Checklist: Creating Your Camp Kitchen

There are few things more satisfying than a tasty meal after a full day in the fresh air, or a steaming cup of coffee on a chilly morning at camp. Building a camp kitchen that’s right for you means taking into account the activity, season, your cooking style, and the little things that make a big impact on your enjoyment. 

Make your packing and cooking life easier at camp by keeping a checklist and, better yet, keeping a ready-for-action "camp kitchen" bin with all the essentials in it. Modify your checklist and bin each trip you take and each lesson you learn. You'll have your camp kitchen dialed in no time!

Here are Cairn Crew recommendations to get you started, along with specific gear recommendations that have often been featured in past Cairn Collections.

Note: You'll notice food is not on this list because, well, food is pretty personal. If you're looking to keep things super simple for at least one meal, we recently featured the Mountain House Turkey Dinner Casserole in a Cairn Collection, and it truly tastes like Thanksgiving dinner...and all you have to do is heat water to make it. Woohoo!

Car Camping

When you've got easy access to your car throughout your camping trip, it can be pretty easy to go overboard on packing. And, yet, somehow you always manage to forget the can opener. Dang it! Here's an essentials checklist to get you started, and we've thrown in some optional items at the end that can seriously enhance your camp life.

 Stove (Windscreen) - The size and style of stove are really dependent on the frequency and quantity you typically cook. Just need to boil some water? An MSR WindBurner, or even PocketRocket, may be all you need. Like to cook up full multi-course meals from scratch? A Coleman multi-burner grill/stove might be more your speed. Most stoves come with some form of windscreen...make sure to pack it!
 Matches / Lighter
 Utensils - We're big fans of the ChowPal from OutdoorEdge. It incorporates a spoon, fork, knife (plus bottle opener) in one nested tool that is actually usable.
 Knife - The Swedish FireKnife from Light My Fire is a winner in our book. Not only is it a well-functioning knife, but it also includes a firestarter.
 Hotpad / pot grabber
 Plates / bowls - Check out the Solo Pack from Fozzils, which includes a flat-packing bowl, plate, and cup.
 Pots - You'll likely want at least one small and one large.
 Frying pan - Cast iron for bonus deliciousness and camp versatility!
 Drinking vessels 
 Bottle opener 
 Can opener
 Water container / filter (if needed)
 Trash bags
 Biodegradable soap, rag/sponge

Optional add-ons

 Camp Table / Chairs
 French press - Coffee fiends!  
 Grandpa's Fire Grill - Can you say s'mores perfection?
 Cooking utensils (tongs, spatula, whisk)
 Egg holder
 Rolling ice cream maker
 Camp sink
 Insulated growler / Wine vessel - An insulated growler that turns into a personal keg? Yes, please! DrinkTanks nailed this one.


I suppose you could bring just about anything you want on your next backpacking've just got to be willing to carry it! Keep things lightweight and multi-use when you're outfitting your backpacking kitchen so that you can actually enjoy the journey along the way. Packing checklists for heading into the backcountry are key...there's no heading to a nearby town to score fuel for your stove.

 Stove (Windscreen)
 Matches / Lighter
 Utensils - We're still fans of the ChowPal for backpacking, but if you're really slicing ounces, the GoBites Duo from humangear might be more your speed and help you reach the bottom of that freeze-dried food bag without a mess!
 Pot grabber 
 Cookware - You may opt for just one lightweight pot.
 Cup / mug - The Titanium Cup from Toaks is lightweight, durable and easy to clip on your pack.
 Plastic bag
 Small rag / sponge
 Firestarter - The Firebiner is a carabiner (great for clipping your mug to your pack) that includes a well-functioning firestarter.
 Small cutting board - The Cutting Board Plus from Light My Fire acts as a lightweight, durable cutting surface and a strainer.
 Water container / filter

Optional add-ons

 Camp Table 
 Bowl / plate - The Fozzils flat-pack items mentioned above are ideal for keeping things light and low profile.
 Bear Canister (as needed)
 Collapsible camp sink - The Peregrine Ultralight Folding Basin is a great, compact choice.
 Grandpa's Fire Grill - A perfect addition for grilling meats, veggies, or fish you catch on your journey!

Is there anything that you think we've missed on these lists? What has become your most essential piece of camp kitchen equipment? Tell us in the comments below!