In my regular life, I love to cook. This doesn’t change when we are out on the trail and I also get to use cool gear to put together our meals! Nothing tastes better than food we have cooked outside, and our meals are a favorite part of our backpacking trips. Here is everything you need in your backpacking kitchen to prepare healthy and delicious meals with your family backpacking kitchen!
Family Backpacking Kitchen:
The most important item in our family backpacking backpacking kitchen is our stove and we use the same one no matter how large our group. The stove we use is the MSR Pocket Rocket, a great little stove that is inexpensive, lightweight and super easy to use. The Pocket Rocket uses isopro canisters as fuel, and we buy whichever brand is available at the store- Coleman, Jetboil and MSR all make compatible canisters. These come in various sizes, and we purchase the largest size for longer trips and the medium size for short jaunts. For trips that will take us away from civilization for an extended period, we always pack an extra small canister as a back up in the event that ours malfunctions or our trip is unexpectedly extended. A cheap bic lighter gets packed to light our stove and we also carry a small back up supply of matches. To complete our stove, we carry a Canister Stand which is a cool lightweight gadget that prevents tipping and is indispensable since we cook with larger sized pots.
Our family backpacking kitchen is a collection of various items we’ve bought over the years. The gear I pack for our trips depends on the size of the group hiking. Sometimes one or two of the kids and I take a trip and we can use gear intended for smaller groups, but when the whole family heads out, we use larger capacity items. When just two of us are hiking I use a set I recently purchased- the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Dualist Outdoor Cook Set. I love this cook set because it is lightweight, compact and ingenious in its design. A complete system, except for a cooking spoon, it has all the cookware and dishes we need for a hike for two- plate, mug, sporks and cook pot. However, this set is not made for large groups so when we are heading out with the entire family I bring a more hodge podge collection. For this use, I bring both an Open Country 4 Quart Aluminum Covered Kettle and Open Country 2 Quart Aluminum Covered Kettle. Open Country also makes a larger pot which I would bring for even bigger groups, but for my family, these smaller pots work perfectly. Also packed is an Open Country Nonstick Fry Pan. Lightweight and inexpensive, these pots have been on numerous hikes and while they have dents and stains, they still work great. This combination of three pots allows you the flexibility to make many different delicious meals. In addition, I pack a Pot Gripper to move pots off the flame and while there are specialty serving spoons and utensils available for camping, I usually just bring one lightweight wooden spoon to both serve and cook with.
When cooking on the small stove, I make sure that I have a clear area because it is very easy to topple, and not only do I not want anyone to get burned, I don’t want to lose our food! Sadly, even being careful, we have had to pick the dirt off noodles more than once that have spilled on the ground. Each person also gets a Lightweight Bowl, a Light My Fire Spork and a Mug. Doing it this way allows you to adjust the number of plates and forks to fit whichever group size you are. Other things I include in our cooking gear are a Small Cutting Board and Sheathed Paring Knife as well as one thin kitchen towel. To spice things up, I pack salt, pepper and other herbs and spices in Nalgene Containers, of which several sizes are available. I also pack Nalgene Containers of both olive oil and clarified butter (Click here to learn how to make your own!).
The spices, oils and butter all go inside our waterproof food bag- a large Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack. Depending on the length of trip, we’ve sometimes taken two! We also keep a sponge to wash dishes in a ziplock bag in our food sack as well as a large ziplock bag to hold all garbage. These get hung overnight to prevent wildlife from coming into our tents. All the other kitchen supplies go inside a smaller dry sack to stay organized. Packed at the bottom of this bag is a large ziplock bag which holds a few garbage bags, several paper towels, and ziplock bags of various sizes to use as needed.