When you’re packing for your camping trip, don’t forget the cookware! Preparing meals in the great outdoors can be a fun and rewarding experience, but you’ll need the right tools. We’ve compiled a list of the essential camping cookware for you, so get packing!
The Big Stuff
These are the large items you’ll probably have to carry on their own.
Of course, you need some way to store and carry all your camping cooking equipment. Whether you use a plain cardboard box, a big plastic bin, or a specialty item like the ActionPacker, this should be the first thing you pack.
Unless you know for a fact that your campsite has picnic tables, you should plan to bring a folding table with you. It’s hard to prep a meal without a flat surface.
There are many varieties of coolers on the market, but for camping, you’ll need something that’s high quality and easy to move.
Unless you plan to cook over an open fire, you’ll need a camp stove. They’re relatively inexpensive, and most of them use propane for fuel and don’t require electricity.
Collapsible Sink/Dishwashing Tub
After chowing down, you need a way to wash your cookware and dishes. A collapsible sink will take up less space and be easy to transport, but any large tub will work.
Before you cook, you need to prepare. Here are all the items you might need, depending on what you plan on making.
Tin cans are a staple of camp food. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting the can opener.
A good wooden spoon is essential both in the kitchen and at the campsite. It’s great for prepping, but can also be used instead of a spatula during the cooking process.
If you’re really tight on space, look for collapsible measuring cups. Otherwise, any old measuring set will do.
You don’t need to buy a particular set of knives for camping, but you will need a way to transport them safely. A knife bag is an excellent option for easy travel.
Whether you prefer wood or plastic, a sturdy cutting board is a must for food preparation.
People often forget strainers on their camping cooking gear checklists. But if you plan to make pasta or rice, it’s an essential tool. You can also use it to remove food debris from your dishwashing water.
Many camping recipes involve wrapping your food in aluminum foil, and you can also use it to line your pan and wrap up leftovers.
If you’re packing any fresh root vegetables like potatoes or carrots, don’t forget the vegetable peeler!
You’ll need at least one big bowl if you’re mixing any ingredients.
Now that your food is prepped, it’s time to cook! Not all of the items in this section are strictly necessary, so it’s up to you to decide what you’ll need for the dishes you’re planning to cook.
Whether you’re forgoing the camp stove, or you have a few items that would taste better on a grill, an over-the-fire grate is a necessity if you’re cooking over the fire.
Matches are an essential item for any camping trip. You’ll need them or a grill lighter to ignite your camp stove or start a campfire.
Whatever heat source you’re using, you need a way to fuel it. Make sure you have more than enough propane for your camp stove and keep a good stock of firewood with you for the campfire.
Unless you enjoy burning off your fingertips when you cook, you’ll need potholders or heat resistant gloves. We prefer gloves because you can also use them while building your campfire.
Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Anything that’s going directly on your camp stove or fire should be cast iron. It doesn’t melt over high heat, and it distributes heat evenly for perfectly cooked food. A Dutch oven is essential for boiling water or making soup or stew.
Cast Iron Skillet
An 8 or 10-inch skillet should be big enough to cook any meal while being small enough to fit on a camp stove.
Cast Iron Griddle
If you’re doing all of your frying directly over your campfire, we recommend getting a cast iron griddle. You’ll have more surface area for your food, and you don’t need to worry about propping it up or using a grate.
Nonstick Fry Pan
A nice cast iron skillet should be nonstick, but if you’re cooking eggs or anything else on the delicate side, you should invest in a nonstick pan that’s rated for high heat.
If you’re grilling, tongs are a must. Using a spatula on a grill is an exercise in futility.
Of course, you still need to bring a spatula along for when you cook on a pan or stove.
You can’t have a campfire without roasting marshmallows!
Now that you’ve cooked your food, you need a way to eat it. Instead of using disposable items that are bad for the environment, you should invest in reusable flatware and utensils.
Collapsible Water Jug
In the spirit of eschewing disposable cookware, you can find a variety of reusable water jugs at camping stores or online. A collapsible version is ideal because it won’t take up as much space once it’s empty.
Enamel Plates and Bowls
Plates and bowls made from enamel are more durable than ceramic and sturdier than paper or plastic.
You don’t need to bring your fancy silver, but you should have several sets of forks, spoons, and knives. Stainless steel is easy to clean and won’t rust.
You can use a travel mug for your morning coffee, or you can get a regular mug made of insulated metal and plastic.
If you’re camping in the summer, you need a way to keep your beverages chilled. Insulated tumblers don’t break as easily as ordinary glasses, and they’ll keep your drinks frosty even in the heat.
If you’re planning on camping frequently, you should invest in a Nalgene water bottle, because they’re lighter and stronger than other materials.
We know clean-up is the worst part of cooking, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore it. Make it a little easier on yourself by bringing these cleaning essentials.
Campsites typically don’t have dishwashers, and the water temperature needed to wash dishes safely will scald your bare skin, so you’ll need to bring some heavy-duty dishwashing gloves with you.
You need soap for dishwashing and handwashing, so find something that’s safe for both.
If you don’t trust your water source 100 percent, you can use sanitizing tablets to make sure that it safe. While their primary use is for drinking water, you should also use them for your dishwashing and tooth-brushing water.
You need a sponge to wash dishes. Duh!
Chamois is super absorbent, making it handy for drying dishes and soaking up spills. You should bring a few of them with you since you won’t have a clothes washer handy!
You’ll need trash bags for your garbage, obviously, but they’re also useful for keeping clothes and shoes dry in the rain.
Ziploc bags are never not handy in the kitchen, whether it’s indoors or outdoors. Store your food, marinade your meat, make instant pudding—the possibilities are endless.
Don’t waste your leftovers just because you’re camping. Pack some nesting or collapsible Tupperware for easy food storage.
Although we tried to focus on reusable items, sometimes there just isn’t a suitable alternative to paper towels. However, you can buy recycled or biodegradable paper towels to minimize your impact on the environment. Make sure you dispose of them properly.
If you forgo the chamois and paper towels, a good ol’ dish towel will do the trick.
By now you should have all the essentials, but what about the little extras that make camping more comfortable?
Plastic Egg Holder
Typically, we advise you to stay away from single-use kitchen gadgets; however, if you plan to bring eggs on your camping trip, a plastic egg holder is a great way to keep them from breaking!
There’s nothing worse than bringing your favorite adult beverages on your camping trip, then realizing you don’t have any way to open them. If you plan on drinking (responsibly!), you better pack a bottle opener.
Shatterproof Wine Glasses
You could drink your wine out of a tumbler or coffee mug, but if you want to feel fancy, look online for shatterproof wine glasses.
If you want to bring beer with you while you hike, try an insulated growler. It will keep your beer from going flat, and it’s easier to carry than a six-pack.
If you’re a caffeine addict, a coffeemaker isn’t just an extra luxury; it’s a necessity. A French press is convenient for camping because it doesn’t require electricity, but you could also get a stove-top percolator if you prefer the taste.
If your coffee cravings can’t be sated by pre-ground coffee, you could consider bringing a hand grinder to grind your own beans manually.
If you’re more of a tea drinker, or you want to boil water for your French press easily, a stove-top kettle is a good investment. If you’re short on space, you can even find collapsible models.
A moderate to severe wind can make it nearly impossible to cook outside. Luckily, there are foldable windscreens available for this exact purpose. You can get a small one that’s designed just to protect your camp stove or campfire, or you can get a larger version to protect your whole campsite.
You have no idea what’s happened on that campsite picnic table. Put your mind at ease and bring a tablecloth.
Some people wouldn’t consider camp chairs to be an “extra,” but it depends on how committed you are to roughing it in the wilderness. If dry logs aren’t enough for you, pack a few camp chairs, at least for when you’re eating.