How to Upgrade Your Camp Kitchen

No matter how great a trail chef you are, if your kitchen is a sty, meal-time will be a drag. Do it up right, though, and you can turn any patch of ground into a five-star establishment.
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No matter how great a trail chef you are, if your kitchen is a sty, meal-time will be a drag. Do it up right, though, and you can turn any patch of ground into a five-star establishment.

Don't Make These Mistakes

upgrade your camp kitchen: before

Put a too-big pot on a too-small stove and it’ll probably fall over.

Getting up and down to retrieve more water or ingredients can lead to spills and hassle.

Don’t dump out the contents of your bear canister or food bag—you’ll lose things.

Home utensils are for home. Get some camping-specific ones. They’re lighter.

Clean up as you go (or you’ll lose stuff in the dark).

Upgrade Your Camp Kitchen in 6 Easy Steps

1. SELECT YOUR SITE. 

You want a flat, fire-safe area (avoid brush). In bear country, go at least 200 feet downwind of your tent.

2. SET UP. 

If possible, set up near a large, flat rock. If not, haul one to your kitchen area and put it back when you’re done. Think of it as your backcountry countertop—this is your do-it-all space for food prep. Deadfall and bear canisters make good chairs if you didn’t bring one. Arrange your kitchen equipment into a half moon around your seat so everything is within arm’s reach (Including a garbage bag).

3. FETCH WATER. 

Using a dromedary bag or folding bucket, collect all the water you’ll need for a meal at once. For one person, that’s a gallon to cook dinner, clean dishes, and top up bottles. Add a couple of liters for each additional person.

4. PREP. 

Make sure all of your ingredients are at hand before starting. Next, prepare all ingredients (chop, slice, and measure) and set them aside on or near your countertop so they’re ready to go. Erect a windbreak around your stove (before lighting it). If you didn’t bring one, jury-rig one out of packs, logs, boots, whatever.

5. COOK. 

Now the fun part. Refer to the tips above to ensure your camp kitchen continues to get good reviews.

6. CLEAN. 

Not the fun part. But since you cooked, make someone else do it.

Add In These Pro Tips for an Even Sweeter Spot

upgrade your camp kitchen: after

Better than the ground: your bear canister. Better than your bear canister: a chair conversion kit that turns your sleeping pad into a seat.

Pro tip: Don’t waste time (or energy) pumping water; upgrade to a gravity filter and let water purify itself while you set up camp.

If you’re not counting grams, upgrade to a remote-invertible canister stove. When you add a windscreen, this type of stove is more stable and efficient than an ultralight canister stove and can be taken deeper into cold weather. Also, it works with Backpacker’s Pantry Outback Oven (starting at $50; backpackerspantry.com), so you can be a five-star pastry chef, too.

The best way to enjoy an upgraded kitchen? Upgraded fare, of course. Try dehydrated ingredients, like those from Harmony House (harmonyhousefoods.com). Kits start at $50 and individual ingredients at $3.

Water vessel: We like the collapsible Sea to Summit Kitchen Sink, which has handles and can’t tip over (starting at $20; seatosummit.com).

Cooking to impress? Pack a folding ladle that doubles as a measuring cup.
We like the MSR Alpine Spoon ($6; cascadedesigns.com/msr).

A durable, insulated mug will return your investment with years of hot bevvies. The best splurge? Snow Peak Titanium Double Wall Mug, which has lasted us more than five years (starting at $50; snowpeak.com).

Game-changer: The GSI Spice Missile ($10; gsioutdoors.com) contains interchangeable modules. Now garlic and chili powder are invited, too.

FIND RECIPES to make in your deluxe camp kitchen at backpacker.com/trailchef.