Camping cooking equipment
At home you’ll generally cook with gas or electricity. The choice for cooking outdoors when camping is significantly wider today.
Some campers are bringing electric toasters and even small electric grills with them and in motorhomes or caravans you'll often find a home-kitchen-style cooker and microwave. As with all electrical apparatus you’ll need to make sure you don’t overload the campsite hook-up.
Cooking with gas
Gas is by far the most popular fuel for camp cooking because it’s clean and, once you know how to use it properly, it’s also relatively safe. Your caravan or motorhome will have a gas installation using either propane (normally in a red bottle) or butane (in a blue one). Tent campers will probably use a small gas stove.
How big a stove?
Tent campers will need to decide how big a stove they need. Lightweight campers often get by with a single-burner stove but double-burners are popular especially if you're catering for a family. Some people prefer two single stoves. For a simple one-pan meal or to boil a kettle only one is used but for a larger meal two can be used, making it a flexible and convenient way of cooking.
You shouldn’t normally use a gas, petrol or other combustion cooker inside your tent for two reasons: the risk of fire and the possible build-up of carbon dioxide (or worse, carbon monoxide) if there’s inadequate ventilation.
Some large frame tents or trailer tents have a kitchen annex with vertical sides, a large ventilation panel and plenty of head height, so the risk of fire is reduced, but it’s still sensible to have a fire extinguisher and fire blanket to hand.
Any heat source close to a synthetic fabric tent wall is a bad idea as the fabrics are often susceptible to heat. Appliances can also flare up, so an arching wall is a high risk. If the weather is bad, an external porch canopy combined with a windshield on the cooker will often provide sufficient weatherproofing for your cooking needs – as long as you can keep the cooker sufficiently far away from the tent walls and canopy.
Always be Carbon Monoxide Aware when cooking near your unit. Read our information on staying safe while cooking outdoors.
Some other fuel choices
It’s worth outlining here the various fuels your stove might use.
This is used in simple stoves useful for warming a drink but you won’t find them much good for serious cooking. They tend to use fuel pellets sold by the manufacturer.
Liquid fuelled stoves
These come in various kinds and are often known by the generic name of Primus. A liquid fuel stove can use petrol, paraffin or methylated spirits.
Camping gas stoves
Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) is available in various disposable containers as well as refillable bottles or cylinders. It can be butane, propane or sometimes a mixture of both. Butane is fine for summer cooking, but you’ll need propane if you’re hoping to rustle up a meal when it’s colder outside. Butane simply won’t produce gas to burn under 5°C.
These normally run from a refillable gas cylinder, a common variety of which is known as a CampingGaz bottle. These familiar, blue, football sized objects can be found all over the world.
It almost goes without saying that fuel is dangerous stuff. Whichever type you choose, you must store it carefully – according to the producer’s instructions.
Fuel containers should always be of an approved type. They should be transported and stored upright and secured in position.
Gas for caravans and motorhomes
Larger cylinders are available and the best known brand in Britain is Calor. If you have room to carry it, a large Calor bottle or indeed any other make of refillable cylinder can be used to fuel your portable gas equipment. Though the Club doesn't recommend going above a 15kg cylinder. Again you’ll need a regulator to match the type of cylinder. You’ll also need a length of special gas hose.
The majority of these cylinders are not designed to be refilled by campers – you take them to a distribution point and swap your empty one for a full cylinder, paying only for the gas. Many campsites will stock gas cylinders for your convenience.
There are a few cylinders that are designed to be refilled at fuel stations where LPG is available for cars. Treat these with extra care and make sure they are only ever filled to 80 per cent capacity – for safety reasons.
A couple of companies now sell lighter cylinders which are easier to lift and transport than the traditional steel ones. These are very convenient, but their distribution networks are only just building up, so it’s worth checking where you can get a refill near your chosen holiday destination.
Pots and pans
You’ll need pots, pans and other utensils for cooking on whatever stove you choose. Many camping outlets sell these specially designed for outdoor cooking.
Special camping kitchen equipment is generally lighter and easier to pack than the equipment you use at home. Remember though, the food you cook will be very similar to that at home and quantities and meal sizes won’t be smaller just because you’re camping - in fact it's usually quite the opposite.
Do you really need special camping equipment?
More exotic cooking
Increasingly, campers are turning to more exotic kinds of cooking equipment. One popular product is a large gas ring mounted on top of a refillable cylinder which has a number of alternative cooking surfaces. It comes with a flat or ribbed cast iron grill, a paella pan, and a wok for stir-frys.
In some cases you'll even find a permanent outdoor cooking area on site.
An old and classic favourite
The Trangia stove may have been invented more than half a century ago but it’s still a popular choice for campers today. Not so much a stove, more a complete cooking system. And although Trangia still makes them you'll also find plenty of similar sets from other manufacturers today.
The Trangia can be obtained with different burner units. The basic burner uses methylated spirits but gas and multi-fuel burners are available as accessories. There’s a saucepan to boil water, a frying pan and a kettle in most kits. The whole kit packs into the largest component to take up little room for easy storage and transportation.