Car camping is tied with RVing as America’s favorite way to road trip across the country. You’ve got the freedom of the open road without the expense of hotel rooms and restaurants. It’s our favorite way to travel for a million reasons, but one that tops the list is that we can cook our own food in our compact travel kitchen. Since decking out our portable kitchen, we’ve had the pleasure of impromptu lunches at awesome drive-by picnic spots, afternoon tea on a rocky bluff over looking the ocean, and amazing candle light dinners in the shadow of the world’s tallest trees. We wouldn’t change it for the world.
It’s taken us years of practice to create the perfect car camping kitchen, but I think we’ve got it down now. Our “kitchen” is actually a big duffle bag that holds all of our cookware and supplies. We have to pack pretty light in order to cram everything into our tiny car. But we also love good camp food and cooking in general, so it’s always a balance. Here are some first-hand tips for making the most of your car camping kitchen.
- Make sure your cookware serves more than one purpose. Plates should have high lips around the edges so they can serve as bowls as well. If you’re a backpacker, make sure you cookware is light enough to hike with.
- Create a special recipe book for your car camping meals. For us, this is a compact little notebook with recipes pasted on each page. We have a handful of favorite recipes that are easy to prepare, delicious to eat, and don’t make a lot of dishes. The notebook lives in the side pocket of our kitchen.
- Hot beverages are the cat’s meow. Tea, coffee, hot cocoa – whatever makes you happy at home will thrill you when you’re on the road.
- Leave the bacon at home. This was a hard lesson to learn, but really, greasy bacon pans are near impossible to clean in the wilderness, and the fat attracts animals and makes everything smell bad.
- Create a spice kit and learn to love it. The spice kit is magic in the woods. It can fix almost every cooking problem, at least the ones that revolve around taste. Our spice kit is a menagerie of plastic bottles filled with our favorite seasonings. This is all packed into a zippered bag that we keep in the pantry (plastic bin). Here’s what we’ve got in ours: soy sauce, garlic powder, Old Bay seasoning, ginger, salt, pepper, fennel seeds, curry powder, crushed red pepper, cumin seeds, italian seasoning, thyme, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Cheddar Shake, and bottled lemon juice.
- Invest in a kitchen tarp. Rainy days are part of the deal, and without a cover for cooking and eating, you’re either snacking on granola bars in the car, or heading to the nearest restaurant. This inexpensive tarp has been worth its weight in gold, and we will never go car camping without it.
- Don’t forget the finishing touches. A pretty tablecloth, candles, and cloth napkins make every meal feel special, and there is nothing better in the whole world than watching the sun go down in a beautiful place while eating an awesome camp-cooked meal in luxury.
Ready to get cooking? Check out our favorite car-camping recipes before you hit the road.
Whether we’re relaxing at home or livin’ it up on the road, eating is still one of our family’s favorite pastimes. With every camping trip, we refine our packing, cooking, and organizing skills. We’d love to hear some of your tips for making the most of your car camping kitchen.
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