11 Kitchen Essentials You Should Pack With You Before Heading on That Camping Trip

published Jul 3, 2021
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A family of four is roasting marshmallows outside in their yard.
Credit: Getty Images | FatCamera

Camping offers unique opportunities, such as hearing nature’s sounds while drifting off to sleep and reconnecting with the outdoors. However, if there’s one thing that many people look forward to while roughing it, it’s cooking over an open (yet still properly contained) fire. Although it’s unfamiliar to some, you can learn to ease around a campfire like you would in the kitchen. It’s simple to become efficient in no time when armed with the right gear and a bit of knowledge.

Although some cooking supplies are tailored for on-the-go, you may be surprised at what you already have in your kitchen to take along. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting, here are 12 kitchen essentials you need to take to your campsite. Bonus tip: planning your meals pre-trip will save time and help you curate a personalized kitchen packing list.

1. Camping Cookbook

If you have no clue where to begin, start by purchasing a camping cookbook, or downloading a cooking app. Some websites, such as Fresh Off the Grid, specialize in outdoor recipes. Screenshot or download the instructions in case you don’t have cell reception when you go off the grid yourself. Browsing through tried and true recipes can spark ideas for your own outdoor eating experiences.

2. Lighter or Matches (and Fire Safety Supplies)

Once you arrive at your site, you will need a way to light your campfire. Therefore, you’ll have to secure fuel — most likely logs — and then start your fire. Although some may want to break out their skills from a past life as a scout, it’s best to take along a lighter or matches to do the trick quickly. Another campsite essential is a fire extinguisher or fire blanket to quickly put out wayward flames. Brush up on your fire safety skills before heading to camp, and keep the phone number of the local ranger, campsite manager, or fire marshal on hand if you have any questions.

3. Grilling Grate

Check and see if your campsite has a grate for cooking over an open flame. If not, grab your grate from your grill at home. Be sure to prop it up securely with bricks or stones while you are cooking. Another option is to buy an inexpensive grate specifically for open-fire cooking. If you are preparing steaks or fish directly on the grate, take a grill brush for easy cleanup afterward.

4. Pots and Pans

One campsite staple is a frying pan, which is ideal for making eggs and frying veggies. However, those who genuinely wish to test their outdoor cooking skills should take along a dutch oven. These heavy-duty pots with lids allow campers to cook casseroles and bake bread. Although dutch oven cooking isn’t for the faint of heart, purchasing a cookbook or scouring the web for recipes will have you prepping like a pro.

5. Pot Holders

One word of caution about fires: They’re dangerous. Not only do you want to keep your hair, loose sleeves, and body parts out of the blaze, but pots and pans will get hot over an open flame. Just like you wouldn’t reach your bare hand into your scorching oven, you need to protect your hands from the heat. Pack your current fabric or silicone pot holders, or invest in a new set for campfire-ready safety.

6. Cutting System

Whether you’re chopping veggies, slicing cheese, or trimming meat to place on the grill, grab a cutting board and multi-purpose sharp knife. Additionally, a cutting board can double as a charcuterie base for a fancy fireside treat. Another option is to take along a multi-tool so that you can have a knife, bottle opener, and can opener at your fingertips.

7. Basic Kitchen Utensils

Of course, this depends on what you want to cook while you’re at your campsite. If your mornings entail making eggs and bacon, you’ll need a pan-safe spatula and whisk. For those that choose to grill steaks, metal tongs and a sturdy flipping tool are in order. When planning your meals ahead of time, think about what utensils are required. If you need them to make the same meal in your home, chances are you’ll need them camping, too.

Ideally, you should have one mess kit per person. Either make your kits at home or purchase pre-made sets. Include a plate, cup, bowl, and flatware in each kit. Ideally, pieces should be sturdy and not made out of non-breakable materials, such as plastic or silicone. If you want to delegate chores, you can put each person in charge of keeping track of and cleaning their mess kit.

8. Mixing Bowls

Take your stainless or plastic mixing bowls straight from your kitchen, especially if they pack neatly inside of each other. Nesting bowls are made for food prep. However, they can also do double duty as serving dishes for salads and veggies. You can eat directly out of the bowls in a pinch, as long as you have one per person.

9. Coffee Maker

Not that you have a choice when you’re without electricity, but leave the Keurig at home. A simple way to start your day with campsite coffee is to use a deep pot to boil water and then use a French press to make a few cups at a time. If you plan to be an avid camper, opt to purchase a percolator designed for open flame situations. That way, your campers can wake up to the scent of freshly brewed coffee. Just don’t forget to bring gallons of water and pre-ground coffee beans.

10. Flat Pack Sink

A portable sink is something that may never have crossed your mind. However, it will quickly become one of your most helpful campsite essentials. Perfect for washing dishes and utensils, the sink has a drain and also can serve as storage when not in use. An added benefit is that the sink can be functional and stored flat when not used. When it comes to camping, saving space is of the essence.

11. Cleaning Supplies

In addition to having a sink for cleanup, take along soap and paper towels. In an effort to be conscious about the environment, use soap that won’t harm the environment. Often these cleaners are multi-purpose to wash pans, utensils, and bodies. You can also choose paper towels made from more sustainable resources, such as bamboo, or pack a few kitchen towels to wash when you get home.