In my basement there’s a big plastic tub labeled “CAMP STUFF” always at the ready. That way I never forget a bottle opener, a tiny container of salt, or my designated Negroni Nalgene. Camping food can be a minimalist affair—bring a bucket of Popeyes and a six pack, call it a day—or fully maximalist (once, we slow-grilled a lamb shoulder, and I remain amazed that we didn’t attract a bear). However you decide to do it, you’re going to need at least some camping cooking gear. Here are the essentials you need for your next backpacking or camping trip.
For storing everything from your utensil set to that lamb shoulder
First things first: You’ll need something to hold all of your camping cookware. Fill this bag with a few beat-up steak knives and one decent chef’s knife; a plastic cutting board—big or small depending on your ambitions; matches (do not forget matches); garage sale cutlery and some sporks; Nalgene minis—they never leak—filled with olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce; a multi-tool you’ll use constantly; and a 1-oz. canister with flaky salt or your favorite spice mix.
And you’re going to need a way to store all the perishables for your camping meals. A hard cooler doubles as a side table or extra seat if you need it. Do I even need to mention a brand here? You have one already—maybe it’s a Coleman or Igloo. If not: Yeti or bust.
For grilling veggies and boiling pasta
You could cook everything over the fire, but sometimes coffee can’t wait for the kindling to catch. While not a strictly necessary piece of camping cooking gear, Eureka’s propane camp stove is lightweight, adorable, classic.
Turn any fire pit into a BBQ with this camp grill by Breeo that adjusts up and down. We slow-roasted the aforementioned lamb, grilled hot dogs, and percolated coffee on it. It’s made of durable stainless steel and comes with its own carrying bag.
At most, you’ll need a cooking pot to boil water and a frying pan for scrambled eggs and pancakes. This camp cook set from GSI Outdoors comes with both—the pan is nonstick and the pot has a built-in strainer—and they nest into each other nicely. But if you’re car camping and would rather just bring your cast iron and Dutch oven, that works, too.
For cooking and moving logs around. Perhaps the most necessary cooking utensil in your entire camp kitchen.
The best camping meals don’t require any pots, pans, or plates. If you’re traveling light in the backcountry, making foil packets reduces the need for a lot of cooking equipment. Just make sure to use heavy-duty foil, not the normal stuff, so it’ll hold up without risk of tearing.
For hydrating, caffeinating, and boozing
If your campsite doesn’t have drinking water, bring a big refillable container like Reliance’s 7-gallon BPA-free Jumbo-Tainer. It should last four campers a long weekend in the woods, and you can always refill it at a rest stop. It has a handy handle and spout, and its flat shape will fit easily under your car seat.
Coffee, Coffee, Coffee
You’ve just slept on hard ground and you need coffee as quickly as possible. Instead of lugging a French press or percolator into the woods, bring cold brew concentrate or, for a crowd, La Colombe’s cold brew box. Water it down and heat it over the stove, or drink it on ice. Trying to pack lighter? Alpine Start‘s instant coffee does the trick.
One insulated tumbler does it all. Wipe it out after each use—you won’t have to worry about your wine tasting like Honey Bunches of Oats.
Big-batch cocktails are a good idea. So is filling an XL insulated thermos with designated cocktail ice. Boxed wine is getting better and better, and the best place to drink it is in the woods, when you don’t want to be weighed down with glass bottles. A 3L box of Hérisson Vin Rouge is the equivalent of four bottles. It’s a bright, acidic Gamay blend that pairs well with unwashed hair and howls in the night.
For dining al fresco, comfortably
Splatter enamelware is classic; can’t go wrong.
Even if the camp chef is only serving a cheese plate and a good baguette—not a bad way to do it—you’ll still need at least a side table (or a convenient tree stump). This tie-dye table is ultralight, packs into a tiny tote, and stretches taut to safely hold your drink. Don’t sit on it.
For easy clean-up (and keeping bears away)
This collapsible sink is game-changing. You can use it to haul kindling too. Bring an old kitchen sponge, Dr. Bronner’s (it’s biodegradable), and a ratty old towel to dry with. Also remember you don’t really have to wash all your kitchen gear. A rinse and a wipe will do the trick. You’re in the woods!
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