Whether you’re heading for the hills or hitting the festivals, mealtimes can be one of the most enjoyable parts of any camping trip.
However, gone are the days of eating cold beans out of a tin or sitting around a campfire and waiting for your baked potato to crisp up in the flames. Today there are a whole host of clever cooking devices to help you serve up the very finest campsite cuisine.
Roasting marshmallows over a fire may romanticise camping, but it’s not exactly a meal - sorry. In this handy guide, we look at some of the camping cookware essentials you’ll need in order to cook up a storm on your next outdoor adventure.
Read on to find out more about the essential camping cooking kit you need, from stoves and fuel to cutlery and crockery…
These days many campsites don’t allow open fires. So if you’re looking to whip up some tasty camping grub, a good stove or BBQ is a must.
There are many kinds of camping stoves to choose from, with many different fuel types. So, before you decide which type of stove is right for you, there are a few factors to consider first, such as:
What will you be using the stove for? Are you just boiling water for a post-hike cuppa or will you be serving up a full meal?
How many people will you be cooking for? Is it just you or are you feeding the whole family?
What kind of conditions will you be cooking in? Are you cooking in low temperatures or up in the mountains, for example?
Types of Camping Stove
Whether you need a lightweight stove to whip up a quick snack, or a super-stove for cooking up a family feast, there are four main types to choose from, including:
Gas stoves are easy to assemble and are ready to use in an instant, making them the perfect choice for casual camping or short backpacking trips.
They also come in a range of options including single or multiple-burners – some models even include a grill – so you can cook more versatile meals.
Campingaz, for example, has been the historic leader of gas camping stoves having created the refillable gas cylinder, although there are various other excellent brands available.
Gas stoves, traditionally, come in either butane, propane or a mixture of the two gases in the fuel cylinders. The key difference between the two gases is the temperature at which they operate – their boiling points. Propane, for example, lower boiling point than butane of -42°C, so it can operate at low temperatures.
These compact stoves use refillable fuel bottles which usually contain methylated spirits, Coleman fuel, paraffin or kerosene.
Liquid fuel stoves are extremely reliable and even work in really cold temperatures, making them ideal for hiking or mountaineering. However, they are also generally more complicated than other stoves and require regular maintenance and cleaning.
A favourite with Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, alcohol burner stoves – such as those by Trangia – run on methylated spirits and are reasonably effective across a wide range of conditions.
There are virtually no moving parts, so very little maintenance is required. Most alcohol burner stoves also come with pots and pans included, which fit together to make storage and transport much easier.
Solid Fuel Stoves
Solid fuel stoves use fuel such as alcohol gel or ‘hex’ blocks. Solid fuel stoves are relatively safe and easy to use, which makes them good for family camping trips.
However, compared to other stove types, solid fuel is quite inefficient, burns slowly and the blocks themselves are not widely available.
Environmentally-friendly cooking fuel
It is also worth noting that one of our favourite brands, Vango, has recently launched a new fuel – previously known as Fuel4.
As a bio-ethanol gel, it is a smokeless, non-toxic, environmentally-friendly fuel that’s compatible with Trangia stoves. With a wide range of new cookers and accessories set to launch alongside the new bio-ethanol fuel, this is definitely a product to keep an eye on.
Thanks to its viscous gel composition, Gel Fuel has a significantly lowers chance of spilling than liquid. This makes it a much safer alternative to other fuels available, especially to first-timers or young campers. This is why it has been approved for use by both the Scouts and DofE.
Camping Cooking Equipment
As well as a good stove you also need lots of other equipment for cooking and eating in the great outdoors, such as:
Pots, pans, and cutlery
Plastic tableware and cups
Corkscrews and tin openers (or save space with a Swiss Army Knife)
A coolbox for storing chilled food and cold beers
Plastic bags for any rubbish or storage
Washing up liquid and a sponge to do the dishes!
Picking the perfect pans
When it comes to cooking materials such as pots and pans, make sure you choose a set that is designed to be used in the great outdoors.
They should be very hardwearing, durable, and built to withstand more wear and tear than the cooking sets you use at home. Most camping cook sets are made out of aluminium, as it is an extremely lightweight material.
You should also look for cook sets that include any space-saving features, such as being able to slot them together or attach to backpacks. Finally, opt for non-stick pans so that you can spend more time camping and less time scrubbing!
Camping Cutlery & Crockery
Unless you're planning on eating out of the pan (which we wouldn't really recommend) with just your hands (which we definitely wouldn't recommend), then you're going to need some decent camping cutlery and crockery.
It’s also important that you have reusable cutlery, that you can take multiple trips, made from - ideally - metal to reduce your environmental impact.
You obviously don't want to take your dinner service cutlery with you when you go camping, so you'll need something hardy and durable.
Also, as you need a knife, fork and spoon, it's also easy for everything to become separated and lost in your pack, but there are various camping cutlery sets available that keep the various parts together.
Just make sure your camping cutlery is well packed away with no sharp edges sticking out or you could end up putting a whole in some of your other equipment, or worse, your hand when you plunge into your bag looking for something.
Camping Plates, Bowls, Mugs & More
One of the major issues when it comes to camping crockery - bowls in particular - is the amount of space it takes up.
As with pretty much all camping cookware, you shouldn't be too worried about your plates, bowls and mugs getting scratched at all. The main thing is that they're hardwearing and durable. The less you’re throwing away, the better.
Cooking tips for canny campers
Fill a small tupperware box with bags of salt, pepper, dried herbs and spices. They’re great for adding a bit of seasoning to your dishes.
Throw a few lemons and limes into your rucksack. Not only are they great for adding flavour to fish or salad, but they can also be used for cleaning your chopping board.
If you’re looking for a quick carb kick, dried pasta, rice or noodles provide an easy way to bulk up any meal.
One-pot meals such as paella or pasta are a great way to cook big feasts with a small amount of washing up.
Always cook outside your tent. You should never risk setting fire to your tent by taking a lit stove inside.
Eat like a king or queen on your next camping trip with our huge range of camping cookware.
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