Camp Cooking Gear Guide—Build the Ultimate Camp Kitchen!

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Video camp kitchen setup

Great camping food starts with having the right equipment in your camp kitchen. In this article, we share all the essential camp cooking gear for car camping.

Megan cooking on a propane stove at a campsite.

What camping cooking gear do you recommend? What equipment do I need to cook your recipes? Ever since we started Fresh Off The Grid, people have asked us what camp cooking equipment they should get to get started.

There are so many camp cooking gadgets and gizmos out there, that it’s hard to know what’s worth it and what’s not. So we put together our list of must-have essential camp cooking gear (as well as a couple of nice-to-haves!)

With this gear, not only will you be able to cook all of the car camping recipes we share on Fresh Off The Grid, but your overall enjoyment of the outdoors will be increased significantly.

So if you’re new to camping or looking to update your existing camp kitchen, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s get started!

This list is tailored for when you’re car camping-driving up to your campsite and not having to lug gear far distances. If you’re interested in lightweight backpacking, check out this post with the best backpacking cooking kits, which features gear for when you’re cooking miles from the nearest road!

Our must-have camp cooking essentials

Camp stove

It doesn’t get any more fundamental than a camp stove. But with dozens of different models, finding the perfect stove can be a challenge!

Over the years we’ve seen plenty of super “innovative” stove designs come and go, but we prefer to stick with the classic 2-burner propane stove. They’re versatile, allowed everywhere (even during most fire bans), use widely available fuel, and operate just like your home range.

Hands reaching into a blue cooler full of ice to pick up a drink can

Camp cooler

Since investing in a cooler for car camping, the quality and freshness of our meals have improved tremendously. Also, cold beer! Who can argue with that? While the cooler market has come a long way in recent years, the truth is: you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to get a great quality product.

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Check out our guide on How To Pack a Cooler Like a PRO so you can get the absolute best performance out of whatever cooler you own!

Water storage

Being able to store a decent amount of water close to your campsite is an absolute must. Not only for drinking but for cooking and washing dishes. A good water storage container can make your life at camp so much easier.

A cast iron skillet on a camping stove

Camp cookware

We highly recommend picking up a few pieces of dedicated camp cookware. Not only will this prevent you from accidentally dinging up your nice home cookware, but it will make cooking at the campsite so much more enjoyable.

The good news is you don’t need to break the bank here. We don’t think you need to buy one of those all-in-one camping cook sets, which are expensive and can have superfluous items-instead, build your own tailored to how you will actually cook on your camping trips. All you need is a few essential pots and pans to get started.

Interested in Dutch oven cooking? We have an entire Dutch Oven 101 article that will teach you everything you need to know to get started!

If you’re interested in learning more about the Omnia Stove Top Oven (how it works and how to use it) we have a complete tutorial on it here.

We recently purchased a Rome Pie Iron (they are not expensive) and just had so much fun with it. It felt like being a kid again. We don’t know why it makes us so happy, but it just does.

Cooking utensils, knives, and accessories

There are many camp kitchen accessories that only reveal themselves to be essential after you’ve had the misfortune of forgetting them. That is why we are huge advocates of buying dedicated camping kitchen utensils that are stored separately. Rifling through your kitchen drawers right before a trip is exactly how you forget the all-critical can opener or spatula!

We recommend this Amazon Basics knife setfor a couple of reasons: 1.) They are super affordable, so picking up a set specifically for camping isn’t such a big financial hit. 2.) They’re stainless steel, so they can be easily sharpened. 3.) Each knife comes with its own fully enclosed sheath. Not only does this protect the blade from dulling when you toss it into the camp storage box, but it also keeps your fingers safe when unpacking everything.

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This instant-read thermometer is a great way to take the guesswork out of whether that steak is finished cooking or not. It’s fairly affordable, comes with two heatproof probes, and has a built-in alarm. This is the instant-read thermometer we own and use regularly.

Assorted Utensils

Campfire cooking accessories

Campfire cooking has a lot of crossover with backyard grilling. So if you do a lot of home BBQ-ing, then some of this might be familiar to you. Still, there are a few accessories we find to be particularly useful to have at a campsite.

Get 10% off by using the code “FRESH10” on the Grill Armor Gloves website!

Breakfast hash on a blue enamelware camping plate next to a cast iron skillet
Megan using an aeropress to make a cup of coffee. A camp stove and kettle are in frame on the table.

Camp coffee maker

It compresses the grounds into a small puck, making cleanup a cinch. We’ve been using the Aeropress to make our coffee every morning (at camp and at home!) for the past few years. Since this method produces one cup of coffee at a time, it’s best for two people.

For a large-capacity stove top percolator, we recommend the EuroLux 12-Cup Percolator. Nearly every percolator on the market has some little quirk that people seem not to like, but we think this one minimizes them the best it can. We also really like the wood handle which won’t melt or burn your hand if placed over a campfire.

Not too big and not too small, Hydro Flask makes a great vacuum-sealed camping mug. They come in a bunch of cool colors so you can really brighten up your morning routine. We own these mugs and highly recommend them.

Camp kitchens and cook stations

While nearly every established campground comes with a picnic table, it’s just nice to have a separate dedicated cook station. Something that’s at counter level height and can be placed somewhere convenient. It’s also really nice to be able to sit down at the table to eat once the meal is ready, instead of having to hastily break down the kitchen setup just to have a place to sit.

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Clean-up and dishwashing

Cleaning up is probably everyone’s least favorite part of camp cooking. It is what it is. But with the right setup, dishwashing can be a much better and much faster experience for everyone involved.

We recently switched to this Coghlan pop-up trash can (into which we place a trash bag liner) and it has made a world of difference. Now we can place the trash somewhere convenient, we can easily dump scraps into it, and when we’re not using it, we put the lid down and keep the bugs out. When we get back home, we can collapse it down and put it in our camp storage bin.

Organization and storage

Keeping your various cookware, dishware, and camping pantry foodstuffs organized has got to be one of the biggest challenges of any camp kitchen. Taking a moment to get set up with a good system can really elevate your entire camping experience.

Here are just a few of the many ways these containers can improve your camp cooking experience:

  1. At home, you can use them to store chopped veggies, marinate meats, homemade sauces & dips, and pre-portion out bulk supplies (like rice or flour) so you don’t have to bring the whole bag with you. This is also a great way to discard excess food “packaging” at home, instead of having to deal with it at the campsite.
  2. Use them to pack your cooler! Everything in the cooler is eventually going to get wet, so sealing your hot dogs in a waterproof container is a must!
  3. No more food waste! Leftovers are no problem if you have a few resealable containers with you. Just seal it up, put it back into the cooler, and the next day heat it up in a skillet for lunch!