Top Essentials for a Simple Overland Camp Kitchen Setup – Overview & Guide

Here Are The Essential Items You Need To Create A Functional Overland Camp Kitchen For Any Vehicle – Overview & Guide

While every house has a kitchen, not every campsite does. No matter where you are, whether recreational or backcountry, and no matter your vehicle, you’ll be able to set up a camp kitchen anywhere with this list of essentials.

A camp kitchen makes your vehicle and campsite a home away from home. It brings a sense of comfort even while camping out in the dirt. Sure, you can spend your hard-earned money on top-dollar kitchen builds and high-end drawer systems with kitchens built in, but it’s about making memories and not how much you spent on your setup.

I’m here to help you dial in your camp kitchen with the essential items needed for any kitchen, no matter your vehicle. Plus, these are items you probably already have lying around. Let’s get started!

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1. Cooking System

The first item needed for any camp kitchen is your preferred cooking system. This is really any system or method of cooking that you are comfortable using. I use two different systems, depending on my location and what I am cooking. I use a Jetboil Flash Cooking System and a Coleman Classic 2-in-1 Camping Grill/Stove.

The Jetboil is great for smaller meal cooking, boiling water quickly, and early morning coffee. I use this system primarily when backpacking and hiking. However, it’s also been great during overlanding trips due to its compact size and easy cleanup.

The Coleman Grill/Stove is great for actual meal cooking like burgers or mac-n-cheese. Just make sure to bring your propane tank. I use the Ignik 5lb Gas Growler refillable propane tank.

If either of these items isn’t for you, then the classic fire pit can get the job done as well. Just make sure to check your local fire restrictions and have the proper equipment like a fire grate to put over the fire. A fire extinguisher is also a good idea as well.

2. Food

I bet you have food at home that you would love to take with you to a trailhead and enjoy a nice meal. However, that’s not always feasible at camp. It’s often more like a picnic rather than a 4-course meal. Camp meals don’t need to be overly complicated or bland. They can be super simple to make if you’re willing to do a little prep work before you head out.

I keep a plastic storage bin with all the essential kitchen items I would need just like I have at home; labeled “camp kitchen”. Every trip I go on, I bring this bin with me. Now, this is not the same as a bear canister! My own dog could easily open this bin up so please be mindful about where you are going and pack accordingly. Use a bear canister wherever needed.

I keep everything I would need in this bin such as:

  • Seasonings
  • Olive Oils
  • Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Cans Of Chili
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Utensils
  • Garbage Bags
  • Backcountry Dehydrated Meals

Most of these items you probably already have in your cupboards and you can easily go to your local supermarket to resupply. I like to make sandwiches because they’re super easy and then only have to make side dishes or dessert at camp.

3. Cooler

In addition to having the food at camp, you need a place to store perishable items and drinks. You could get a portable overland fridge, but those can be expensive and require other accessories like backup power to operate. All you need is a solid cooler to get you started, which you probably already have if you enjoy the outdoors.

With a cooler, you cannot only store your favorite beverages but also store perishable food as well. This is great for food that you might want to save for later. When I plan out camp meals, I like to do some of the prep work beforehand at home and then store them for later when I cook.

For example, if I make chili at camp, I can cut up some onions and peppers beforehand, place them in a zip-lock bag, and then keep them in the cooler until I’m ready. This is super easy to do without having the hassle of that same prep work at camp.

I use a Roam 65-quart hard cooler and I love it. It doesn’t require any power, holds up to 42 cans of your favorite beverage, and keeps ice like ice for around 3-4 days (which is perfect for most trips). My cooler also never leaves my 4Runner, so I can fill it to the brim with beverages and food and not worry about having to lift it back and forth.

4. Table & Chair (Optional)

Tables and chairs are more luxury items rather than essentials, but they do elevate the experience. I think they’re ideal for any camp whether you’re overlanding or hiking and make it a home away from home. Besides, it is very nice to be able to place your well-earned meal down and relax in your favorite chair rather than a log or rock.

I use Dometic’s GO Compact Camp Table and GO Compact Camp Chair. Both items are on the pricier side, but you get what you pay for. I have used both extensively and they still look like new. They have been great additions to my camp setup.

Final Thoughts

These essential items are key for any camp kitchen no matter the vehicle you drive. Whether in the backcountry for multiple days or at your local recreational trail, these items can be tailored to whatever fits your needs. Most importantly, these items can be obtained within any budget.

Look around your house and you probably have some form of these items lying around. Over the years, I’ve gone through many different items and upgraded to higher-quality versions of them as I learned what would best fit my needs. No matter what you use, just remember it doesn’t matter how much you spend, only that you get outside, hit the trails, and have fun.

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