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.
Kitchen setup essentials
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. Its 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 about 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 with hood. 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 footprint. 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.
When embarking on unforgettable camping adventures, having a well-equipped and organized kitchen is essential. A cluttered and disorganized kitchen not only makes meal preparation cumbersome but also detracts from the overall camping experience. Organized and accessible items save time, maximize space, and prevent damage during travel.
Accessories that can help your camper kitchen storage include magnetic strips for utensils, nesting or collapsible containers and bowls, slide-out or flip-up shelving, and hanging baskets.
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.
Bonus camp kitchen ideas
Besides the essentials, there are some additional ideas for your kitchen setup to make it more seamless and organized.
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.
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.
In a compact camper kitchen, having additional workspace beyond the existing kitchen counters is essential for a practical and enjoyable cooking experience during trips. While setting up some things on the ground or using the trunk of the tow vehicle can be a temporary solution, it’s not ideal because of uneven surfaces or limited accessibility. Bringing a foldable table or work surface gives you a flat and stable area for cutting, chopping, and organizing ingredients. They also double as convenient serving stations, allowing you to lay out plates, utensils, and condiments for a well-organized mealtime.
TARP OR COVERING
When you're out in the great outdoors, nothing can dampen the camping experience more than having to cook or prepare food in the rain or having falling leaves land in the food from overhead trees. This is where having a shelter, like an awning or canopy, becomes invaluable. This way, you can create a dedicated and protected cooking area, shielding yourself from unexpected rain showers, strong winds, or debris from above. It also helps extend your living space and create a cozy outdoor kitchen ambiance.
Many TAXA habitats come with the ability to add an awning that provides essential protection from the elements, making outdoor cooking comfortable in any weather. TigerMoth also features a side hatch that acts as a built-in awning, offering a ready-made covering for your cooking area.
Camp kitchen checklist
- Camping stove
- Portable grill
- Matches/fuel (if needed)
- Instant read thermometer
- Oven mitts/pot holders
- Water jugs
- Coffee/tea maker
- Utensils (spatula, tongs, spoons, forks, knives, etc.)
- Cutting boards
- Plates/bowls/cups (preferably non-breakable and/or collapsable)
- Foldable table/cook station
- Tupperware (for leftovers)
- Aluminum foil
- Resealable bags
- Seasonings (salt, pepper, spices, etc.)
- Cooking oil
- Oatmeal/pancake mix
- Canned foods (soup, chili, beans, etc.)
- Energy foods and snacks (granola bars, trail mix, etc.)
- Peanut butter/jelly
- Biodegradable dish soap
- Sponge/dish scrubber
- Dish towels
- Paper towels/napkins
- Pop-up garbage can
- Drying rack
Upgrade your camping & cooking setup
Good times are enhanced by good food. Dialing in your camp kitchen with an adaptable habitat like TAXA’s makes a world of difference and knowing that your essentials will evolve along with you is just part of the fun. Cheers!