Here’s what to pack for the ultimate camp kitchen

Car camping isn’t about braving the wilderness with just a knife, a wool blanket and your wits. It’s about temporarily living in nature with some of civilization’s comforts — which should absolutely include a top-notch camp kitchen. Here’s what you need to build your own.

The Gear Bin

Make sure your camp kitchen is easy to toss in the car and go. This eliminates the time-consuming tasks of packing and unpacking (except for post-trip cleaning), leaving you always ready to roll. A simple, large plastic bin such as the Rubbermaid Roughneck Storage Box ($24) will accomplish that goal. Made with tough polyethylene, the 25-gallon bin measures 28-by-19-by-16 inches (spacious enough for a basic camp kitchen) and has a snap-on lid.

Want something more organized? Pick up the Camp Chef Sherpa Camp Table and Organizer ($125). This collapsible unit features a 27-by-17-inch aluminum roll-top table, four zippered compartments and dividers, and telescoping aluminum legs. It packs down to 27-by-18-by-16 inches, too.

The Stove

Your next critical piece of kitchen gear is, of course, the stove. For top performance, the two-burner Camp Chef Everest ($125) tabletop stove justifies its price with convenience, power and durability. Its propane burners crank out 20,000 BTUs and provide excellent flame control. Weighing just 12 pounds, it folds up into a sturdy case with a solid latch.

The Coleman Classic Propane Stove ($70) is a solid less-expensive option. It assembles in a couple of minutes, fires up in an instant and delivers 20,000 BTUs of heat from its two burners, which will accommodate a couple of 10-inch pots or pans. Burner control is good, whether you’re boiling water or dialing it down to cook rice, and the removable grate makes cleanup easy.

The Cookware

The GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Base Camper comes in three different sets ($75-$95) of nonstick pots and fry pans with strainer lids — and arguably the best pot grippers on the market so you don’t drop dinner in the dirt. The large set has 3- and 5-liter pots — big enough for feeding a big, hungry family. 3 lbs. 4 oz. (large set),

The Cooler

If you want perishables to stay cold for a long weekend, get the Coleman 70-Quart Xtreme 5 Cooler ($84) —
a super value that Coleman says keeps ice frozen for up to five days in temperatures up to 90 degrees. 11 lbs. 6 oz.,

The Implements

No kitchen is complete without the tools of cooking, and the 12-piece GSI Outdoors Crossover Kitchen Kit ($35) has everything you need packed into a lightweight tote. The kit includes a folding spatula and cooking spoon, cutting board, spice shakers, scrubber and camp towel. 9.6 oz.,

For dinnerware, there’s hardly a better value out there than the Stansport Deluxe 24-Piece Enamel Tableware Set ($46), which includes four 10-inch plates, six-inch bowls and 12-oz. mugs, along with sets of spoons, knives and forks — all made of stainless steel double-glazed with an enamel finish.

For chilly evenings and mornings, you’ll want at least one insulated mug to keep contents hot, like the 16-oz. CamelBak Forge ($30), which keeps beverages hot for up to six hours.

Can you have nature and your French press? With the Planetary Design Table Top French Press ($42-$63, three sizes), the answer is an absolute yes, thanks to its double-walled vacuum-sealed construction offering top insulation and durability.

Want to be really popular at camp? Pull out a Rome Popcorn Popper ($31). It makes three quarts of popcorn and features all-steel construction, a hinged lid to keep popcorn inside, and a barbecue-grade baked enamel cooking surface. The long wooden handle doesn’t heat up when held over an open fire. When done, the popper doubles as a bowl.
1.8 lbs.,

Tips and Tricks

For storing utensils (forks, spoons, knives), keep a small zippered bag made of a tough fabric that won’t tear easily or a long, flat plastic container with a resealable lid. Keep other essentials like butane lighters and matches in a small stuff sack.

Similarly, devote one small stuff sack to storing must-have spices like black pepper, salt, crushed red pepper, curry — whatever makes your list.


  1. Our patrols have 8 or more scouts. Do you have recommendations for cook sets to accommodate that many?

    • A simple 2 burner liquid fuel stove, 2 skillets (cast iron would be good, it will last; cheap ones from the dollar store will get you started) large mixing bowl, a griddle to fit the stove or a separate flat top stove. 2 pots that will stack inside each other (axp 6-8 quarts), mixing spoons, cooking Utensils, cutting board.

      It doesn’t have to be expensive, wallmart or dollar store will work on several things. A 12 quart cast iron duch oven is a good add too.

  2. New Scouters, I don’t mean to be unkind to the author but the list above is incomplete, frivolous, and EXPENSIVE. The items in the Boy Scout Handbook (page 302 of the 13th Edition) are roughly what you need and a trip to the Walmart camping section will net you everything on the handbook list for a fraction of the cost of the items above. Also check Craiglist for lightly used stuff. Some sellers will negotiate down to FREE if they know it is going to a Scout Troop.

    • I was thinking the same thing… a Scout is THRIFTY! There is not one thing on that list that I would go out and purchase for a car camping trip; second hand from a thrift store or facebook marketplace maybe. The author jumped right in without giving any details about this car camping trip… is it a weekend with the Troop, Cub Scout Pack Overnighter or a family outing?

  3. Store this in one of the Grub Hub camp kitchen or similar unit and you’ll have just one thing to organize and it has tables for the stove and to cook on if you’re actually out camping somewhere.

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