Camping is a hungry business for everyone, especially families, and can turn once enthusiastic and inquisitive outdoor adventurers into ravenous monsters.
To satisfy these appetites, all camping setups should have a functional and well-equipped portable camp kitchen. As you will see below, you can very easily have a DIY camp kitchen setup and avoid an expensive outlay on something purpose built.
You might not be able to prepare all of your typical meals at home, but with the right camp cooking equipment, 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 Portable Camp Kitchen
Preparing meals in the outdoors isn't rocket science, and you don't need an expensive and complicated setup either.
As well as the designated chefs, you need three things:
- The right camp cooking equipment, with everything you need and nothing you don't.
- A selection of reliable, delicious and flexible recipes that can be easily prepared with the utensils you have at hand.
- 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.
A Well Equipped Kitchen
Like any kitchen, plenty of space for food preparation and storage is one of the camp cooking essentials. Add to that other essential furniture items such as a dining table set and somewhere to rest your stove and the basic structure is there.
You can have a simple and cost effective kitchen like ours in the image above, you could buy an all-in-one bench style unit with a sink from a store, or you could go the custom made route if you have a trailer or some kind of RV.
The level of detail in the image 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 special purpose or custom built unit for it to be perfectly functional.
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 stove, we are of the view that two burners 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 gas stove recommendation is the Colman Triton two burner stove . We love this product 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.
3: Campfire cooking
Even though campfires are not always permitted at some campgrounds, no outdoor kitchen would be complete without the necessary items for managing and cooking over one.
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 stirring (wood is kinder to the camp/dutch oven than metal)
- Leather or heat resistant gloves
Your refrigeration options 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.
5: Camp Kitchen Box
All of our cookware and tableware is neatly stored in one camp kitchen box in a plastic storage container.
Cookware: Outlined below are our cookware 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
Tableware: Also contained in our camp kitchen box is our tableware. When selecting tableware, durability is obviously important as is bringing along a few spares in case the dishes aren't clean or you have a few extras for dinner.
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
- 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
8: Water and Refreshments
Maintaining a good supply of water at your campsite saves on multiple trips to the tap or other source, and is essential when staying in remote areas. For this you will need:
- A bucket for carrying
- A food grade container with a tap
- If you want to be self sufficient, a water tank or bladder
9: Cleaning and Dishwashing
Many campgrounds don't provide dishwashing facilities, so you will generally need the necessary items for the times when you need them. As well as hot water, 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
A hand washing station is also important when preparing food. This can be in the form of a water container with tap, a bucket with a cup or bowl or simply a recycled bottle.
10: Sundry Items and Refreshments
- Snap-lock bags
- Plastic wrap
- Baking / parchment paper
- Meal plan
Meal Plan and Recipes
In the coming months (early 2021) we will be putting together recipes that can easily be prepared in our camp kitchen, so stay tuned.
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 trip.
Once you have your pantry of staples in place, all you need to do is to decide on what is on the menu, replenish the what 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 products 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 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 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 any items 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.
We hope we have given you lots of ideas on setting up a cost effective but functional camp kitchen. For lots more camping tips and advice, check out our Blog.
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