Here’s something every camper, glamper, and tent host should know: How to create a practical, functional, and relatively simple camp kitchen! When you’re headed out on a backcountry camping trip, you don’t need much more than a way to boil water for freeze-dried dinners, but if you plan on setting up a bell tent for a longer stay, here are some tips for what you’ll need.
PHOTO: NATHAN SHIPPS VIA UNSPLASH
CREATE AN OUTDOOR KITCHEN SPACE
Even if you think you have a tent that can accommodate your culinary adventures, it is highly recommended that you put safety first, and set up your kitchen space outdoors, away from your tent. You don’t want to run the risk of a fire hazard, health hazard, or creating a place that tempts wildlife to come on in and investigate. So the first thing you’ll want to do is create a kitchen shelter, away from your tent. This can be done with a tarp shelter, either purchased as a kit, or DIY. This article from Get Out With The Kids has some great tips on setting up a tent shelter, and how to create a wind barrier, too.
After you have your kitchen space determined and a shelter set up safely, you’ll need to add a stable and flat surface for prepping and cooking your meals. And unless you know already that where you’re going will have a surface for you, you should plan on bringing your own. A simple folding table can do the trick, or you can get one that also includes enclosed storage, which is great for storing your everyday kitchen items like plates, cups, and cooking utensils.
You’ll want to create a space that’s dedicated to cleaning up and sanitizing before and after meals, with a station for washing and rinsing dishes. This could be a separate table that’s created specifically for this purpose, with a sink or even two sinks. Or you can go the DIY route and easily build your own! Your camp sanitation space can be connected to a campsite water hookup, or you can connect to a portable water container. Don’t forget to bring potable water with you, or have a way to reliably filter your own.
COLDCREEK OUTFITTERS OUTDOOR WASHING TABLE
If you have a cooking table with built-in storage, you can use that storage area for your dishes, skillets and cook pots, and serving ware. But it is recommended that you store your food — both cold and dry goods — in separate, more secure containers. Dry goods can be kept in rubber totes with secure-fitting lids. Without access to power, cold foods can be kept in a traditional cooler (just add ice!), or a propane-powered fridge.
Now that you have a framework for your cooking and cleaning spaces, you need to make sure you have the proper equipment and tools for effectively preparing meals. You don’t need to get the most expensive kitchen essentials, but you should make sure that they’re reputable and durable, so you don’t end up in a pinch without the proper tools. Here’s our checklist of recommended essentials for including with your camp kitchen
Charcoal chimney starter + portable grill top (for use over a campfire) + heat-resistant gloves
Cast iron skillet + lid
Cast iron dutch oven + lid
Quality knives + non-porous cutting boards
Durable tableware + eating utensils
Coffee set-up: French Press, AeroPress, and pour-over are our favorite camp coffee brew methods
Kettle for boiling water
Reusable sponges and towels for cleaning
Ziplock bags in multiple sizes
Durable garbage bags
FOR TENT CAMP HOSTS
If you plan on creating a space to share with others, either as an Airbnb tent host, or with family and friends, you’ll want to let visitors know exactly what kind of camp kitchen will be waiting for them. Include a list of all amenities on your Airbnb listing, or when communicating with guests directly, so that they know exactly what they need to pack from home, and what they need to pick up at the grocery store. Creating a camp kitchen not only adds value to a tent site, but it is also an invitation to guests to stay longer, and to enjoy meals that are a whole lot more fun to make than just-add-water, freeze-dried backpacker’s food.
Father of two aspiring glampers, husband to one inspirational wife, and Co-Founder of Life inTents. Continuiously striving to help make camping more comfortable.