How to Setup and Organize Your DIY Camp Kitchen

Family using their DIY camp kitchen at the campsite

Camping Setup 101: A Guide to Camping Organization

Whether you’re a seasoned campsite cook or you’re new to open-flame cooking, having an organized DIY camp kitchen can completely transform your camping experience.

Cooking outside can be challenging, but it can also be a blast if you’re prepared, organized, and you have all the essential gear.

From setup to cleanup, this post covers the must-have cooking equipment you need for an efficient camp kitchen.

You’ll also find plenty of tips on how to stay organized, along with a few fun and easy campfire recipes.

Woman cooking at campsite with a DIY camp kitchen

Choosing the Right Camp Cooking Equipment

The type of cooking gear you need will depend on your camping style.

Are you camping with kids or a large group? Are you able to park your car next to your campsite? Will you be heading into a remote area?

Once you’ve determined your camping style, you can start with the bare essentials listed below and add or adjust as necessary.

This setup is ideal for car campers, RVers, and those who enjoy a few extra creature comforts. 

Homemade DIY camp kitchen

Basic DIY Camp Kitchen Setup

The main necessities for this camp kitchen setup include a sturdy cooler, a small foldable table, pots and pans, and essential utensils and dinnerware.

Depending on what you plan to cook, you might want to include additional items like larger knives, a cutting board, a grill grate, and a coffee maker.

If you don’t feel comfortable cooking over an open flame, consider a camping stove instead. Mostly gas powered, camping stoves are available in a range of sizes, and they’re ideal if you’re car camping.

When it comes to cookware, cast iron is a must-have for outdoor cooking. It’s sturdy and versatile, and it can be used with high heat. Why settle for hotdogs and white bread when you can create gourmet campfire meals?

DIY camp kitchen setup for all campers

Essential DIY Camp Kitchen Checklist

Outdoor cooking is a breeze when you have the right gear. Here’s a list of the essential tools and equipment you’ll need for a gourmet camping experience.

The bare essentials:

  • Pots and pans

  • Large kitchen knife

  • Cast iron skillet

  • Campfire cooking grill

  • Cutting board

  • Cutlery

  • Utensils, cups, and dishware

  • Folding camp table

Skillet and utensils for your DIY camp kitchen.

Add these items on as needed:


  • Dutch oven

  • Coffee maker

  • Camping stove and fuel

  • Marshmallow roasting forks

  • Serving spoon

  • Spatula

Campfire Pots and Pans for DIY Camp Kitchen

Cooking tools and accessories:

  • Can opener

  • Cooking spray

  • Aluminum foil

  • Lighter/matches

  • Potholders

  • Campfire cooking gloves

  • Table cloth

  • Lantern or headlamp

  • Fire pit

  • Firewood

  • Charcoal and charcoal lighter fluid

  • Ice

Woman chopping vegetables with campfire cooking tools


  • Paper towels

  • Trash bags

  • Plastic freezer bags

  • Dish soap

  • Scouring pad

  • Wash basins

  • Water Containers

DIY camp kitchen setup with cleanup items.

Keeping Your DIY Camp Kitchen Organized

With a little preparation and planning, you can create an easy-to-use camp kitchen that will make campfire cooking quick and painless.

Here are some hacks and tips to ensure your camp kitchen is efficient and organized.


When packing your gear, use plastic stackable bins or totes that will fit comfortably in the back of your car. Not only are they extremely durable and weather-resistant, they’ll ensure all your items are organized and easy to access.

If you don’t have space for large bins, reusable bags are also a great option. Try organizing each bag by meal (i.e. a breakfast bag with everything required for breakfast – apart from any items that need to be stored in the cooler).

Portable cutlery organizers and picnic caddies can help reduce clutter and keep all your dinnerware in one place.

Another great way to keep your camp kitchen essentials organized and easy to carry? A plastic toolbox. Simply fill the compartments and grab and go!

Car packed with essential camping gear

At the campsite:

Try using a plastic shoe organizer to keep things tidy at your campsite. The various pockets are perfect for storing everything from utensils to cleaning essentials and meal prep tools.

Since the beverage cooler will be opened more often, be sure to use separate coolers for food and beverages.

In the food cooler, you can create a barrier between melting ice and food using cooling racks. Simply pack ice at the bottom of the cooler and line it with cooling racks, placing the food on top.

Don’t forget a dishwashing basin for cleanup!

Setting Up Your DIY Camp Kitchen

If you’re using an established campground, you can easily set up your kitchen on a picnic table.

If you’re using your own table, choose an area with level ground that’s away from trees, bushes, and your tent.

Use one side of the table for meal prep, and one side for cooking (if you’re using a camp stove).

Keep kitchen gear, cookware, and coolers under the table. (Just be sure to lock everything in your car at night and while you’re away from the campsite to avoid attracting animals.)

Using a second table, create a separate area for cleanup and washing dishes.

Alternatively, you can bring a portable camp kitchen which has dedicated spaces for all your cooking supplies and accessories.

Group of men setting up their campsite

How To Keep Animals Away From Your Campsite

To keep raccoons and other critters at bay, store your food in air-tight or bear-safe containers. If animals can’t smell it, they won’t be interested!

When you’re cooking, make sure to choose a site at least 100 yards downwind from your tent.

Keep your campsite spotless! This means picking up every scrap of uneaten or spilled food and washing your dishes immediately after use.

Place food wrappers and other trash in odor-proof bags before taking it to the nearest designated disposal area.

Lastly, never leave your food unattended. Remember to lock your food in a vehicle at night and whenever you leave the campsite.

Raccoons in cooler at DIY camp kitchen

3 Easy and Delicious Campfire Recipes

Once you’ve got your camp kitchen set up and ready to go, it’s time to put all that gear to use. Here are a few fun and tasty campfire recipes the whole family will love.

1. Campfire Nachos

What you’ll need:

  • Tortilla chips

  • Nacho cheese or cheese dip

  • Shredded cheese

  • Any additional toppings

  • Iron skillet

  • Camp grill


1. Place the chips in an iron skillet and layer with nacho cheese or cheese dip.

2. Next, add any ingredients that you’d like to be cooked (i.e. beans, corn, meat).

3. Cover all ingredients with a few handfuls of shredded cheese and cook over the campfire until the cheese is melted.

4. Remove from the fire and top with green onions, salsa, sour cream, and any other toppings of your choice.

Nachos over campfire made with DIY camp kitchen.

2. Campfire Chili Cheese Fries

What you’ll need:

  • Small package of frozen french fries

  • 1 can of chili

  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

  • Cooking spray

  • Aluminum foil


1. Spray one side of aluminum foil with cooking spray.

2. Place frozen fries in the middle of the sheet; fold to enclose. 

3. Cook the fries over the campfire until they’re cooked – roughly 15-20 minutes.

4. Spread the chili and cheese over the fries.

5. Close the foil again and cook until the chili is hot and the cheese has melted.

6. Remove and let cool slightly.

Campfire Chili Cheese Fries

3. S’mores Dip

What you’ll need:

  • 4 chocolate bars

  • 1 bag marshmallows

  • Graham crackers for dipping

  • Iron skillet

  • Aluminum foil


1. Break the chocolate bars into pieces and layer them at the bottom of the skillet.

2. Place a layer of marshmallows over the chocolate.

3. Cover the skillet with aluminum foil and place over the fire, away from direct flames. Depending on the fire, the chocolate should melt in roughly 5-10 minutes. Be sure not to leave it on too long. 

4. Serve when thoroughly melted.

Campfire Recipe for Smores Dip

For more delicious campfire recipe ideas, check out these posts:

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This entry was posted in Campfires, Camping, Cooking, Gear, Outdoors.