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The outdoors have a way of reinvigorating your senses: the sight of an epic landscape, the smell of pine wood, the sounds of free birds singing, and the feeling of a trail underfoot. For anglers, hunters, and even those of us who haul our food from the homestead to the hinterlands, the outdoors also offer the opportunity to refresh our sense of taste. Cooking over an open fire under the expanding sky — the environment certainly has a lot to do with the way we appreciate flavor. But to be able to focus on it best, you need to make sure you're not having a hard time preparing your food. You need to have a well-stocked camp kitchen.
While you can certainly improvise from the world around you, cooking around the campsite shouldn't rely on tricks and MacGyvering a couple of sticks into skewers. There is plenty of equipment out there that can improve your kitchen experience without adding a demanding amount of space or weight to your kit. Whether you're an RVer, a backpacker, or a weekend camper, we've devised a list of the essential items you'll need when building out a campsite kitchen.
How We Picked Products
Maybe you've already got a few of the fundamental pieces, or maybe you're looking to construct your kitchen from scratch. Whatever you're in the market for, this list has you covered. From the cooler to the clean-up, we've taken the approach of designing this list from start to finish by considering the process you go through while making dinner in your at-home cooking space. Many of these items are personal essentials that we keep in our own camping kits, and others are top recommendations from fellow outdoor enthusiasts. All that's included has been thoroughly vetted and based on my long career in the culinary field. Feast your eyes on the essential items you'll need to broaden your vistas when it comes to outdoor food.
The Must-Haves for a Camp Kitchen
1. A Sturdy, Reliable Cooler
With 24 ounces of storage space and walls that are tall enough to store a bottle of wine, having a YETI at the campsite has never been cooler. The slim design makes storage easier, but that's not even the most convenient part about it. YETI also offers a nesting basket that can make organizing your little road buddy even easier. As always, YETI's proprietary attributes — like the Bearfoot Non-Slip Feet, Anchorpoint Tie-Down Slots, and Coldlock Gasket — are standard on this model.
2. A Foldable & Portable Camping Table
This camping table is collapsible and compact. Plus, the 16" x 13.6" x 11.4" dimensions break down to fit into a 17" x 6" package that weighs less than 2.5 lbs. It can hold up to 66 lbs. of weight thanks to the aerospace-grade aluminum alloy that is weather- and corrosion-resistant. Best of all, iClimb provides a lifetime warranty, just in case.
3. A Multi-Purpose Camping Stove
Have you ever seen a stove that can cook your food, power your phone, and illuminate your camp space all at once? You have now. The BioLite CampStove 2 is a marvel of modern engineering. Notably: any dry biomass, from wood to pinecones, keeps the stove burning. Then, the extras: An integrated 3,200 mAh battery stores electric charge, fueled by firepower that is measured through a Smart LED Dashboard monitoring fire strength and battery capacity. You can dim or lighten the campsite as you see fit with an easy-touch, 100-lumen USB FlexLight. The fire that powers this newfangled contraption can either be used as a small heater or a wood-burning stove to cook your food on; a steel grill fits the width of four burgers or six sausages, with varying zones on which to manage the temperature of different foods. We'll say it again — the BioLite is a thing of wonder.
4. An Easy-To-Pack Cookware With Everything You Need
If you're like us, you're putting a lot of consideration into your camping kitchen, and it's probably because you love food. Who doesn't? Here is a company that feels the same way, on a mission to help you cook outside "with love and heart." While both are important ingredients for any meal, they won't help you fry an egg. But Bulin's camping mess kit will. The anodized aluminum set weighs a total of 820 grams and nests to a dimension of 7.75" x 5.25". The 11-piece set includes a 1.5" x 6.6" skillet, a 1.6-liter pot, and a 1-liter kettle, along with an assortment of tableware that will set you up to cook any backcountry or campsite meal.
5. Utensils For Flipping Burgers, Frying Eggs & More
There are a lot of camping kitchen utensil sets to choose from out there, but we'll save you from being overwhelmed by all the options on the market and offer you this: Wealers camp set has everything that you might need while cooking outdoors. This set comes with a ladle, a spoon, spatula, tongs, a serving fork, two knives, a cutting board, a peeler, scissors, and a grater — and it's all made from top-grade stainless steel. Highly compact, it comes in a pack woven from tough cotton.
6. A Tableware Set That's Eco-Friendly
GSI Outdoors has long been a best-seller among wilderness brands, and the functionality of this tableware set is a clear example of why. The 100%, non-leaching and recyclable propylene material offers a lightweight and durable table set that consists of four plates, four tall nesting cups (which double as bowls), and four mugs topped with Sip-It lids and wrapped in insulating sleeves. Reviewers suggest that these are ready to take boiling-temperature food right off the fire.
7. Sets of Cutlery for Cutting Through Fish, Meat, And More
Since we can't imagine that you'd want to eat with your hands, we thought we'd include a cutlery set to go along with your camping kitchen set. For us, the most important part of a travel cutlery set is the knives. If they aren't sturdy and sharp enough to slice through fish or a cut of meat, then they might as well be for kids. The Glacier set from GSI Outdoor passes our test: The knives have a pointed tip and a serrated edge that are made from fire-proof, rust-proof, non-reactive stainless steel.
8. A Small But Mighty Scrub Set
There's a lot that goes into making meals around the campfire. We can all agree that the fun parts are planning the dishes you'll eat with friends and family, and maybe even shopping for the right gear to do so with. We don't blame you for wanting to forget about after dinner: Cleaning up your pots and pans is about more than proper sanitation, because food residue can attract the wrong types of wild animals. Instead of relying on sponges that will eventually get old and require replacement, consider this reusable two-sided scrubber. One edge is studded with nylon bristles, the other with a sturdy scraper.
9. A Collapsible Sink For All Those Dishes
Along with having a tool to make the handiwork easier, it's also an excellent idea to keep a tub of water at the ready. A collapsible sink, such as the Flat Pack from SOL allows you to abide by Leave No Trace principles while also saving you from onerous trips to the wash station in the dark. Overlarge handles make hauling this sink a breeze, and allow it to double as a carrying basket for dry supplies. Its profile is hyper-thin and weighs in at less than 2 lbs.
10. A Source of Water At-The-Ready
Sea to Summit has you covered with the Watercell X storage bag. The water sack is constructed out of abrasion-resistant 400-denier nylon fabric which is BPA-, PVC- and taste-free. Integrated welded handles on the top of the bag make for convenient transport. Additionally, there's a lot of virtue to the opening: For starters, it offers an efficient flowrate, then there is a fitting that can turn the cap into a showerhead. And, finally, the mouth is compatible with industry-standard 63-mm water filter systems. Hang it, carry it, or set it on the table — wherever you place it, you'll have all the water your camp kitchen needs.
11. Containers That Stash Leftovers & Ingredients
Chances are that you're in the outdoors because you appreciate the conservation of wild places. Avoiding food wastage goes hand-in-hand with these values, which is why you shouldn't forget collapsible storage containers. Each of these food-grade silicone boxes collapse to a third of its full size, and each are stackable when the snap-on, airtight lid is secured. You also might need bear canisters, depending on where you camp. Our favorites are here.
12. A Convenient Place To Store Spices
Bringing basic spices or cooking oil along for the trip and be a roll of the dice, especially if you're packing your camp kitchen into a backpack or large, uncompartmentalized chest. You run the chance of opening up either package to find a slick mess, a salt and pepper-coated cutting board, or both. The Stax Interlocking Set from humangear eliminates that gamble, making the clean carrying of seasonings and cooking oil a safe bet. Silicone lid gaskets create a watertight seal, and the lids also have a 180-degree twist mechanism that makes them simple to open even with gloves on. Plus, the kit is highly portable: it's narrow enough to stash in a wide-mouth bottle, and comes with a clip on top to hang from your pack.
And Don't Forget...
One of the most important parts of any kitchen — camping or at home — is the coffee maker. Mornings revolve around it. Snow Peak's titanium French press is lightweight (6.3 oz.), has a moderate volume (24 oz.), and has fold-up handles to reduce the profile. If you already have a coffee maker of preference, it can double as a mug or soup cup, and the titanium body allows you to heat it up directly on a fire source.
You have to crack a few to make an omelet, but you shouldn't be walking on eggshells about carrying these delicate yet important ingredients around. This egg protector holds one whole dozen, locks tightly, and has the best ranking on Amazon.