When planning a camping trip, it is essential to make sure you have the right camping kitchen gear to prepare and cook the meals you want – either simple or elaborate. The simplest planning tool is a checklist! A camp kitchen checklist is your reference list for packing for each trip. It ensures you don’t forget any essentials, and it reduces your stress. Use our list as a starting point and customize it for your needs and make delicious meals on your next trip.
Camp Kitchen Checklists: Deluxe and Basic
Unlike most camping checklists, ours are created as google sheets which you can copy and easily edit to make it your own. We have two versions as a starting point: Deluxe and Basic. The Deluxe version is a comprehensive checklist of kitchen camping gear to inspire you – delete anything you don’t need. The Basic list is a starting point with just the essentials to keep you from being overwhelmed.
Print the checklist or just open it on your cell phone as you pack. I do both – I print a list for each camping storage bin and have a reference list on my phone to ensure I don’t miss anything which isn’t stored in bins.
If you prefer to make your own list from scratch or have no idea where to start, read this guide to learn about the gear you need or may want to take.
Car Camping vs Backpacking
This list is designed for primarily for car camping, but the essentials remain the same for any trip. For backpacking trips (and other types of camping with less storage space), size and weight are the main factors for your gear while car camping gear is more focused on convenience and fun.
Food and Drinks
I find it helpful to have a basic list of foods and drinks on my camp kitchen checklist. It’s a good idea so I don’t forget something simple like putting water bottles in the car. Food is also essential, while many things such as a camp stove are really optional. I keep this short and simple. Make a more detailed food list or meal plan for each trip, or expand this section if you want to keep everything together.
- Meal ingredients – these are any foods you need to make your camping trip meals from hot dogs to oatmeal.
- Snacks – foods to eat between meals or take on hikes and other activities away from your campsite
- Water – plan enough water for your trip and how you want to store it. This may be large water jugs or individual water bottles (reusable or disposable).
- Drinks – Soda, coffee, tea, or flavors to add to water
- Salt, Pepper, and other spices – Include any spices you normally use to season foods after they are cooked
- Condiments – These are easily forgotten if you don’t keep them on a list. Modify the list for the specific ones you prefer.
- Alcohol – don’t forget your favorite adult beverages
- Pet food – bringing your dog?
If you want to cook or make hot drinks on your camping trip, you need some kind of camp stove or gear for cooking over a campfire. In addition, you need pots and pans to cook as you would at home. Here are the essentials and other gear you may want for your outdoor kitchen.
- Camp stove – Gas canister stoves using propane are the most versatile and convenient camping stoves for car camping. They are also allowed during fire bans when campfire cooking isn’t allowed.
- Fuel – whatever type of stove you choose, be sure to bring enough fuel for your trip. You may not be able to find the right fuel canister near your campsite.
- Matches or lighter – Some camp stoves don’t include a starter to light the flames. You will also need a way to light campfires or charcoal grills.
- Camp grill – If you prefer grilling, consider a portable grill or stove and grill combo.
- Firewood or charcoal – check to see if firewood will be available at your campsite. If not, source it locally to prevent bringing non-native insects and critters into the area.
Pots and Pans
- Pots and lids – Bring pots for boiling water, cooking pasta, soups, and stews, or one-pot meals. Many lightweight and nesting sets of pots are available. Size the pots for the number of people you will cook for
- Pans – bring a pan if you want to fry or saute any food. A cast iron skillet is a good choice for frying over a campfire or grill.
- Dutch oven – This classic cooking pot allows you to bake with a campfire or charcoal in addition to making soups or chili.
- Griddle – a griddle is great for making pancakes, quesadillas, or anything you want to cook flat. Some propane camp stoves and grills offer a griddle plate option.
- Aluminum foil – Great for foil packet meals or lining grills to keep them clean.
- Roasting sticks or forks – Use these for a classic camping experience of roasting marshmallows or hot dogs over a fire.
- Coffee pot – If your campsite has electricity, a standard coffee pot is a good option. For coffee without electricity, try a travel coffee press.
Food Preparation Tools
Consider the foods you normally eat or want to make while camping. What utensils and tools do you need to prepare, mix, or cook them? Food prep gear makes camp cooking much easier.
- Knife – A good knife is a versatile tool for your camp kitchen. Use it to slice and chop foods, open packages, and more.
- Can opener – Buy a simple one and keep it in your camping gear always! Trying to open a can without one is challenging.
- Large spoon – For mixing, stirring as you cook, and serving.
- Spatula – For pancakes or the grill. If you want a plastic spatula, look for silicone rater than nylon to reduce the risk of it melting.
- Cutting board – I use the thin plastic mats you can find at Walmart or grocery stores. They are inexpensive and easy to cut down to fit in whatever storage container you use. You can even make small ones for backpacking!
- Bottle opener
- Whisk – A whisk makes it easy to mix up pancake mix or gravy. Small ones are available which take up very little space so I have one in my car camping gear.
Camp Kitchen Storage
In this category, I group food storage and other storage for all your kitchen items and cooking gear.
- Cooler – A cooler allows you to bring more perishable foods and keep drinks cold.
- Ice or cold packs – buying ice at campgrounds is hit or miss, but you can usually bring enough for weekend camping trips.
- Plastic bags or containers – Use to separate food in the cooler and keep it dry. These are also useful for ingredients prepared in advance. Bring extra for leftovers.
- Animal-proof bins – If you want to leave your food outdoors unattended, remember that raccoons, squirrels, and rodents can open simple lids or chew through thin plastic containers. Bear-safe containers are another level of protection and are only needed in specific locations.
- Plastic tubs or bins – Use larger containers to store all your kitchen gear. This makes packing and setting up camp simple and fast, plus you have convenient storage at home.
- Camp kitchen organizer – these handy organizers make all your utensils and cookware accessible. They often hang off a car or picnic table to save table space.
Before you are ready to eat, think about where you will be eating. Do you have a picnic table or plan to sit on the ground? Perhaps you want to eat in your camping chairs while sitting around the campfire or on the beach. Here are some things you might need.
- Plates or bowls – Use paper plates or rugged camping versions which won’t break. Plastic or enameled metal dishes are popular choices.
- Eating utensils
- Napkins or paper towels
- Cups or mugs
- Lighting – eating after dark? Bring a battery-powered lantern for your table or eating area
- Blanket or ground cover – if you are eating on the ground, bring something to separate you from the damp ground and the ants
- Portable table – these are handy to set your food on when you don’t have a picnic table.
- Table cloth and clips – Picnic tables are rarely clean, so you may want a plastic cover
Kitchen Clean Up
If you cook, you need to clean up. Bring the right gear every time to make it quick and painless.
- Biodegradable dish soap – soap is the most essential tool to cleaning your dishes thoroughly
- Scrubber or sponge
- Scraper – consider a scraper to remove stuck on food and keep your sponge cleaner
- Wash bin or collapsible sink – collapsible bins for washing and rinsing are convenient and keep your dishes off the ground or dirty table. They pack up smaller to save storage space
- Dish towels – I like fast drying or microfiber towels to wipe down dishes so that you can pack them away quickly
- Mesh bag or drying rack – I use a large mesh bag to hang dishes to dry overnight or other times when they don’t need immediate packing.
- Trash bags – don’t forget trash bags to keep your campsite tidy
Specialty Kitchen Gear
These items are unique for your specific needs and may not be useful on every trip. This includes equipment for large groups or events, seasonal or holiday gear, something you only need to make a specific meal or cook in a specific location. I’ll list a few examples just to get you started, but this list is best developed individually as needed.
- Saw or axe – needing to chop wood for camp cooking is rare, but it may be useful on private property or remote campgrounds with limited restrictions.
- Water filter – If your campsite does not have potable water, a filter may allow you to use local water sources instead of bringing large amounts of water with you. Filters are more commonly used for backpacking trips.
- Bear canisters – these are heavy and only needed in specific locations
- Crock pot – I bring this for group potluck meals if electricity is available. They are convenient for cooking and then keeping food warm for serving.
- Electric cooler – These are great if you have power or a battery system in an area where ice may not be available.