Arms Building a Modern Camp Kitchen

After too many years of getting stuck in mealplans that I didn't care for or doing a half-assed job of trying to feed myself, I finally realized that I would be much happier if I put together my own proper camp kitchen. Then I would have the right equipment and tools, and I would be able to cook the food that I wanted to eat, when I wanted to eat it.

While I certainly have respect for those who choose to cook period recipes in a period fashion, I knew that was not the path for me. Instead my goal was to build a modern camp kitchen that was as versatile as possible, while also remaining compact and easy to set up. I think that over time I've accomplished this goal rather well. So I've decided to share what I've learned, in the hopes that it will speed the process for others.

Building Your Kitchen

Making Your List

The first step in building your kitchen is to make a list of what you want in it. When making your list, always remember to include anything that you might possibly ever want in your kitchen. You can always pare the list down or put off buying non-essential items.

A good way to get started is to go through your kitchen at home and consider each item you own.

As you consider each item, and ask yourself these questions, make a list of the camp kitchen equivalents of the items that you want to have. Don't forget to include a container to hold it all.

When you get to your collection of dishes and flatware, you need to make a decision. Do you want real ones in your camp kitchen, or do you want to use disposables? Real dishes and flatware are friendlier to the environment, but disposables require much less cleanup and reduce the risk of contagion.

Prioritizing Your List

Now, go through your list and label each item on your list as either essential, or not essential but nice to have.

Check off:

Putting It All Together

Starting with the most essential items, buy what you can afford of the items not yet checked off. Over time, you can slowly acquire the non-essential items, the items that you are borrowing, and the items that you borrow from your regular kitchen. Eventually you'll have a complete kitchen in a box, complete with everything, always ready to go.

Running Your Kitchen

Stocking Your Kitchen

There will be items that you will need in order for your camp kitchen to function, but that get used up, and so are not a permanent part of it. I recommend keeping a master list of the items you commonly use. Before each camping trip you can refer to this list, and make a note to buy more of any particular item that you may be low on.

Planning Your Meals

Planning your meals ahead of time is an essential part of keeping your camp kitchen running smoothly. If you plan your meals ahead of time, you have done all of the thinking before you even leave, and there is less chance of forgetting things.

Well before the event decide what each day's meals will be, being sure not to forget beverages. Then compile a list of ingredients to use as your shopping list when you go to the store.

Go through your shopping list, and make a note of any ingredients that you want to take with you rather than buying for the occasion. You might want to do this if the item is an obscure or specialty item not readily available in most stores, such as a favorite brand of sauce mix. Or the item might be something that is only sold in quantities vastly larger than what you will need, such as spices or grains. Be sure to pack any of these types of ingredients and also check them off on your shopping list.

When packing your vehicle, make sure your shopping list is in an easily accessible location.


On the way to the event, stop at a store close to the event site and do your shopping. Don't forget to pick up any non-food items that you may be low on (refer to your stock list). If you have to travel a long distance to get to the event, go shopping after you have unloaded and set up camp.

If the event is longer than a couple of days, buy all dry goods, canned goods, and not very perishable items (vegetables, cheese) on your list. But only buy the first few days worth of highly perishable items (meat, milk). Go on brief shopping trips as many times as needed during the event to obtain the next few days worth of perishables.

Suggestions and Ideas

Here are some suggestions and ideas that you might want to consider.

A Starter List of Items for Your Camp Kitchen

__ camp stove
__ propane tank & hose
__ grill
__ stove lighter
__ cooler(s)
__ drink cooler
__ propane lantern
__ propane tank tree
__ stockpot with lid
__ frying pan
__ whistling kettle
__ cutting board
__ large knife
__ paring knife
__ colander
__ mixing bowl
__ measuring cup
__ spatula
__ rubber spatula
__ cooking spoon
__ ladle
__ can opener
__ bottle opener
__ vegetable peeler
__ scissors
__ grater
__ butter dish
__ salt & pepper shakers
__ sugar container
__ coffee mug(s)
__ dishpan(s)
__ dish towel(s)
__ hot pad(s)
__ apron
__ vinyl tablecloth
__ table
__ totelocker

Recommended Stock List

__ sponge
__ scrubbie
__ dish soap
__ trash bags
__ zipper bags
__ vegetable zipper bags
__ paper towels
__ paper plates
__ paper bowls
__ plastic flatware
__ plastic cups
__ aluminum foil
__ lantern mantles
__ bamboo skewers
__ bleach

Camp Meal Ideas

Here are the recipes for some of my favorite camp meals. They all get only one pot dirty.

Tortellini Soup

Place tortellini and bouillon in stockpot. Add water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until tortellini is almost done. Add spaghetti sauce, peas, and proscuitto. Bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tortellini is cooked, and all ingredients are warmed through. Serve with Italian bread.

Stir Fry

Heat oil in frying pan and sauté garlic. Add meat and cook until almost done. Add all vegetables and cook until warmed through. Sprinkle spices and then soy sauce over all. Stir thoroughly and cook until sauce reduces.


In stockpot, cook hamburger, onion, garlic, and peppers until meat is browned. Drain fat. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Serve with corn bread or tortilla chips.

© 1997–2001 Jessica I. Clark
Permission to print a copy for your own use freely given. Please contact me for permission to reprint or distribute.
Welcome Prticles Portfolio