The Ultimate Camp Kitchen Checklist
Gear for your outdoor kitchen and camping trip doesn't deviate too much from what you use on a regular basis inside your home - especially if you have a Kanz Kitchen onboard. But the set up is more minimal with importance placed on packing essentials and gear that you can't find in the middle of the wilderness. Even those of us who car camp at state parks and national recreation sites will find ourselves miles away from a grocery store.
Creating the perfect camp kitchen checklist before you head out is vital to ensuring things go smoothly when you return to your campsite after a long day of outdoor adventuring. We've outlined the essentials you will want to pack and have prepared before you set foot in the backcountry.
The number one element to your perfect camp kitchen packing list is water! Not only do you need plenty of water to avoid dangerous medical situations like dehydration, you'll want a clean up station at your campsite, boil certain foods, and have potable water for the all important morning camp coffee.
There are several options when it comes to water storage when camping. Refillable 3-5 gallon water jugs are environmentally friendly as well as cheaper than buying one gallon units at a time. Specialty stores sell a variety of water jugs that fit into overlanding vehicles in space saving ways. But your local grocery store's 5 gallon options are the most convenient to obtain and cost around $15 already filled.
A handy item to keep in your camping gear stash is a water filtration system. From 1.0L water bottles to large water bladders, there is a filtration system to meet all types of needs. It's doubtful that you'll need to use devices such as these in a car camping scenario, but you'd be grateful to have a filtration system handy if the park's water becomes contaminated for some reason.
Portable Camp kitchen
A field kitchen will be your best friend for organization, cleanliness, and storage while you're boondocking. All of your camp kitchen gear fits neatly into one place and kitchen items are sure to remain organized for the duration of your trip. Camp cooking isn't enjoyable for anyone if supplies are scattered across a campsite and pieces of gear can't be found in the middle of dinner prep.
Camping isn't necessarily a comfortable experience, but it can be when you have a camp kitchen setup that contains everything in one place. From a dedicated dishwashing station to a folding table add-on, field kitchens allow your favorite campsite to become a rustic, yet elegant place to enjoy a quality meal with friends and family.
Cast Iron Skillet
Whether you're cooking over a gas stove or your family has built a campfire that makes all the other campers envious, a cast iron skillet will be the perfect all-purpose cooking mechanism. The benefit of having a well-seasoned cast iron skillet instead of a nonstick pan is that cast iron stands up to a lot of wear and tear, handles the uneven heat of some camp stoves, and can be utilized in several cooking methods.
Because of the material and ability to withstand high heat, you won't need to worry about delicate nonstick surfaces burning off or imparting weird chemicals into your breakfast food. Cast iron does an amazing job of holding heat and keeping cooked food insulated from chilly evening air, unlike thinner pans. The entire surface of the skillet will redistribute heat so that it becomes simpler to keep your ingredients from cooking unevenly.
In addition to the reasons stated above, cast iron skillets transform into a Dutch oven with the addition of a lid, hot coals raked atop, and sweet ingredients inside.
Clean Up Supplies
We're big believers in Leave No Trace principles. This means that any soap and detergent that you use to clean and disinfect your cooking equipment should not harm the environment in any way and be the appropriate distance from natural water sources.
Avoid a bad case of stomach bug by disinfecting all cooking utensils and containers after each use. We know, we know, dishes are always the least enjoyable part of dinner, but in the case of car camping, you don't have a convenient sink to dump everything in and worry about tomorrow.
Utilize natural ingredients like vinegar to clean your dishes and stovetop. Bring a spray bottle filled with diluted vinegar in water and quickly disinfect dirty bowls and plates. Leave No Trace condones the use of regular, house-hold cleaners at campsites and irresponsible use near bodies of water. They even recommend thinking twice about "biodegradable" products that are commonly sold at camping stores.
How can you cook if you don't have a way to start your fire? There are several options for lighting up your stovetop when you're in the middle of nowhere. Matches and lighters are of course your best bet when it comes to having a handy way to light a flame. Waterproof matches exist, but they aren't always the most reliable, so we suggest a waterproof container for your matches.
Another cool gadget that you can try out (though it's best to bring along a second ignition source like a lighter as a back up) is a reusable match. These devices use flint and a fabric match that is stored in lighter fluid to catch flame. The reusable match is waterproof so you won't need to worry about damp conditions ruining your hot dinner plans.
Be careful to follow all local regulations regarding fire-making. During dry seasons, it's sometimes illegal to even have an open flame of any kind. Always double check before you pack out for your camping trip.
Useful Utensils and Storage
While we've already mentioned packing a cast iron skillet, don't forget about utensils that will be useful for your meals. Any old silverware will hold up just fine, but you might regret packing your expensive set that Grandma gave you for Christmas last year. We suggest purchasing dedicated camping utensils that don't cost an arm and a leg. Finding sets at a thrift store will save you money.
Camping stores sell some space-saving silverware sets that fold up, combine forks and spoons, and come in easily stored containers that keep everything organized.
While it's doubtful you'll have taco ingredients left over after a long day of hiking, you might want to pack a few food storage containers that will hold leftovers. The containers should be waterproof as you'll be placing them in a cooler filled with slowly melting ice (even the most expensive of coolers aren't perfect). The last thing you'll want in the morning is to find your ice tastes like bar-b-que, and your leftover rice floating like cereal in the poorly sealed storage container.
All of these items can be washed or disinfected with the aforementioned vinegar solution. For trash, always pick after yourself at your campsite. The last thing you want in the middle of the night is wildlife interrupting your sleep, especially those bigger guys: bears. Dispose of trash, used paper towels, food waste, and coffee grinds in appropriate bins within the park or store in a well sealed trash bag inside of your vehicle for the night. Promise, your car will not smell like lunch when you wake up the next day. You also won't have midnight visitors of the four legged variety.
Double Check Your List
Before you head out on your outdoor adventure, double check your camp kitchen checklist. Double check the park or wilderness preserve current rules regarding fire, trash, and potable water use. Because nature is unpredictable, you never know when regulations will change.
Do you have a camp kitchen essential we should add to the list?