11 essential tools for your camping kitchen
Spice up your outdoor dining on your next trip.
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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 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.
2. A portable grill
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.
3. Cast-iron skillet
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.
4. A hand-crank coffee grinder
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.
5. A coffee maker
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.
6. A stovetop kettle
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.
7. A foldable table for prepping
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.
- Get the Mountain Summit Gear Feather-Lite Table at REI for $44
- Get the Mountain Summit Gear Roll Up Kitchen at REI for $99.95
8. A cooler
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.
9. Outdoor-only cookware
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.
10. Cooking utensils
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.
11. BioLite fire pit that doubles as a stove
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.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.