Planning your first-ever camping trip and need some guidance for how to cook when you get there? Read on for my tips on campsite cooking equipment, other essentials to bring, and camping-friendly recipe ideas.
Soon after Rene and I started dating, he mentioned he had this annual camping tradition with his family and asked if I’d like to join. My initial reaction was… how do I put it mildly… less than enthusiastic? As a committed city girl, I’d considered myself “indoorsy”. I mean, sleeping on the ground… Outside? With bugs?! No, thank you.
But he was all like, “You’ll like it, you’ll see!” God, I hate it when he’s right…
Ten years of camping later and I literally count the days to next year’s trip (324) as soon as we pack up our tent. Our annual camping voyage is the most relaxed I feel all year – there’s just nothing like spending all your time outdoors, day and night, rain or shine. Sure, it’s the whole “reconnecting with nature” thing, but it’s also the lack of city stresses like noise, crowds, and don’t forget the piles of smelly garbage that are a permanent fixture of NYC sidewalks.
That first year, I was so impressed with how my camping mates were able to put on these incredible meals in the woods. And now with a decade’s experience under my belt, I’ve kinda become a campsite cooking pro myself and decided to put all I’ve learned into this guide. So if you’re brand new to cooking while camping, this is for you!
Disclaimer: This info is for long-ish term camping – not backpacking. Our campground doesn’t have fire pits, so all my campsite cooking happens on a propane stove. It’s also worth noting that buying all this equipment is both a financial investment and a spacial one, one that only makes sense if you plan on doing it for years to come.
Part 1: Campsite Cooking Equipment
Propane Camping Stove
The convenience of a gas stove in a tiny format. Apart from the stove itself, you’ll need a propane tank and a long lighter to get this thing going.
Clear Bin with a Lid
For protecting dry goods like pasta and granola from furry creatures and the elements.
We fill it up and keep it at our picnic table for everything from drinking water to washing vegetables to late night teeth-brushing when we don’t feel like walking to the bathroom.
Part 2: Cookware and Other Kitchen Essentials
- Large Skillet: For everything from sautéed veg to French toast. Bring a non-stick one – the woods are no place for heavy-duty scrubbing.
- Medium Pot: You’ll be making a lot of pasta, trust me.
- Colander: For all that pasta + canned beans.
- French Press: The best way to brew coffee in the woods.
- 1-2 Kitchen Towels: An earth-friendly solution for the jobs that don’t require paper towels. Plus, they double as pot-holders.
- Large Cutting Board
- Sharp Knife
- Wooden Spoon
- Rubber Spatula
- Can Opener
- Garbage Bags
Part 3: Tableware
Plates, Bowls, Mugs
You can go with the classic camping enamelware (my favorite) or plastic, the lightweight option.
Part 4: Ingredients and Dry Goods
You can shop for dry goods at home and bring them with you, or look for a supermarket near the campground and shop when you arrive. As for produce, I recommend seeking out a farmers market or farmstand near your destination for the tastiest stuff. Here are some things you should have…
- Salt + pepper
- Spices: A true pro-camper move – I only added these to my packing list last year. Bring 2-3 of your most versatile staples (for me it’s garlic powder and smoked paprika).
- Canned Beans
- Yondu (The easiest way to enhance the flavor of literally anything)
- Granola (I make my own if I have time)
- Pancake Mix
Part 5: Camping-Friendly Recipe Ideas
If you know me, you can probably assume I don’t keep hot dogs in my cooler. My campsite cooking is pretty much the same as what I do at home – just as simplified as possible. Here are some meals we have in our rotation: