How to Set Up Camp: Camp Kitchen

This post is Part 2 of a series on how to set up camp. After getting your ideal sleeping area ready to go, you should focus on setting up your kitchen space. As night falls, it gets more and more difficult to find ingredients and gear, especially the things you need right now! Its a great idea to have things organized so you can find what you need fast, get cooking, and then get eating!

Step 1: Find Your Space

If you don’t have a picnic table or fire pit identifying the location of your camp kitchen, you’ll need to pick one out. It should be about 100 feet away from your sleeping area, just in case you have unwelcome visitors come over while you’re sleeping. It should be sheltered from weather, and have a flat, stable spot to set up a stove. Once you find this kitchen space, drop all your kitchen/food related stuff.

Step 2: Find Your Food

Figure out where all the food is. This should include anything that has a smell (toothpaste, deodorant), especially in more primitive camping locations. Separate it out from the rest of your kitchen gear to make sure you can find it when you are ready to cook, and when you are ready to critter-proof. If you are lucky enough to have two coolers, use one for all the drinks and the other for the perishable food. Organize the food that is not stored in the cooler based on meals. I separate each meal into its own bag, and place all the bags in the shade while I’m at camp. If I leave camp, I lock the food away in either a car, bear barrel, or bear locker.

Step 3: Find the Appetizers and Snacks

Choose appetizers and snacks that don’t require any cooking or prep, if possible. These will save you while you’re trying to set everything else up. Offer them up to anyone who helps (and don’t forget to eat some yourself).

Step 4: Get Prepped for Cooking

Start by setting up any tables you brought with you. If you’re backpacking and you don’t have table access, clean up a rock, stump or flat piece of ground. Place your stove in its cooking location, but keep it stored in its carry case until you’re ready to cook. Set up trash and recycle cans or bags, and let everyone know where they are. If you’re going to separate it, keep it separated from the beginning so you don’t cut your hand trying to do it later. If you have an extra lantern, hang it in your kitchen area now. Headlamps should be used too, but a lantern will help illuminate the whole area.

Step 5: Be Ready to Clean Up

Your cleaning space should be near the cooking space, but separate enough to keep it clear what’s ready to be washed. Set up your “sink” if you’re using one, and place soap and scrubbies inside. Keep a clean, dry bandana or towel over here as well. Don’t fill the sink with water until its time to clean. You’ll want to avoid spilling it (especially backpacking), and you’ll definitely want your water to be warm when its time to use it. Here are a few other Camping Cleanup Tips.

6 thoughts on “How to Set Up Camp: Camp Kitchen

  1. Good point in thinking about large evening visitors. Have you every tried any of the bear proof containers?
    On past river trips we used electric fences that were setup in high use areas. I haven’t yet been backpacking in high bear use areas.

    1. Hi Dave, I have used many different bear proof containers. Different areas require different types, so make sure you check the regulations of the area you’ll be camping in. Car camping sites often have lockers on site. Many black bear areas allow hanging a bag, but it is very important to do this correctly (here’s a cool infographic. We’ve been spending most of our time in the Sierra lately, and it is required to have a bear canister in the backcountry. My favorite is still the old standard, Garcia Bear Resistant Container.

  2. Great tips on how to set a kitchen on a campsite! We all know that cooking during camping is very difficult as you have to be very resourceful. 🙂

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