Ever since earthlings discovered the power of an open flame in transforming basic foodstuffs, we’ve been gathering to enjoy the bounty of the planet. The diversity of our ecosystems and peoples has given rise to a rich tapestry of cuisines and tastes—and all are welcome at our camping table.
True: An active day outdoors can make even the unfussiest fare taste delicious (instant potatoes, anyone?), but with the sort of outdoor kitchen gear available today, foodie culture is alive and well in the wilds. Brands have been busy creating innovative tools and appliances for our cookouts. And while cooking gadgetry alone might not make you an accomplished chef, great cooks (and great cooks to-be) all share one trait: They take great pride in their tools.
Not every modern cooking item can be as straightforwardly genius as the Rolla Roaster, but any of the ones listed below would make worthy additions to your camp kitchen.
In an age of hyperinnovation, it’s noteworthy when a classic design endures. The two-burner camp stove is one such beast, in part because it so smartly combines compactness and functionality. Eureka didn’t reinvent that icon—instead, the brand simply enhanced its key components.
The first hint that Eureka’s Ignite Plus stove has evolved is its Mediterranean blue hue, but performance sticklers will be drawn to the twin 10,000-BTU burners. The stove also offers precise flame control to moderate all that thermal power, so you can simmer, brown, sauté or achieve a full-throated, roiling boil as needed. Oversize side windscreens keep breezes from buffeting the flame. The surface area of the stove is also expansive, so you can comfortably fit a 12-inch frypan next to a 12-inch pot. It has push-button ignition for ultraconvenience. $154.95
If you’re a frequent backpacker or just want a cooking setup more portable than a two-burner, the packable Biolite CampStove 2+ will let you cook with sticks and other dry biomass like pine cones that you collect along the trail (or superlight BioLite BioFuel pellets for rainy locales). The wood-burning stove also functions as a USB power bank, so you could even check in on your favorite recipe app before sizzling up a five-course campsite meal and pumping the jams.
The stove is only slightly larger than a beer can, but it produces enough electricity while burning to charge devices quickly and has a big enough battery to fully charge a smartphone with stored energy. The integrated fan stokes the flames for a more efficient and even burn, with 95% less smoke than your typical wood fire, according to BioLite. When you’re not using it for cooking or charging devices, the bottom of the stove features a handy LED flashlight to light up the night, making it a true multipurpose wonder. $149.95
Just because you’re miles from the closest café doesn’t mean you need to forgo the barista-worthy bevvies. The AeroPress Go Travel Coffee Press quickly produces multiple styles of coffee like American drip, espresso and cold brew using a hand plunger that forces grounds through a chamber with an airtight seal. Add grounds and water, stir, and then press the good stuff into your mug.
Clearly designed by espresso enthusiasts who know a thing or two about trail life, the travel version of the AeroPress cleans up with one rinse and packs up into the included mug. “I’m a former barista.… You can make your coffee extremely strong, quickly and with basically no mess,” one reviewer says. “I got it for camping and backpacking but have already just been using it at home every day.” $39.95
Slicing, dicing and chopping are the showiest of all chef tasks, which makes the chef’s knife the quintessential prep tool. Anyone who’s serious about the craft brings their own—another knife’s handle never feels quite right.
If you’ve yet to find your weapon of choice, the Japanese-style OXO Outdoor Santoku Knife is worth a try. The burly 5.5-inch blade excels at all the aforementioned tasks whether you’re working with meat or produce, and its broad, gently curved belly also makes it ideal for scooping and transferring diced veggies to a pot (make sure to scoop with the dull back of the knife!). The sharp stainless-steel blade stops food from sticking and won’t corrode over time—and, especially for a tool that’s as good for the kitchen as it is for the camping box, the price is right. $19.95
Gathered herbs, meat marinades and sauces go from ho-hum to Michelin-starred gourmet when served up fresh rather than store-bought or freeze-dried. Being able to pack in fresh flavor (in your car trunk and on your taste buds) is why we like to bring these OXO Outdoor Leakproof Squeeze Bottles along on trips. The set includes a 3-ounce and 6-ounce bottle with interchangeable spouts. The wider spout works well for packing thicker condiments, like homemade garlic aioli or small-batch BBQ sauce to level up trailside burgers. The thin spout is best for free-flowing liquids like lemon juice and maple syrup, elevating brunch plates to heights (without the usual 45-minute wait for a table). Both have airtight, leakproof lids that won’t spill on the drive to your camping spot, and their wide mouths make them a breeze to fill. $11.95
The bane of many a camp cook’s existence is the never-ending pile of dishes. At home, we might have dishwashers to take care of the heavy lifting, but when we’re out in nature, it’s all on us. The MSR Alpine Dish Brush/Scraper makes short work of post-meal cleanup, with stiff bristles on one side for scrubbing pots and pans and a flat scraper on the other to get stubborn food bits off plates and cutlery.
Psst: The scraper also excels as a squeegee on washed and rinsed surfaces, speeding up drying duties. We’re sure your second-in-command will approve. $5.95
Speaking of washing-and-drying duties, we have your essential setup covered with the SOL Flat Pack Collapsible Sink. This durable basin easily hauls a campsite’s worth of dirty dishes to the communal spigot or holds water—8 liters of it—for handwashing the whole lot in one go. When you finish your chores and pack up camp, the sink collapses down to about the size of your eggshell-white Barebones dinner plate (ahem, see below).
Way smarter than your average bucket, the sink features a drain at the bottom that dumps dirty water quickly (in a designated area far from water sources) and captures any remaining food scraps. Meaning you can maintain your picture-perfect Leave No Trace score. $16
Both cooking show contestants and five-star restaurateurs will tell you that “presentation matters”—beautifully prepared cuisine should be plated on the appropriate canvas. But fine china isn’t practical for camping, so this Barebones dinnerware set may be the next best thing. The two-person sets of eggshell-white or matte slate plates ($20), bowls ($18) and cups ($17) have a gleaming bronze patina on the stainless-steel rims for the glam factor, making even a bowl of SpaghettiOs look like a foodie work of art. $20 for two plates, $18 for two bowls, $17 for two cups
Mise en place is the key to any chef’s peace of mind, and Kelty’s Camp Galley Deluxe Bag achieves such organization even when you’re going gourmet on a picnic table. The bag’s U-zip opening and stiff structure display all your tools at a glance, while the C0 durable water repellent finish repels light moisture for even the dewiest of mountain mornings.
The main three zippered pockets, two sleeves and two interior side pockets are each designed to accommodate indispensable foodie tools, like long kitchen tongs, plates and cheese boards. The built-in attachment loops let you hang it from a roof rack and dangle paper towels below. No roof rack? No worries. It’s made to lay flat on a tailgate or camp table, too. $69.95
A truism in cooking is that you can never have too much prep space. Even a site with a picnic table can benefit from a separate theater of operations for the sous chef. The REI Co-op Camp Prep Table fills the bill nicely, thanks to a 2-foot-by-4-foot surface area. It’s also made of stout stuff—steel legs and an easily cleaned aluminum-slat top. Perhaps the best feature, though, is that the height can be varied, and the leg lengths can be independently adjusted to deal with uneven terrain. Bonus: It folds flat to stow in your rig. $149
Sustainably stowing and preserving ingredients or leftovers is a challenge at home, but that duty somehow feels even more urgent outdoors. Stasher food-grade silicon bags provide both an alternative to soul-sucking plastic bags and a waste-reducing upgrade. They’re not merely reusable, they’re also freezable and dishwasher-safe, and most have flat bottoms to stand at the ready while you’re snacking or prepping. Stasher bags are available in a wide range of sizes, from snack-bag-size to nearly gallon-size (one reviewer testified that they fit a whole sourdough boule into the mega size). $9.95–$29.95
Bee’s Wrap is a reusable alternative to that old petrochemical standby, plastic wrap. This popular option is made of Global Organic Textile Standard-certified organic cotton, sustainably sourced beeswax, organic jojoba oil and tree resin. The trick when you use it is to allow the warmth of your hands to activate the seal. It can be washed repeatedly in cool, soapy water. Regular use will eventually wear your Bee’s Wrap out, though, at which time you can cut it into strips and add it to your compost pile. It’s available in a variety of designs, sizes and packaged sets. $11–$42
Few pieces of the cooking kit have been so aptly named as the Lodge Iron Cook-It-All. With just two pieces of foundry-seasoned cast iron—a lid and a wok-shaped bottom that doubles as a skillet—the Cook-It-All can be used in multiple configurations. The lid can be used alone as a grill on one side and a griddle on the other, and atop the wok it creates a Dutch oven. Flip everything over and you get a pizza oven. The various setups also allow you to use multiple heat sources: a stove, a wood fire or charcoal briquettes. $124.95
Interested in more staff picks and kits? Find more collections here.