When you think of camping and cooking, you may picture yourself crouched uncomfortably on the floor huddled over a gas stove or trying to scrub dried porridge of the bottom off your pot.
And, I have to admit, I’ve been there…
But if you’re car camping, you don’t have to worry so much about space and weight, which means you can create a camping kitchen that works for you and doesn’t leave you clutching your aching back every night.
I’ve been searching the Internet with curiosity, wonder, and envy to find the most versatile and practical camping kitchens around.
8 Core Components of a Camping Kitchen
Whether you’re lightweight backpacking in the backcountry or camping at a campsite, you’ll need these 8 components to help you prepare, cook and clean up meals.
1. Camping Stove or Grill
Unless you’re going to live on cold baked beans and sandwiches, you’ll need something to cook with, whether that’s a campfire, a gas stove or a portable grill.
Our go-to camping stove is the Camp Chef Everest 2 Burner.
2. Camping Cookware
To create delicious camping meals, you need the right tools.
To help you out, we’ve written a camping cookware guide covering the best pots, pans, and tools for different recipes and camping scenarios.
3. Dishware and Utensils
Simply put, you need something to eat your food off and eat it with.
Whether you want to go for an all-in-one bowl approach or bring a complete 16-piece dinnerware set is up to you – and the space in your car.
4. Miscellaneous Essentials
There are many bits and pieces you need for cooking, from oil and tinfoil to camping soap and sponges.
And if you’re anything like me, having a system to organize these things will help ensure you don’t leave any camping essentials at home.
You can leave a lot of your cleaning products at home when you use Campsuds for everything from dishes to even showering.
Although some camping grounds provide picnic tables, a fold-up table can come in handy for food prep, cooking, or just as an extra surface to keep things off the ground.
The Alps Mountaineering dining table is the perfect size to set your stove on, prep your food and eat off of. Plus, its roll-top design means it doesn’t take up much space in your vehicle.
6. Camp Sink
Yes, you can pack everything and the kitchen sink.
Well, not quite. If you’re used to a Belfast sink with instant hot running water, then you may have to tone down your expectations when it comes to camping.
But there are many ways you can create your own kitchen solutions for washing up outdoors.
We bought the UST FlexWare 2.0 collapsible sink mainly because space is always at a premium, and it does what we need it to do – hold water!
7. Garbage Collection
Whether you’re camping by an alpine lake or in your backyard, you should always try and leave no trace of your presence.
If you’re not at a campsite, this means collecting your garbage and taking it away for disposal.
A pop-up trash can like this one is handy if you don’t have to worry about bears or other animals attacking your leftover scraps.
8. Camping Cooler
I’ve left this to the end as if you’re backpacking or having to carry your camping gear any distance, taking a cooler won’t be practical.
But if you’re car camping, I’d recommend investing in one.
Speaking of ‘investing’…
A cooler isn’t a product you should skimp on. There’s nothing worse than spoiled food on a camping trip.
We gladly bought our Yeti cooler because it does what they claim, and it has proven itself time and time again!
If you have a means of keeping things cool, this expands the scope of what you can cook.
And it means you’ll always have a cold beer to hand.
Check out our guide to keeping things cool when camping for more tips.
3 Inspirational Camping Kitchens
The Family Kitchen
Washing dishes has to be my least favorite camping chore, but if you’ve got a family’s worth of dishes to clean, having a sink you can stand up in front of is a definite bonus.
A flatpack system like the Camco camping kitchen has a sink, room for a stove or grill, and a bit of countertop space with storage underneath.
The only downside with this type of setup is that you have to take everything out of it to pack it down.
An alternative kitchen solution is a chuck box – a large compartmentalized box to store all your kitchen supplies.
These usually come with legs, or you can rest them on top of a picnic table.
The Gourmet Cook’s Kitchen
If you want to cook multiple dishes or gourmet meals when camping, it can be tricky to juggle all the pots, ingredients and condiments you need without the countertop space you’re used to at home.
A camping kitchen such as the GCI Outdoor Portable Cooking Station is a great solution as it maximizes surface space while packing down small for transportation.
The Handyman’s Rolling Toolbox Kitchen
There are many hacks out there for creating a DIY camping kitchen, but before you get too carried away, think about how much space you have in your vehicle and how far you’ll need to carry your camping gear.
If you’re handy with tools, then you can design and build your camping chuck box from plywood using this step-by-step guide from Rei.
But once full, chuck boxes can be heavy.
Not a problem if you only have to lift it out of your trunk but try and carry it any distance and you’ll be wishing you’d left the coffee pot, cast-iron pan, and extra utensils behind.
That’s why I like this rolling camp kitchen solution which is a converted toolbox on wheels.
You can load it up and once you’ve lifted it out of your car trunk, you can wheel it to wherever you’re going to be camping.
Wrapping It Up…
Whatever camping kitchen setup you go for, it’s likely to evolve as you work out precisely what you do and don’t use.
It’s worth getting a few camping trips under your belt before investing in an expensive kitchen solution that may not be exactly what you need.
What’s your camping kitchen setup? I’d love to see it – please share in the comments below!