“When I Google my symptoms, it turns out I just needed to go camping because other forms of therapy are too expensive.” However, to make camping memorable, what cooking essentials do you need for a car camping trip? This article is a beginner’s list of essential items you need for a family car camping trip. We also go into detail for each item considering your meal plans and recipes.
Why Car Camping?
Summer is approaching. It has been a long period of staying indoors, and a ride to a camp or an outdoor trip with the family will do you right.
It will be a significant change from the extended homestay. We worked from home facing a computer all day long with noise from doors banging and children crying, a completely different experience from the norm of our office days.
Car camping with the family will be a chance for family bonding away from home. It will be great if you go on an outdoor trip using a car.
A car comes in handy as a mode of transportation, you can also use a vehicle as a camp tent set up.
How Do You Prepare For Car Camping?
Before embarking on a trip for car camping, you need to identify the area you plan to stay for camping.
However, the environment and safety of the place are important factors to keep in mind.
Of course, you would not want to park a car obstructing an elephant’s pathway. The car might get smashed into pieces and put you and your family in danger.
The supplies you need to buy for your trip may depend on factors such as the weather and the campground’s policies, especially if you’re going to a paid campsite.
Plan a reconnaissance visit before the day you go camping. A reconnaissance visit helps you familiarize yourself with the campground.
Besides, it can inspire new ideas on how to set up your campsite. By staying organized, you develop a mental map of how your trip will go.
Most Suitable Cars to Use for Camping
Keep in mind, you are going for a family car camping trip. The number of people accompanying you determines the amount of space needed.
It is paramount to note that apart from human occupants, the camping gear you carry in the vehicle needs space and you need to factor in the weight of all the camping gear. When choosing a car, consider the total amount of weight a particular vehicle can safely carry, irrespective of the terrain.
Was the intended use of this car for transportation only? Some other uses may be for storage and sleeping. Here are five cars I recommend for car camping, but you can choose other cars that suit your needs.
- Volkswagen Golf SportWagen – If you plan to sleep inside the car, this would be a suitable option
- Subaru Outback – The forester has adequate space for campers and camping gear
- Toyota 4-Runner Off Road – Off road terrain is just a top-up to the space of this gigantic machine
- 2017 Midsize Pickup Honda Ridgeline – The vehicle has a lockable underfloor tank, great for storing your camping gear
- Chevrolet Equinox – It’s spacious enough to fit campers and camping gear, providing a comfortable sleep through the night
Buy enough gas for a trip to and from the campground. Having a full tank is a good practice for car camping trips, but also remember to bring extra wheels in case a tire bursts.
Know the Nearest Shopping Center
Leaving things behind may not be a part of your plan, but there are instances where you forget a must-have and it may hinder you from enjoying your trip. On your way to the campsite, mark the distance from the camp to the nearest shopping center in case you need to purchase something while camping.
How About the Source of Light?
You need a safe source of light such as a lantern. A solar panel with lighting and charging system would also add value to maintaining a safe experience at the camp.
Going Car Camping With Children
Car camping with kids adds more fun to the experience. However, it would be great if you are prepared for kids playing in the dirt. If you are traveling with younger children who are not yet potty-trained, it might be too much work to handle, especially when you are in need of a relaxing trip.
Preparation food for the children is essential as it would keep the kids occupied. Buy extra snacks for them to eat as the food is cooking in this new environment.
Pay attention to the kids’ safety if you choose to cook in open fire. Use mesh wire to surround the cooking area to prevent injuries and burns as the kids jump around while cooking. Alysa Walker describes car camping with kids harder than her NOLS course.
Kids, whatever age they are, dislike surprises as it makes them anxious. Mentally prepare the kids in advance.
Please give them a head start on the planned activities and the expected behavior before they turn your stay into a whole mess.
The beauty of camping with kids is the fun they bring when they make you laugh with their amusing behavior to new things. “I love this”
Why is camping well for your kids?
- Kids learn and gain a higher sense of independence by exploring a new environment because they are able to move and touch everything they want
- Given the scarcity of certain resources at the campsite, kids learn how to manage with less
- Kids learn how to share with others. There may be instances where the kids would have to sleep together with other kids in the tent
These are some interesting family friendly games that you can play at the campground.
- Sleeping/Potato Bag Race – Compete with each other by running inside a sleeping bag or a sack
- Camping Alphabet Hunt – Name the objects in the camp using the letters of the alphabet
- Spy – A game loved by kids where one becomes the spy and identifies an object for the rest of the team to guess
Honeymoon Car Camping
Marriage is beautiful, but traveling with a significant other makes the experience merrier with enjoyable memories of doing activities together. A honeymoon at a campsite would be a rare experience to learn from each other.
Having fun cooking under the tent in a fresh air environment is breathtaking, you would love it! Here are reasons you would love camping on your honeymoon:
- Cost-effective and affordable
- You would be in touch with mother nature
- Camping can be as close or as far from your home, you can camp anywhere like at a national park, a private beach, or at the top of a mountain
- Couples get to know each other well in a fresh, new environment
Why Camp Cooking?
Camp cooking is not for everyone. For some, the hustle is not worth it. It is, however, enjoyable to most and is worth trying something different from everyday home cooking.
Depending on the number of days you plan on camping, it is essential to have a plan on what to eat during the trip.
How ungrateful is this wretched stomach – no matter how much food you fill it with, it never forgets that it always wants more food. I guess this is why we eat three meals or more in a day. As the saying goes, “come moon come sunshine,” the belly still wants more food no matter what the weather is like.
In drought and in plenty, the belly does not understand. For your camping experience to be memorable and run smoothly, camp cooking would be great to take care of “Mr. Belly.”
It is also worth eating healthy. It is tempting to eat hotdogs and cakes, which do not require much cooking. However, eating too many snacks each day can become boring and may tempt you to go into a period of fasting while camping.
Camp cooking evokes the feeling like you’re close to home as you enjoy eating what you love prepared in an outdoor setting. Yummy drinking fluids will keep your body hydrated and luminous. Well prepared coffees for breakfast would give you enough energy to keep you active all day.
There are a variety of methods to use when camp cooking. You may use a camp stove if the campground fire is restricted.
A camp that allows open fire would be fun. Think about those juicy burgers cooking on a frying pan over an open fire – simply appetizing!
Some Methods of Camp Cooking
Here are some methods to consider when camp cooking. Choose the best plan that best suits you.
- Camp stoves
- Open fire (you would need a campfire permit)
- Flameless heaters
- Solar cooking
- Heated stone
- Hobo stove
- Direct heating
When using direct heat, you may consider the use of cooking rings. Cooking rings are strings hanging on a tree. They suspend the food and put it directly on top of the fire using a can.
Preparation for cooking involves making a list of items needed to make food that caters to your heart’s desire.
At the beginning of the article, we came up with a list of recommended cooking essentials for car camping. Here, we elaborate on each of the gears listed above:
A camp stove is a must-have. You can also use a tabletop stove. With a camp stove, you reduce the amount of work looking for firewood to light the fire.
Weather changes may affect your plans for cooking. If you choose to use open fire and it rains, you would have a tough time cooking and eventually go hungry.
A camp stove is portable and small in size. The camp stove will save space and is more convenient to use when camping. However, the camp stove needs fuel so remember to bring enough fuel for the duration of your camping trip.
Enough fuel is vital to avoid running into an emergency while cooking. You may end up hungry if you run out of fuel and have nothing to eat.
Painful burns on your fingers are extremely painful and uncomfortable. Fire gloves will be of great importance to prevent burns from hot pots. Who loves the pain of a burn? Anytime you touch something, “ouch!” It reminds you of the devastating problem.
A cast iron pan is a must-have for every camper, it can handle a lot of cooking from burgers to meatballs.
You do not have to pack all your cooking pots from home because you have to be mindful of the limited space when packing and unpacking.
You can pack ordinary kitchen towels to help dry your hands and the working area as you are cooking. Working on a dry table promotes organization and good hygiene in the kitchen. It also prevents contamination and wetting things that should remain dry, such as flour and sugar.
If you are a fan of grilled food and roasted meat like burgers, a portable grill is a great choice.
The Dutch oven has multiple uses and is easy to cook with. It’s also a great vessel to carry food around after cooking.
Cutting food in the kitchen will never be easier without a chopping board. Cutting onions to your desired sizes will not be comfortable without a chopping board. Those large tomatoes that most dislike will be your option if you forget to carry a chopping board.
When cutting meats and vegetables, you need to have a knife or else you will have to cook the ingredients whole.
Carry at least two knives when going camping. If one blade is broken or gets misplaced, you would have a backup knife. Reusable plates and cups would be good to carry around to avoid littering around the campground.
How unfair would it be to visit a clean ground and leave it looking all littered and messy for the next visitors? If you choose to use disposable plates, carry a large bin around to take your litter back with you or dispose of the trash at designated areas.
You would need cutlery to serve and eat food. You would also need a wooden spoon for stirring food.
A water jug is important as you would need to drink a lot of water while camping. You can always refill a water jug and put it in places where you would frequently need it.
Do you love eggs? A mixing bowl will come in handy if you’re making pancakes to mix all the ingredients.
A separate grill brush after roasting on the grill would be great to have on hand. You do not want to transfer the taste of chicken to bacon.
It is sanitary to clean every cooking item after use, don’t forget about cleaning the grill ever so often.
Zip-lock bags come in handy when storing leftovers and uncooked food in the fridge. The bags may also help with storing fresh milk in the fridge.
A cooler is useful if you do not have or are not willing to carry a fridge. A cooler with ice cubes would help keep your food cold and prevent the food from going bad.
Pack the food you plan to use last at the lowest compartment of the cooler to keep cool. Avoid unnecessary opening of the cooler to avoid changes in quality of the stored food.
If your family is large, you may need a utensil bucket to carry clean used utensils easily. It would be best if you have a utensil bucket when you go back home.
A pot scraper will come in handy to ensure your pots won’t discolor.
Do not forget about marshmallows as these are likely to be left behind.
Food without these ingredients can leave your food tasteless. Consider adding these items to your list, but feel free to customize your list to fit your taste preferences:
- Spices and pepper
- Sweeteners such as sugar
- Coffee, tea, or chocolate
- Pancake mix
- Egg holders – egg trays wouldn’t be useful to a camp. It would be best if you had containers with a lid to prevent the eggs from breaking
Of course, you would need lighting while camping! A solar panel is portable and has multiple functions from lighting to charging other electronics. Matches and lighters are best when cooking over an open fire or to light up your camp stove.
As there is no electric lighting at a campsite, a lantern is good enough to use as a light source.
Keep your light sources safe from causing a fire by keeping them away from wind and children.
Show gratitude and keep the environment clean by placing bins around for trash.
A small refrigerator that will not take up much space is an acceptable form of storage, especially if you’re bringing raw food to feed a large family.
Find Some Camping Recipes
Here is a collection of food recipes to consider for camping. It would help if you had a daily menu of all the meals you plan to cook. Come up with your customized recipes to avoid leaving out some of the necessary ingredients.
Food To Avoid When Camping
Raw chicken while camping is not suitable for your health. It is advisable to cook chicken and then bring the cookies chicken to the campsite. It is essential to maintain a healthy diet throughout the camping trip. With that said, frozen and dried foods are encouraged for car camping as it is nutritious and healthy.
Here are some foods to consider when going camping:
- Freeze-dried bacon
- Freeze-dried sandwich
- Instant potatoes
- Dried soups
Setting Up The Camp Table
It is a camp-prepared food, but the table set up should be appealing to the eyes and make you hungry.
Here is a shortlist of requirements for a table set up:
- Set up at least a bowl or a plate per person
- Set up mugs or cups per person
- Set up cutlery
- Table cloth
- Some flowers
Camp Clean Up
How do you wash your dishes at the camp? You need to do this in an eco-friendly way. Being outdoors, you need a sink to clean utensils without contaminating them with soil.
Biodegradable soap will help clean your dishes while taking care of the environment. Pack up all your waste and clean your campfire by throwing away any unused firewood and covering the area with soil.
In conclusion, remember to say goodbye at the gate when you go back home. It’s important to note that you will always come back because one camping trip will never be enough.
Camp cooking can be an enjoyable and healthy experience, but only if you are well organized. Don’t forget the essential requirements to make your stay smooth.
Family car camping is a fun bonding time. If you choose to camp with the kids, it is always important to keep them company in order to prevent frustrations.
Camping for a honeymoon is fun and promotes bonding between the duo.
As you make memories at the campground, remember to stay safe and leave the ground clean. Prevent fires at the campsite by being cautious when cooking with open fire or when kids play around.
Get enough supplies for everything you need to cook so you can have a fuss-free stay at the campsite. Hunger is an emotion that pierces the soul. In order to have a pleasurable camping experience, prepare for camp cooking by planning your meals and recipes in advance.
Visit the campground to find out if you need to add more things to your shopping list, based on your reconnaissance visit findings.
Camping is a therapeutic experience and you may find yourself back at home healed.