Our main objective when setting up the camping kitchen was that we wanted to have all the equipment in the world, but unfortunately there wasn’t much space in my car for this, considering that I also had to fit Monique, our long boards, the suitcases, my guitar, water sports equipment, the tent, the mattress… You get me? Well, if you are considering going away camping for a while, you are already having nightmares trying to downsize all the stuff in your house to fit them in a boot of a car. So we had to stick with things that were going to be really useful and “save” us something, like money, time, or space.
We’ve learned across the years (from breaking equipment in the middle of nowhere) that quality matters, and today there is a wealth of equipment out there so you better know your needs and objectives before going and spending money on tools, as well as knowing what quality means. As this is a broad subject, we’ll try to explain it by justifying the different apparatuses that we carry with us. Read on below as we tell you why the hell we decided to buy/bring these specific items. You can also see what we spent on these items on our pre-departure expenses page.
Mini Spider stove by Doite (see here)
Works on iso-butane –propane gas mix which is not cheap but it heats up really fast and to a high temperature, and its reliable in all climates. The stove is small and weighs nothing. Also the gas is easy to find (not as easy as propane or butane alone, but a lot safer for you, a the time of this trip NSW, VIC and QLD governments had recalled a number of iso-butane equipment due to an increasing number of accidents related to them).
We didn’t wanted to have LPG equipment since the cylinders are too heavy (but a lot cheaper) and bulkier and since we like to go hiking and drinking coffee we wanted to be able to transport our stove not only in our car but also when we were bushwalking. If space is not your problem, LPG stoves are the easiest to find in camping stores so I won’t write about them. To determine which is the best lightweight gas option for your needs this article will come really handy.
Overall this little gem (measuring 13.5cm x 13.5cm x 8cm) is fantastic. Combined with our good pots we can boil 1lt of water in 2.5mins. The gas canisters are not cheap but easy to find and we have learned ways to make them last longer, the main way is to have a good set of pots so keep reading. You can pick up one of these lightweight cookers at most camping stores for around the $60 AUD mark.
Later on the trip we found a nifty little adapter for 15 dollars that allows us to connect the dirty cheap propane bottles (the spray can shaped ones) to our little stove, bringing the cost of gas to $1.50 per week.
We picked this set because is compact (literally 20cm x 20cm) and it is incredible quality. A ceramic and Teflon mix is better quality that the stainless steal, massive old pots we had in our home kitchen. We were so tempted to bring our old pots in order to not have to spend more money. That was until I packed them and they took half of my boot space. It can be really tempting to pick up the aluminum version of this set (half the price and even lighter) but that would cost you so much more in the long run. Aluminum is cheap and light but it does not keep the heat well, nor will it distribute the heat evenly. This will translate in longer cooking times, more gas usage, and shittier results with your food (think your rice is cooked in the middle and bottom of your pan but the bits that cooked in the sides or at the top of the pot are so crunchy it might break your teeth).
When you cook on teflon the food does not stick to the bottom of your pan so it not only doesn’t burn (…that easily, you still need some skills and to look what you are doing) but it will also clean up nice and quick when you are washing it with stone cold water from the river. Also the lids of the pots seal close to keep the heat inside and avoid gas wasting. We mainly bought this for the pots and the diamond technology Teflon coated pan (I’m a cook and am a sucker for equipment so deal with it, this pan is so amazing I would marry it if I need to) but the little plates, bowls and utensils included in the set have come SO FUCKING handy, first because they don’t take space and secondly because you always underestimate the space you need to keep your prep before it goes in the pot, the chopped onions, carrots and tomatoes you need for Bolognese do not all fit in the same chopping board you are now trying to cut the garlic in. In summary, I love this set, it has come so handy an its has save us so much money because we can cook in the most amazing locations and saved us from eating out or trying to buy snacks, so you should just buy one. We have not been able to find these pots on sale anywhere in Australia on online (we purchased ours in Chile), however Tent World stock the Companion Pro Nano cookware sets, which are very similar to the Doite sets and comparable quality.
A big frying pan
This will come in handy when you want to make one pan meals (like stir fry, risotto or fried rice) or when you have a lot of things to cook in a frying pan at once (like sausages, bacon, eggs and mushrooms for breakfast). This is also the pan you can put straight into the open fire. The little one that comes in the set above is too precious for me to put it in the fire pit, the handle is also very short and we run the risk of melting it or burning ourselves. Cast iron pans are great, but a good large stainless steel will work just fine. Ours has Teflon coating to it, I find them easy to wash and it was also the one we had at home, so we did not buy a new one.
Esky or refrigerator
There are a lot of camping refrigerators and even freezers out there, but they are expensive (think in the high-hundred of dollars) and they work either on LPG or 12v. We do not have a double battery system in our car and we opted out of LPG for cooking so neither of them seemed like a sensible choice for us.
So the real question for us was esky, or esky plus. We found a really good esky with a 12v plug as well for the same money we would have pay for just the esky, so it works on ice while we are camping and we plug it to the car while we are travelling. We spend on ice about 5 dollars every third day and we have not lost any food to it. As a little advice, get the big ice blocks and not the ice cubes, as they last about 3 times longer.
A chopping board, a tea towel and a good knife
You only need 1 good knife. And by good knife I mean the one that can easily cut the peel of a tomato simply by softly sliding the sharp end over the tomato. Please have a guard for this knife or it wont be good for long. Take a wet stone or a good sharpener with you, you will be using this knife a lot, probably everyday 3 times a day, and most of what we think of cooking as an enjoyable experience comes out of having the right tools for the right task.
You will need the chopping board too; trying to cut stuff on a plate is not only uncomfortable but also really dangerous. In fact cooking is a dangerous activity that involves knives and fire, I’m sure you never thought about it this way, but if you burn or cut yourself in the middle of the bush by night you will know what I’m talking about, same if you set your campsite on fire.
The tea towel (bring a couple) will not only dry your dishes, clean your hands, cover your prep from the insects, it will also with the help of a couple of lackey-bands will turn this humble tea towel into the safe guard for your knife in case you were wondering were to get one.
A ladle, a wooden spoon, long tongs
Ladle: You will be handling hot food constantly and you will need the right tools for it if you don’t want to
a) burn yourself,
b) burn your food
c) drop your food in the floor,
d) burn yourself and drop your food in the floor.
You will use the ladle because using another cup to serve soup or stews is gross and dangerous (you will burn yourself), and if you try to serve the soup with the wooden spoon it will be cold by the time you finish and if you use a normal spoon it will not only be cold by the time you finish your teflon coated pot will be ruin too. So get a ladle and make sure is not metallic.
Wooden spoon: generally to stir food whilst cooking on Teflon surface to not ruin said surfaces.
Long tongs: you need tongs because you will be cooking sausages and meat and trying to fork them to turn them will not only mess up with the moisture of your food it will also scratch the pots. A good camper values and looks after their equipment, or they fuck it up and end up spending all their money to replace it, or eats like shit, either either they are not a happy camper. I suggest you bring long tongs because they will come in really handy when you are cooking over an open fire, like when you wrap you potatoes with butter and garlic in foil and throw them directly in the fire pit, the long tongs will make turning them and retrieving them from the fire an easy task, and will make you look smart and competent, full of skills, it also wont leave any burning scars in your hands and your arm hair will remain attached to your body (you are welcome).
A can opener & bottle opener
You will use a lot of food from cans, and not all cans are self-opening, especially the cheap ones. Also sometime the self opened ones break and you will need one anyway.
Cheap wines in Australia use corks, and you know how messy it can get if you don’t have the proper tool.
A set of tupperware with good lids
You are relying on an esky with ice, ice melts and turn into water, water gets into all your opened containers in the esky, you lost the food, hence tupperware with good lids are really really important. Make sure they are rectangular or square as the round ones will be make things difficult when organising boxes or the esky.
Zip-loc bags sandwich size
Same reason as per above they are really good when it comes to veggies in the esky. They also awesome to pack lunches when going on day trips.
Your best mate when it comes to cooking straight on/in the fire. Just wrap your veggies in foil with spices and butter/non-dairly butter alternative and chuck them into the coils, wait 45m, unwrap and eat… Foil will also be your best mate when you are weirdos like us and are catering for food allergies. You can just line the top of the public electric BBQ with foil and cook without fear of cross contamination, the bonus being that you don’t have to clean the BBQ after you use it… just chuck that piece of foil in the bin and voila!!
– 1 full set of proper cutlery per person (don’t bring plastic, it doesn’t do the work).
– 1 big shallow plate, 1 bowl and 1 cup or mug made of materials that are resistant to heat (i.e. wont melt when you pour the soup in them) and the cutlery (you cut the steak and also the plate in the same movement) but it will also travel well without breaking (leave the stoneware and ceramics at home please). Ceramic-coated metal, and hard plastics are good options, please avoid party plastics and cupboard unless you would like to eat straight from the cooking pot.
– We have two camping chairs and a picnic rug, they are really good when it comes to consuming your food in a comfortable manner.
These are items that I don’t have and I have regretted a couple of times not to have them, but have not regretted it enough to actually buy them yet.
A table: a couple of times I’ve missed having a table to raise the kitchen stove, but 99% of the time I could find materials in nature to suit the same purpose. We are not fussed about eating on a table, besides most camping sites we’ve been to have public picnic tables or benches. We have managed to do 6 weeks without desperately needing one… we’ve been shopping for one a couple of times but the expense of money and the space in the car are more important to us at the moment than the need for a table.
A tablecloth: some people doesn’t like eating in public picnic tables. We don’t have a problem with it, a good clean up with a soapy cloth does the trick, but if you don’t like other peoples germs bring a plastic cloth, its easy to clean, light and takes no space.
A wind guard for the kitchen: out of all the items I might need this is the one I’ve missed the most, but again nothing than a few sticks, rocks, and a cupboard box cannot solve.
A transportable fire pit: Ive been tempted so many times, particularly the time I found out k-mart has one that packs flat and goes for only $20. We have been camping in national parks in Australia, and in most of them you are not allowed to make fires anymore, the places that do allow you to make fire, require you to make them off the ground and for that you need a fire pit. In Victoria, Queensland and NSW camping ground we haven’t found enough of them that will allow us to do so, so we have not bought one, we think the Northern Territory might give us a better excuse to get one. We will let you know if that is the case.
A stick blender: I am actually carrying one with me, every few days (or once every 10-14 days if were lucky) we get out of the bush and we pay to stay in a caravan park. There we take advantage of all the facilities to wash our clothes and take a warm shower, give a proper wash to our kitchen equipment (cold water doesn’t clean as well as hot water) and to prep some delicacies to take with us into the bush again, here is where I use the stick mixer to turn chickpeas into hummus, beans and fresh spices into dips, and basil and nuts into pesto, all of which will keep really nicely on the esky for 10 days and will make our dinner time a lot more enjoyable and easy when we are in the bush.
Every person cooks different food and need different tools for them, this is just an example on how we did it. We aim to show you what was our rationale behind our decisions, we would like you to think about what are you going to be cooking and under what circumstances and make sure you figure out everything you might need to be successful, if you have any questions just post them below and I’ll try to help you!… good luck, happy eating and safe travels.
From Chilli, with love.
See the full article on our camping pantry for details of what food we always carry with us when camping!