10 Camping Kitchen Must-Haves

Tips for simplifying outdoor gear and my essential camping kitchen must-haves. Brought to you by Libra.

For the past two summers I’ve been working towards a minimalists camping kitchen. I wasn’t even sure it was possible, not for a family of five, with ferocious appetites and gourmet tendencies.

Part of my incentive to explore a compact version of outdoor gear came after leafing through a popular cookbook and spotting a ‘mellon baller’ on the list of camping kitchen must-haves. Uh, I’m sorry, but no. You’ll never get away for the weekend if you have to think about packing everything.

It’s time to get back to basics. Just the fire, the forest and you — all contained in their respective places, of course. In my recent experience, it IS possible to pair down gear for campfire cooking. Today I’m sharing my essentials, along with a few favourite drinks and snacks.

10 Camping Kitchen Must-Haves

I need to preface this list by stating that this is my tried and true list and might not necessarily be yours. Camping food is very personal and you might have an entirely different set of gear to cook up your ultimate camping food day.

That said, you can glean a few tips just by observing what I use. You’ll notice that I’m happy to ‘get by’ with less. I’ve relaxed more. This is evident when I show up on a weekend campout without much more than a pocket knife and a skillet. I do love a challenge!

Cast Iron Skillet

Overall, I find I’m using a camp stove less and less and just cooking directly over -or in- the fire. It’s so satisfying. We eat meals like Campfire Beef & Bean Burritos that are cooked in the ashes and require no pots or pans.

When I need a pan, I choose a cast iron skillet, which can go straight in or on the flame. I do about 90% of my campfire cooking and baking in a cast iron skillet. They offer steady, even heat that’s perfect for morning pancakes or an evening fish fry.

I often get asked where my skillets come from, as I have three sizes. Two were inherited, one I thrifted. They last for a lifetime, so definitely check out second hand options before buying new.

Tongs or Spatula

Tongs are an extension of my hand when cooking over an open fire. If you’re not comfortable with tongs, a long-handled grill spatula can do most of the campfire cooking tasks.

Power Snacks

All camping trips are powered by smart snacking! My Camping kitchen must-haves include humungous Chocolate Pretzel Monster Cookies, filled with energy-giving oatmeal. Almond butter keeps them soft and fresh for days.

More recipes can be found here: DIY Power Bites, Granola Bars and other healthy snacks. Everything is prepped in advance, packed up tight, and loaded up with our other essentials.

Libra Non Alcoholic Beer

Years of family camping has taught Danny and I a thing or two about bevvys: keep them lite! We’re the type to wake up at 5am for the sunrise, and that means enjoying a non-alcoholic beer like Libra the night before – nothing stronger.

A new-ish product from friends at Upstreet, Libra is a crisp, artisanal pale ale that suits our laid-back approach to camping. An ice cold Libra is fantastic with a fire-grilled burger at the end of a long day. And it’s also highly refreshing on a hike, when you’ve been baking in the sun – and you can still find your way home afterwards!

The Multi-Tool

Essential for shucking oysters, opening lids, slicing cheese and everything in-between. We’re never without a Leatherman or two, my favourite being the Signal. Designed for the outdoors, it packs a firestarter, hammer, one-handed blade and an emergency whistle. Not to mention a can opener and bottle opener.

Soft Pack Insulated Cooler

A smaller, easily portable cooler is the way to go for day trips around the campsite and in the wilderness. Our gets tossing in a canoe with cold Libra ale, sandwiches and an ice pack and we’re set for a day of exploring.

My cooler is nothing fancy, several years old and nearly ready for an upgrade. I’d probably go with something like this or this for the next decade of family camping.

Enamelware

I’ve been building an enamelware collection for years now and the campsite is my favourite place to bust it out. Food is quick to get cold when you’re eating outside, and we love to set out plates or mugs right over the fire to keep the food toasty.

I also love how durable enamelware is — never have to worry about it cracking, melting or breaking. I have this set from Coleman and use it every camping trip, along with my vintage treasures.

Coffee Gear

When camping with kids, fuelling up with coffee is essential. It’s both a life-vest and oxygen mask combined (not really, but parents, you know what I mean). After years of research, a few broken Bodums and one very dirty percolator coffee pot, we’ve landed on the Aeropress as the ultimate camping coffee essential gear.

Danny is our barista, and he also packs in 1) whole beans 2) filtered water 3) a portable hand grinder and 4) pot. We use a reusable stainless steel filter for a true zero waste coffee.

Cast Iron Dutch Oven

I can’t remember where I acquired my heavy-duty cast iron Dutch Oven, but it’s been around for ages. Pots like these last for generations and are so versatile for campfire cooking and baking.

I use mine for a Frittata, my one-pot Mac & Cheese, a veggie & haddock fish bake (above), and all sorts of breakfast baking. One quick search on Pinterest for Dutch Oven campfire recipes will yield thousands of dishes from fruit cobbler to nachos. It’s certainly a versatile way to cook!

Dish Washing Set-Up

Because I’m passionate about zero waste living, we camp without any disposable products. That includes paper plates, paper towel, plastic utensils or cups. Obviously, this means we make dishes.

Clean-up is a part of camp life, and I actually enjoy washing up! Give me a pretty view and I am perfectly willing to clean up. Somehow it seems less of a chore then at home.

I already wrote the post How to clean camping dishes the easy way. And here’s what I bring for washing up on our campsite:

  • 1 large pot for hauling and boiling water (or use your Dutch Oven)
  • 1 large enamelware basin (or plastic tub)
  • Biodegradable camp soap
  • Dish cloth/ walnut shell scour pads

I no longer bring the dish drying rack or a towel. I just let them drain on the picnic table and the sunshine dries them quickly. PS> Get the kids to help, too!

Happy Camping!

This post is sponsored by Libra, a premium, non-alcoholic beer crafted in the Maritimes by Upstreet. All words and opinions are my own.

What are your essential camping kitchen items? Food, drink and tools – I’d love to hear.

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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Comments

  1. 100% agree with all of these! We keep gear at the ready all summer, and if I can, I’ll even keep stuff in my car. My only other essentials are my nesting backcountry pot set as we cook more often on our stove and my mother’s old yellow egg tote. Happy camping!

  2. Great and very informative article. we keep all these gears at home that reduce the effort and work in no time. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Amazing article. I agree with all of your recommendations. I would also add that very much depends on the type of camping that you go to. When I was on a camping with my husband two years ago we have also taken with us a portable refrigerator like this one: https://gardenseedsmarket.com/portable-refrigerator-mini-cooler-camping-32-litres-blue-white.html . There are also versions that enable powering it in the car, so it can be useful for long journeys.

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