Camping is a fun way to get into nature, breathe outdoor air, and spend time with family and friends. Whether you're an RV camper or prefer to head out with only a backpack full of supplies, meals will be part of your planning process. Of course, cooking while backpacking will require a little more forethought and perhaps some special supplies, but every camper will need the basics for meal preparation. The following kitchen checklist should help with ensuring you have everything you need to create meals in the great outdoors.
This includes cereal bowls for breakfast and other meals like soup or chili, and larger bowls for mixing and serving. (You can also use pots for mixing and serve directly out of cooking pans to eliminate the need for larger bowls.)
If you bring a canteen or refillable water bottle for regular hydration, you will only need to bring coffee cups for hot beverages like your morning brew or hot chocolate around the campfire. There are specially made mugs and coffee cups for camping which can be made of enamel, or double-walled stainless steel. These are ideal alternatives to heavy, breakable glass coffee cups. They can also double as bowls for meals if you’re trying to back as light as possible.
You can use paper, plastic, or even ceramic plates depending on your camping style.
In addition to the basics, remember serving spoons, spatulas for cooking, and steak knives, if needed. If you’ll be trekking deeper into the wilderness, and intending on a more primitive style of camping, there are small, usually aluminum (think lightweight), silverware sets that are worth the investment. Camping silverware are usually low cost and designed to be as convenient and easy to travel with as possible.
Can Opener and Opening a Can Without a Can Opener
If you pack canned food this is a must! Forgot a can opener? A knife or even a spoon can also work, but it will take significantly longer and require patience and concentration to achieve opening a can without a can opener.
Make small slits around the outer edge of the top of any can, and be sure to leave a few millimeters of space between the slits, and then pop the lid open. Using this method versus sawing a can open ensures no metal shavings will contaminate the food inside the can.
Bottle / Wine Opener
Is there anything worse than having a bottle of wine and no way to open it?
One might be enough, but if you have a large family or camping group, you might need an assortment.
Consider the meals you have planned. Do you have a way to boil the corn? Is your pot large enough if you catch crab at the beach?
You’ll need a way to pull the hot can of pork and beans out of the fire.
Plastic Wrap, Foil, and Storage Bags
It’s amazing what you will come up with if you don’t have these on hand, but it sure makes clean-up and food storage easier when you do.
If you’re a coffee drinker, grab your french press, plug the drip maker into the RV, use a percolator over the fire, or boil water and pour it through a coffee filter-lined funnel. Remember the coffee grounds, too!
I’m not saying it's not acceptable to use a pocket knife to cut onions, but it’s perhaps not the most sanitary technique. Whichever you end up using, remember to sanitize your knife, especially when cutting raw meets. Never cut vegetables and produce inbetween or after cutting raw meats.
If you have an RV, you’re set (make sure you have propane and enough power to ignite the stove). However, for tent campers, you’ll want a cookstove or tabletop grill to bring with you. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with cooking directly over the fire either!
Fuel and Matches or Lighter
Remember the propane tanks, firewood, charcoal and lighter, or other fuel you may need.
Remember to recycle when you can! Camping grounds often have posts with nails to hang trash. If not, try to find a nearby tree with a low lying branch that you can use to hook your trash bag to keep it off the ground. This helps prevent animals from getting into your trash.
Check in with the camping ground you’ll be visiting to get specific advice for that area. Some camping grounds have specific rules about how to manage trash to keep campers and camping grounds safe from wild animals.
A plate will do in a pinch, but a cutting board is very useful to have around.
Sink and Dish Soap
We aren’t encouraging you to bring everything including the kitchen sink. Oh wait, I guess we are. For a few bucks at the sporting goods store, you can find a small inflatable sink for washing up after dinner. However, a large pot works just as well if you’re already bringing one, or a small plastic tub.
Boiling water and allowing dishes to soak in the hot water can sanitize your dishes. Whether or not you have hot water available for sanitizing cookware, special dish sanitizing chemicals can be used after cleaning plates. Sanitizing chemicals for dishes and cookware come in liquid, powder, and solid form. Follow the instructions on the label of the product you choose.
Of course, you’ll need water for drinking and making coffee, but you’ll also need it to clean up yourself, dirty dishes, etc. You will use more than you think, even when backpacking, so be sure you have a storage container and perhaps a water filter or water purifying tablets in case fresh water is not available.
Unless your venture is landing you in primitive campsites, you can rely on camping grounds to supply fresh, clean water spigots. If your campsite will provide clean water access, bringing a light-weight hose or buckets with handles makes accessing water convenient.
If you don’t think you’re up for the old stick and whittle technique, throw in roasting sticks for hot dogs and marshmallows (they come in handy for toast, too!).
In general, they are great for skewering foods to cook over a fire, and if you’re thrifty, you can plan most or all of your meals around using them and save space on packing.
Your recipes will turn out better if your ingredients are measured, so toss in a few basic measuring cups and spoons. Measuring cups can double as ladles for serving, and for portioning food. This is a double-win for saving space when camping.