Mom Goes Camping

11 Expert Tips for Setting Up a Camping Kitchen

camping kitchen tips

Eating outdoors can be one of the most enjoyable parts of camping.  But, if your camp kitchen isn’t set up right, cooking meals can also be one of the most annoying aspects of camping.  Here are some tips to make sure you get your camp kitchen set up correctly.


1. Establish Dedicated Cooking Area

Ideally, you should keep your stove on a sturdy table.  It’s generally a bad idea to put your stove on the ground.  Not only will you have to uncomfortably hunch over to cook, but it’s a safety hazard.  Children, dogs or careless adults could walk into your stove.

See these best portable camping kitchens


2. Also Establish a Food Prep Area

If you have a large group of people or will be making complex meals, you will need a separate table for food prep. Ideally, you do NOT want to use the picnic table for food prep.  Why? Because it’s incredibly annoying to clear away all of the cutting boards, knives, etc. before you can sit down to eat.


3. Deciding Where to Put the Camp Kitchen

Set up your camp kitchen someplace that is:

  • Not in high-traffic areas, such as right in front of a tent or too close to your car
  • Close to where you will be sitting to eat
  • Has a natural wind block or shade (if you don’t have a kitchen tent)
  • Is on flat ground


4. Keep Insects Out of Your Food and Trash

  • Close opened food items immediately
  • Regularly throw out trash
  • Clean up dishes right after eating


5. Use Storage Bins for Everything

Cheap plastic storage bins will help you stay organized.  They also are really important for keeping things clean – like when it suddenly starts raining and splashes muddy water all over your utensils, pots, and pans…


6. Choose Simple Meals

I know it’s tempting to plan elaborate camping meals, but even “simple” meals like pancakes can be a hassle when camping.  The more complicated your meals are, the more kitchen stuff you will have to bring camping – thus making your camp kitchen cluttered and disorganized.

To make your life easier, choose meals which:

  • Only use one pot or pan
  • Can be prepared in advance at home
  • Don’t require refrigeration
  • Can be made without cooking (such as canned soups) or cold-soaking methods

Most important, PLAN ALL YOUR MEALS so you don’t end up with leftovers or bring unnecessary supplies.

Read: Easy but Delicious Camping Meal Ideas


7. Go Minimalist

A camp kitchen can quickly get disorganized.  Unless you want to spend all of your time organizing and cleaning up the kitchen area (you don’t!), then try to be as minimalistic as possible:

  • Only bring one cup and mug per person
  • Keep condiments to a minimum
  • Ask yourself whether you really need it before packing it


8. Check Campsite Rules about Animal Safety

Wild animals are a big issue at many campsites.  In bear country, you’ll probably be required to lock up all food and cooking items in a bear locker.  Even outside of bear country, you may have to clean up everything so smaller animals like raccoons don’t carry it off.

In these situations, you’ll really want to avoid elaborate camp kitchen setups.  Instead, make sure everything fits into a couple big plastic bins which you can quickly take out and put away.


9. Cast Iron Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

I know a lot of people absolutely love cast iron for camp cooking, but it’s not as easy as they’d have you think.  The first issue is that cast iron is ridiculously heavy and annoying to bring camping.  Cast iron cookware doesn’t pack well either. It is also annoying to carry a massive, heavy cast iron pot to the table.

It’s perfectly find to bring your normal pots and pans camping (so long as you keep the handles out of the stove flame).  Or choose a lightweight, more packable camping cook pot like one of these.


10. Do Dishes Immediately

I know it’s a pain to do dishes once the sun has gone down, but you don’t want to “leave them for tomorrow.”  By then, the food will have stuck to the plates and you may have critters crawling all over them.   Do yourself a favor and wash them immediately.



11. Test Your Stove Before Leaving

This applies to all camping gear: make sure you set it up and test it before leaving.  You don’t want to arrive at camp only to find out that your stove is leaking or has some other issue.


What other advice would you give about camping kitchens?  Let us know in the comments!

image credit: “Camp Kitchen” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by eeetthaannn
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About the author /

Diane Vukovic grew up camping and backpacking in upstate New York. Now, she takes her own daughters on wilderness adventures so they can connect with nature and learn resiliency. With dozens of trips under her belt, Diane is an expert in minimalist camping, going lightweight, planning, and keeping her kids entertained without screens.

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