut out for adventures in outdoor wine drinking, but these shatterproof wine glasses are.
Nalgene Bottles – We have a love/hate relationship with Nalgene bottles. On one hand, they’re indestructible, widely available, and fairly priced. On the other hand, even after being around for over a decade they still haven’t figure out how to stop the measurements on the side from rubbing off. Please Nalgene, just put, like, a little money into R&D for this.
Insulated Growler – When we go out on a camping trip, we often end up passing by some very interesting micro breweries. We’d love to be able to fill up a growler on our way out of town and enjoy some local beer back at our site. We haven’t figure which insulated growler we would want, but getting one is definitely on our list.
9.) Coffee Setup
Coffee, sweet sweet coffee, the lifeblood of outdoor adventurers everywhere. While we forgo a great many things while camping, a good cup of coffee is not one of them. Thankfully, there are countless ways to enjoy a good brew in the wild.
AeroPress Coffee Maker – During our yearlong road trip, Aeropress was how we made 99% of our coffee. Easy to use, simple to clean, and nearly impossible to break. It’s an ideal solution for two people who like good coffee every morning.
Moka Pot – We’ve recently been using our Moka Pot more just to switch things up. We like that it makes a very strong, Italian-espresso style cup of coffee and that its metal filter system is easy to clean and doesn’t produce any waste.
Porlex Hand Grinder – This might be our biggest coffee indulgence. But the reality is freshly ground beans taste so much better than stale pre-ground beans. This hand crank grinder powers ceramic conical burrs that can be adjusted to produce a wide range of grinds, from coarse French Press to extra fine Espresso Powder. Now we can’t imagine coffee without it.
GSI Percolator – While we love the AeroPress and Moka Pot, we don’t really have a coffee solution for larger groups. We’d love to try out this stove top percolator for times when we want to make a large batch of coffee.
10.) Sink & Cleanup
True, nobody like doing dishes while camping. But if you have the right set up the whole process can be a lot easier than you think.
REI Collapsible Sink – We recently picked up these collapsible buckets from REI. They feel really durable and were nicely priced compared to the Sea to Summit sinks. However, we are a little disappointed that they don’t nest into each other.
Metal Strainer – This is great for straining food particles out of your gray water.
Dr. Bronner Biodegradable Soap – Combining incredible castile soap with fascinating reading material, Dr. Bronner’s soap is our go-to suds for camping.
Sponge – We like sponges with a scouring pad on one side. Typically we cut them in half because we don’t need to carry a full sponge with us.
Chamois Cloth – A small drying cloth is nice to quickly hand dry your dishes. While it might be tempting to air dry, we prefer to get the whole dishwashing process over with so we can get on with our evening.
Camp Kitchen Checklist
|If you’re as forgetful as we are, sometimes it’s nice to have a packing checklist to refer to. Get our free camp kitchen checklist here!|