Camping in the great outdoors is a hungry business for everyone, especially for families. Kids and adults alike develop an enormous appetite when they are camping in the great outdoors.
The good news is, to set up a functional and practical camp kitchen setup is a fairly easy process, and doesn't have to cost a lot of money.
In this article, we'll go through what we think is an easy, well-equipped and functional camp kitchen setup to cater for the whole family.
You might not be able to prepare all of your typical meals at home, but you will certainly have plenty of options for meals that are easy, stress free, extremely rewarding and just plain delicious!
Three elements of a Successful Camp Kitchen
Successful camp cooking isn't rocket science, and you don't need an expensive and complicated setup either. It is as much dependent on your planning and preparation as it is on your equipment and the actual cooking process.
As well as camp chefs, for successful camp cooking, you need three things:
- A well equipped kitchen setup, with everything you need and nothing you don't.
- A selection of reliable, delicious and flexible recipes that can be easily prepared in your kitchen.
- The right ingredients either brought from home in your food pantry, or, in the case of bulky or perishable items, easily sourced on the road.
1: A Well Equipped Kitchen
As with your everyday kitchen, your camp kitchen benefits from bench and storage space, a place for your cooking stove and a dining table.
You can have a simple and cost effective kitchen like ours in the image above, buy a all-in-one bench style portable camping kitchen with sink from a camping store or go the custom made route if you have a trailer or some kind of RV.
The image above is of our last family camping holiday. This level of detail might not all be necessary on short trips, or it might for some of you require more bench and storage space. But you can at least see that you don't need a dedicated or custom built "camp kitchen" for it to be perfectly functional.
So, in terms of kitchen furniture, we use:
- Camp tables as benchtops, preferably with adjustable legs to increase table height if required
- A small food pantry
- A dining table and seat set, or otherwise we just take an extra table and use our camp chairs for seating.
Of course you need something to cook on, and for most campers that will involve a combination of gas cooking as well as a campfire.
When choosing a gas camp stove, we are of the view that a two burner gas stove is all you really need, preferably fuelled by refillable LP gas bottle rather than disposable propane or butane canisters to reduce waste volumes.
We avoid models with more than two burners because if recipes can't be cooked with two burners operating at the same time, they won’t be cooked by us – there are plenty that can.
Our go-to cooking stove recommendation is the Colman Triton two burner stove . We love this stove because while it runs on LP gas, it also can run on disposable butane cannisters as a backup at times when the LP gas unexpectedly runs out.
Even though campfires are not always permitted at some campgrounds, no camp kitchen would be complete without the necessary equipment for managing and cooking over a campfire.
To cook over a campfire, you will need:
- Camp / dutch oven, either cast iron or the lighter weight spun steel
- Heavy duty frying pan
- Long handled shovel / spade to use to move the coals around
- Lid lifter tool
- Long tongs
- Long handled fork and serving spoon
- Wooden spoon for stiring (wood is kinder to the camp oven than metal)
- Leather or heat resistant gloves
Your refrigeration options for camping are fairly broad from the fairly light weight esky's to the higher cost and heavy compressor fridges.
Rather than buy an excessively large fridge, overflow food that would benefit from a cooler environment but that doesn't need to be refrigerated could be stored in padded cooler bags.
For more details on camp refrigeration, check out our full article.
Kitchen and cookware
We mentioned earlier that you don't need a gas stove with all of the bells and whistles in order to be able to cook delicious and healthy camp meals, and the same applies to your cookware.
Outlined below and in the following sections are our camp cooking essentials:
- Frying pan with lid
- Small milk pot
- Flat toaster
- Cake tin
- 3-4 litre saucepan / pot
- Silicon pot rest
- 2 large stainless steele bowls
- Chopping / cutting board
When selecting tableware, durabililty is obviously important as is bringing along a few spares in case the dishes aren't clean or you are entertaining a camping neighbour.
Most of the items below will be of a durable material, although personally we have glass cups which we use for wine and spirits.
- Dinner plates
- 2 small bowls
- Desert bowls
- Coffee cups
- Wine glasses
- Stubby holders
- Drink cups
- Side plates
- Dessert spoons
- 3 teaspoons
Kitchen & cooking utensils
- Small tongs
- Vegie peeler
- Utility knife
- Small scissors
- Can and bottle opener
- Egg flip
- Egg rings
- Flat whisk
- Meat thermometer
- Small paring knife
- Serving spoon
- Permanent marker
- Rubber bands
- Gas lighter / matches
- Paper towels
- Pastry / basting brush
- Wooden skewers
Water and Refreshments
Maintaining a good supply of water at your campsite saves on multiple trips to the tap or water source, and is essential for remote area camping where access to reliable drinking water is unpredictable. For this you will need:
- A bucket to transport water
- A water container with a tap
- If you want to be self sufficient, a water tank or bladder
Cleaning and Dishwashing
Many campgrounds don't provide dishwashing facilities, so you will generally need the necessary items in your camping setup for the times when you need them. Listed below is all you really need to clean dishes after a meal:
- Dishwashing sink / basin
- Dishwashing liquid
- Tea towels
- Dish cloth
- Pot scrubber
- Rubber gloves
- Garbage bags
- Hot water
Kitchen Sundry Items and Refreshments
- Snap-lock bags
- Plastic wrap
- Baking / parchment paper
- Recipes and meal plan
2: Camping Meal Plan and Recipes
In the coming months (early 2021) we will be putting together camping recipes that can easily be prepared in our camping kitchen, so stay tuned.
3: Food pantry of long life ingredients
If you are regular campers, you will save on packing time by maintaining a permanent food pantry containing the kitchen supplies and staple ingredients you would typically use during any given camping trip.
Once you have your pantry of staples in place, all you need to do is to choose your recipes before each trip, replenish the food items you are running low on, and add anything additional required for the recipes, such as any spice and sauce mixes.
If you only need a small amount in the packet, transferring the required quantity into a suitable container, plastic bottle or snap lock bag to reduce the amount you need to pack.
You should also ensure that your containers and bags are securely closed after use and before being packed for transport to avoid leakage. There are things more annoying and frustrating than discovering leaked flour or olive oil all over your container... and beyond, but not many!
Listed below are the items we typically have packed in our food pantry - all you need to do is start creating your own preferred ingredient list and a list of camping recipes that you all love and that are possible using the equipment above.
Here are the food items that we include in our long-life camping food pantry:
Herbs and spices
- Dried mint
- Sea salt flakes
- Chilli flakes
- Stock cubes
- S/P grinder
- Ground coriander
- Dried oregano
- Ground cumin
Sauces & spreads etc
- White wine vinegar
- Peanut butter
- Olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Vanilla extract
- Corn flour
- Plain flour
- Bread flour
- Breakfast cereal
- Baking powder
- Dried chickpeas
- Brown sugar
- Hot chocolate
- Bi-carb soda
- Caster / fine sugar
Keeping Animals Away From Your Food
While here in Australia we have some issues with keeping animals eating our food, in other countries they also want to eat us, as we quite found out when camping in the US a number of years ago. Specifically, Mt Whitney comes to mind!
So, whether you are worried about ducks or bears getting into your food, here are some tips for keeping keep animals at bay:
- Thoroughly clean your cooking equipment of food smells, scraps and remains
- Remove all food related rubbish and waste to the designated waste bins regularly, and particularly each evening
- Cook at a distance from your tent and sleeping area
- Store your food and other scented items such as toileltries away from your tent and sleeping area, especially if there is a risk to your personal safety.