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Car Camping Kitchen: Ultimate Packing Checklist

car camping kitchen

Having an organized camp kitchen can be a game-changer for last-minute camping trips. Imagine grabbing your camping kitchen and going, knowing everything you need is stocked, neatly arranged, and easily accessible! 

In this guide, I’ll share practical tips and suggestions for building and organizing your camp kitchen! By implementing these strategies, you’ll be ready for last-minute camping trips without the stress of scrambling to gather your cooking essentials. 

Keep scrolling to learn how an efficiently organized camp kitchen can make camping even better.


This post is specifically for car camping, not backpacking. Looking to build a backpacking kitchen? Read this blog next!

camping cooking gear
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Car Camping Packing Checklist

Looking for a convenient one-page car camping kitchen checklist? Look no further – I’ve got you covered!

Building My Camping Kitchen Setup

I’ve been car camping for the better part of 10 years and have learned a lot about what I actually need to cook when camping. Curious about my DIY camping kitchen? Check out this video:

Keep scrolling for tips and tricks for setting up a functional and efficient car camping kitchen that will allow you to cook delicious meals while enjoying the beauty of nature!

Table of Contents

Car Camping Kitchen Essentials

Keep in mind that you don’t have to buy everything brand new when building your camping kitchen setup. You likely already have a lot of these items in your kitchen! 


Look for extra items hidden in the back of drawers that could be repurposed for your camp kitchen box, or go to the thrift store or local REI Re/Supply for used options. 

last minute camping trip

For about eight years, I’ve organized our camping kitchen gear into a hand-me-down Action Packer tub! These durable containers (that come in 8 gallons and 24 gallons) are the ultimate storage solution for my camp kitchen essentials. They keep everything neatly organized and double as a convenient chair, cutting board, or even a sturdy step stool when needed!

car camping kitchen


A reliable stove is one of the most important items for your car camping kitchen. Whether you prefer a propane, butane, or multi-fuel stove, you’ll want to ensure it’s easy to use and heats food quickly. 


I’ve been using the same camping stove for almost ten years: The Coleman Classic Propane Stove. It features two burners and an easy-to-use design, all for less than $50. 


If you want something more compact that you could also use for backpacking, the MSR PocketRocket Stove is a great choice, with its versatile cooking options and stable design.


When it comes to cooking up delicious meals at the campsite, having the right cookware is essential. At the very least, you’ll need one pot and one pan to whip up your favorite camping recipes.


A cast iron skillet is a must-have for any camp kitchen. Not only does it provide excellent heat retention and even cooking, but it also adds a delicious sear to your meals. Whether you’re frying bacon, sautéing vegetables, or baking cornbread over the campfire, the cast iron skillet is a versatile workhorse that can handle it all.


If you prefer a complete cookware set for your camping adventures, the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper Cookset is a fantastic choice. This thoughtfully designed set comes with everything you need for outdoor cooking and dining, all conveniently nested together for easy storage and transport.

Car Camping Packing Checklist

Looking for a convenient one-page car camping kitchen checklist? Look no further – I’ve got you covered!


Eating outdoors can be a messy experience, so make sure to bring tableware that’s easy to clean! Look for plates, bowls, and cups that are durable and dishwasher-safe. One option is a mess kit that includes multiple essential items like a cup, bowl, plate and cutlery.


I got a set of enamel tableware like this one from GSI Outdoors Pioneer Enamelware Table Set as a hand-me-down several years ago, and it has worked great for 8+ years!

car camping kitchen


No camping kitchen is complete without the right utensils! Here’s a checklist of essential utensils to pack for car camping:


  1. Forks, Spoons, and Knives: A set of reusable utensils is necessary for eating comfortably at the campsite. Opt for durable, lightweight options that can withstand outdoor use.


  1. Spatula and Tongs: For flipping burgers, pancakes, or grilled veggies, a spatula is indispensable. Tongs come in handy for safely handling hot food and turning it on the grill.


  1. Ladle: A ladle is perfect for serving up soups, stews, and chili.


If you’re looking for a pre-made set that keeps everything organized, I love the GSI Outdoors Gourmet Kitchen Set 11! This comprehensive set comes with all the essential utensils you need, plus some extra cooking accessories to enhance your cooking and dining experience.

car camping kitchen


A good cooler is essential for keeping your food and drinks cold during your car camping trip. 


Look for a large enough cooler to hold all your food and drinks and has good insulation to keep everything cold. There are a ton of hard-sided coolers on the market, and everyone has their preferred brand and budget. 


I personally use the 52 QT Ultra-Light Cooler from Rtic

Water Jug

When camping, you need drinking water, water to cook with, water to wash your hands/dishes, and water to drown your campfire before you go home. That being said, you’ll need to bring plenty of water on your camping trip! 


While you could bring plastic jugs of water, a reusable water jug, like this 5-gallon option, is sustainable and convenient. 


Opt for a durable and leak-proof jug, and keep it in a shaded area to prevent the water from getting too warm. 

camping breakfast ideas


Cleaning up after cooking in your car camping kitchen helps maintain a clean campsite and helps to prevent attracting wildlife to your site. Here are some cleaning items you might want to consider adding to your car camping kitchen:


Collapsible Sink 


A collapsible sink is a practical and space-saving addition to your car camping kitchen. Unlike traditional bulky sinks, these innovative sinks are designed to be easily folded and stored when not in use. 


Dr. Bronner’s Organic Liquid Soap


I love using Dr. Bronner’s Organic Liquid Soap at home and in the backcountry! The travel-sized version of this biodegradable soap can help you keep your cookware food clean and as free from food odors as possible. 


If you are using soap, be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles by doing your dishes at least 200 feet from a body of water and never in a body of water. 

Trash Bags


Always bring plenty of trash bags with you on your car camping trip. You never know when you’ll need them; having too many is better than too few. Use them to store any food waste or trash and properly dispose of them at a designated trash receptacle.


Kitchen Towels


Bringing a few kitchen towels or paper towels can be handy for cleaning up spills, wiping down surfaces, or drying off dishes. You can use any towels you have at home or opt for a quick-drying microfiber towel that is lightweight and easy to pack.


Hand Sanitizer


Keeping your hands clean is important for maintaining good hygiene, especially when handling food. Bring a bottle of hand sanitizer to use before and after cooking and whenever else you need to clean your hands.

backpacking cooking

Food Storage

Depending on where you are camping, you might consider food storage to protect your food from wildlife. 


BearVault BV500 Journey Bear Canister


If you are camping in bear country and don’t have access to a bear box, you will need a BearVault. This handy see-through container lets you locate the food you need and fits inside most standard-sized backpacks. If you aren’t bringing much food, check out the smaller version


Tupperware or Stasher Bags 


I personally love camping and backpacking with a silicone Stasher bag! These food-safe silicone bags can be used to cook in or eat out of, and they are great for storing trail snacks or any leftovers you might have. 

car camping kitchen essential checklist

Bonus Camp Kitchen Items

Camp Mug


A sturdy camp mug with a lid is one of my car camping essentials! I suggest picking something like the REI Co-op Camp Mug because it’s insulated, comfortable to hold, and has a lid to keep pesky bugs from enjoying your drink! 


Coffee and Tea Maker


No camping morning is complete without a steaming cup of coffee or soothing tea. Consider adding a portable coffee maker or a compact tea kettle to your camp kitchen setup!

For coffee lovers, we love our AeroPress Coffee Maker and OXO Outdoor Manual Coffee Grinder! Alternatively, the GSI Outdoors Halulite Tea Kettle is a lightweight and efficient option for heating water for tea or other hot beverages.

car camping kitchen checklist

Lanterns and string lights 


Extend the coziness of your campsite into the night with lanterns and string lights. Battery-powered lanterns like the Black Diamond Apollo Lantern offer versatile lighting options and can be hung inside your camp kitchen for easy access. 


String lights, such as the MPOWERD Luci Solar String Lights, add a touch of ambiance to your camp setup and make cooking and dining after dark a delightful experience.




A portable camping table can be a game-changer for your camp kitchen. Look for lightweight, foldable tables that are easy to transport and set up. The REI Co-op Camp Roll Table provides a sturdy surface for meal preparation and dining while being compact enough to fit in your car!


S’mores stick(s)


Don’t forget to pack a set of telescopic roasting sticks for the sweet treat enthusiasts! The Rolla Roaster Marshmallow and Hot Dog Roasting Forks are perfect for toasting marshmallows over the campfire. They’re compact, easy to clean, and make the quintessential camping experience of making s’mores even more enjoyable.




Having a reliable firestarter is a must for any camp kitchen. Opt for a waterproof, easy-to-use option like the UCO Titan Stormproof Match Kit


Additionally, you can make your fire starters with toilet paper rolls and dryer lint!

car camping kitchen checklist
how to make a car camping kitchen

Final Thoughts On Making A Car Camping Kitchen

In conclusion, creating a well-organized and efficient car camping kitchen can significantly enhance your camping experience. By carefully curating your camp kitchen essentials, from cooking stoves and utensils to cleaning items like a collapsible sink, you’ll be equipped to savor delicious meals, spend less time searching for gear, and focus more on immersing yourself in the beauty of nature. 


Remember, car camping allows for a touch of luxury even in the wilderness, so don’t hesitate to invest in quality gear that will last you many adventures to come. 


Happy camping and happy cooking! 

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Meet the author

Jacey West

My mission is simple: Inspire you to get outside. I like camping, hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, and exploring National Parks. I’m passionate about sharing all the details of my adventure so you can plan some of your own!

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