How to Setup a Camp Kitchen
Expert Advice

Image: Deposit Photos, colbylysne

A camp kitchen gives you the ability to enjoy high-quality camping meals and improve organization while still roughing it in the great outdoors. They require just as much planning as any other part of the trip. Camp kitchens will differ based on several factors like your outdoor needs, the size of your party, and the length of your stay. What makes a good site for a camp kitchen? What should they include? How should they be maintained? We will answer these questions and more with the following tips for your camp kitchen setup.

Best Place for a Camp Kitchen

Safety and logistics play a huge role in the location of your camping kitchen. Take stock of the area before unpacking and arranging. Some considerations differ between frontcountry and backcountry areas — “frontcountry” are locations close to access roads and usually running water, and “backcountry” are more remote locations that generally lack amenities.

Distanced from Your Tent

Keep your camp grill several feet away from your sleeping area. If you plan to cook over a campfire, choose a spot downwind from your tent so food smells drift in the opposite direction. Keep your kitchen setup separate from your dining area, so you aren’t scrambling to clear the camping cookware from the table when it’s time to eat.

Durable, Level, and Protected Ground

When you’re off the beaten path in backcountry settings, make camp on durable ground like compact dirt, rock, or snow. When there are no naturally occurring barriers from the elements, you can rely on a windbreak and DIY camping tarp tent of your own. Keep your prepping, cooking, and cleaning equipment off the ground on a camping table.

Away from High-Traffic Areas

Maintaining a safe distance between your campsite kitchen and tent will reduce foot traffic. Be aware of where you’ve established other areas and walkways. You don’t want the kitchen to be in the middle of your dining area and the bathroom.

What to Include in a Camp Kitchen

Every camping kitchen needs a source of fire, a prep area, and a place to clean dishes and cookware. Consider your camping style and tailor your approach based on the type of camping you’ll be doing and how long you’ll be there. Focus on minimizing environmental impacts and leaving the campsite better than you found it.

Camping Grill or Other Cooker

Camping grills are portable, versatile, safer, and easier to control than an open fire. Make sure it’s a reliable and controllable source of heat that can handle all your camping meals for the duration of your trip.

Workstation for Cooking & Prepping

Your camp kitchen needs a spot for slicing, chopping, and plating. The portable camp grill should have a firm base and be off the ground. Camping tables are incredibly useful because they often contain storage compartments. A folding table will also do the trick. You shouldn’t use picnic or dining tables for food prep which leads to clutter and frantic shuffling as you transition from cooking to eating.

Sanitation Station

Create a space that’s dedicated to cleaning up and sanitizing before and after meals. Include a station for washing and rinsing dishes. Having a collapsible sink or washing bins to use with potable water will make this easier. Keep this zone stocked with biodegradable soap.  Your sanitation station should also include a drying area for dishes and cookware. Be sure to fully dry everything before storing for the night so lingering moisture doesn’t promote mold growth in your containers.

Maintaining Your Camp Kitchen

The outdoors is a dirtier and more dangerous place than your home kitchen. Tidying up in your camping kitchen is simple and worth the extra effort.

Stay Organized

There should be well-defined spots for everything from fuel and cooking accessories to plates and cookware. Always put things back where they came from after each use. An organized camp kitchen will help you with packing. Food prep items should stay together, while cookware and dinnerware need separate storage units.

Safely Store Food

Perhaps the most important part of your organization is food storage. You want to keep out insects, mask scents from larger wildlife, and control temperature.  Store food away from the main campsite in separate bins that are tightly sealed and insulated. If possible, keep storage bins and coolers in shaded areas to help with temperature regulation.

Correctly Dispose of Trash

Check Park regulations for disposing of food waste. Areas with designated trash receptacles make this easy. Bundle up garbage and make a trip there as frequently as you can. Remote regions may not provide such amenities. If this is the case, tie off your trash and store it in a vehicle or other secure location overnight until you can take it to a waste-disposal site.