The Best Cooking Gear for Car Camping and Backpacking

Whether it’s whipping together some quick grub for your climbing buddies or a romantic getaway to woo your lady, camp food is important. And how you prepare is key.

Knives don’t make the chef, but having top-notch tools to help you wrangle your next dish outside certainly do help. We’ve rounded up the best camping cooking gear and backpacking accessories to help you make the perfect meal right beside the truck or 20 miles from it.

Camping

Cooler: Otterbox Venture 45 – $300

Otterbox Venture 45

Without a cooler, car camping cuisine look a lot like dehydrated meals and protein bars. However, better food is one of the reasons to choose car camping over backpacking

The Otterbox Venture 45 doesn’t cut corners — it’s one of the best coolers money can buy right now. The giant, sturdy handles make it easier to carry, because with that amount of ice-protecting insulation, it’s not light. That heft lets you keep ice for up to 14 days. Four mounting points on either side allow you add bottle openers, cup-holders, or waterproof boxes for your electronics. A table attachment fits into the handle. Pop off the cutting-board top to throw your drinks in the three cup-holders. Save your back by opting the over-sized off road wheels.

For organizing food inside, add vertical dividers and drop in the dry food basket that hangs in the top rim. The angled bottom keeps melted ice flowing towards the drain. If you don’t need 45 quarts worth of room, go with 25 quarts. If you need more, there’s a 65-quart option.

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Stove: Camp Chef Everest Two-Burner Camp Stove – $125

Camp Chef Everest Two-Burner Camp Stove

One of the biggest complaints about camp stoves is how long they take to boil water. The Camp Chef Everest stove helps out in the speed department. With two 20,000 BTU burners, three-sided wind protection, and push-button lighting, you can have coffee ready before anyone’s even awake at camp. The Everest comes with a wide grill and a propane tank adapter so you’ve got options for the pots and pans you need to create your edible masterpiece. Get the compatible griddle as well, and you’ll have a full lineup at breakfast. Just make sure you have a table large enough for this cooking machine.

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Pots: Lodge 10-inch Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven – $74

Lodge 10-inch Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven

Camping with a car nearby gives you more room to pack pots and pans, but you may not need to bring more than one. The Lodge 10-inch Cast Iron Dutch Oven can fry, stew, griddle, and everything in between. The pre-seasoned cast iron can go straight into the fire, hang above it with the steel handle, or sit on a stove. At 13 pounds, you’d be crazy to take this backpacking, but the thick iron evenly distributes heat. Lower the temperature to simmer a stew or bump it up sear a steak. If you’re caught without the Everest above, set the lid down, spread coals or briquettes on top, and sit down the dutch oven for a makeshift stove.

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Knives: GSI Outdoors Santoku Knife Set – $30

GSI Outdoors Santoku Knife Set

No kitchen is complete without a sharp set of knives. GSI Outdoors makes it easy to grab and go with the Santoku Knife Set. A four-inch paring knife, six-inch santoku knife, and six-inch serrated knife mince, slice, and dice the fresh veggies. A folding cutting board with a meat icon on one side and a veggie icon helps you keep things clean after a long day on the trails. Hard plastic sheaths for each knife, a fabric carrying case, and even a microfiber scrubby round out this chef kit in a bag.

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Coffee: Snowpeak Field Barista Set – $368

Snow-Peak-Field-Coffee-Set

None of this food preparation would happen without any coffee, especially breakfast. Lovers of steel and titanium, Japanese gear maker Snow Peak has put together a beautiful set to create the all-important adventure fuel. The Field Barista collection includes a stainless steel kettle, adjustable ceramic burr coffee grinder, and six-piece pour-over brewer. Each breaks down into its own cotton bag for storage. The drip is compatible with Chemex or Hario V60 filters. The result ends up in a 450 ml double-walled titanium mug with folding handles. Add a lid to keep things hot for longer.

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Backpacking

Sixty pounds of food and gear isn’t a problem when you’re camping out the back of a truck. When you’re hiking 10 miles before dinner, weight becomes an issue. There’s only so much room in a multi-day backpack. These are some of the best pieces for your camp kitchen when it needs to weigh less than 10 pounds.

Stove: MSR WhisperLite Universal – $140

MSR WhisperLite Universal

Even at one-twelfth the weight of the Everest stove, the MSR WhisperLite Universal isn’t the lightest stove out there. However, it’s still packed with features that make it one of the most flexible and adaptable stoves you can buy today. The WhisperLite sits directly on the ground, not on a fuel canister, making it more stable for large pots or uneven surfaces. No one wants their dinner all over the ground at the end of the day. For fuel options, you can take whatever is best suited for the adventure. Small, easy-to-use gas canisters work well when you just need quick energy that lights in a snap. Just swap out a couple parts and you’ve got a liquid fuel stove with a refillable fuel bottle that works well in cold weather.

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Pots: MSR Ceramic Two-Pot Set – $80

MSR Ceramic Two-Pot Set

Titanium is perfect for boiling water, but it creates hot spots and does not retain heat well. MSR’s Ceramic Two-Pot Set is a great option for when you want to cook like you do at home. The set weighs 12 oz and includes one 1.5 liter pot and one 2.5 liter pot. Save space by leaving one at home or nesting plates and cups inside.

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Knife: Leatherman Skeletool CX  – $80

Leatherman Skeletool CX

There’s no space in a backpack to carry multiple kitchen knives, so we usually use the multi-tool we have with us. For only 5 oz, you get pliers, wire-cutters, a full size knife, multiple screwdriver bits and, most importantly, a bottle opener. The CX version has a carbon handle and 154CM steel in the blade, which holds an edge well.

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Coffee: MSR MugMate – $17

MSR Mug Mate

While a full barista set isn’t going to work when you’re backpacking, caffeine is still essential. The MSR MugMate is about as simple as it gets — it’s just a tiny mesh cup that sits in your cup that holds coffee or tea. Add the grounds or leaves to the cup, then pour water through and leave the MugMate in for the desired amount of time. For a stronger brew, add the grounds to a pot of water, then boil and stir. Pour through the MugMate into the cup to strain the grounds out.

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Article originally published by Austin Parker on April 12, 2016. Last updated by Ross Collicutt on March 14, 2018.

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