Before I met Clark, I wasn't really the "camping type." The extent of my experience was a couple of summer camps in teepees and some RV camping. When we decided to do a cross-country road trip 2 summers ago, we plunged headfirst into camping. We car-camped, we wilderness camped, we camped in the Badlands and Grand Teton and Glacier and the occasional Wal-Mart parking lot.
We love camping. During spring, summer, and fall, we go as often as we can. (Winter is coming, so I'll report back on how we do with that.) Whether it's camping along the way when we're roadtripping or setting up an hour away from where we live, we love getting away and spending time in nature.
And my favorite part of camping? The food. Being in nature and stargazing rank near the top too. But for me, it's about packing the cooler and looking forward to meals shared around a fire. Simple food, but filling and satisfying. I've found that you don't need a ton of expensive gear – just a few important camp cooking essentials.
- Cutting board and 1 or 2 sharp knives – Unless you're going to be super-prepared and bring all of your meals already chopped and prepared, don't skip the knives. Bonus points if you have a knife with a protective sheath.
- Seasonings – We keep it simple. Tongs. Rubber spatula or a bamboo spoon. Salt, pepper, cayenne, chili flakes. We used to bring along the bulky spice bottles until we found this all-in-one container. I've also seen crafty people on Pinterest put their spices in vitamin organizers and empty tic tac containers, too. Additionally, we bring cooking oil, sriracha, and mustard.
- Reusable dinnerware. – We try our best to abide by the "leave no trace" mentality when camping. Nothing is worse than arriving to a beautiful campsite and finding discarded styrofoam plates, broken glass, pizza boxes, etc. (Yes, we've seen all of the above.) Instead of wasting paper plates and plastic utensils, we keep our reusable kit on hand. It also saves money in the long run!
- Cooking utensils – Again, we try to keep it simple. – which comes in handy for stirring in the cast-iron, mixing mac & cheese, heating up soup, etc. Also. Heavy duty aluminum foil. Yes, it counts as a utensil when camping.
- Cookware – cast iron is a must when camping. We use it on our camp stove and over the fire. To save space, we leave our 12" skillet at home and bring the 10" camping.
- Colander or strainer – Because it's ok to eat mac & cheese and this will make it easier. You need carbs to hike... duh!
- Reusable tablecloth – We bought one for 2 bucks and it has more than paid for itself. Picnic table is covered in bird crap? Tablecloth. Bench is wet? Tablecloth. Unexpected rain? Cover your cooking gear with the tablecloth.
- Lighters and matches – I say lighters, plural, because they always seem to disappear. And I say matches because inevitably, all of your lighters will disappear at some point. Bonus points for strike on anything matches. Those bad boys will catch fire in damp weather, off a freakin' rock.
- Camp Stove – Our main choice is the Coleman two-burner. There are fancier, more expensive options out there but this one gets the job done and folds up relatively compact. If you're looking for something more compact, opt for this itty-bitty Petforu stove. It's an all-in-one option that allows you to boil water for coffee, oatmeal, or heat up soup. Once folded up, the stove component fits in your pocket. It's freakin' adorable.
Every time with go camping, it seems like we figure out a new trick or think of something to add to our kit. But for the most part, this is our standard camp kitchen with everything we need for a weekend trip. We have a few go-to recipes that are easily managed with the above items. I'm planning to share some of our favorites on the blog in the next few weeks – until then, check out this pinboard if you're looking for camping recipe ideas! (Pie iron hash browns?! 😍😍😍 Count me in. I might've just ordered a new toy for our kit.)
It's also important to note that this is what we bring when we know we'll be camping near our car. If we're camping somewhere that is a substantial distance from the car... forget it. 🙅 In that case, we bring granola and granola bars and nuts and chips.
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