Car Camping Kitchen Essentials
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Cooking in the great outdoors is one of my favorite things to do. When it comes to camp cooking, there’s some basic gear that you’re going to need. Whether you want to cook over a stove or over the campfire, this list has everything you’re going to need to get started.
I like to keep things simple when I camp. The last thing you want is to feel stressed or overwhelmed with all that you need to pack. With that in mind, let’s dive into my car camping kitchen essentials.
My Car Camping Kitchen List Video:
Main Camp Kitchen Essentials:
1) Stove and Fuel
A camp stove is definitely essential. This is my most used piece of camp kitchen gear. I have the Camp Chef Everest stove and I love it! It’s sturdy, boils water really quick, easy to clean, and will last you years.
There are so many easy camping meals that you can make with just a camp stove and propane. If you have fire restrictions, a camp stove will definitely be an essential.
2) Cast Iron Pan
I cannot say enough great things about cooking with cast iron. Not only do I use it camping, but I also use it at home. My cast iron pan is an antique Griswold pan. It’s about 100 years old! How cool is that?
But you don’t need to go to an antique store to find a cast iron pan. Both Camp Chef and Lodge (over 140,000 reviews!) make great cast iron pans at an affordable price that come seasoned and ready to use.
Why Cast Iron is Great for Camp Cooking:
- it holds heat really well
- it can be used on a camp stove or over a campfire
- it’s easy to clean and take care of
- it will last a lifetime
- there are no toxic non-stick coatings to worry about
If you want to go on a little treasure hunt, antique stores are a great place to find cast iron pans too! Just make sure you do a little research about good brands to look for and be prepared to give the pan a little attention before use.
As I mentioned above, I called the brand Griswold! I’ve found so many cool pieces of cast iron in antique stores throughout the United States.
3) Water Jug
It’s so convenient to have a big water jug at your campsite. Most campgrounds have water availability, so it’s easy to refill them. Then, when you’re cooking or need to fill up your water bottle, you can easily do that at your campsite.
In addition, sometimes I camp in places that don’t have a water source. In that case, it’s nice to have a way to pack a lot of water for a trip.
A cooler is an item that will instantly elevate your camp kitchen! Imagine being able to pack things like cheese, milk, meats, cold beers, and more. If you’re planning to camp a lot, it’s worth getting a good cooler.
Nick and I use a Yeti Tundra cooler, and it’s the best thing ever!
Years ago, I thought it was ridiculous to spend a lot of money on a cooler, so I bought a cheaper version of the Yeti from a different brand at Walmart.
Needless to say, it didn’t work very well. The Yeti will keep things cool for days, and you don’t have to refill it with ice constantly.
DIVE DEEPER >> How to pack a cooler for camping.
5) Pot with a Lid
I like to pack a small pot with a lid for making simple meals like mac and cheese, ramen, or this delicious one-pan Jambalaya!
If you’re looking for an all-in-one campfire cooking kit, I recommend this Primus Cookset. It comes with two pots and lids, and a small fry pan! The quality is excellent; you can use it over the camp stove and a campfire!
6) Cutting Board
Any cutting board you already have will probably work here, but if you do want to buy one for camping, I just started using this Epicurean cutting board and I think it’s great for camping!
7) Sharp Knife
Of course, you’ll need a knife to go with that cutting board. Make sure you have a good sharp knife and a knife cover for when you travel with it.
Gear Spotlight: Camp Kitchen Kit:
This GSI camp kitchen kit is perfect for camping! I even featured it in my gift guide for campers.
This kit has knives (with covers), a cutting board, a small towel, and a little soap bottle. It’s a great all-in-one compact solution that I thought was of great quality, especially for the price!
8) Forks and Spoons to Eat With
These Humangear sporks are some of my favorites because they’re really durable and cheap, and they come in so many fun colors! We store all of our eating utensils in a wide-mouth Nalgene water bottle, that way they don’t get lost. I also have these nicer utensils from Barebones Living if I’m feeling fancy!
9) Plates and Bowls
When it’s just me and Nick camping, we usually only pack 2 plates and 2 bowls. This set is my favorite camp enamelware. It’s really durable and I love how nice it looks!
For flipping pancakes, fried eggs… you name it!
11) Metal Tongs
Metal tongs are great to have for handling really hot things like coals over a fire. I use these when I cook with the dutch oven and when I’m making foil packet meals.
12) Small Hot Water Kettle
I like to bring a small pot with a spout for boiling water. The spout makes it easy to pour hot water when making things like coffee and tea.
It’s also nice to have a pot just for water so that you don’t have to worry about food residue or flavor left over in the pot from cooking – instead, it’s always clean!
If you have the kit I mentioned above, then you don’t really need this item since the Primus Cook Set comes with a small pot.
13) Coffee Setup
Next, we have the all-important coffee setup! This is really up to you and how you like to make coffee. If you really want to keep things simple, instant coffee is always an option.
However, if you’re like me and you love a good cup of coffee in the morning, it’s worth it to bring a little extra gear for that cup of joe.
Here’s what I use:
- GSI Outdoors Java Set with pour-over and coffee grinder
- coffee filters
- insulated coffee mugs
My preferred method is the pour-over. We have a pop-up silicon pour-over which is perfect for camping because it’s small and durable. Don’t forget to pack the coffee filters to go with it!
I like to grind my coffee fresh every morning, so I bring whole coffee beans and the small manual coffee grinder in this set.
Lastly, you’re going to need something to drink out of, right?
We always pack insulated coffee mugs to keep the coffee nice and hot on a cold morning outdoors.
Want all of this in a printable camp kitchen checklist?
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Camp Cooking Starter Kit
Printable camping recipes, a gear checklist, and a camping meal planner so you can go camping with confidence and good food!
Additional Camp Kitchen Gear to Consider:
The following items are additional camp cooking equipment that you might not need to get right away, but if you cook a lot at camp, they’ll be nice to have:
- Mixing spoon
- Can and bottle openers – My Leatherman multi-tool has both a can and a bottle opener. I always bring it with me camping and hiking. If you don’t have a multi-tool with these things, make sure to pack them from your kitchen at home if you’re preparing food and drinks that will need them.
- Pot scraper – A pot scraper or brush is great to have on hand for cleaning your cast iron pan (once it’s cooled) or your pot making cleaning quick and easy.
- Dutch oven – A cast iron dutch oven is one of my favorite things to cook with when I go camping! I’m still truly amazed by all the things you can make in one! The dutch oven I use the most is my Camp Chef 10-inch dutch oven and I love it for baking at camp. I also have a larger Lodge 8 Qt. dutch oven for bigger meals like a stew.
- Dutch oven accessories – If you do want to cook with a dutch oven, then you’ll also want a lid lifter. Lid lifters for the dutch oven are usually sold separately, but they’re great to have for lifting the lid of the dutch oven when it’s hot.
- Dish towels – For drying clean dishes, holding hot things, and cleaning up unexpected messes.
- Heat Resistant Gloves – Fire gloves can be handy if you plan to cook a lot over the campfire. They can be worn to handle hot cast iron and move things around on the fire.
- Reusable water bottle – I love my reusable water bottle! If you bring the water jug I mentioned above, it’s really easy to refill your water bottle at camp. In addition, water bottles are really easy to fill at gas stations and coffee shops when you’re on the go!
- S’mores Sticks – because what’s a camping trip without s’mores? S’mores are a classic camping dessert. To change things up a little bit, make sure to try this milk chocolate peanut butter pretzel s’more recipe on your next trip.
Other Camping Kitchen Gear:
- Paper Towels
- Grill Grate
- Garbage Bags
- Dish Soap
- Fire Starters
- How to clean dishes while camping (if the campground doesn’t have a dishwashing station, or you have a big group with a lot of dishes)
What Camp Kitchen Gear Do You Need First?
Your question at this point might be: I’m just getting into camping, do I really need to go out and buy ALL of this stuff right away?
I would focus on the gear listed in the “main camp kitchen essentials” section at the top of this post. Keep in mind that you likely already have a lot of this gear in your kitchen at home!
As you camp more, you can start buying some of the other items like a dutch oven, which is really fun for cooking over the campfire!
Meals for Car Camping
Now that you have all the gear, it’s time to enjoy cooking outdoors! I have tons of great car camping meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert to get you started.
- Grilled Steak Fajitas
- How to Make Foil Packets for Camping: The Complete Guide
- Easy Camp Tacos
- Toasted Coconut S’mores
- Caramel Pecan Campfire Baked Apples
You’re Ready for Outdoor Cooking!
Hopefully, this has answered the question of what kitchen supplies to pack for camping. If you’re like me and you love to cook, you’re going to love cooking outdoors!
Camp Cooking Tips:
If you’re new to outdoor cooking, make sure to check out my beginner camp cooking tips for more info! When I’m at home, there’s a lot going on, and sometimes cooking feels rushed.
When you’re camping, things are a lot slower, and you can really enjoy spending time outdoors and cooking a delicious meal.
I store all my camp kitchen gear in one bin to make packing and storage at home easy. If you have any questions about the gear I pack and why, please ask me in the comments below.
Coleman used to make a neat little cook stove. It was oval, single burner, with multiple stove tops- grill, griddle, standard pan rack, and even a slow cooker. It is pretty handy. I prefer cast iron most of the time, for just the two of us we use an 8” skillet and an 8” oven.
This is awesome, I have been camping with friends over the last 10 years, so little by little I’ve acquired some stuff. It’s good to step back and see what I was missing, definitely added the camp kitchen kit to my list! Thanks for the helpful guide! -Mai
You’re welcome! Glad the list was helpful. I acquired a lot of my gear slowly over time too. That’s the way to do it!