Cooking is just like putting together flatpack Ikea furniture, it is so much easier if you have the correct tools for the job and you do things in the sequence they are meant to be done in. Cooking away from home takes a little more thinking about if you are going to eat well or eat at all. There is no point in having the best ingredients if you are not equipped to cook it or you left the matches at home.
Which stove and fuel to take on your camping trip?
Simple gas stoves - these must be light, simple and work every time. There isn't really a bad stove on the market, but think about what you are going to use and where you are going to use. The small compact ones like the MSR Pocket Rocket are great but can be a little unstable with larger pans. Cartridge stoves hit the market a few years ago, they are considerably heavier and less compact but do provide a stable platform to cook. The trend is moving to integrated units like the Jetboil and although technically brilliant they are still a little inflexible.
Liquid fuel - as teenagers brought up using the Bleuet stove, we looked longingly at the bigger kids with their Coleman stoves. When we got older there was only one stove to buy and it was the baddest meanest loudest stove in the valley; the MSR XGK. Since then there have been loads of new stoves on the market, even a few that run on both gas and liquid fuel. The advantages of these types of stoves is that almost without fail you can get them to work. Drop them, set fire to them, clog them full of dirty fuel and you can still get them to work. Having said that, don't try Gin. We tried that once; it doesn't work.
Double burners - this is the luxury end of the market and comes closet to replicating the set up you have at home. They almost always run on the blue Calor Gas you see at garages, you have to pay a small deposit, but the gas is cheaper than the small pay as you go canisters. They almost always run on Calor gas although you can get some that run on liquid fuel, for most circumstances you just cannot beat the convenience of a steady double burner. Ones with full windshields keep the worst of the wind out, but we do have a soft spot for the Royal Double Burner Cast Iron Gas Stove. I think you could buy one of these and still be using it in 50 years.
Barbecues and open fires - there is nothing like cooking on an open fire, but given that most UK camping is done on campsites the use of the open fire is quite restricted. This usually means that people resort to the disposable barbecue which, although convenient, is something we should move away from, not just from environmental perspective but also from a culinary one. These one-hit BBQs are difficult to regulate, so the food is either well overcooked or horribly underdone. There are now loads of smaller BBQs on the market, but the Japanese seem to have a good hold on this type of product with the Grilletto and the Yakatori grill being uber cool and still able to cook a decent burger.
If money is no object then a Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet could just be what you are after, although I'm not sure they will fit in the boot of most cars.
Camping Utensils and Accessories
There some really cool little bits and pieces if you know where to look, here are some of our favourite camping accessories:
We met these guys and girls a few years ago and their gear looked pretty cool, don't see much of it in the UK though.
Light My Fire
As soon as these came on the market the Spork has been a favourite of ours, the prongs sometimes break but they have a Ti version out now.
Plastic sheets you fold into plates. Can you make up the espresso cup one handed? We can.
The biggest crime in the outdoor industry is that no one stocks the amazing range that is Snowpeak, sure a few shops in the UK sell the best selling bits, shame on you!
Don't be afraid to buy stuff from non camping shops. Ikea did some plastic serving spoons and forks that were dead cheap and as good as anything else with MSR written on it. The discount shops are good for plastic plates in funky colours, TK Max always has some neat utensils. Silicone tongs seem to work just as well stirring soup as they do turning sausages.
Our friends at Cool Camping have drawn up a pretty good list of camping cooking necessities. A more comprehensive list can be found in their book Cool Camping Cookbook. If you don't buy the book do take a chopping board and some basic seasoning stuff from your pantry. You may also want to check out GuyRope Gourmet for even more ideas.
Happy campside cooking!