Whether you are thru-hiking, backpacking, car camping, or “glamping,” one thing stays constant—you need to eat! And depending on what your camping priorities are, there are various camp kitchen options to keep you well-fueled for all of the day's activities. Whether you are a solo backpacker trying to keep your pack light or a family of six feeding the whole clan, there are options that make it easy to cook delicious, hot meals while in the great outdoors, from backpacking stoves, campsite cooking stoves, coolers, and even cooking furniture.
When packing for a backpacking trip, the priority is weight, and every ounce counts. But when you are carrying your life on your back and hiking for miles, sacrificing food is not an option. So whether you opt to eat “hot and a lot” dehydrated meals or cook fresh-caught fish, you have to have a method to—at a minimum—boil water. Luckily, backpacking stoves are designed to add minimal weight to your pack, take up hardly any space, and don't even break the bank. It is common to find backpacking stoves that weigh just a few ounces and pack smaller than a deck of cards. While these lightweight stove options may be less durable than a bulkier option, they are perfect for keeping the minimalists well fed.
Whether you are driving up to a remote dispersed campsite on public land or a family-friendly group campsite right off the highway, there are tons of ways you can whip up a hot, hearty meal. Selecting your heat source and planning your meals in advance will help you determine what equipment you need.
Using the open fire as your heat source is the most traditional method of outdoor cooking, but even then, there are multiple cooking methods. For those who don't want to bring along much equipment, roasted hot dogs on a stick is a classic and easy camping meal. Foil packets can be cooked right inside the fire ring, and for those who don't mind packing extra equipment, a grill grate is a not-too-heavy item that opens up a world of open-fire cooking possibilities, including burgers, kebobs, and even T-bone steaks. A cast-iron skillet is heavy but may prove to be worth its weight since it can handle being placed directly on the open flames. A cast-iron skillet opens the door to meals such as nachos, pizzas, and eggs and bacon.
If you are camping in a place where there are fire restrictions, a camp stove is a great option to ensure a quality meal without a fire. A camp stove can range from the lightweight backpacking stoves mentioned above to multiple-burner stoves that can be set up to waist height. Pots, pans, and cooking utensils are the only additional equipment needed to make pancakes, soups and stews, stir-fry, and more.
When camping for multiple nights, you don't have to settle for non-perishable, bland foods such as rice and pasta. A cooler allows you to bring raw meat, fresh produce, and condiments so you can cook just about anything at your campsite, night after night. Coolers come in various sizes, and brands such as Yeti and Arctic are known for keeping food and drinks cold for days. For maximum efficiency, prep your food at home and pack it in your cooler ready to cook. I like to chop veggies, marinate meat, and mix sauces at home so that all I have to do at my campsite is take the food out of the cooler and put it directly on the heat source!
While coolers increase the cooking possibilities when car camping, they are not a practical option for backpacking. Smaller, soft coolers can be used, especially for backpackers who plan on fishing or trapping and need to keep meat cold, but even a small cooler will take up valuable space in your pack.
Whether you are backpacking or car camping, there is no reason to be uncomfortable while you are cooking and eating. Sitting in a chair makes a world of difference—the cold ground, a pointy boulder, or an uneven stump only provides comfort for so long! Backpacking chairs weigh less than a pound, pack up as small as a water bottle, and are easy to set up. If you are car camping, basic lawn chairs will do the trick, but for added comfort, you can get a camping chair that features insulated cup holders and the ability to recline!
Tables are another luxury that make cooking that much more comfortable in the outdoors. While it is not practical to bring a table with you on a backpacking trip, a camping-specific folding table is an easy item to throw in your car and bring to your campsite. A table not only provides a more efficient cooking prep space and a comfortable place to gather around for a meal, but it's also a sturdy place to put all of your prepared food so that is out of reach of dogs and children!
There is no excuse not to make delicious meals while camping! While it may seem like a daunting task, camp kitchen equipment and tools make it as easy as cooking at home. And nothing beats the smoky flavor from the campfire! Reach out to a Camping and Hiking Expert here on Curated to help figure out what the best camp kitchen options are for you!