How to Build the Ultimate Car Camping Kitchen

Outfit your car camping outdoor kitchen with this excellent new gear.
Courtesy Image

This article was produced in partnership with Dometic

One of the best parts of car camping is the ability to haul the necessary gear to make gourmet meals in the middle of nowhere. You don’t have to cram everything into a pack then schlep it into the wilderness. And there’s no need to forgo your favorite food for dehydrated grub—or measure out oil and spices to liven up backcountry meals.

Of course you still have to be choosey, since the ultimate car camping kitchen can comprise some heavy, space-consuming items (e.g. a stove, grill, pots, pans, utensils, pantry staples, water). We’ve made a blueprint so you can maximize what you can bring while minimizing the space it takes in your vehicle.

Creating a Camp Kitchen

Putting together the backbone of your kitchen—the stuff you actually cook in and eat out of—used to mean a bit of foraging through old utensils and pots that should really be retired. But nowadays, there are lots of turnkey options for creating a great cooking station in the outdoors that’s light, durable, and efficient.

Dometic's new GO line features handy soft storage that can convert into a cooler.
Courtesy Image

First off, it’s good to have some storage options lined up to pack away all of your various pieces of cookery. For that, go for Dometic’s new line of storage solutions. Soft-storage containers come in two sizes: 20 liter ($100) or 10 liter ($60). These handy little cubes are tough, as well as being ideal for storing lots of gear since they’re made from water-resistant, rugged thermoplastic-coated polyester, which gives them a semi-rigid structure that can collapse down. Add in the slip-in insulated totes—GO Pac Insulated 20L ($50) and 10L ($40)—and your storage transforms into a cooler. The 50-liter GO Hard Storage ($150) will also be available soon.

The Decked/Pathfinder cooking kit has all you need for creating culinary masterpieces outdoors.
Courtesy Image

For covering the nuts and bolts of a camp kitchen, we like the Decked x Pathfinder Campfire Cooking Kit ($475), a collab between Decked, which makes the ultimate pickup bed drawer system (and a cool new tool box), and The Pathfinder School, a survival resource and outdoor gear company founded by noted survivalist Dave Canterbury. This all-in-one system gives you a ton of great-quality cookware to handle up to four campers.

Some highlights include: 120- and 64-ounce pots with lids and spouts, a folding skillet, four bowls and plates, four camp cups with lids, four sporks, and camp tongs which split apart to become a small ladle and spatula. All of this is made from single-wall, high-grade stainless steel so you can cook on a stove or open fire. And the best part is it all nests neatly and fits into the included Decked D-Bag ($200).

OXO's new outdoor line of cooking essentials is ready for adventure.
Courtesy Image

Being able to bring along a nice knife and large cutting board is another perk of packing a full-featured backcountry overlanding kitchen. OXO, which makes some of the most reliable kitchen utensils, just came out with a new line of kitchen essentials for the outdoors. And two of the best options are the Santoku Knife ($20) and Steady Surface Cutting Board ($13).

With the knife, you get a 5.5-inch stainless steel blade configured in the popular santoku blade style, great for chopping and slicing. A locking sheath keeps the edge (and your hands) safe when tossed in storage and the non-slip handle helps grip the knife securely, even when wet. Add in the BPA-free plastic cutting board, with handy non-slip feet and built-in drip channel featuring corners with reliefs for pouring, and you’ll be well on your way to gastronomic bliss in the backcountry.

The new Sea to Summit Clean-up Kit makes outdoor dish washing a breeze.
Courtesy Image

Another camp kitchen essential is a clean-up kit. Sure, you could just assemble one from the random bits in the cabinet under your kitchen sink, but why not get something that’s super useful but also small and compact? The new Sea to Summit Camp Kitchen Clean-Up Kit ($40) definitely fits that bill as it gives you a 10-liter kitchen sink (that packs up tiny); a soap bottle that clips into a handy pot scrubber for better grip; a double-sided washcloth; and super-absorbent, fast-drying kitchen towel. All of that comes stored in a small, convenient zippered case with a total weight of 9.5 ounces.

Indulge in Backcountry Luxuries

Bringing along efficient, packable, high-performing kitchen gear is satisfying, but to really indulge in the luxury of car camping it’s important to pack some stuff that can really transform your culinary expectations in the wild. One piece of cookware no serious car camper should be without is either a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, which are perfect for sizzling up some bacon over an early-morning fire or slow-baking cobbler in the coals after the dishes are done.

Bring along a cast iron skillet like this one from Borough Furnace for your next camping cook out.
Courtesy Image

Check out the two-person team at Borough Furnace in the Finger Lakes region of New York for some minimalist, rugged cast iron creations like the Seasoned Dutch Oven ($240) or Frying Skillet ($300). Handmade in small batches, either of these cast iron beauties will be an excellent addition to your camp kitchen. The company is also the only brand in America to make a cast iron pot with a porcelain enamel coating (see: Enameled Dutch Oven; $280), à la Le Creuset, so if you have the means, spring for that.

Add off-site electric cooling to you next camping trip with the Dometic CXF 25.
Courtesy Image

Another car camping kitchen essential is an electric cooler. With Dometic CFX3 25 ($900), gone are the days of messing with rapidly melting ice that turns chilled food into a soggy mess. This pint-sized powerhouse is the perfect companion for a car filled with outdoor gear, since it’s only 22 in x 16 in x 13 in and weighs 28 pounds. The 25-liter interior will hold 33 12-ounce cans, though we suggest filling it up with perishable food and regulating your beverages to a traditional cooler with ice so nothing gets water-logged or affected by fluctuating temps.

The CXF3 25 is also tough with a beefy frame and aluminum handles. An easy-to-read, black-on-white LCD display and available smartphone app make operation and monitoring the little fridge a breeze. You can also tote along an independent battery source like the Dometic PLB40 to keep it powered up and off your vehicle’s battery when out adventuring.

The combo of the Dometic GO Hydration Jug and Faucet make camp clean up easy and fun.
Courtesy Image

Running water is a luxury you don’t get in the wilderness, unless you’re in a pimped-out RV or stay in a developed campground. Dometic’s new GO Hydration Water Faucet ($100) is a game changer.

Compatible with any water container—though we suggest the Dometic GO Water Hydration Jug ($70) for its quick-connect spigot, comfy webbing handles, and two openings for easy accessory attachment and cleaning—the faucet uses a long-lasting battery that gives it the juice to pump water quickly. It also provides a night light for aprés campfire toothbrushing. A puck base and magnetic base allow for multiple mounting options around your campsite to maximize utility.

Toss the Front Runner Box Braai grill into your vehicle for awesome outdoor grilling.
Courtesy Image

One last luxury that can come in handy at campsites is a foldable fire pit/grill like the Front Runner Box Braai/BBQ Grill ($222). Some sites don’t allow fires if they’re touching the ground. That’s where a flat-pack grill like the Box Braai shines. Made from stainless steel, the quick-to-setup grill gives you plenty of cooking surface to satisfy a large group and comes with a base that keeps it upright along with catching any errant embers.

With a multitude of awesome options out there, bringing your culinary prowess to the backcountry in the trunk of your car or bed of your truck is easier than ever, it’s just a matter of picking out the best gear.

Shop Dometic’s new GO line here.

shop now

For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!