If you love camping, you just feel good when you are outside and it doesn’t matter what time of year it is or what kind of weather you have. A great part of the camping experience is having your meals outdoors. Great camping experiences include smelling the food as it is cooking, communing with nature, having fellowship with friends and family. Even if you enjoy camping alone, there’s no need to forego the cook stove and just eat granola.
Food just tastes better when you are outdoors! Right? Well, cooking while at a camp-out has its challenges for sure. But, everything falls into place when you’re prepared with everything you need for setting up a camp kitchen. We wanted to make your preparation for cooking in a camp kitchen easier by giving you some tips as well as a checklist of camp kitchen essentials.
Tip #1: Finding the Right Spot
When looking for a spot to setup camp, you should look for a flat area that is away from trees and bushes. Be sure to set up your camp kitchen at least 100 yards away from the closest source of natural water. It’s also important to place the camp kitchen and your food 100 to 200 feet from your campsite. This keeps enough distance in case there are wild animals (especially bears) that may come around. When camping in bear country, it's recommended to use a bear box when storing food. Disclaimer: These rules may be different when camping in national parks. Before setting up camp, visit a ranger station to learn the rules and regulations of the park.
Tip #2: Prepping Food
Your means of prepping food will depend on your camping situation. If you're backpacking, then your pack weight is priority. Whereas if you're at a campground, you'll have room for bulkier accessories to prepare and cook. One of the things you’ll find you miss from your kitchen at home is a counter top for prepping food; so, you need to improvise for your camp kitchen. To avoid any confusion, we split this section up into two.
Prepping Food While Campground Camping
A burner stove or propane stove will work just fine. Some campgrounds will have their own outdoor charcoal grills. If you have the room and want something a little more convenient, bring one or two folding tables to sit things on for food prep, placement of the stove and dish washing. When setting up a camp kitchen, use one side of a table for food preparation and the other side for your stove. Additionally, keep a stove accessory box next to the stove that includes a lighter, matches, and oven mitts.
Many campsites provide picnic tables. If you have access to one, this is your counter. Bring a cutting board, or plastic plates that will be your prepping surface.
If you rather not use paper plates to eat off of, enamel camping dining sets are a good alternative. If you’re using a burner stove or a propane stove to cook your meals, you’ll need 1-2 pots or pans. A cook set, or cast iron dutch oven will work just fine. Whether they’re steel or cast iron, that's totally up to you.
Most campsites will have fire rings. If you rather cook your feast over the fire, well there are a few options. If it’s a small fire ring on a level surface, a folding camp grill will work great. Most of these grills are around 3 feet wide, giving you enough cooking space. If you have a little more space, instead of a folding camp grill, a tripod grill will work as well.
Prepping Food While Backpacking
Packing only the essentials is key when backpacking. So, you’ll probably agree that lugging a stove burner, a cast-iron dutch oven, and a full-size cutting board isn’t the best idea. If you have food to prep before you begin cooking, find be a log or a good place to sit and use a durable plastic plate as a cutting surface for the prep work. You could also use a mess kit or a small frying pan.
If your meal needs to be heated, you can cook it over the fire. You’ll need to have fire-starter supplies and something to cook your food in - a small frying pan or mess kit will work. Instead of cooking over a fire, a more compact option would be to use a cooking system, similar to the Electron + XTS Pot Combo or JETBOIL ZIP. These are affordable, light-weight, all-in-one cooking systems that can do anything from boiling water to cooking a whole meal.
Tip #3: Covering Your Camp Kitchen
It is a very good idea to take a tarp that you can put on 3 or 4 poles or use a tree as a height support for covering your kitchen. You never know what the weather will have in store for you. Who hasn’t been on a weekend camping trip and had it rain the entire time? You can save yourself some misery by having a cover over the cooking area.
An additional nice thing to have is a tarp that serves as a windscreen. It can really help if you are using an open fire for cooking as well as keeping children out of the area for safety.
Everything You Need
So in setting up your camp kitchen and to help you have everything you need for the delicious meals you want while camping, we have put together a list of camp kitchen essentials for either open or RV camping.