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In a hurry? If you are looking for a camp kitchen and just want to know what our top pick is, we recommend the GCI Outdoor Master Cook Portable Folding Camp Kitchen.
When we started camping, we just used whatever existing table there was at the campsite such as the picnic table and built-in grill for our mealtimes. However, recently we decided it was time for an upgrade, so it was time to start our research. We decided that we wanted a decent amount of counter space, some way to store stuff, and it would be nice if there were a wash station for clean-up.
What we found out was that camp kitchens range from a no-frills simple table all the way to a set up with more gimmicks than the kitchen in my house. You can build one yourself or purchase a readymade one. Prices can range wildly depending on the type you choose. The right one can completely transform your outdoor cooking experience!
- Top Pick: GCI Outdoor Master Cook Portable Folding Camp Kitchen
- Upgrade Pick: Cabela’s Deluxe Camp Kitchen
- Budget Pick: Coleman Packaway Portable Kitchen
- Other Picks:
We had a simple list of requirements for our camp kitchen. We wanted counter space for cooking, a place to keep the supplies together, and a way to at least rinse our dishes at the site. This portable camp kitchen from GCI not only met all of our requirements but it also consists of a powder-coated steel frame and an aluminum countertop which means our camping stove can be placed on it without concerns. Adding in multiple side tables, beverage holders, a lantern pole, paper towel holder, and various hooks was a bonus. Once folded, it also has handles for carrying.
- Open – 22.2 x 70.1 x 68.3 inches
- Closed – 21.7 x 5.9 x 34.8 inches
- Weight – 22.4 lbs
- heat proof counter for stove
- collapsible sink
- hook for lantern
- height is not adjustable
- no storage bag
For those wanting even more gadgets and gizmos, the Deluxe Camp Kitchen adds a zippered fabric pantry, a spice rack, and a backsplash among other things. We love the removeable sink offered with this model and the adjustable feet help with those campsites that aren’t completely level. Plus, it includes a windscreen to help keep your camp stove lit.
- Open – 84 x 19.75 x 30 inches
- Closed – 42 x 22 x 6.8 inches
- Weight – 36 lbs
- adjustable feet
- removeable sink
- heavy duty carrying bag
- counters made of mdf
- screened storage bags allow stuff to get wet
While this is our budget option, it actually offers quite a few amenities to the campsite while not taking up a lot of space. The main table offers lots of space for food prep and serving, while the side table will hold most stoves. Adding in a mesh shelf, multiple hooks, and a place to hang a lantern add to the organization and appeal.
- Open – 56.7 x 21.3 x 66.1 inches
- Closed – 31.5 x 11 x 4 inches
- Weight – 13.8 lbs
- storage net for drying
- quick setup
- self-contained carrying case
- height is not adjustable
- latches are flimsy
While this one does not have the counter space we were looking for, it does get high marks for organization and storage. It offers four storage bags, one of which is lined for use as a sink or cooler. There is an aluminum roll top table to place on top of the unit. It has telescoping aluminum legs. And it is all self-contained with padded carry handles on both sides.
- Open – 27 x 17 x 28 inches
- Closed – 25.5 x 16.5 x 9 inches
- Weight – 13.45 lbs
- holds a lot
- four storage bags for organization
- blue bag lined for use as cooler or sink
- legs aren’t leveling
- zippers get stuck
This unit also does not have as much counterspace as we are looking for. However, if you don’t require a bunch of countertop space, this unit with its built-in stove area (complete with windscreen) offers a compact camp kitchen with leveling ability for uneven terrain. We also appreciate the lifetime warranty the company offers.
- Open – 35.83 x 20.31 x 17.32 inches
- Closed – 36.81 x 7.52 x 5.12 inches
- Weight – 10 lbs
- height adjustable
- each leg adjusts
- includes carrying bag
- shelves are laminated pressboard
- pantry is hard to attach
This camp kitchen from REI offers two aluminum roll-top table stations along with two foldaway side tables. It also has a detachable storage container with two shelves that works well for keeping cookware and tableware out of the way. We don’t recommend storing food in the pantry if you are camping anywhere there might be critters roaming around or you might wake up to chewed through packages.
- Open – 56.2 x 18.9 x 31.5 inches
- Closed – 19.7 x 4.3 x 31.5 inches
- Weight – 13.5 lbs
- adjustable legs
- detachable storage compartment
- includes carrying bag
- main shelf is small
- tight hinges
What we looked at while researching Camp Kitchens:
The three most important factors, outside of price, we found were:
- Sturdiness & Stability
- Surface Area
- Ease of Setup
Sturdiness & stability:
We don’t know about you, but a wobbly tabletop is no fun to use when you are trying to prep your food and get a meal on the table. Because of this we recommend looking at camp kitchens with a rigid frame. Many come with frames constructed from steel or aluminum which mean they stay in place while you are chopping items or using a camp stove.
In addition to having a rigid frame, it is worth looking at tables with adjustable legs. Sometimes the terrain is not as flat as one would like which causes the table to be wobbly. This is where having adjustable legs which can be leveled as needed is a wonderful thing.
We have learned that we can’t always depend on the table at the campsite to be adequate for our needs. This is actually one of the primary reasons why we decided we wanted a camp kitchen. It seems like we never have enough space for all the tasks we want (or need) to do. By having a dedicated counterspace with our camp kitchen, we don’t have to clean up our other projects when it is time to get started on cooking. We want a countertop that is large enough for us to prep our food, hold our camping stove, and clean up afterwards.
Ease of setup:
It doesn’t matter how wonderful the final result is, if it requires more than one person…or random tools…or takes a long time to set up? We are not going to mention it because we want a camp kitchen that is easy to assemble. All of the tables we have recommended can be set up in a timely fashion.
Other Factors to Consider in Looking at Camp Kitchens:
- Extras (like wash basins)
Portability, weight, and stability:
Let’s be honest. If the camp kitchen is heavy or awkward to carry around, I’m not going to want to take it along. We want this gear to increase our camping enjoyment and not cause fights over who has to get it from point A to point B. Therefore, we want one that doesn’t weigh more than one person can easily carry and one that comes with a carrying case or handles for ease. And we want one that is stable once it is set up so we don’t have to worry about it tipping over as we chop items or set up our stove.
Additionally, when the camp kitchen is folded down for storage, it needs to be compact enough that it can be kept out of the way and designed so that all the pieces are kept together. There is nothing more frustrating than getting to the campsite and realizing a major component was left at home because it didn’t get kept with the rest.
When it comes to weight, we are looking for the ideal balance between lightweight materials and sturdy surfaces with rigid frames. We prefer aluminum surfaces for weather resistance and a steel frame for stability. The fewer surfaces there are, the lighter it will be. We are okay trading off weight for more surface based on our needs.
It is easier to plan, prep, and cook your meals when your tools and supplies are all in easy reach. The camp kitchens we prefer come with shelves, hooks, bags, or some combination of them all. Using these to keep our essentials handy while we cook was the whole reason we started shopping for a camp kitchen.
The first chef preferred item we looked for was plenty of counterspace. We were tired of losing the space on our table for the camp stove, the coffee equipment, and various other cooking supplies. Having a camp kitchen with the space to store our essentials and allow us to do meal prep is a dream.
Some camp kitchens come with a sink area built into them, either as a sink basin or with a lined storage bag. While we don’t promise we actually use the sink to clean our dishes every time, we do enjoy having the sink area to store our dirty dishes while we enjoy some family time. And then we take care of the dirty stuff before bed.
It is not my preference to cook dinner in the dark so camp kitchens with a lantern hook offer a way to prepare the evening meal with some light while not taking away from the counterspace. We love our LuminAid lantern for portability and for their efforts in humanitarian aid.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What are Camp Kitchens?
For those of us who find camping an excuse to enjoy food cooked outside, a camp kitchen allows us to up our game by providing us with many of the amenities of home, not least of which would be a countertop closer to standing height (unlike that picnic table which might or might not exist at the campsite).
It could also include a small pantry, additional shelves, a sink area, and hooks for hanging your utensils and a lantern for light. After all, cooking by twilight may sound romantic but sometimes makes for interesting combinations when the wrong seasoning gets added in the dark.
Many times they also offer heat resistant surfaces which allow for setting up the camping stove on the camp kitchen, saving the table for eating and other activities.
Do I need Additional Tools or Hardware to set up Camp Kitchens?
The short answer should be “No, you do not.” However, it is not always this straightforward. While all of the camp kitchens we recommend are able to be assembled with no additional tools, we find it useful to bring along some cheap shims from the store to help aid in leveling the unit on uneven terrain.
Can Camp Kitchens be set up anywhere?
Technically you can set up your camp kitchen anywhere within your campsite. However, we like to place ours close to the onsite water and electrical outlets unless it is extremely unlevel ground. We do also try to set up where we can protect it (and us) from the wind and rain with our shelter or a tarp. After all, why stand in the rain to cook unless you have no other choice?
The camp kitchen is a great tool for us to use but it is just the beginning. We like to pack along lanterns to hang on the pole for after dark cooking. We also bring our camp stove (we are dependent on that morning coffee!). And we bring along the shelter to protect us from the bugs and whatever else Mother Nature throws at us on our camping trip. See how we built our camp kitchen kit here.
While camp kitchens run the gamut from simple to outlandish, for us the choice is clear. We prefer the GCI Outdoor Master Cook Portable Folding Camp Kitchen to prepare our meals and clean up afterwards. After all, it meets all our criteria for counterspace, storage, washing dishes, and provides the most value for the price.