Everything tastes better outside. That’s a fact.
Over the years, my camping meals have gradually gotten more and more involved, graduating from instant mac n cheese on a PocketRocket to elaborate taco bars packed with fresh veggies and mezcal margaritas. Sure, it might seem over the top, but if you’re car camping and you don’t have to haul it in, you might as well go big.
With camping meals, I find half the fun is the preparation, and prep work is way easier with the right equipment and organization. Trying to slice tomatoes with a dull knife on the back of a stray piece of plastic is not setting yourself up for success.
These six camp kitchen items have made my outdoor dinners far more successful, and are a worthy upgrade to your setup, whether you’re cooking for one, two, or ten.
I’m convinced that a great camp kitchen starts with a table. It took me a while to finally start using a real table while camping and I have to say, it makes a huge difference. The Camp Kitchen Table isn’t super light, but it folds down into a convenient carrying case that can be stacked easily in the bed of a truck or the trunk of your car, and it comes together in an instant.
Having a tailgate to cook on is great, but I don’t always want to set up a kitchen right where I’ve parked and the table gives me the option to set up near the rest of the group instead of having to retreat back to my truck every time I need something. Plus, having more surface area for cooking supplies makes everything a hundred times easier.
The staggered platforms are super useful for keeping everything (relatively) organized. I like to put my stove on the main platform and use one side for prep work and the other side for dishes and food that’s ready to eat. The wire shelf below is also really useful so you can let clean dishes dry without having to use prime counter space.
I used to keep my camp knife wrapped in a kitchen towel duct-taped around itself (not my finest idea) and I would always live in fear of a stray knife floating around the camping box. Bad for the knife and for me. In a small step away from last summer’s dirtbaggery, I’ve recently upgraded to the Snow Peak Cutting Board Set and it’s become the highlight of my camping meals. The compact design folds and latches closed to keep the knife secure and sharp, which is great because right out of the box the stainless steel knife could have cleanly sliced my hand off. It slid through a pretty stale lime like it was made of butter.
The rectangular shape is also a dream for packing since it somehow fits in any nook and cranny of my camping box. I didn’t realize at first, but the cutting board is made of natural birch wood so it does have to be treated before using. It’s a little inconvenient on the front end, although a small price to pay if you dig the craftsmanship of this chic little kitchen accessory.
Primus’s Large Campfire Cookset is a one-stop shop for camping cookware, with two stainless steel pots (1.8-liter and 3-liter) and a frying pan, which all nest together for easy packability. The lids have built-in strainers and vents, which prevents water from boiling over and is great for draining pasta. Most of the time, I can cook a meal with a large pot and a frying pan, but I found it was nice to have an extra pot to boil water for tea when the dinner dishes are still in rotation.
I found that the thick stainless steel construction helped distribute the heat evenly, especially in the frying pan, something you pay for a little with weight but I think makes a huge difference in the quality of your dinner. I also really like the leather tabs on the lids, so you can pick them up even when they’re hot without burning your hand. The carrying case is a nice touch as well, which makes the whole set easy to pack.
The Ignite Plus is a pretty burly stove and although it takes up quite a bit of tabletop space, it’s well worth it. It’s almost two feet long, which allowed me to use two full-size pots next to each other, unlike some of the smaller stoves which only fit one large pot or pan at a time. This made a huge difference when making pasta for a crowd, since I could boil pasta water and sauté veggies at the same time.
I’ve found simmer control to be one of the most important features in a camp stove, and the Ignite Plus has a super precise dial that allows a range of heats, from low simmer to medium to insanely hot. For one or two people who aren’t looking to cook anything extravagant, this stove might be a little big, but if you plan to whip up anything more than coffee and oatmeal, I’d say the Ignite Plus is crucial.
A plastic box isn’t exactly gear to write home about, but I promise the Wolf Pack storage boxes really do deserve some attention. I used to keep my camping gear in an old plastic bin I got at Walmart a few years ago, and it’s slowly gotten more and more trashed as I load, unload, and use it as a chair. I recently swapped it out for two small Front Runner Wolf Pack storage boxes, and it’s probably made the single biggest difference in keeping my gear organized.
Front Runner’s Wolf Pack boxes are slightly smaller than the large bin I used before (roughly 20” x 15” x 9”), but I’ve found two smaller bins are easier to haul, plus you don’t have to dig as far to find what you’re looking for. The high-density plastic is super durable, so you can drive with them on the roof or strapped to a trailer in the back, and they stack securely on top of each other. Four plastic clips keep the boxes closed, and you can pop just two at a time to hinge them on each side. I use two of them—one for non-perishable pantry items like spices, oils, and emergency snacks, and one for kitchen supplies like pots, pans, spatulas, and silverware—and I’ll likely invest in two more for the rest of my non-kitchen camping gear.
I used to use one gigantic hard-sided cooler for camp trips, but I’ve recently switched to having two smaller coolers, one for beer and one for food. It’s way easier to move the coolers around (a full 75-quart cooler is almost impossible to pick up without a forklift), and keeping food and drinks organized like this makes getting a meal ready far easier in my opinion. The Tundra 45 hits the sweet spot for coolers. It’s the perfect size for all the food I need for a weekend trip, and even when it’s full, it’s not too tough to unload from the car and haul around camp (it weighs 23 pounds empty).
The cold-holding power and burly design of YETI’s Tundra series is pretty much the gold standard in coolers these days, and I really do believe this thing is indestructible. The Fatwall design has two inches of insulation which might seem overkill, but I was pretty impressed to have solid ice still in the cooler at the end of an 80-degree weekend in the Tetons. The plastic divider (purchased separately) is also a nice touch, which slides into the slots in the cooler to split the space and keep everything organized. I also really like the closure system, the rubber latches stretch easily into place and eliminate the possibility of a broken latch that the plastic ones are susceptible to.