After a few years of camping, we learned that we couldn’t always depend on the table at the campsite to be adequate for our needs. It seemed like we never had enough space for all the tasks we wanted (or needed) to do. So, we decided we wanted a camp kitchen. We decided to look for one with a countertop that was large enough for us to prep our food, hold our camping stove, and clean up afterwards. With the dedicated space it would provide, we wouldn’t have to clean up our other projects when it was time to get started on cooking.
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What is a Camp Kitchen?
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.
Our requirements for the Camp Kitchen:
As we stated, first up we wanted something with counterspace. We love to cook and needed a place for meal prep and serving. Second, we wanted a way to keep our supplies together without looking a mess. Third, we knew we wanted easy transporting. Bonus features would include additional abilities like holding our camping stove, allow for lighting, and dishwashing capability.
What we looked for in a Camp Kitchen:
After narrowing down our options with factors such as price, we looked at sturdiness & stability, the amount of surface area, and the ease of setup. We also considered portability and weight, storage capacity, and any extras such as wash basins. We decided on the GCI Outdoor Master Cook Portable Folding Camp Kitchen.
Details on the GCI Outdoor Master Cook Portable Folding Camp Kitchen:
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
At just over 22 pounds, this thing is not exactly lightweight, but it is easily carried by one person. The handle on it is positioned in the middle making it balanced for carrying in one hand. And having that weight helps keep it stable on the ground.
The closed measurements are again easily handled by one adult carrying it from the car to the campsite. We would not ask our child to carry it but either of us adults can handle it with ease. Open, it is large enough for us to have our camping stove at one end and perform plenty of meal prep on the other.
Speaking of the camping stove we love that the countertop is made of aluminum allowing us to safely use the stove on top of the counter. We designate this at the hot zone and keep the picnic table as a cool zone.
This means the child (and the adults) can freely interact at the table without concern be it eating, playing a game, or doing some sort of activities.
The sink is collapsible and has a counter section that can be put over it, increasing the amount of useable countertop. It also comes with a drain hole to aid in cleaning up for storage at the end of the trip.
Lighting and Storage:
It comes with a lantern hook which extends for use and retracts for storage. There are also multiple other hooks and beverage holders, as well as a bungee for capturing your roll of paper towels. I do wish it had a trash bag holder attachment, but we bought our own and it works just fine.
We were worried at first about the lack of height adjustment. At roughly 33 inches tall, it is no higher than your normal table height. As we are both tall people, we were concerned that the inability to have it at counter height would hurt our backs. Surprisingly, it doesn’t. I wouldn’t use this to prep a ten-course meal or use it in one of my marathon cooking sessions, but at the campsite or in the backyard during grilling season it has proven to be an adequate height.
Storing at Home:
It would be nice if it came with a storage bag. But that is definitely not a deal breaker. In fact, not having a storage bag means one less thing we can lose while we are packing up after our trip.
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. That’s why the rigid frame on this table works well while we are chopping items or using our camp stove.
Unfortunately, this table does not come with adjustable legs so one does need to set it up on a flat surface or bring along shims to aid in stability.
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 could not recommend it. Luckily, this one can be set up by one person, with no extra tools, and in a snap.
Other Factors to Consider in Using our Camp Kitchen:
- Storing it
- Washing dishes
We love that this is an inclusive item. Everything folds down in one piece and all essential items are attached. This means that we don’t have the problem of getting to the campsite and realizes we left a major component at home because it wasn’t kept with everything else.
Having said that, we did end up adding our own bucket under the sink portion. We needed a place to drain the water that would not leave an impact on the campsite. As we did not want to encourage any mosquito growth, we also needed a lid for our bucket.
The way we wash dishes is we heat up some water in a pot over the fire, then we move the warm (not hot!) water into our sink basin. Next, we wash those dishes with Camp Suds as it is bio-degradeable and will not harm the environment even if we do spill some as we empty the basin into our bucket. Last, we rinse our dishes with some more water heated over the fire. Note that we still try to dispose of our dirty water in the bath area.
It is not my preference to cook dinner in the dark so the lantern hook this offers allows 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.
The camp kitchen is a great tool for us to use but it is just the beginning. As I said, we like to pack along lanterns to hang on the pole for after dark cooking. There is the bucket to aid in dirty water collection. 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. While everyone’s camp kitchen kit should be personalized, this is how we built ours.
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.
If you use a camp kitchen, tag us on Instagram @campinganswer and show us photos of yours! Or if you have any questions we haven’t answered, leave a comment and we will get back to you.