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Written By Patrice La Vigne
Updated Aug 1, 2022 10:22 AM
I haven’t always been a fan of camp kitchens. These food-prep organizers run counter to my minimalist approach as a dedicated off-the-gridder. But after 10 years of living nomadically in spaces that have varied from 20 to 130 square feet, I’ve come to appreciate that an outdoor camping kitchen set-up that is portable and organized is clutch for making nomadic life easier. But I also realized that not all camp kitchens are worth considering. To identify the best camp kitchens available today, I tested nine sets from seven brands, then narrowed the field down to the five best options.
- Best Overall: Stoic Portable Camp Kitchen Island
- Best Pantry: Cabela’s Deluxe Camp Kitchen
- Most Affordable: GCI Outdoors Slim-Fold Cook Station
- Best Minimalist: Camco Deluxe Folding Grill Table
- Best for Large Groups: SylvanSport DineOMaxCamp Kitchen
Things to Consider Before Buying a Camp Kitchen
There are a lot of factors to consider when evaluating which outdoor camping kitchen unit is best for you. First, think about your planned use and evaluate how it fits with your current car-camping gear. Do you normally bring along a grill or one of the best camp stoves? Do the places you camp have a dishwashing station? What features will work best for your purposes? How many people do you camp with, and how many will you cook for?
Accessories differentiate one camp kitchen from the next. Some are well-outfitted workspaces, while others take a minimalist approach. When the kit included a sink, I considered whether it had an integrated drain and how easy that was to use in the field. Only a few of the options I tested had closed storage bins, but that is a bonus for staying organized on multi-day camping trips and protecting supplies from the elements.
Because the best camp kitchens range in weight from 6 to 45 pounds, heft is definitely a consideration. Nearly all of the camp kitchens I tested are counter-height, but they vary in configuration. The tabletop has to be large enough to fit multiple grill types and camping stoves, but my testing also considered food prep space and/or dishwashing areas. I further considered the size and sturdiness of side tables and/or shelves. Lastly, I considered convenience. Some of the tables packed into themselves without a carrying bag, while others had loose pieces, requiring an additional storage case.
Best Overall: Stoic Portable Camp Kitchen Island
- Included carrying case
- 23 pounds
- Aluminum components
- Includes integrated sink, lantern pole, overhead hooks, zippered pantry, dish-drying net, trash bin
Why It Made the Cut
This camp kitchen was the most complete—bringing many comforts of home to an outdoor setup—but also was compact and not too heavy or expensive.
- Strong aluminum-frame construction and non-slotted tabletop for food prep
- Collapsible design stores easily in durable canvas carrying case
- Multipurpose features, including sink and drain
- Limited counter space for food prep
- No paper instructions for setup, but fairly intuitive to figure out
- Takes about 9 minutes to set up
If you want an outdoor camp kitchen organizer with accessories, this is an all-in-one kitchenette with lots of bells and whistles.
The moveable overhead hooks can hang rags and/or pots/pans. To my delight, I discovered that I could use a hook to hang my water reservoir above the sink for dishwashing. The sink is generously sized with an integrated hose for draining, which made for easy dishwashing and disposal of greywater (be sure not to leave a trace and follow campground protocols). I didn’t have to play Jenga with the dishes for drying, as an under-the-counter removable mesh shelf is a perfect dish-drying and storage area that keeps spent dishes out of the way.
I had no problem storing all our cookware and dishes in the side canvas storage compartments, and noted that these nooks could also serve as a food pantry. The lantern pole accessory is nice for hanging a camping light for sunrise and sunset kitchen duties, although it was unnecessary under the midnight sun in my home in Alaska. I also loved the versatile side mesh bin, which works well as a trash receptacle.
Even though it boasts 63 inches of workspace, there is less real estate compared with other kitchens in the test. Once I set up my two-burner camp stove next to the integrated sink, I was left with only 20 inches of prep area on the two non-slotted side tables.
I also deducted points for the sheer number of separate pieces of the kitchen, like the lantern pole and mesh trash bag. These stray components could get misplaced in the shuffle at camp.
Best Pantry: Cabela’s Deluxe Camp Kitchen
- Carrying case
- 36 pounds
- Heavy-duty steel legs and an aluminum frame
- Zippered storage with two wire shelves
Why It Made the Cut
This camp kitchen features smart organizational compartments, including a zippered fabric pantry with two internal shelves, two wire racks for spices and soap, utensil hooks, and even a paper towel holder.
- Organizes camp supplies
- Securing stakes are included
- Paper set-up instructions with pictures
- No space for propane canister
- Complicated 10-minute setup
This substantial camp kitchen is best if you are staying put for multiple days or weeks. While it is portable and packs into its own canvas carrying case, at 36 pounds, it is hardly lightweight owing to its steel and aluminum construction. It also takes one person at least 10 minutes to set up, and half the time to break down. Again, the separate components, like the wire racks and lantern pole, could get misplaced during setup and breakdown.
With that being said, once in place this is a solid and deluxe camping kitchen. Cabala’s even includes slots and stakes to stick into the ground to make sure it stays put on windier days.
Overall, the workspace is generous and expansive. The main tabletop is 40 inches, plus there’s a side table, a side wire table (for your grill/stove), and a bottom wire shelf. The unit features an integrated backsplash and side splash screen to separate the cooking from the washing area, especially useful on windy days. The main and side tabletops are made of durable and heat-resistant fiberboard. I put my dish soap, hand sanitizer, and spices in the two rectangle wire racks, and organized my dishes, pots, skillets, and utensils in the enclosed storage compartment. The bottom wire shelf worked well for drying dishes and additional storage.
I have two main gripes about this setup. The removable plastic wash basin is shallow and does not have a drain, so it’s not ideal for dishwashing. Also, there’s nowhere for the propane canister on my two-burner stove to rest, so it dangles in the air off the stove, which could damage the piping to the cook station.
Most Affordable: GCI Outdoors Slim-Fold Cook Station
- 19 pounds
- Aluminum construction
- Portable all-in-one package
Why It Made the Cut
This camp kitchen strikes the right balance between affordability, portability, weight, work space, and features
- Compact portability with carry handle
- Durable and sturdy construction
- Abundance of workspace
- No sink or lantern pole
- No carrying case
My husband and I toted this camp kitchen around the country on one of our work road trips, using it for several weeks at a campground, then folding all the components into itself to pack the compact unit nicely into our Subaru. After months in and out of the car and withstanding the elements, there’s only one small dent (through our own fault), but the unit still functions.
It has everything we need for a basic camp kitchen workspace—prep space, cooking areas, and storage. Depending on the menu, we used both a grill and two-burner camp stove on the heat-resistant slotted aluminum countertop, and still had room for storing dishes and cookware on the four fold-out plastic shelves and one wire bottom shelf. The main countertop can withstand 48 pounds, while the side tables can handle 30 pounds, so it was extremely steady for multiple kitchen duties.
There were even a few extra features, like stem wine glass and cup holders, hooks for hanging cooking gear, and a paper towel holder. This was my first camp kitchen, and I quickly fell in love with the upgrade to our road life. This would be a great beginner outdoor kitchen set, especially because it’s priced so low. GCI makes an upgraded version of this, which we used on another work trip. It has an integrated collapsible sink, drain, and lantern pole, in addition to the components of the original.
Best Minimalist: Camco Deluxe Folding Grill Table
- 6 pounds
- Steel frame and aluminum tabletop
- Carrying case included
Why It Made the Cut
This pop-up camp kitchen is lightweight and portable enough to bring to sporting events and picnics for outdoor meal-making.
- Compacts into a durable carrying bag
- White color on side tables show stains
- Grooves in aluminum main table trap dirt
If you are looking merely to get your grill, camp stove, or one of the best camp grill stove combos off the ground at a family picnic or at a sporting event, this is the camp kitchen for you. Obviously, you could use any portable table for those purposes, but I liked a few key features to make it more of a camp kitchen rather than a basic table.
The set-up takes minutes, but the minimalist design has multiple levels for kitchen prep and storage. I used the main slotted aluminum area for my charcoal grill and the two solid aluminum side tables for condiments and food prep. The wire shelf underneath was a nice bonus for picnic essentials, like extra plates and utensils. Four hooks hung and organized my grilling utensils and there was even a spot for drying out my towel.
The portability and weight were the reasons I chose this over others; the 6-pound Camco camp kitchen folds down flat and packs away in a sturdy carrying case. This would be a great choice for a beginner outdoor cook station.
Best for Large Groups: SylvanSport DineOMaxCamp Kitchen
- 45 pounds
- Aluminum frame, bamboo countertops, and polyester compartments
- Zippered cabinets
- Carrying case included
- Includes collapsible wash basin, 4 zippered and water-resistant cubbies, mesh storage pockets, add-on windscreen
Why It Made the Cut
Group camping and meal prep can get chaotic, but this camp kitchen keeps everything organized and the work flow smooth.
- Abundance of workspace
- Well-organized storage space
- Easy and intuitive setup
- Includes carrying case
- Durability concerns
- Pricey at $400
To evaluate this camp kitchen, I solicited one of my field testers who is a professional guide on the East Coast.
On one trip, two guides prepped a “build your own lunch” space for their guests. During a three-day camping trip in Shenandoah National Park, five guides used it for multiple meals. With 40 inches of bamboo table, there was more than enough space for multiple guides to prep food for the large group. The four structured shelves and mesh pockets kept supplies—including 15 metal plates, 15 metal bowls, and various pots, pans, and utensils—readily accessible, protected, and organized. My tester noted that even though there was heavy condensation while camping in the meadows in the park, everything inside the zippered compartments stayed bone dry.
A few unique bonuses on this SylvanSport camp kitchen included a bottle opener, add-on windscreen, fold-out garbage bag holder, collapsible sink, and hooks. One of the clients liked the product so much she bought one for herself after the trip.
As for downsides, my tester noted a few durability issues, like a finicky zipper, bent frame, and a broken buckle on the carrying handle. Everything still functioned, but he is concerned for the durability over months of use.
In addition to comparing price, weight, size, and unique design/features, I tested the camp kitchens at home, at a picnic spot, and on a car-camping trip. I used the following criteria:
Set Up Ease/Assembly/Breakdown: I considered the instructions, and if I even needed those instructions, or if the set-up was intuitive. I timed the set-up and breakdown. For reference, I am not one of those handy people who can figure things out easily. I usually need to follow directions.
Durability: While most of the frames were aluminum, two had steel components. I wanted to see how the hinges held up over time, and if there were ever any bends in the frame or broken parts. Failure of moving parts is a high likelihood with portable camp kitchens of multiple assemblies and breakdowns, especially as these units are crammed in and out of cars, so construction and build were an important consideration. Performance in weather—especially for the zippered pantries—was also a factor.
I also tested the design, and how it suited different camp tasks like lunch prep, grilling, cooking, and washing dishes.
If you’re looking to up your car-camping game, these are the five best camp kitchens. The most deluxe units are the Stoic Portable Camp Kitchen Island, Cabela’s Deluxe Camp Kitchen and SylvanSport DineOMaxCamp Kitchen, but they are also the most expensive. For a simpler, more affordable, lighter and portable option, try the GCI Outdoors Slim-Fold Cook Station or Camco Deluxe Folding Grill Table. Both balance price with function.