This part of the Overlanding Basics series deals with building a camp kitchen that suites your needs. An essential part of cooking a good meal is having a good kitchen set up to work with. You could very easily get by with just some sticks and a package of hot dogs but where’s the fun in that? Most of the time, kitchen gear is probably just thrown into whatever bin is available on broken out on the most stable platform once you hit camp.
Before putting a kitchen kit together determine what type of storage you are going to use. Purpose built items like a chuck box offers a good amount of storage but generally have a high footprint in terms of vehicle Tetris. Using a plastic storage tote might offer more space for gear but doesn’t offer the organization a chuck box does.
Another option to consider is a slide out kitchen. There are several companies that purpose build kitchen slide outs with plenty of storage and organization. If buying doesn’t suit your needs, you can also build one yourself. There are plenty of resources available online to reference from.
The quantity of cookware and utensils carried can be determined by the number of people traveling with you and what you are deciding to cook. Dehydrated food only requires a pot, some water, and a spork.
If you want to get into more intricate “home-cooked” meals, then you’re going to need more. This doesn’t mean packing along the same sized kitchen utensils you have at home. There are plenty of companies who make purpose-built camp sized pots, pans, and cooking utensils.
There are also several different types of material to consider when talking about cookware. Titanium, aluminum, stainless steel, and cast iron are the most commonly used metals. Each has its pros and cons, and you should consider these when determining what to buy. Plastic is generally good for utensils, cups, bowls, and plates.
A campfire is a great way to cook food. However, it can take longer than using a portable camp stove. Most overland kitchens are built around usage of a camp stove. They are easy to use and mimic cooking at home, something most people should be comfortable with.
If you’re going to cook over a fire, there is some technique involved. Monitoring the food you are cooking becomes more intense. It’s not always as simple as building a fire and putting food on it. Most of the time, you want to use the coals from a fire to cook with. Practice makes perfect in this case.
You should consider carrying some additional items outside of the normal kitchen things. Tupperware comes in very handy for leftovers. You may learn this lesson after the first time you throw away a bunch of food because you don’t have anything to store it in. Additionally, if your utensil kit doesn’t include it, you should have a cutting surface and cutting knives as well. Trying to cut or chop food with a folding knife doesn’t work out very well, although it can be done.
Lastly, don’t forget to pack items for cleaning up. Washing and drying towels, dish soap, and paper towels can go a long way in preventing you from getting ill. Consider having a foldable camp sink or a small bucket to wash dishes in.
The list below highlights some items to get you started in putting together a baseline kitchen. Not all of this has to be packed, and in the end, you will find you’re adding or subtracting things as you need them.
- Stove & fuel
- Cook/mess kit
- Serving spoon(s)
- Cutting/chopping knife set
- Cutting board
- Ziploc bags
- Paper towels
- Aluminum foil
- Can opener
- Vegetable peeler
- Washing rag
- Drying towel(s)
- Dish soap
- Garbage bags
With just the items listed above, you should be able to cook a good meal at camp.