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Kitchen & Cooking

11 essential tools for your camping kitchen

Spice up your outdoor dining on your next trip.

On an outdoor kitchen table, a portable stove is on the left corner with a kettle on top; to its right, a cutting board and some plates are stacked on top of each other. Condiment bottles are in the back. To the right, there's a large metal pot. Credit: Getty Images / Sergeyvyzhov

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As spring approaches, camping will surely return as a popular outdoor activity for many people. And whether you’re venturing off the beaten path for some fresh air or car-camping with the entire family, you’ll need the necessary equipment to help you cook delicious meals in the wilderness.

I’ve been camping and cooking outdoors for five years, and here are the tools and devices I’ve found useful to have for first-timers and seasoned campers alike.

1. Coleman stove and gas canister

A Coleman two-burner stove is connected to a propane fuel cylinder. On the stove, there's a kettle and a pan.
Credit: Coleman

This Coleman stove can accommodate pans and kettles of various sizes.

A functional stove is an essential item for all campsites. I received this highly rated Coleman two-burner stove as a gift last summer and I can’t stop raving about it. The stove is relatively lightweight and doesn’t take up much space in the trunk of my car when folded up. In my experience using it, I found the folding shields to be useful, as they can effectively stop wind from interfering with the fire. Paired with a propane fuel cylinder, the burner has a one-hour runtime on high and can fit both a 10-inch and 12-inch pan at the same time.

If you need a stove that’s backpacker-friendly, consider this compact tiny stove from BioLite. It can also provide lighting and doubles as a charger for emergency use.

Get the Coleman Two-Burner Stove at REI for $99.99

2. A portable grill

A NomadiQ gas propane grill with its two sides open.
Credit: NomadiQ

If you love grilling, this gas grill can help you make delicious burgers and hotdogs.

This propane gas grill offers the portability that every camping grill master needs. It folds up like a waffle maker and can be stored away easily on its flat side. When in use, its ceramic-coated nonstick grates boast a more than 200-square-inch cooking area, enough for at least five burger patties at once. It’s compatible with the same propane fuel cylinder used in the Coleman stove.

Get NomadiQ Propane Gas Grill on Amazon for $49.99

3. Cast-iron skillet

In the foreground, there's a cast-iron skillet with two eggs and some bacon in it. To the left of the skillet, there's a cast-iron kettle. Both are on a makeshift outdoor stove.
Credit: Getty Images / debibishop

If its heaviness doesn't bother you, a cast-iron skillet is essential for your camping kitchen.

When it comes to outdoor cooking, a cast-iron skillet is undoubtedly the most versatile and durable tool you can bring with you. This pre-seasoned skillet from Lodge has many great features—it’s nearly indestructible, produces even heating, and is easy to clean in places where water may be scarce. The only downside of a cast-iron pan is that it’s rather heavy—if you’re backpacking, then we recommend cookware made of lighter material such as titanium.

Get the Lodge Pre-seasoned Cast-Iron Skillet on Amazon for $17.99

4. A hand-crank coffee grinder

A person is holding a VSSL Java coffee grinder.
Credit: VSSL Java

This tiny manual coffee grinder produces even grounds with consistency.

It’s not possible to grind fresh coffee using our favorite electric grinder in the woods for obvious reasons. However, you don’t need to compromise on the quality of your cup because there are hand-crank grinders that work just as well as their electric counterparts.

This VSSL Java hand grinder is designed for happy campers—it takes a little effort to use, grinds beans quickly, and features heavy-duty material that makes it durable. It boasts 50 grind settings for all your coffee needs, including AeroPress, pour-over, French press, and more.

Get the VSSL JAVA Portable Coffee Grinder for $145

5. A coffee maker

In what appears to be a riverbank, a person is pouring water into an Aeropress coffee maker. A portable stove is next to the Aeropress.
Credit: Getty Images / Bogdan Kurylo

Aeropress is easy to use and small to be carried around.

There are many options for campers when it comes to coffee. From French presses and pour-over makers to Moka pots and AeroPresses, the variety of options guarantees everyone will find their favorite way of brewing coffee when camping. As these gadgets are lightweight and compact, they can be easily stored away and kept clean for multiple days of use. The backcountry community raves about AeroPress, as it has the option to make cold brew in three minutes without requiring hot water.

Get AeroPress Go Travel Coffee Kit for $31.95

6. A stovetop kettle

A metal kettle on top of a makeshift stove is seen in the middle of a grassland. A green tent is some distance behind.
Credit: Getty Images / Golero

A stovetop kettle is necessary for brewing hot coffee and tea.

Not only can stovetop kettles help you make tea at home, but they’re also great to have on camping trips for coffee and tea lovers. Our favorite, the Susteas stovetop kettle, heats quickly and is easy to operate. Plus, it'll surely be an attractive addition to your outdoor kitchen.

Get Susteas Stovetop Kettle on Amazon for $39.99

7. A foldable table for prepping

A woman is sitting in her foldable chair next to a foldable table in the woods. On the table, there are some food and a large pot of French press coffee. An empty folding chair is to the left of the table.
Credit: Getty Images / Ozgur Donmaz

A foldable table can help you prep meals with ease.

Some campgrounds may have picnic tables you can use for meal prep, but in places that lack this amenity, you’ll benefit from bringing a foldable table with you. We like the Mountain Summit foldable table that provides a simple, flat surface and is easily rolled up. For a more elaborate camp kitchen, consider the sturdier aluminum version that weighs about 10 pounds but looks great.

8. A cooler

A YETI Tundra 35 cooler with 35-liter capacity is seen either on a sandy beach or in the middle of a dessert.
Credit: YETI

A cooler can help keep your food and drinks fresh and chilled.

If you’re going car camping, you should definitely plan on bringing a cooler. Not only do drinks need to be chilled, but fresh produce, meat, and other perishable items will need some degree of refrigeration. Not to mention that if you go hunting or fishing, a spacious cooler is useful to help keep your bounty fresh.

Get Yeti Tundra 35 Cooler at REI for $249.98

9. Outdoor-only cookware

Kid with a outdoor cooking pan on her head is holding the lid of the pan in a park.
Credit: Getty Images / Sasiistock

These lightweight cookware with handles that fold flat for packing are popular among campers.

If schlepping your everyday pots and pans to the woods seems stressful, consider outdoor cookware sets that are made of titanium or other types of light material. If titanium is more than you’d like to spend on this outdoor-only set, consider light stainless steel for cookware and silicone for serveware.

Get the Snow Peak Titanium Multi-Compact Cookset at REI for $95.95

10. Cooking utensils

Inside a GSI Outdoors Gourmet Kitchen 11-piece set, there are two compartments. On the left compartment, there's the cutting board, towel, bottles for condiments. On the right compartment, there are spatulas, a spoon, and a brush.
Credit: GSI Outdoors

This set allows you to easily keep everything in one spot.

If you own a smoker or grill, chances are you can just bring the tongs and spatulas you normally use with you. If not, we recommend this outdoor kitchen utensil set that packs nicely in a tote bag that comes with the set. The set includes the essentials—a cutting board, utensils, a measuring spoon, scrubber, towel, and even condiment containers! All you need to add is a knife set.

Get the GSI Outdoors Gourmet Kitchen 11-Piece Set at REI for $42.95

11. BioLite fire pit that doubles as a stove

A person is lifting the grill attachment up from the BioLite fire pit.
Credit: BioLite

Double down on coziness with this fire pit.

Cozying up after a satisfying meal? This portable, smart fire pit can help. As a person who’s spent a remarkable amount of time sitting around fire pits this past year (like many of you), I highly recommend this one by BioLite. It allows you to control and nearly eliminate smoke, plus it’s easy to travel with for car campers and picnic goers. It can also double as an outdoor grill with the grilling attachment, so you wouldn’t need to bring a separate portable grill.

Get the BioLite FirePit+ for $249.95

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