Kitchen Gear for SUV Camping

review: Kelty Sideroads Car Awning

When I’m overnighting in my SUV camper, I like to keep tasks like cooking simple. Both in the amount of work involved and in the types of gear that I bring.

My food approach

I prefer to spend most of my time exploring when I’m on camping trips, so I don’t like to spend a lot of time cooking. My food approach is a mix of pre-cooked and/or dehydrated meals that I assemble at home for dinner; and fresh food for snacks and lunches.

Backpacking recipes

SUV camper canopy

My kitchen setup

Since it’s often dark and rainy on winter camping trips, I like to cook under the canopy attached to my car (see my post about the Kelty Sideroads Car Canopy) instead of using campground picnic tables. It’s easier to keep everything needed at mealtime closer to my vehicle, and I can leave some of my setup outside overnight instead of needing to store it in my vehicle.

SUV camper canopy

Setting up my camp kitchen in a u-shape allows me to keep everything within reach. And there’s still enough space to be able to open the car doors with all of the kitchen gear under the canopy.

The space under the canopy is large enough for everything needed for cooking, but it does help to use a smaller table and chair. The table I use is quite small, but I find it does the job while not taking up too much space. It’s big enough to hold a 4-gallon water container on one side, with space on the other for cooking.

SUV camper canopy

Items in my kitchen setup

  • camp tableThe YihuiKo Folding Camp Table is just under 24″ x 16″ and has removable legs so the table can be folded for storage.
  • collapsible silicone toteI use this collapsible tote for carrying gear around camp, or for storing wet muddy shoes. The silicone material hoses off easily for cleaning.
  • coolerA hard-sided insulated cooler is a must on every camping trip. The Stanley Adventure Cooler holds 30 quarts and keeps food cold for multi-day trips.
  • water containerThe Reliance Aqua-Tainer holds 7 gallons of water. I keep two of these in my car on camping trips since water spigots at campgrounds are often not available in the off season.
  • chair: A typical camp chair doesn’t work as well as a smaller version for cooking in this setup. The chair shown above is no longer available, but these are similar: Marchway Ultralight ChairREI Co-op Flexlite Camp Chair
  • outdoor rug: Using a waterproof rug under the canopy can help to keep things somewhat clean and dry.

What’s in my camp kitchen bin

Since space is at a premium when camping in my car, I try to keep everything organized in bins – with one dedicated to kitchen gear.

SUV camp kitchen binkitchen gear for SUV camping

Shown in the photo above, top left to right:

  • enamelware plateA plate is nice to have for eating salads, burritos, or anything else that doesn’t work in a bowl.
  • collapsible bowlThe Sea-to-Summit collapsible bowl is good for eating oatmeal, soups or stews and doesn’t take up much space in a kitchen bin.
  • skillet & lid (part of a set of camping pots) A small skillet is always good to have on hand for cooking.
  • neoprene lunch bagFrom Built Gourmet, this lunch bag is good for keeping snacks within easy reach on long drives. It also is handy for carrying lunch to the beach.
  • ceramic mugCoffee and tea taste better in this Nova Ceramics mug, and eliminates the need for single-use cups. This mug comes with a silicone lid and heat band, and since it doesn’t have a handle, it fits in car cup holders.
  • lightweight, quick-dry towels: Strong, lightweight and fast drying, these Lite Load towels are great for drying dishes or wiping down wet gear.
  • hand soap
  • tea kettle (no longer available, but this MSR tea kettle is similar) A tea kettle is handing for boiling water – for coffee or tea, or for heating water to wash dishes.
  • backpacking stoveThe Jetboil Minimo backpacking stove works great when cooking for one person, plus it’s fast and more fuel efficient than larger camp stoves.
  • lantern: For lighting while cooking, this rechargeable UCO lantern hangs from the canopy via a loop on the bottom (no longer available, but this model is similar)
  • travel water bottleThe CamelBak Chute Mag Renew 32 oz. water bottle has a magnetic leakproof lid, perfect for staying hydrated on trips.
  • insulated water bottleThe Kleen Kanteen wide double-insulated water bottle keeps drinks super hot for a long time, even in frigid temps.
  • vinyl tablecloth
  • pot supportThe Jetboil pot support fits on top of the Minimo stove and provides the ability to cook with any type of pan or skillet.
  • fuel canister
  • plastic bags, small trash bags, twist ties
  • salt and pepper
  • collapsible sink with dish soap and sponge/scrubber: The SOS Flat Pack collapsible sink is just the right size for doing dishes at camp.
  • plastic mess kit with cutting board
  • plastic bin with utensils, including a knife, scissors, whisk, spatula, pot scraper, bag closures
  • nesting plastic food containers: These Human Gear food containers are great for holding sauces and other ingredients used when cooking at camp, and the interlocking design makes them easy to grab from a cooler.
  • plastic bin for holding everything

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