Technology

Best Camping Cookware for Your Summer Adventures

Updated Feb. 2, 2024 8:00 p.m. PT

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David Watsky Senior Editor / Home and Kitchen

David lives in Brooklyn where he’s spent more than a decade covering all things edible, including meal kit services, food subscriptions, kitchen tools and cooking tips. Since earning a BA in English from Northeastern in Boston, he’s toiled in nearly every aspect of the food business, including as a line cook in Rhode Island where he once made a steak sandwich for Lamar Odom. Right now, he’s likely somewhere stress-testing a blender or researching the best way to make bacon. Anything with sesame is his all-time favorite food this week.

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If you’re planning to spend time in the great outdoors, there are a few items you’ll need to survive. Perhaps the most important thing is good food. Eating well during a days-long camping trip, rafting journey or hiking adventure is essential. Preparing with the right gear for camp cooking is the right place to start. A few simple tools turn the process of making meals around a campfire from a pain in the you-know-what to an enjoyable task and bonding group experience. Remember, a well-fed campsite is a happy campsite. 

While your campsite setup may vary, there are basic camping cookware necessities that every outdoor chef and hungry camper should have at their disposal. A good set of dinnerware, camping pans, a portable grill and a good cooler are just a few items that you’ll want to secure before setting out into the wilderness this summer. 

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Cookware is key, but you’ll also need some sharp knives and a place to use them if you plan on making some real meals at the campsite. This top-rated GSI set has your three essential knives — chef’s Santoku knife, paring knife and a serrated knife for bread and softer vegetables. Plus, there’s a cutting board to slice and dice and a washcloth to keep things tidy.

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A propane stove can be good if you’re looking for something a little more sturdy than a campfire to cook over. Some options provide up to four burners and fancy versions even include a grill top. You’ll be able to cook up a storm, or at least something a little more impressive than a can of beans.

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Weber’s Q 1200 gas grill is the best portable model out of more than a dozen we’ve tested. It features one powerful burner that heats the 189-square-inch cooking surface up to 500 degrees for perfectly seared meats and vegetables. The Q 1200 has Weber’s signature sturdy and smart design with two foldable side tables for prep and an ignition button that actually works. It’s the ultimate camping grill. 

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It’s a good idea to have at least a small pot or pan for boiling water too, if only for your morning camp coffee. This stainless steel pot with a vented lid is good for cooking small batches of food too, and it comes with two nesting insulated cups to sweeten the deal.

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If you’re more into charcoal cooking, GoBQ’s portable charcoal gets the job done and couldn’t be easier to get fired up. It’s made from flame-resistant silicone and fiberglass and weighs just 9 pounds, making it perfect for hiking, camping and music festivals.

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Camping coolers should be light enough so they don’t break your body moving them in and out of the car but not so flimsy that they don’t keep things cold for a few days. The Coleman rolling cooler is a good mix of both. It weighs just 2 pounds but maintains ice for up to five days.

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Whether you’re spending a week in the wilderness or just going on a light hike, you’re going to need a reliable water bottle. I’m a big fan of this Hydro Flask, which features double-walled insulation. It’ll keep cold beverages chilled for up to 24 hours and keep hot beverages warm for up to 6 hours. Plus it comes in lots of pretty colors, so you can look stylish on and off the trails, and in various sizes. (There’s also a version with a straw lid.) Just make sure you clean your water bottle often.

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These beauties strap right on your back so you can take your cold drinks or perishable ingredients on the trail with you. I personally love the leakproof foldover top with a clip since it eliminates the need for a fragile zipper and pushes all the air out to keep things colder. It’s a sturdy, comfortable and well-designed camping cooler backpack and a great pick for the outdoorsy types.

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Pour-over coffee is the most logistically simple coffee system for camping, and Stanley makes a popular model that’ll brew cups in minutes. 

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It’s best to invest in a separate cooler for beverages since you’ll be opening it more frequently than the main food cooler (and you want all your edibles to stay well chilled). This Yeti model holds up to 18 cans plus ice so you can drink to your heart’s content in the great outdoors; if you’re bored with canned wine and beer, try making camping cocktails. 

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If you don’t want to invest in a portable propane grill, you don’t have to. A grill grate can be your new best friend when it comes to cooking directly over a campfire. This handy cooking accessory creates a flat surface so you can grill, fry and heat foods more evenly over an open flame.

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Don’t forget about clean-up — properly disposing of food outdoors helps keep the bears away, and washing camp cookware is part of that process. A collapsible sink is ideal for doing dishes in camp. Better yet, get two: one for soaking, one for rinsing. You can also find double-basin camp sinks.

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These make lighting campfires and igniting grills a snap. Grab a four-pack while you’re thinking of it.

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You’re going to need to put all that food somewhere, after all, and the picnic table will quickly be overtaken by backpacks, cups and playing cards. This foldable table is lightweight and great for all sorts of outdoor entertaining. Its multiple levels and surfaces allow you to corral all your cooking gear in one place and give you a clean space to prep food too. (But if all you need is a basic table that packs up small, this no-frills Coleman folding camp table will do the job.)

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When packing for any trip, space is limited. This is especially true when you’re responsible for carrying everything you bring along on your back. In an effort to save space, try using collapsible drinkware, watering jugs and even measuring cups and spoons. They’re compact, less cumbersome and perfect for making sure you don’t have to eyeball pivotal ingredients.

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You might not think it’s worth the space in your bag but having a table goes a long way to create order when you’re cooking in the great outdoors. Not to mention it’ll keep food away from dirt and rascally animals while you’re prepping and eating. This collapsible aluminum table weighs just eight pounds but opens up to provide 324 square inches of outdoor table glory.

This model is currently sold out but there are a few good options to explore on Amazon.

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This nifty portable grill is one-time use but lightweight and easy to transport and completely biodegradable. Perfect for mobile camping trips with lots of hiking and biking, you’ll be ready to cook in 5 minutes with roughly 60 minutes of cooking time.

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