Alright, clearly I’m feeling a bit of the cabin fever… can’t wait to get out on our next camping trip! Not sure where yet, but half the fun is in the planning. And as camper that loves to cook (or is it a cook that loves to camp?), planning the camp kitchen is a good cold weather diversion. And as we all know, you can eat quite well in the great outdoors if you’ve got the right equipment.
Cookware – This is one of the two areas in your camp kitchen where you should spend a little money. You want a set that has two pots, a frying pan, one lid, pot lifter and a mesh carry case. The set should be nesting and compact, and also non-stick. I don’t use non-stick in my home kitchen (except for my one omelette/pancake pan), but I insist on it for my camp kitchen because I use less oil in outdoor cooking and it’s a snap to clean. We have an MSR kit that we spent $60.00 for and it’s been worth every penny.
Stove – Get something tiny, efficient, and compatible with fuel that’s easy to find. Get a stove that doesn’t require priming, and a model that attaches to the fuel canister via a cord rather than sits atop the fuel – they’re more stable, and safer. Also look for a stove that comes with a heat reflector, windscreen (to improve performance and efficiency) and a maintainance kit. We went with MSR’s Whisperlite model for $90.00 – another expense that has more than paid for itself. This stove has never failed to work, even in the rain.
The rest of your kitchen set up shouldn’t cost a lot of cash. You’ll want the following items to round out your set up –
Plastic Bottles – for oil, maple syrup, honey, vinegar, etc. I have some Nalgene bottles, but I also recycle the plastic mini wine bottles with the screw on caps.
Cooking Utensils – I only carry a colander, small spatula, and a spoon. The spatula is one of the mini “cookie spatulas” and the spoon is a large metal serving one. The colander we made ourselves by modifying one of the plastic strainers with the long handle – we sawed off the long handle then sealed the sharp edge of the plastic by melting it with a lighter. It fits into the mesh bag with our cookware set.
Spice Kit – You can package your spices in empty film canisters if you happen to have them, but I like to recycle the smallest size of the McCormick-style plastic spice jars. Spices I always have in my kit are salt, pepper, dried or fried garlic (though you can easily pack a head of fresh garlic), powdered onion, thyme, “salad sprinkle” (which has red and green bell peppers, parsley, celery, green onion and sesame seeds). I also carry small bottles of vinegar, olive oil and green Tabasco sauce.
Eating Utensils – We prefer bowls over plates. You can use plastic cereal bowls from home or 8-inch metal pie plates, but keep in mind that each has its drawbacks. Plastic can melt can melt and metal can get too hot to handle, but with the pie plates, you can use them as an extra pan on the fire too. You’ll also need something to drink from – we each have an insulated mug from Caribou Coffee. They’re pricey at $20.00 each, but a good investment – they have screw-on lids with locking tops and carabiner clip handles – you can save pack space by clipping them onto the outside of your pack. We also like to have short plastic cups for cold liquids (the old-school collapsible camp cups are great and save space) and they double as measuring cups if you mark common measurements on the outside with a permanent marker. And you’ll need something to eat with – you can bring a fork, knife, and spoon from your silverware at home, but I really like the Swiss Army-style, where the fork, spoon and knife fold into itself. And don’t forget to bring a small GI can opener if you bringing food in cans!
Miscellaneous Helpers – You’ll also need a couple of small towels (you can use wash cloths or hand towels), biodegradable dish soap and a small sponge (I can a regular-sized sponge in half). A few extra quart and gallon Ziploc bags are good to bring along, for storing leftover food, wet items, or organizing.