You gotta eat, as they say, and that's especially true when you're outdoors burning calories hiking, biking, climbing and pitching tents. (I'm getting hungry just typing this.) Camping gear is not limited to sleeping bags and lanterns and having the right camping cookware and cooking gear will make your next gambol into the woods all that much more satisfying.
When you're planning a camping trip, it always helps to be prepared, especially when it comes to food and water. If you're doing it right, there won't be a Denny's for miles around but that doesn't mean you can't make a grand slam out of mealtime. To do that, you'd better stock up on ingredients for meals and camping cookware to prepare them in. Oh, and some camping-friendly dinnerware and utensils to eat it with.
While your campsite set-up may vary, I've outlined some basic necessities that every outdoor chef and hungry camper should have. These products will help hydrate, satiate and sustain you beyond roasting hot dogs on a stick. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)
Stanley is a go-to brand for outdoorsy gear and this set has most of what you'll need to do some serious campsite cooking (except for the fire itself). The Base Camp set comes with a 3.7-quart pot with a vented lid and three-ply 7.25-inch frying pan. There are also four sets of bowls, plates and sporks, a serving spoon and a drying rack. The whole thing stacks together inside the pot and can be secured with a bungee to be flung into a sack and taken on the next adventure.
Cookware is key, but you'll also need some sharp knives and a place to use them if you plan on making some real meals at the campsite. This top-rated GSI set has your three essential knives -- chef's Santoku knife, paring knife and a serrated knife for bread and softer vegetables. Plus, there's a cutting board to slice and dice and a washcloth to keep things tidy.
Whether you're spending a week in the wilderness or just going on a light day hike, you're going to need a reliable water bottle. I'm a big fan of this Hydro Flask, which features double-walled insulation. It'll keep cold beverages chilled for up to 24 hours and keep hot beverages warm for up to 6 hours. Plus it comes in lots of pretty colors, so you can look stylish on and off the trails, and in various sizes. (There's also a version with a straw lid.) Just make sure you clean your water bottle often.
A propane stove can be good if you're looking for something a little more sturdy than a campfire to cook over. Some options provide up to four burners, and fancy ones even include a grill top. You'll be able to cook up a storm or at least something a little more impressive than a can of beans.
For a noticeable upgrade, this is one of the best portable grills I've tested and it is definitely the most portable gas grill I've yet to encounter. The Nomadiq portable propane grill folds up into a case the size of a small bag, with easy-grab handles and it weighs just 12 pounds.
So how does it actually work? Pretty darn well I have to say. Setup was a snap: You simply unhinge the sides and the entire thing opens up like a clamshell. The grilling space is large too with 226 square inches of ceramic-coated nonstick grates. It's also got nearly 10,000 BTUs of power and a large 226-square-inch cooking area -- larger than most other small grills.
If you're more into charcoal cooking, the Lodge Kickoff Grill gets the job done and couldn't be easier to get fired up. It's made from cast iron, which does make it a bit heavy but you can build your charcoal fire right inside the preseasoned unit and the grates get screaming hot to sear burgers, chicken, dogs or whatever else. You can even twist the top to adjust airflow and control the heat.
If you're planning on cooking while camping, you're going to need a large, sturdy cooler to store all your food supply. Ideally, you'll want a well-insulated and leak-proof option. If it's cheap(er), even better. In CNET's picks for the best coolers for 2021, this one got high marks for being a top performer while also being on the way more affordable end of the spectrum. If you need a larger model, it also comes in 50-quart, 70-quart and 100-quart sizes. This cooler is obviously a bit too big and bulky to drag on long hikes. If you're planning to really rough it, I'd suggest this next cooler instead.
These beauties strap right on your back so you can take your cold drinks or perishable ingredients on the trail with you. I personally love the leakproof foldover top with a clip since it eliminates the need for a fragile zipper and pushes all the air out to keep things colder. It's a sturdy, comfortable and well-designed camping cooler backpack and a great pick for the outdoorsy types.
It's best to invest in a separate cooler for beverages since you'll be opening it more frequently than the main food cooler (and you want all your edibles to stay well chilled). This Yeti model holds up to 18 cans plus ice so you can drink to your heart's content in the great outdoors; if you're bored with canned wine and beer, try making camping cocktails. It's also the perfect size for bringing food and drinks on day trips (and is available on Amazon too).
If you don't want to invest in a portable propane grill, you don't have to. A grill grate can be your new best friend when it comes to cooking directly over a campfire. This handy cooking accessory creates a flat surface so you can grill, fry and heat foods more evenly over an open flame.
It's a good idea to have at least a small pot or pan for boiling water too, if only for your morning camp coffee. This stainless steel pot with a vented lid is good for cooking small batches of food too, and it comes with two nesting insulated cups to sweeten the deal.
You're going to need to put all that food somewhere, after all, and the picnic table will quickly be overtaken by backpacks, cups and playing cards. This foldable table is lightweight and great for all sorts of outdoor entertaining. Its multiple levels and surfaces allow you to corral all your cooking gear in one place and give you a clean space to prep food too. (But if all you need is a basic table that packs up small, this no-frills Coleman folding camp table will do the job.)
When packing for any trip, space is limited. This is especially true when you're responsible for carrying everything you bring along on your back. In an effort to save space, try using collapsible drinkware, watering jugs and even measuring cups and spoons. They're compact, less cumbersome and perfect for making sure you don't have to eyeball pivotal ingredients.
Don't forget about clean-up -- properly disposing of food outdoors helps keep the bears away, and washing camp cookware is part of that process. A collapsible sink is ideal for doing dishes in camp. Better yet, get two: one for soaking, one for rinsing. You can also find double-basin camp sinks.
You might not think it's worth the space in your bag but having a table goes a long way to create order when you're cooking in the great outdoors. Not to mention it'll keep food away from dirt and rascally animals while you're prepping and eating. This collapsible aluminum table weighs just eight pounds but opens up to provide 324 square inches of outdoor table glory.
This nifty portable grill is one-time use but lightweight and easy to transport and completely biodegradable. Perfect for mobile camping trips with lots of hiking and biking, you'll be ready to cook in 5 minutes with roughly 60 minutes of cooking time.
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