Adventure, camping, food, gear and clothing, hacks, organization, Travel Tips

Your Amazing Car Camping Kitchen

You can make your car camping kitchen amazing without a lot of gear. Here's how.

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 and eat it outside. 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 candlelight dinners in the shadow of the world’s tallest trees. We wouldn’t change it for the world.

Our Coleman stove is an integral part of our car-camping kitchen

Tips for Enjoying Your Car Camping Kitchen

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 duffel 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.

car camping kitchen

  • Make sure your cookware serves more than one purpose. We use plate/bowl hybrids so we can eat pancakes or soup out of them, and we try and buy the lightest cookware we can find so that we can also use it for backpacking. I have to admit, we’re not a big fan of sporks, though.
  • Create a special recipe book for your car camping meals. I know the smartphone revolution is long past, but I still prefer real books when we’re camping (nothing to recharge). We paste our camp recipes in a compact little notebook. 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. Generally, we keep things simple, but sometimes we need special hot drinks to pacify the masses.
  • Leave the bacon at home. Obviously you bacon lovers will keep on keepin’ on, but I’m done. Leaving the bacon behind on camping trips was a hard lesson to learn, but I love not scrubbing greasy bacon pans in the woods. They are nearly impossible to clean, 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).
  • 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.

For a detailed list of our camp-kitchen gear list, check out this post, which also includes our favorite meals.

car camping kitchen

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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You can make your car camping kitchen amazing without a lot of gear. Here's how.


  1. We love to car camp and try to get out a few times a year. I love the idea to pack spices because that is the one thing I always forget!

  2. I’m actually more jealous than you know. I work all summer and unforutnately, can’t take time off. During the winter, it’s too cold here to do that sort of thing. Maybe someday! It sure does sound great
    Cassie Jahn recently posted…Creating a Chemical-Free Home – 30DMDCMy Profile

    • I’m the opposite, Cassie. I think I tend to work more in the winter, which is perfectly fine with me.

  3. Terrific tips. We ate grilled cheese on the side of the road in the swiss alps one day. It was beautiful and delicious.
    Candy recently posted…Croissants HomemadeMy Profile

  4. Mmmm, that pancake looks delicious! When my daughter is older, I’d love to do some cross country travelling in an RV : )

  5. awesomeeeeee
    Wooclip recently posted…Martian (2015)My Profile

  6. What a fabulous idea! Wish we had more time to do things like this.

  7. Love it! I totally agree with you on the bacon topic. Now if I could get my husband to agree to that….lol! Thanks for the tips.
    Ashley recently posted…Lion Guard Craft for Valentine’s DayMy Profile

    • Shelley

      I use sausages, sometimes the precooked ones, though I usually shy away from that stuff… but they aren’t bad.. and the saving grace is lots of paper towel. I simply wipe out my pan before it cools all the way.

  8. You make it look so great! I am not a camper, but i love your suggestions!
    linda spiker recently posted…10 Pasta Dinners in 20 Minutes or Less!My Profile

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