I’m going to be honest. My absolute favorite part of camping is the tasty food we cook and eat while at the campsite. The easiest way to guarantee that we will get to cook and eat tasty food is by always packing our camp kitchen kit. This way, no matter what is on the menu, we will have the correct tools for the job.
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We like to keep all our necessary cooking tools together. This means that we own multiples of key utensils so that we don’t have to go digging through our kitchen to grab things as we are trying to head out the door. While this may seem a waste of money to some, it does ensure that we aren’t running off to the store and paying top dollar for something essential to our meal.
First up we have our necessary items. Not everyone will consider these to be necessary. Do you have to take pie irons to be a “real” camper? Probably not but I’m not sure we can be friends unless you are willing to try some of our favorite pie iron recipes. Anyway, these are the items we include in our camp kitchen kit.
Not all locations allow fires to be built and if you can’t build a campfire it is awfully hard to cook a hot meal. Additionally, the wind protection and heat control help when the weather is not cooperating. Plus, we love to use our camp stove to boil water first thing in the morning to get that coffee percolating while we are building up our fire to cook breakfast. We are definitely those “coffee addicts who have a camping problem.”
If you have a camp stove, you are going to need fuel and you won’t want to run out. Make sure you bring the correct type of fuel for your specific stove.
We actually recommend two if you can swing it. One to store your perishable foods to last for the entire trip and a second one for drinks that can be opened every five minutes without causing your food to be in jeopardy. Wait, your drink cooler doesn’t get opened every five minutes? Are you camping with kids?? What’s your secret?!?
We like to bring our own grill grate along with us in case the campsite does not provide one, or if the one provided has been through some rough times and isn’t as stable as we would like.
Again, thinking back to that first camping trip, I was not at all excited about burgers and hot dogs. But scrolling through camping recipe ideas I started to get excited about the possibilities that existed with the addition of some pie irons to our camp kitchen kit. Currently we own two cast iron doubles, two cast iron singles, and two aluminum single pie irons. Pie irons also come in circles and waffle versions and I have my eye on adding some circles to our kit. The first recipes we made were the classic pie iron pizza pockets and a tasty breakfast sandwich.
I have never found that perfect roasting stick by walking through the woods. Therefore, we don’t tempt fate and we bring along our own roasting forks. We also created some wolf ‘em extensions that fit on our forks instead of purchasing yet another item. What are wolf ‘ems you might ask. These are fun little biscuit cups that can then be filled with either sweet or savory items for a tasty treat.
Cast Iron Skillet:
We recommend the cast iron because they are meant to handle anything you can throw at it. It doesn’t get damaged over a campfire, or on hot charcoals, or even on top of a gas grill. They can be used to sear, to saute, to grill, to fry, and even to bake. Pretty much anything you can do with a skillet at home? You can do with a cast iron skillet while camping! We do suggest bringing along a lid and a scraper to help with both the cooking and the cleaning.
You do realize that you are working around a fire and just like you use hot pads at home, you will need something to keep from burning your hands on your cooking equipment at the campsite. Right? Well, we have tried a few things over the years, and we like our silicone pot grabbers and we love our heat resistant gloves. These things help with both the building of the fire and with the hot pots and pans, so we tend to just use these even though we still pack both.
Knife and Cutting Boards:
We started off with the GSI Santuko Knife Set and have been pleased with it. There are three knives, a 4” paring knife, a 6” santoku knife, and a 6” serrated knife. They come with guards and live in a nylon case. Also included in this case are a folding cutting board (which we aren’t overly thrilled with), a quick-drying microfiber cleaning cloth which has both a soft side and a scrubbing side, and a bottle for holding soap. We also pack along some colorful plastic cutting boards so that we don’t have to sanitize our boards between cutting various types of foods during the cooking process.
Speaking of sanitizing our cutting board, and (almost) all our other kitchen items, we pack along the biodegradable Campsuds brand of soap. We can use this to clean our dishes, clothes, and ourselves. It smells of lemon and line and just a few drops is enough to wash all of our dishes in hot or cold water. With the dish soap I also keep a cheap mesh laundry bag. You can place all of your dirty dishes into this and whish it through some water which works as if you were using a sponge. Then you can hang your bag up and allow the dishes to air dry. We use this method if we are just going on a short trip and don’t bring our full setup for doing dishes.
Dishes and Bowls and Utensils:
We inherited a set of blue enamelware dishes. Ours are not the highly recognizable blue speckled design. You know the one. But if we ever need to upgrade, this set comes with plates, bowls, mugs, and utensils for four people. The quality of the utensils is not the highest, but we also bring along some plasticware.
Our percolator coffee pot is in the classic blue speckled enamelware and we love it. At home we use a drip coffee pot on weekdays, but we choose to do percolator on the weekends. On a side note, we also own a French press, an Italian Moka pot, a Chemex, and a Turkish ibrek. Remember…we are those “coffee addicts who have a camping problem.”
We don’t bring along a tea kettle but sometimes I think we should for the times in which we want to make some hot cider or chocolate. And then I realize I can just use our percolator without putting coffee in and there I have hot water. Our coffee mugs came with the coffee pot, so they match but we also have larger lidded travel mugs which probably get used more frequently.
We have lidded wine glasses (or as we like to call them “adult sippy cups”) and we have lidded travel mugs and we bring solo cups. I think we have it all covered.
We keep a very basic set of serving utensils consisting of a spatula, two serving spoons, and some long-handled tongs. This is because we tend to make food that doesn’t require us to serve it in a traditional manner.
We bring along one large bowl for mixing ingredients. This can also be used for a side salad, be it fruit, green, or pasta. Don’t you love items that can be used in multiple ways?
Measuring Cups & Spoons:
I threw an old set of plastic cups (both dry and liquid) and spoons in our camp kitchen kit when we bought some nice metal and glass ones for our house. We don’t do a lot of strict measuring at the campsite but having this variety of sizes comes in useful when we are putting food together to cook on the fire.
As you know, we love aluminum foil (and parchment paper) for making foil packet dishes. We typically make these at home ahead of time and bring them along in the cooler. However, we always have a roll of heavy-duty aluminum foil with us in our kit because it is just so useful. Besides, how else can we make those tasty desserts such as campfire cones or banana boats without it?
The first reason to bring along a box of trash bags is for, you know, the trash. You want to be sure to toss all of your food scraps into a trash bag and store it where the animals can’t get to it. We will often put it into the trunk of the car until we can get it to the campground’s trash area. The second reason to bring along a box of trash bags is for dealing with wet and/or muddy clothes and gear. We like to isolate these items and trash bags help us to do so.
We also have this trash bag holder to attach to the side of the picnic table. I don’t know about you but holding a trash bag open while also trying to put stuff in it always leaves me with dirty hands. This is almost as convenient as using a kitchen trash can with lid lifter.
A roll of paper towels lasts me a long time at home. Probably because we are cloth napkin people. But we go through at least a roll per camping trip because I use them for everything, including as napkins. I do not say this proudly. I would like to reduce my dependence on disposable items while camping. If you have any suggestions, I’m listening!
Tablecloth and Clips:
I love to have bright colorful tablecloths. There are so many cute patterns these days that you can buy at the dollar store or online. I do recommend clamping it to the table. Unfortunately, those clips you see at the dollar store to help secure it to the table are not always large enough to fit. This is another area where I don’t yet have a great solution. It would be nice if tables could be uniform thickness but then that would also be boring. I do have these clamps on my wish list so if you have tried them, let me know what you think. An alternative to the tablecloth would be to bring along a picnic blanket. This can be a two for one item if it folds down small enough to also go on a hike with you.
Next, we have those items that we find desirable to have while cooking around the campsite. Some of these are practical items and some of them are safety items. Some of these might not be used very often but rather than chance forgetting them, we just keep them in the camp kitchen kit.
We love our plastic egg holder so much we actually own two. It didn’t cost very much and it doesn’t look like much, but since we love to cook with eggs at the campsite we needed a safe way to transport our eggs and this little guy works perfectly.
We keep an inexpensive refrigerator thermometer in the food cooler just to ensure that we keep our food at a safe temperature. Then, we bring along an instant-read thermometer to check meats before pulling them off the fire. Maybe not my biggest fear, but pretty far up there, would be to give my family or me food poisoning while out camping. Seriously, that would not be fun!
Don’t forget some plastic bags and/or containers. We bring along a variety of sized bags because we might need them for leftovers or to marinate our meat. Additionally, we like to have some lidded plastic containers for leftovers or to share food with others. We buy ours at a restaurant supply store. They typically can be reused a few times, are recyclable, and don’t cost a lot of money.
Random Other Items:
We also bring along bag clips, toothpicks, and long wooden skewers. Why? Why not? No, seriously. We might have an open bag of chips that needs sealing, so they don’t go stale. Toothpicks help us make sure something is baked all the way through. And you can cook all sorts of things on skewers which might not work so well on your roasting forks. We love making kebabs.
Other random items would be the can opener, bottle opener, and corkscrew. We don’t use these on every trip, but they don’t take up a lot of space. Which means it is smarter to keep them in our kit rather than chance forgetting them.
Then, we have those extra items that we like to bring along for longer camping trips or when our menu dictates it. Some of these might be controversial. Many campers consider the Dutch oven to be an essential tool. We don’t use ours every trip, so it only gets added to the camp kitchen kit if the menu plan includes a Dutch oven recipe. Those things are heavy, so I don’t mind not packing it every time!
We didn’t start off with a Dutch oven in our first years of camping even though it is arguably the most versatile piece of camping kitchen equipment that exists. It can be used to cook everything from soups to main dishes to dessert. However, you will want to pay special attention to the size and construction of any Dutch oven you purchase for camping. Don’t buy too large or too small an oven. And look for an oven with legs and a flat lid.
Dutch Oven Accessories:
There are some useful tools to consider when adding Dutch oven cooking to your camping experience. A campfire tripod is beneficial for simmering and reheating already cooked food over the campfire. Silicone mats help protect your picnic table surface as you are dishing out your food. Lid lifters are beneficial for maneuvering the heavy lid, even while balancing coals on top. We like the four in one tool that comes from Lodge as it can be used as a lid lifter, a lid stand, a cook stand, and a bail lifter. And, again, a pan scraper comes in very handy for cleaning. We like to make the cleaning even easier by using either these Dutch Oven foil liners or the parchment liners.
We like to bring our MSR camp stove along with us on pretty much every camping trip, even though we typically only use it on a hike. It is light weight and easy to use. This little baby can boil the water we need fairly quickly, and we’ve never had an issue with it in the wind. While our model has been discontinued, this PocketRocket stove is very similar.
To go along with our camp stove, we also have our MSR cook set. Ours is two nonstick aluminum nesting pots with a separate handle and one lid which fits both pots. Again, we have been camping too long with quality items. Our exact model has been discontinued, however this MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set is the closest I can find to what we have.
We do pack one nonstick skillet as well. This is for those times we want to scramble up some eggs for our pie iron omelets. Why don’t we just use our cast iron skillet for this? Well, we just prefer how our eggs turn out when cooked in the nonstick skillet. We do use this on our Coleman camp stove, not over the fire.
Time To Clean Dishes:
If we are going to be gone for longer than two nights, we need a more efficient method of cleaning our cooking equipment than using our mesh laundry bag method. This is when we pack our collapsible sink, the dish sponge, and some Steramine. Steramine is a sanitizer that comes in a handy tablet form. It kills all sorts of nasty things and is used by all sorts of industries from food to gyms to scuba diving.
Don’t Forget to Pack Items:
Finally, we have those items we don’t keep packed up but make sure to purchase or pack at the last minute.
We have two different methods of bringing water to the campsite. First, we have the Coleman Jug with Water Carrier (what an awkward name for an item) which holds five gallons of water. This water can be used for cooking, hand washing, and teeth brushing. Then, for longer camping trips, we bring along an additional traditional five-gallon jug of water and use one of these manual pumps.
We pack nonstick spray, cooking oil, and butter for using our pie irons. We also make sure to include our spice kit which has salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, and onion powder as our standards. Make sure to bring along whatever spices you find necessary. Last, I bring along some flour. This was an addition after the trip where the boys caught fish…and we had no way of cooking them. Now we can always do a quick fish fry.
Don’t Forget the Food!
Technically this is not part of the camp kitchen kit but please don’t forget to check your recipes not once but twice and make sure you pack all the appropriate food items you need to enjoy your snacks and meals at the campsite.
Non-kitchen but Must Have Items:
Now for items that are not camp kitchen kit specific, but we couldn’t cook without them. Lighting, fire, cleansing, shelter…we need them.
We like to have a lantern along with flashlights and our festive lights. The festive lights make our campsite more homey. The flashlights are for heading to the bathhouse or for night hikes. And the lantern stays in our kitchen area to make it easier to prep and cook our meals.
Not only do we need the wood, purchased locally for safety reasons, but we always pack along some charcoal as well. A charcoal fire isn’t as cheerful as a wood fire, but it does allow for hot food when we can’t burn wood. There was one trip where we couldn’t get in touch with the wood sellers because we had no cell service. There was another trip where there was no wood to be bought. In both cases, our charcoal allowed us to cook.
Along with the charcoal, you should have the means to light your fire. A lighter or matches at a minimum. We also have a chimney starter and some emergency lighter fluid just in case. Additionally, we pack along tinder for the wood fire and have a ferro rod. With these we pack a box of baking soda for fire suppression. Just in case.
Not only are there cooking items that need to be kept clean, but I also don’t want to be trekking up to the bath house every time I need to wash my hands. We keep cleaning wipes, baby wipes, and hand sanitizer close at hand. Plus, I have a bar of hand soap trapped in a pair of nylons next to our water supply and some dish towels to dry both our hands and the dishes. One of these days I’d like to make a true hand washing station but that’s not today.
We love our canopy screen house that we use to shelter our supplies that do not fit or belong inside the tent. While a tarp can work as a shelter, I’m a fun of the screens to cut down on bugs while I’m eating or relaxing in my chair.
We also carry along a multi-tool, a knife, and some scissors. You just never know when you are going to need to cut something or unscrew something or have to remove a splinter. Then there are the Sharpies. I bring the solo cups along because they are practical. I do not like to throw them away after only one use. So, I label them, and we use them throughout the day. This makes me feel better about the situation.
We keep our camp kitchen kit in two different types of storage bins. One is a long rectangular bin that is long enough to store our various pie irons. This is important because not all of them have removeable handles. Along with the pie irons we also keep our roasting sticks, cooking grate and our coffee equipment (percolator and mugs).
The rest of our items are housed in two 60-quart ZipLock WeatherShield Storage Totes. We own these in both the 60-quart and the 16-quart sizes. These totes do a great job of keeping our items dry even when we are having issues with dampness in our garage (we live in a very humid area). We use the rest of these totes for storing other camping equipment.
I would also like to mention our collapsible crates purchased from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. They come in a variety of sizes, but I drool over these that come with handles. Just think how useful they would be transporting items from the car to the campsite. I store these collapsed when not in use, but I wanted to mention them as part of our camp kitchen kit. What is nice about these crates is they are stackable.
We use them to carry our non-perishable food. Sturdier stuff goes on the bottom, fragile stuff on top, and we can carry them from the kitchen to the car and the car to the camp table with ease. I used to use tote bags, and still do for some things as I have an abundance of tote bags, but I have found this method keeps more of our food from getting smushed as we travel.
Final Thoughts on our Camp Kitchen Kit:
If it wasn’t for the food, I don’t know that my husband would have convinced me to go camping a second time. I was not a fan of the bugs and I missed my comfortable bed. Overtime however I have grown to really enjoy our time spent camping and have become more creative with the meals we cook. Having a dedicated set of tools in our camp kitchen kit makes certain that we are never without the proper means to enjoy our food.