Whether you’re the kind of camper who slurps rehydrated meals straight out of the bag, or a backcountry chef who lives for making gourmet meals on the trail, there are a few kitchen gadgets that will make your outdoor meals a whole lot easier to prepare.
Boiling Water: JetBoil Flash Cooking System, $100
I’ve yet to find a campstove that’s easier to use and faster to boil water than the JetBoil Flash. Their Flash model boils half a liter of water in as few as 100 seconds. To light it, you simply turn on the gas and press a button that creates a spark and ignites the fuel. You can even keep small fuel canisters inside the pot to save space in your pack. When I’m car camping, I usually bring the JetBoil in addition to a small campstove, so I can keep the JetBoil super-clean by using it for water only.
Cooking: MSR Pocket Rocket 2, $45
At less than 3 ounces, MSR’s Pocket Rocket camp stoves are about as light as it gets without making a DIY alcohol burner with a soda can (and they’re much less complicated). The Pocket Rocket can boil a liter of water in about 3.5 minutes and screws right in to the top of a fuel canister, so you can cook on any flat surface outdoors. It’s a must-have for backpackers and a great gift if you’re shopping for someone just getting into outdoor adventure.
Slicing & Dicing: Helle Temagami Knife, $189
This Norwegian-made knife is so sharp, it cuts nearly any food as easily as butter. Seriously, watch your fingers when you wash this thing—it’s really that sharp. I bring it on every camping trip now as an all-purpose knife for cooking. After two years of frequent use, it’s still as sharp (and beautiful) as the day I got it. Bonus: it also comes with a leather sheath.
Chopping Firewood: Hults Bruk Almike Hatchet, $139
Some of the best camp meals I’ve ever had have been cooked in good old-fashioned cast iron pans on roaring camp fires. To get a healthy fire going, you need to start by chopping firewood or logs into smaller pieces (be sure to heed fire restrictions, buy your firewood as close to where you’re camping as possible, and don’t collect wood from your campsite if it’s not allowed). Hults Bruk’s Almike Hatchet is ultra-sharp, making easy work out of firewood hacking. It’s also pretty darn attractive, too—the leather cover that protects both the blade and your hands when its not in use is gorgeous and ages well.
Table: Mountain Summit Gear Roll Top Kitchen, $90
For years, we’ve cooked on the tops of coolers, flat rocks, the lids of boxes, and the trunks of our cars. Let me tell you: A camp kitchen is a huge upgrade. Mountain Summit Gear’s Roll Top Kitchen is an awesome table for folks who like to make fresh meals at their camp sites. There’s a flat tabletop great for eating and chopping, and two shelves to hold drinks, tools, spices, and so on. It packs into an oversized shoulder bag and sets up in about a minute flat. We’ll never car camp without it again.
Pot & Dishes: GSI Halulite Microdualist II, $60
GSI’s Halulite Microdualist pot and bowl set nests perfectly within itself and is great for both frontcountry camping and backpacking—it weighs just over a pound. My partner has a slightly older version of this set and it’s lasted, so far, for more than five years of heavy use—he’s constantly making new trail recipes and we often camp more than 20 nights in a single year. We don’t use the folding “foons” the set comes with because we’re more attached to some titanium sporks, forks, and spoons we’ve acquired over the years, but this set is great for both experience and newbie campers and backpackers alike.
Cooler: YETI Tundra 45, $300
YETI coolers may not be cheap, but they are every bit as effective as they claim to be. No matter how hot it is outside, the Tundra holds ice literally for days. And even after all the ice has melted away, it’ll keep that water—and everything submerged in it—frigid for at least another day or two. The Tundra 45 is a versatile size for both short and long trips—it’ll hold up to 28 cans of soda or beer when packed with twice as much ice—but there are both smaller and larger sizes available, too. If you’re heading out into bear country, you can also trust that the YETI Tundra will keep your food safe. It’s been tested to meet Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee standards for bear-resistance when the lid is padlocked shut at the corners.