Camp Kitchen Essentials
By Alex Hardgrave \
If you would have asked me to describe our camp kitchen a year ago, I would have been a bit embarrassed to do so. We didn’t have a good system in place and were so focused on keeping things light and simplified that our meals were repetitive and not overly enjoyable. We literally considered stopping to grab something on the way home from a weekend out as our silver lining. Womp womp. I’m happy to report however that after loads of trial and error, those sad days are behind us.
Our kitchen setup at home and in our Mantis honestly don’t differ too much in terms of the core goal; focus on essentials and supplement with a few little luxuries.
I like to keep things organized. Having a portable kitchen setup to deploy no matter where we are has really made the cooking experience all the more enjoyable on my end, especially since I’m the only cook in this family. Our outdoor kitchen of choice is the Mountain Summit Gear Deluxe Roll Top Kitchen. With plenty of room to prep, cook and plate, I seriously couldn’t be happier with it.
WHERE’S THE HEAT?
The stove/grill has evolved with our travels and I’m pretty happy where we ended up, although it took a little time to get there. Let me be clear that when the weather is cool, we simply cook inside the Mantis, but this is Texas in the summer. We aren’t on a mission to invite more heat indoors.
After researching several outdoor stove options, we were super set on the Jetboil Genesis Basecamp Stove. It’s small form factor that didn’t sacrifice performance was such a win. The only thing I found a bit frustrating was hauling two pans so I could cook items simultaneously, but that came with the territory.
One evening as I was watching several videos around families that live in their campers full-time, I kept seeing one particular kitchen accessory show up in their setups. Enter the Blackstone 17” Tabletop Griddle. Once I dove into reviews and watched loads of folks cook with it, I was hooked. I picked one up so I could get it nice and seasoned before our next trip.
Is it heavy? Yes. Does it provide a giant surface to cook on that keeps me from using multiple pans? Also yes. The biggest thing is that it fits my style of cooking and it stores away nicely despite the heavy foot print. I love the dang thing so much, I even cook with it when we’re at home!
Alright, I admit it. I have a cooler problem. When you live in a hot state and like to be outdoors, figuring out the best way to keep things cool can become a side job. Like most people, I’m always looking for the intersection of quality and value when it comes to any product. However, there is a side of me that just likes to try gear. It’s really a curse. Currently we have four coolers in rotation. Yes, you heard that right, four. I try to make myself feel a little bit better knowing that they all get used, but even I know that’s excessive. When it comes to the camp kitchen though, our primary hardside cooler is a 50 Quart Bison Cooler. I’ve had this since 2015 and it’s survived everything we’ve thrown at it.
Invest in some quality freeze packs. The brand I have had the most success with is Cooler Shock. These seriously extend the life of your ice and if you’re just looking to keep some cool drinks in the car during a road trip, no ice necessary!
SUPER PRO TIP
Save your money and just buy a Dometic. Bye, ice.
THE LITTLE THINGS
Sometimes little things make a big impact. In our kit, these narrow down to various utensils and oil/spices, all of which we keep in a handy little caddy! This has been such a win for keeping things organized, plus we don’t have to dig to find what we need.
All you’ll find in our caddy to supplement what we cook is garlic salt, thyme, pepper, Himalayan salt and olive oil. Simple, but effective. On the utensil front, we’ve got reusable fork/spoon combos, a pair of tongs and a single spatula. We finally added a dedicated knife to the mix as well which makes chopping veggies on the go a breeze.
One of my fav little hacks is using a micro shampoo holder to house olive oil so I can easily toss some on the griddle without pulling out the full bottle.
THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY
Coffee. This is probably the one area where my routine at home is identical to my routine on the road.
Some of you may be saying, “Now Ally, you said you don’t use the Mantis stove when it’s hot and that Blackstone doesn’t look like the best thing to heat a pot of water…” and you would be right! This is where my little MSR PocketRocket 2 Stove comes to the rescue. It packs up tiny in a little plastic case that I leave in an aluminum cup, next to a little fuel canister. I realize this is extra, but as the sub-heading states, this is my most important meal of the day, so I don’t skimp.
As a keto coffee junky, my lovely wife got me a rechargeable whisk to take with us to mix up my fat bombs into my coffee. She’s a keeper.
What’s more important than all our kitchen gear? The food of course! After loads of trips and dialing in what works best for us, we finally have primo meals in the Mantis. Although we prepare as much as we can at home to keep things a bit more organized, having all the necessities on hand if we grab some fresh ingredients while we’re out is super handy.
Alex and I have been Keto for over two years now, so we focus on fats, proteins and veggies. We also keep good cheese on hand for snacking, along with almonds and cashews.
Good times are enhanced by good food. Dialing in your camp kitchen makes a world of difference and knowing that your essentials will evolve along with you is just part of the fun. Cheers!