Last Updated on November 9, 2021
Overland Camp Kitchen Setup – A Detailed Look at Exactly What Gear to Bring and Why It’s Practical
If you’re like me, you enjoy spending time outside, relaxing with friends, and exploring new places.
In order to accomplish these things, you take adventures into the great outdoors, sometimes for a day trip, sometimes for several days at a time or more. By doing this, you are leaving behind many of the “conveniences” we have become accustomed to at home.
Fear not, because camping does not have to mean eating only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a week (although to be fair, there is a reason this combination is as popular as it is…) Not only is it possible to cook and eat great food while camping, it is actually a lot easier than you think.
Here is how I do it.
Storage: Alubox + Yeti (For Dry Goods)
For food storage (and really all dry storage for that matter), I use a pair of Alubox 81L containers for transporting gear.
This is a personal preference; there are plenty of ways to store and move your equipment. In my current arrangement, I use these very sturdy boxes as the base for a sleeping platform. Under normal circumstances, I set up in the back of my Landcruiser and put a sleeping pad on top of these boxes. On nicer evenings, however, I have been known to put this outside and set up my bed right under the stars.
Tangent aside, these Alubox hard cases are extremely well made and can withstand some pretty punishing conditions with ease. In my scenario, I want to ensure that if I am carrying fuel canisters that are in a storage solution that won’t get crushed or otherwise structurally compromised; it would be too risky to put these fuel canisters in a soft bag in my opinion. These containers are also great because they are completely watertight, meaning if your olive oil or a can of tomato puree were to leak, you would never have these liquids getting out of the box.
In addition to the Alubox hard cases, I use a Yeti Cooler for perishables. Dating back to my time doing high-end catering, I know the importance of keeping perishables at their ideal temperatures. There are other brands that work well for coolers that are less costly, however, I won this particular Yeti through a raffle at work, so I lucked out!
Here are a few tips for packing your cooler:
Tip 1. Pack Cooler With Ice The Night Before
The night before your trip, you should pack the cooler with ice, frozen water bottles or freezer gel packs. This will get the internal temperature of the cooler down to your desired starting point prior to loading food in. If you start with a warm cooler from your garage (as many do), you will have a significant variation in your cooler temperature which can lead to food spoilage.
Tip 2. Freeze Bottled Water To Prevent Soggy Food
That being said, it is also very important to manage humidity and ice melt in your cooler. There is nothing worse than having soggy, wet ingredients when it comes time to prepare a meal at the end of the day. With this in mind, I always recommend freezing bottled water as a cooling source for your cooler. These can then be laid on top of other packed items to keep them chilled while also serving the dual purpose of having ice-cold water within arm’s reach.
Tip 3. Prep Ingredients Before You Leave
Always, always do your ingredient prep before you leave and pack diced, chopped, or pre-cooked ingredients in plastic, spill-proof containers. You should also be in the habit of labeling your ingredients to reduce confusion in dark cooking situations and to limit the possibility of serving people things that they may be allergic to.
Cooking Setups: MSR WinderBurner Duo, Tembo Tusk Skottle or Camp Chef Pro90X?
Once you have storage sorted, the next thing to figure out is how you will be cooking.
In most cases, either the MSR Windburner Duo or the Tembo Tusk Skottle (check price) is my preferred cooking solution for a number of reasons. This may seem counterintuitive to some, but let me explain why I chose such “small” cooking setups. MSR makes products primarily for hikers and backpackers.
This target audience differs from car campers in a number of ways, but the most significant differences are:
- Space efficiency and lightweight solutions are a top priority
- Reliability and extreme-weather functionality are paramount (in some cases arguably lifesaving.)
Much of the same can be said for the mighty Skottle. I am hard-pressed to imagine anyone in the Toyota (or general 4×4 community) saying that they prefer a heavy, bulky solution that is unreliable. The Skottle packs away neatly, is extremely simple to use, and can satisfy numerous use cases.
As a result, the Windburner Duo and Skottle cover exactly what I need 95% of the time.
My MSR Cooker Setup
In the morning, I fill the canister of my MSR cooker with water, bring it to a boil in about five minutes, and then I can make two coffees plus a variety of breakfasts such as hardboiled eggs or oatmeal. Simple, easy, and fast. For lunch, this setup works really well to make one of my favorite trail lunches: chicken ramen.
In the evening, it’s a breeze to make pasta or even chili. Most of my cooking is for one or two people, and when I know I will be away from home for 24-48 hours, I tend to bring my MSR setup.
The Skottle Grill Setup
On the Skottle, there are even more options for camp meals. On my last trip out, we used the Tembo Tusk to make breakfast sandwiches (toasted English muffins, bacon, scrambled eggs, and cheese) right on this single cooktop surface.
For dinner, we made steaks, crispy potatoes, and sauteed onions and mushrooms.
I hope you found these tips helpful as you plan for your next camp meal. These are some of my favorite ways to make cooking easy and fun while camping.
In my next article, I will share my top 6 camping recipes and more tips on how to better plan your meals in advance!