Camp Kitchen For A Crowd


a large group requires a different camp kitchen than a smaller one.
A large group requires a different camp kitchen than a smaller one.

Do you need a camp kitchen for a crowd?  Then you’ve come to the right place.  It’s easy to set one up, and it’s different from a camp kitchen for just two or three people.

We usually camp with anywhere from ten to fifteen people, but our camp kitchen easily accommodates cooking for fifty. All the extraneous kitchen items for a large camp kitchen fits into four bins.  We would have a fifth bin if we were camping for fifty. It would be for the paper plates and plastic glasses and utensils alone.  With fifteen, though, those things can fit into one of the other bins pretty easily).

By “bin” I mean those big Rubbermaid storage containers, about 21″ x 15 1/2″ x 16 1/2″ deep. They last forever and keep everything contained, clean and dry. They also do a great job, when empty, as doubling for washing large amounts of dishes or clothes, but we only do that if we’re camping out a week or more.  Otherwise we take a much smaller bin for washing purposes.

This trip our items are broken down into the bins in the following ways:

1.  Metals Bin. —

That means pots and pans, box grater, and metal eating utensils. The metal eating utensils are those little knife/fork/spoon clip-together jobs, and we only use them when we run out of plastic ones, hating as we do the amount of dish washing a large crowd engenders and keeping that duty as light as possible.

2.  Plastics Bin. —

For a crowd you need bowls, trays and baggies. In this bin I add 8 medium noodle bowls (not just for soup, stews and chili–great for mixing sauces and roux and stuff), a large plastic colander (for draining pasta, straining large sauces, washing vegetables and is also a handy dish-drainer when washing dishes), extra plastic scrubbers (for scrubbing potatoes and pots and pans), and 6-8 plastic travel mugs. Friends are always forgetting something to drink out of when camping. I also throw in a couple of plastic cutting mats, a must for meals for a crowd.

3. The Extras Bin. —

The extras bin is the most variable of the three.  Depending on the menu and what I’ll be needing, I often add a very large roll of tinfoil (I mean, huge; I use a lot of foil when  camping), a large roll of plastic wrap, a box each of large, medium and small Ziploc bags (for holding leftovers, snacks when hiking, bait for fishing, the wet dishcloths and cup towels on the last day when going home, you name it), a couple of large serving trays, food covers, and generally a lot of the eating containers go there too–the wicker plate liners, paper plates, and plastic glasses. Any extra stuff that I’ll need for that particular trip will go in there.  If there is lots of room, I throw in the first aid kit.  But there never is.

This trip I will be adding three new smaller containers.  The purple one measures about 12 1/2″ x 16″ x 9″ deep and holds all the kitchen cooking utensils–spoons, knives, whisk, can opener, ladle, egg flippers (two or three; I sometimes find myself frying eggs in three separate pans and when someone offers to help me I never say no) and potato peeler and the like. There is lots of room, so I will be adding a flashlight, another set of heavy gloves for the fire, waterproof matches and stuff like that.

Two Smaller bins.–

The other two bins are small and will be holding all the plastic spoons and forks in one, and the knives in another.  They are easier to control that way–they don’t get out of the bags and scattered on the ground and stuff when people are grabbing them for food. And they’re easier to see how much you have left, and to store. All three bins generally have a little space on top and I never waste space when going camping.  All kinds of extras can go in there–cup towels, dish cloths, soap, a little bleach for disinfecting, plastic table cloths, paper towels, paper napkins if you want them, extra toilet paper, extra matches and flashlights, fire starter, extra small propane containers, the sky is the limit.

The Rest of the camp kitchen.–

For the crowd we have we always take three of those big plastic folding banquet tables.  That seems like a lot of space until you cook for a crowd.  You need a place for a wash bin and some things that stay out all the time–bottles of pop, the utensils, milk and sugar and the like.  So much easier to camp if it’s right there and you don’t have to dig through a bin or bag to find it.  Then you need a prep area, and you also need a place for others to do stuff while you are trying to cook so that you don’t run screaming  from the area mid-prep.

Layout of the kitchen we usually use.–

All of our kitchen is placed in a 10′ x 10′ gazebo, with mesh walls and outer waterproof walls that can be left off if desired.  This means everything stays dry when it rains, and the bugs (sort of) stay out while the breeze comes through on hot days. The setup is generally this:

Everthing inside the square is in a 10′ x 10′ gazebo tent.

Coleman stoves.–

With ten to fifteen people, you need two Coleman stoves.  Minimum. Increase it by one Coleman stove for every five or six people added. You need one full 20 lb. propane tank for a long weekend, increasing to two for 16-30 people. That’s because you don’t just cook; you heat water for tea, for washing, for coffee; and you add a “tree” (an extra propane line) to light up the kitchen area when it gets dark. (If you do get a tree for your propane tank make sure it is compatible with everything else you have).

I have a folding camp “kitchen” but this year I am leaving it behind; as handy as it can be I think I have simply outgrown it. A table and a wash bin are easier to carry and pack. I also take my little camp oven; you can only make things in an 8″ X 8″ pan with it but it’s so lovely to have warm biscuits or brownies and not take the Dutch oven.  As beautiful a thing as a Dutch oven is, it’s also space-consuming and heavy. If your menu calls for a lot of soups or stews, though, I highly recommend one.

So there you have it–a camp kitchen suitable for a lot of people.  Don’t forget the paper towels–about two rolls for fifteen people.

Feel free to drop a comment or ask a question in the comment box below. Happy camping! 🙂


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