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Must Have Cooking Gear for Car Camping and Backpacking

Everyone loves a hot dog or S’more roasted over an open fire, but there is much more to campsite cooking than just what’s on the end of a roasting stick. The right camping cooking gear makes it easy to prepare healthy, delicious meals out on the trail.

There are all kinds of utensils, stoves, backpacking stoves, coolers, and cookware to choose from. Some have specific uses, while others are multipurpose. The right selection of gear depends on the type of trip and how long it will be.

What cooking equipment is essential for car camping?

While it’s possible to get by with just some firewood and matches, campers who want a more diverse and palatable camping menu have a variety of camp cooking gear available to them. Car campers should invest in a camping stove with a large enough grill to cook food for the entire group at once, if possible. Depending on the length of the trip, pack at least one extra propane tank for the stove.

Metal tongs and sturdy utensils are a must so that campfire chefs can flip and turn meat without getting burned on the propane stove or over the fire. Car campers should also consider a cast iron dutch oven to make one-pot meals over the open fire. They last virtually forever with proper cleaning and care and drastically cut down on prep, cooking, and cleanup time. Lastly, an airtight cooler keeps drinks cold and food fresh.

Recommended Cooking Gear for Camping

Here are three items to consider when planning a camping trip.

Coleman Portable Propane Gas Classic Camp Stove with 2 Burners

This Coleman stove is perfect for car camping, hunting, tailgating, and more. It has a wind block to keep burner temperatures consistent, even in extreme weather. With two adjustable burners, it’s ideal for families or for making food and coffee at the same time.

Campers love its removable plate for easy cleaning and how quickly the burners heat up to boil water. Some report that the temperature controls are not as graduated as they would like, so users need to be careful not to burn or overcook food.

YETI Tundra 45 Cooler

With three inches of PermaFrost insulation, this roomy cooler is perfect for car campers who need to keep food and beverages chilled for a weekend trip. It comes in a variety of different colors and includes a dry goods basket. At just over two feet long, the YETI Tundra has plenty of room for 26+ cans and ice.

Users report that the Tundra is virtually indestructible, made from sturdy materials, and with high-quality latches and finishes. Many campers caution that the cooler is quite heavy when filled with ice and cans and can be cumbersome to transport since it doesn’t have wheels.

Lodge 8 Inch Cast-Iron Skillet

A cast-iron skillet is one of the most versatile cookware items a camper can pack. While an eight-inch model is a good size for most campers, this skillet comes in a wide range of diameters to suit any camping group. It’s pre-seasoned and ready to use out of the box.

Previous buyers say that the skillet heats food evenly and holds its temperature well. They also report that the skillet doesn’t stick to food like other models as long as it’s properly oiled. A few buyers reported that the skillet split after use on extremely high heat and advise buyers to contact the manufacturer about any defects.

What cooking gear is essential for short backpacking trips?

For hikers headed out on a relatively short backpacking trip (three days or less), multipurpose equipment is key. Backpackers should invest in a liquid fuel or canister stove to heat water and make quick meals. Many modern stoves weigh less than a pound and take up very little room in a pack.

A small pot or skillet takes up very little room in a pack but fills a variety of uses from boiling water to cooking meals. Multipurpose utensils make it easy to stir simmering soups and roast meat.

Dehydrated meals are an efficient, space-saving way to cook out on the trail. Most require only water to rehydrate and turn into a hot, delicious meal. As a bonus, dehydrated meals stay fresh for long periods when they are stored properly.

Recommended Cooking Gear for Backpacking

The best backpacking cooking gear is lightweight, portable, and versatile. Here are three items to consider when it’s time to hit the trail.

Jetboil Flash Camping Stove Cooking System

Jetboil is known for its fast-boiling stoves, and this model is no exception. It boils water in 100 seconds or less, using a push-button ignition and an adjustable heat indicator. The unit weighs less than a pound—perfect for backpackers.

Campers say that the Jetboil Flash is fuel-efficient and easy to light. Others have had issues with the handle of the unit becoming too hot to touch. Some have also experienced failure with the ignition after several uses.

Core Element 100% Titanium Long-Handle Spoon

When thinking about camp cooking gear, utensils may be the last thing that comes to mind. Anyone who has been out on the trail and found themselves without a spoon, however, knows just how important they are.

This long-handled titanium spoon is flexible, durable, and lightweight (at just half an ounce). It’s just under 8.5 inches long—perfect for keeping hands safely away from open flames. The only complaint users have about this spoon is that it may become rough after use in cast-iron pots or other roughly-finished pots. They recommend sanding the edges of the spoon to keep it smooth.

Mountain House Biscuits and Gravy

What good is great camp gear without anything to cook in it? Dehydrated meals are an easy way to pack a variety of food fast and without adding a lot of weight to backpacks. This pack of biscuits and gravy takes less than ten minutes to prepare (with just hot water) and has a thirty-year freshness guarantee.

Most users love the taste, comparing it to home-cooked biscuits and gravy. Others caution that the biscuits take longer than ten minutes to rehydrate fully and may taste more like croutons if not given enough time.

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