Great camping food starts by having the right gear in your camp kitchen. We share the equipment we consider camp cooking essentials for front country car camping and explain how the right gear can really elevate your outdoor cooking.
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. So we decided to put together this comprehensive list of camp cooking gear.
While we’ve used a lot of camp cooking equipment over the years, we obviously haven’t tried everything out there. Our car camping setup is constantly being upgraded and improved, so it never stays the same for long. We don’t believe there’s such a thing as a “perfect” setup. Just like at home, your kitchen should be tailored to your cooking style. We believe your gear should evolve as your cooking skills improve. The goal of any camp chef is to make delicious meals, not acquire the fanciest equipment.
Below is a list of the camp cooking gear we’ve used or demo-ed. For each item, we give our thoughts on what we like about it and what it allows us to do. 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.
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.
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, relatively cheap, and did a great job of keeping everything organized. Check price: Amazon
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. Compare prices: Amazon // REI
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 isn’t great. Still, if you’re tight on space and on a limited budget they can be a good option. Compare prices: Amazon // REI
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. Compare prices: Amazon // REI
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. Compare prices: REI // Amazon
MSR Dromedary Bag (Better Collapsible Water Jug)
While we haven’t used this water jug yet, it has tons of positive reviews on Amazon. Unlike the flimsy plastic of our previous water jug, this one has 1,000-denier Cordura exterior designed to handle plenty of abuse. It also has a BPA-free, food grade lining for better tasting water. This will be our next water storage system. Compare prices: Amazon // REI
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 that ours has lived up to expectations. Compare prices: Amazon // REI
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. Compare prices: Amazon // REI
Cooler Shock Reusable Ice Paks
We’ve heard a lot about these reusable ice paks. Freeze them before your camping trip and use them instead of ice. They eliminate the need to buy ice before every trip and prevents the your cooler from turning into a slushy water abyss. Check price: Amazon
There are a lot of options when it comes to car camping stoves, so 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. We switched 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. Compare prices: Amazon // REI
Camp Chef Summit 2 Burner
We’ve recently upgraded to the Camp Chef Summit 2-burner stove and have nothing but great things to say. Solidly built, high powered burners, excellent simmer control, great wind protection and adjustable legs. It’s pricey, but it’s hands down the best camp stove we’ve used. Check price: REI
We love our Basecamp stove! Using small pieces of firewood for fuel, this 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 surface is perfect for cooking for group, while the one-touch lever lets you control the flame intensity and direction. When combined with the Pizza Dome, this is a super versatile cook system. Compare prices: Biolite // Amazon
GoSun Solar Oven
The GoSun Sport is a portable solar-powered oven that uses an innovative insulated cylinder to rapidly cook your food using the just power of the sun – even on a (relatively) cloudy day. Unlike like most camp stoves, the GoSun actually an oven – which means you can bake! We’ve baked cinnamon buns, chocolate chip cookies, and sweet potato fries in ours. Read our full review of it here. Compare prices: Amazon// REI
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. Compare prices: REI // Amazon
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! 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. Compare prices: REI // Amazon
10” Cast Iron Skillet
While our Dutch oven is our most versatile piece of gear, our cast iron skillet is our camp kitchen MVP. 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 a Dutch oven. Compare prices: REI // Amazon
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. Compare prices: REI // Amazon
Cast Iron Griddle
When we’re cooking for large groups, sometimes we bring out the 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. Compare prices: Amazon // REI
Jetboil Fry Pan
When having a non-stick surface really matters (like cooking fried eggs in the morning), this Jetboil ceramic 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 isn’t designed for high heat, so it’s important to keep things mellow. Compare prices: Amazon // REI
5.) Cooking Tools & Accessories
Buying dedicated camp kitchen utensils is one of the smartest things we’ve done. 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.
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. Check price: Amazon
Do it. Buy a second one just for camping. It’s the one item that if you forget, can totally ruin your whole meal plan. Don’t risk turning your entire camping trip into a dark comedic tragedy. Check price: Amazon
For stirring, sauteing, serving, and shooing away children when they try to sneak a marshmallow before finishing their dinner. Check price: Amazon
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. Check price: Amazon
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. Check price: Amazon
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. Check price: Amazon
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. Check price: Amazon
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. Check price: Amazon
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. Check price: Amazon
Knife Set with Protective Shealths
If you have the room, why not pick up a whole set of relatively inexpensive set of knifes. We really like these with the protective shealths, so they get dulled or accidently punture something during transport. Compare prices: Amazon
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 Check price: Amazon
Small Cutting Board
We’ve seen plenty of grimy, splinter-city picnic tables to know that bringing along a small portable cutting board is not optional. We usually pack two – one for chopping vegetables and one for meat. Check price: Amazon
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. Compare prices: Amazon // REI
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. Check price: Amazon
GSI Enamel Bowls
The bowl version of the above-mentioned plates, these also capture that vintage camping aesthetic to a T. Check price: Amazon
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. Check price: Amazon
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. Check price: Amazon
To-Go Ware Bamboo Travel Utensils Set
We tried this bamboo utensil set at Outdoor Retail and really liked it. Lightweight, compact, and easy to pack. It’s the same set they sell at Patagonia, but without the brand name mark up. Check price: Amazon
Bottoms up. Coffee in the morning, water during the day, cocktails in the afternoon, and beer in the evening. We don’t intend for car camping to be an all-day drink fest, but sometimes it just is.
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. Now, these double-layer vacuum insulated mugs allow us to slowly sip our coffee all morning long. Definitely worth the investment. Compare prices: REI // Amazon
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. Compare prices: REI // Amazon
TaZa Shatterproof Wine Glasses
Glass stemware is not really cut out for adventures in outdoor wine drinking, but these shatterproof wine glasses are. Check price: Amazon
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. Compare prices: REI // Amazon
Drink Tank Insulated Growler
We love being able to fill up a growler on our way out of town and enjoy some local beer back at our site. The Drink Tank Insulated growler is the best we’ve tried. It also comes with a Keg cap, so you can keep your beer carbonated all weekend long. Compare prices: REI // Amazon
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. Check price: Amazon
We’ve 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. Check price: Amazon
JavaPresse 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. Check price: Amazon
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. Check price: Amazon
Sea to Summit Collapsible Kettle
This Sea to Summit Kettle is amazing because it collapses down into a slim disk that we store with all our coffee gear. Super compact. It has a metal bottom and silicone sides, so it is perfect for a camp stove but not for over campfire. If you don’t ever need to heat your water over an open fire then this the kettle to get! Compare prices: Amazon // REI
Learn about all the different ways you can make coffee while camping. We share 13 different brew methods to keep you caffinated outdoors Check out the full article here.
10.) Sink & Cleanup
FACT: nobody likes doing dishes while camping. But if you have the right set up the whole process can be a lot easier than you think.
We recently picked up these collapsible buckets to use as a camp sink. They feel really durable and were nicely priced, but we’re a little disappointed that they don’t nest into each other when collapsed. Still, a pretty good find. Compare prices: Amazon // REI
A bandana would work too, but this is great for straining food particles out of your gray water. Check price: Amazon
Heavy Duty Dish Washing Gloves
Who likes washing dishes and getting their hands wet and cold? Exactly no one. We picked this trick up from our friend Nives of Camp Trends. Pick up a pair of heavy duty dish washing gloves and cleaning up the dishes can be A LOT more enjoyable. Check price: Amazon
Dr. Bronner Biodegradable Soap
Combining incredible castile soap with fascinating reading material, Dr. Bronner’s soap is our go-to suds for camping. Compare prices: Amazon
Steramine Quaternary Sanitizing Tablets After washing your dishes, add one of these tablets to your rinse bucket to disinfect against bacteria and viruses. It’s more effective than old-fashion bleach and much gentler on your skin. Check price: Amazon
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. Check price: Amazon
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. Check price: Amazon
Want to learn how we wash dishes when we’re out camping? We’ve break down our 3 bucket method and give some tips on how to make clean up more fun. Check out the full article here.