Camping: The Camp Kitchen

Ok, I admit it. I like to take nearly my whole kitchen with me into the great outdoors so long as I don’t have to hike everything into a campground. Why? Quite simply the great outdoors makes for hungry people – all that fresh air and exercise! Mind you, your camping style may be a little less exuberant, but it helps to know where to begin with your packing. Here’s a list of the items I recommend as a basic camp kitchen set:

* water jugs with clean water * cooler
* pot holder * pans
* lighter * utensils
* charcoal or propane * work surface (folding table)
* sharp knife – utility knife * plastic service ware (plates, forks, glasses etc.)
* bottle & can opener * garbage bags
* aluminum foil * water proof bags / food storage containers
* dish soap & pan * paper towels
* first aid kit * fire extinguisher

Now, those are just the basics and the list will change a bit depending on how you plan to cook your food. Camp stoves, for example, require propane, butane or kerosene. Charcoal requires a safe burning area (like a metal ring) and fire starter. Wood means knowing how to build an effective cooking campfire, etc. Additionally this list may be changed depending on what you plan to cook.

I strongly advocate making a complete meal plan before you go. Pre-prepare what you can and freeze it. The more frozen items you have in your cooler the longer they’ll stay frozen and keep each other cold (and block ice stays frozen longer than cubes too!). One really neat trick is putting meat or vegetables into your favorite marinade and freezing the entire mix. As this defrosts it also slowly tenderizes and flavors your meal. We use a meal-sealing system that offers a vacuum (and without air that food bag takes up less space too)

Make sure to label your foods with indelible marker so you know what’s what. Put the most time-sensitive items on the top of your cooler to be use first. Avoid storing things in glass containers unless absolutely necessary. They simply do not travel well.

As you’re cooking outdoors take precautions against bugs and dirt. Putting a lid on a pot, or covering food with aluminum foil are two serviceable and safe ways of achieving that goal. Also, whole bay leaves deter flies. If you’d like to keep other “pests” away (like raccoons and bears) keep food put away when not in use (perhaps in a trunk) or hang it in a tree.
For dry goods, which are a camper’s best friend since they travel well, provide fast nourishment and don’t have the strong aroma that attracts unwanted guests, have a water proof box. Simple, functional and it can hold a lot of your cooking gear too. Hint: always keep matches in another water proof container INSIDE this bin. It will help deter dampness that can come from over-night dew. You’ll also want a cooler just for beverages. This keeps the lid on your food cooler, which in turn keeps that food fresher longer.

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