a girl eating food during a camping trip

Complete Camp Kitchen Essentials & Organization Guide

Table of Contents

When I first started camping with my family I felt so unorganized, especially in our camp kitchen. We didn’t have all of the camp kitchen essentials that we needed but we had the basics covered. As time went one, we continued to expand our camp kitchen gear that would better suit our family of five. However, it seemed at times that it was almost impossible to keep things organized. This is when I came up with a system that worked for our camping kitchen perfectly.

In this camp kitchen guide I am going to go over all of our equipment, essentials, favorite gear, and also share my camp kitchen setup and some organization tips to help you stay on top of things every camping trip.

a camp kitchen essentials list with set up and organization tips

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Essentials for Your Camp Kitchen and How to Stay Organized

When you are camp cooking it is important to be organized. It makes things easier to find when in the middle of cooking your favorite camping meals. Nothing is easier then cooking in a kitchen where you can find all of your utensils quickly when needed. I also want to go over all of the items we use in our camp kitchen to make it easier for you to get started.

Camp Kitchen and Cook Stations

Let’s get into the big part of our camp kitchen. Our cooking items! I will be going over the camp stoves we use, the essentials for our camping stoves, and what we use each one for.

Camp Cooking Portable Stoves

We have several camp stoves that we use depending on the type of camping trip that we are doing. If it’s my husband and I then I bring a single burner camp stove or a backpacking stove. However, if we go camping with the kids then I bring a double burner or bot a single and double camp stove. It also depends on what our meal plan for our trip looks like. These are the stoves that we use and love.

  • Coleman Single Burner Portable Butane Stove: This single burner propane stove is perfect for cooking a meal for 2 or even solo camping adventures.
  • Coleman Two Burner Camping Stove: We use the two burner stove for our family adventures as it provides an extra burner to cook food on.
  • MSR WindBurner Stove System: The WindBurner system is perfect for camping and family backpacking trips. We use this a lot as an extra cooking stove when we need an extra burner or even just for boiling water when we don’t want to pull out the bigger stove. It is very compact and easy to use.
  • MSR PocketRocket Deluxe Stove System: This camping stove is perfect for backpacking, solo adventures, or even just 2 people. It is small so it all just depends on what you are cooking during your trip. It can also be used to boil water for coffee or hot cocoa when you don’t want to pull out a bigger stove.
cooking in the camping kitchen

Camp Stove Fuel and Starters

Most places won’t ship out camp stove fuel so I won’t link any below, but I would recommend sticking with the fuel that’s specific for your camp stove. Each camp stove is slightly different. I also buy propane tanks for our camping stove at stores like Wal-Mart, Dicks, Academy Sports, and REI.

Items that you will need to are:

  • Lighter: This one is water and windproof.
  • Fuel for your stove
  • Extra fuel
  • Extra lighters

Other Camp Cooking Items

camp stove and pots

Camp Cooking Essentials – Big Gear Items and Equipment

Above I went over camping stoves but I wanted to talk about our favorite set of camping pots and pans and camping stove for our family. We use a lot the MSR WindBurner Stove System. It comes with a large pot, medium sized sauce pan, skillet, and a 1.8 liter pot. I love how the pots and pans fit perfectly on their stove without sliding around or playing the balancing game. This is perfect for when there are kids around too.

camp kitchen pots and meal prep essentials

Camping Cooking and Meal Prep Items

Having the right items for meal prepping and cooking can make camp life much easier. Here is a list of our must have essentials.

Camp Cooking Utensils

Below I will go over all of our cooking utensils needed to cook your food. These are items that we use all the time. We sometimes even have a back up or two of the ones we use most frequently just in case one gets misplaced or breaks.

  • Cooking spoon with holes
  • Cooking spoon without holes
  • Spatula
  • Tongs

Camp Meal Prep Items

These items are essential for prepping your meals before cooking.

Many of these items can be found in this kit that we have called the MSR Alpine Deluxe Kitchen Set.

camp kitchen storage and organization

Camp Meal and Food Storage Essentials

It is important to keep your food stored safely inside your cooler. Here are some items that we use to make sure our food stays store properly and delicate items don’t break.

  • Egg container: Tip: Put pieces of paper towel or cotton ball inside of each egg space to avoid the egg from hitting to hard when moving the cooler around.
  • Leakproof Plastic Food Containers: Having a leakproof container makes it harder for liquids to leak into your cooler and for melted ice to leak into your food.
  • Reusable Freezer Bags: These are perfect to store meat in. Just make sure they stay standing with the zip part towards the top to prevent leaks.
  • Reusable Bags: These are smaller in size and perfect for storing fruits, vegetables, snacks, sandwiches, etc.
  • RTIC Hard Cover Cooler: An insulated cooler such as this one, is perfect for keeping all of your cold food items nice and cold.
  • Reusable Ice Packs: I like to use flat ice packs such as these to place along the sides and the bottom of my cooler. I then use bag like ice packs like these to place between food items. If you are camping for longer than a few days then you will need to buy ice eventually. A tip is to place the ice in zip bags so you don’t get water everywhere in your cooler. Place items such as cheese, deli meat, etc… in bags as well to avoid them from getting wet.

Campfire Cooking Accessories and Essentials

These camp kitchen items are perfect for cooking over the campfire.

Check out this cool Hershey’s Smore’s Caddy. It’s so cute.

camp kitchen pour over coffee maker

Camp Coffee Makers and Essentials

There’s nothing more relaxing then starting the day off with a delicious cup of coffee by the campfire listening to the birds sing in the trees around you. It’s so serene and peaceful. However, when we first started figuring out a good camp coffee making routine, we failed, numerous times. We eventually figured out what worked best first us. Here is what we keep with us to make a delicious cup of camp coffee.

Camp Kitchen Cleanup Essentials

Just like any other kitchen, cleanup is still a must! You have to make sure all of your dishes, pots, pans, utensils, etc. are nice clean. Here are a few must have items to make sure that you can properly clean your dishes the right way in a campground setting.

  • Collapsible Camping Washing Set: This set brings everything that you need. One container to wash your dishes in, a second container for rinsing, and a third for drying your dishes. It even brings a cup for pouring water and a bag to store the items in when you collapse them.
  • Dishwashing sponge
  • Biodegradable soap: I recommend using one of these – Mrs. Meyers, Direct2Boater, or CampSuds.
  • Small Mesh Strainer: This is used to strain your dirty dish water to avoid leaving food on the ground near your campsite.
  • Mesh bag: You can also use a mesh bag to throw your dishes in and just hang it to dry.
  • Trash bags: I usually bring a big roll of bags. Its best to have extras than to run out.

Note: If you have infants don’t forget to bring a bottle sponge cleaner.

Camp Kitchen Organization Items and Tips

Now it’s time to keep your camp kitchen organized. For this to happen it is best to have some items to help keep things in their place. Here is what we use and how we use each of these items:

  • 2 Plastic totes: I use 1 tote to keep our essentials in and the other tote serves as a portable pantry bin. We put items such as snacks, chips, bread, and other non-perishables in this tote. We organize it to where it is separated into sections such as snacks, breakfast, dinner and lunch, cans, etc. I would recommend using clear plastic bins so you can see what’s inside easily. Also make sure that the lid folds over the edge. This helps make sure that items inside don’t get wet incase it rains. Another tip is having a lid that locks with the snaps on each side. This helps prevent animals from getting in. Please make sure to always put your bins away when not in the campground or when going to bed at night to prevent unwanted visitors such as squirrels and bears from visiting your campsite.
  • Clear Reusable Bags: If you want to keep things inside the totes more organized, you can use clear reusable bags for items such as utensils, seasonings, etc.
  • Clear smaller bins: For slightly larger items you can use clear smaller bins that fit inside the tote but that the items don’t fit inside a reusable bag. It makes it easier to just grab exactly what you need without digging through the tote and making a mess.
a girl eating food during a camping trip

Additional Camp Kitchen Gear to Consider Packing

There’s more to consider packing for your camp kitchen. Here are the other items we use for our camp kitchen setup.

  • Canopy: It provides shade when we are camping in a campsite that has no trees.
  • Camping chairs
  • Table Cloth with clips
  • Thermacell Mosquito Repellent: We love using this diffuser. Don’t forget to grab extra refills for it.
  • Headlamp: Good for using when cooking when it’s dark. It allows you to use your hands and still have light. We use the UCO LED Rechargeable Headlamp.
  • Flashlight: It’s good to always have one handy. I try to keep one in each tote.
  • Folding table: Depending what style of camping we are doing and how big our group is (sometimes we do family camping trips with more than one family), we will bring a folding table for extra room. We will use this table to setup our camp kitchen instead of using a corner or part of the picnic table at the campsite.
  • Extension cord: We usually bring 2 or 3 just to have backups.
  • Paracord: This works great to tie things together. We prefer to use paracord over rope for its durability and how knots stay in place easier.
  • LuminAID PackLite Lantern: You can easily place a lantern in the middle of your table or hanging from your canopy for extra lighting at night.
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Antibacterial cleaning wipes
  • Batteries
  • Fuel
  • Trash bags

‘Nice to Have’ Camp Cooking Items

Sometimes its okay to go a little extra if you want. Here are a few splurge items that are nice to have in your camp kitchen.

  • Bluetooth speaker: Perfect for listening to your favorite podcast or playlist.
  • String lights: It provides a fun environment to your kitchen area. Our kids love it.
  • A reusable insulated water bottle such as these Hydroflasks with the add on straw lid which are our all time favorite.
  • A 5 gallon Water Jug Cooler: This is perfect for camping in the summer. Just keep the water jug full of water and ice and you will have nice cool water all day. Everyone just comes by and refills their water bottles throughout the day.
  • A table and seat cover: I’ve usually use a table cloth and nothing else but there’s been times that I’ve wished we had seat covers too cause of how gross they were.
  • Collapsible Camping Trash Can: This is such a cool idea. Beats hanging your trash bag and fighting to get it open while you’re cooking.
  • GSI Outdoors Knife Set: This set of knives is perfect for camping. It brings it’s own carrying case too to keep your knives separated and in a safe place. I like to have a small variety of knives when I cook for different things. Beats having to continue to wash my knife when I cut a meats and then vegetables.
burgers on a camp stove

Main Camp Kitchen Essentials for Beginners

If you are starting off then I would recommend starting off with the items listed below. Please note that in this camo kitchen guide I will go over everything we have for our camping kitchen to serve a family of five. This didn’t happen overnight. We built our camp kitchen over several years. However, just to start off, I would recommend having these items:

  • Camp stove
  • Cooking utensils: spatula, cooking spoon, tongs
  • Camping pots: at least 2
  • Camping pan or skillet
  • Plates and bowls
  • Silverware
  • Aluminum foil
  • Fire starter
  • Oven mittens
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Propane fuel for your camp stove
  • Cup and a mug
  • Small camping stove (backpacking)
  • Napkins or paper towels
  • Things for washing dishes in (I’ll go more into detail on how to clean your camp kitchen later on).
  • Dish soap
  • Sponge
  • Dish strainer
  • Trash bags
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Rope or Paracord for hanging your trash away from animals during the day and dish bag to dry.
  • Food storage containers and bags
  • A cooler
  • Icepacks
  • Lighter
  • Matches
  • Antibacterial wipes
  • Flashlight
  • Headlamp
  • Batteries

Tips on How to Build Your Camp Kitchen Cookware and Essentials Overtime

  • When starting off, start with the bare essentials listed above. We started very small and over the course of several years we continued to buy new items. As you’re buying new items for your camp kitchen, make sure to buy what you need most and work your way up to what you want for ease. It is best to start with your main essentials and needs to cover all of your basics and then splurging a little.
  • Camp kitchen gear can be pricey so make sure you do your research on the items you want to purchase to make sure they are worth your money. Always read the reviews as well to see what others say about the product. One tip is that you get what you pay for. I have bought cheap items before just to save some money and have ended up buying the better brand of that item cause it either fell apart, had defects, or didn’t work right.
  • You can set aside a budget for camping gear. In that budget you can split it into different categories such as tent items, camp kitchen items, etc… This helps you be able to save up for better gear for your kitchen and overall camping equipment.
  • Some items have a return policy of 30 days. Test your item and make sure it works properly within that timeframe. If not, get your money back or exchange it for a better one.
  • Try to stick to your camp kitchen list of essentials. I’ve made the mistake before of buying the same item more than once and regretted having extras of something that I didn’t need extras of.

FREE Printable Camp Kitchen Checklist

Leave No Trace Principles to Follow Around Your Camp Kitchen

  • Always plan ahead and be prepared.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • Dispose of waste properly.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Minimize campfire impacts.
  • Respect wildlife.
  • Be considerate of other visitors.
hot dogs and chips for a camp lunch

Tips on How to Organize Your Camp Kitchen so It’s Functional

For my camp kitchen area I like to have two different sections. The cooking area and the eating area. I like to organize the two in a way that is functional and works best for the family. Here’s how I organize these areas:

Organizing the Cooking Area

For the cooking area I like to have my cooking camp kitchen essentials and food items. The food items get put away at night in the truck but the cooking essentials get cleaned and put away in the tote and left on the table along with the camp stove and dishes.

Inside the camp kitchen essentials tote(s) I make sure to keep everything organized in bags and in sections to keep things easier to find. All my eating utensils and straws in one bag, cooking utensils in another bag, pots and pans are stacked on one side of the tote, cutting board and skillet is usually against one of the long walls of the tote and so on.

In the pantry tote I separate it by food items so packets like taco seasoning, goes in one bag, other seasonings go in a smaller plastic tote, the snacks go in another smaller or medium sized bin, boxes like cereal, pancake mix, oatmeal, etc… goes stacked up and down on the other half of the tote alongside canned goods.

Organizing the Eating Area

For the eating area I like to place a table cloth over the table, have a roll of paper towels for napkins and hand sanitizer. Sometimes I even have a medium sized bin with our eating utensils, plates, cups, and bowls to keep handy. I also leave the mosquito repellent, a flashlight, and a lantern on the table to keep handy.

Summary of Camp Kitchen Essentials Guide and Organization Tips

So remember that you can build your camp kitchen over time. There is nothing wrong with starting small and building your way up to where you need to be. Always be clean, organized, and keep things functional in your camp kitchen. It will make things easier to manage while cooking and searching for things. Also, if you like this list of camp kitchen essentials, don’t forget to grab our camp kitchen packing guide. There’s a packing page included for beginners as well.

Hi, I'm Jessica!

I am a wife and mother to three amazing kids. A coffee addict and wine lover. I also have a huge love for the mountains and the the ocean. Through my blog I hope to inspire families to spend more time outdoors. 


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10 Responses

  1. I love this list, very comprehensive! I actually have a few of the items you listed here and love them, but I want to get my hands on that tea kettle! I haven’t been camping in some time but I can’t wait to get out again, and will definitely use some of your tips!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read it. I may add a printable checklist in the near future. I am actually working on a review as well of the Pika Teapot so keep an eye out for that. Glad you enjoyed the post and that it is helpful for your upcoming trips.

  2. For trash you could use a bucket with lid. Put a paper bag inside to keep it clean and the bucket is handy for other uses as well. A lot of times you can get them free from grocery stores.

  3. We make our own firestarters…cardboard egg carton, dryer lint, melted candle wax. My boy scout dad taught me this year’s ago and they never fail us.

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