The perfect gift can make mealtime the best time at the campsite.
The folks who feed us are special. This is even more true in the wilderness, with the conveniences of ovens and dishwashers left behind. But when it comes to shopping for these folks, finding the right gift can be tricky. Most avid cooks have a personalized, individual setup, with tools and methods geared to their use.
This is where we come in. Collectively, we’ve spent countless hours cooking on picnic tables, fire pits, or even down in the dirt. And if you had it in mind, say, to shop for one of our staff, these are some of the gifts we’d love to unwrap.
Most of these will skew toward the general philosophy of “car camping,” but a few ultralight options are included. Because, come on — not even thru-hikers want to eat ramen every day.
The Tiers of Gift Giving
First up, naturally, is Level One. Think of this as a person you know from work or through friends who has a reputation as a campsite cook. The gifts under this banner have a general appeal, and should be welcome in just about any circle.
Level Two gets a bit more specific. Here, we’re dealing with folks you’ve generally camped with before. Maybe they’ve invited you over to their site for burgers or beers, and you’re looking for a gift that’ll help keep the good times rolling.
Finally, there’s Level Three. You would share a tent with this person. And not one of those circus-sized models — we’re talking about the narrow confines of a backpacking shelter. Their presence (and cooking) is welcome in your space, and this is your means of contribution or thanks.
Got it? Let’s get to the gifts.
Gift Guide for Camp Cooks
Cookware and Stoves
If the first step in cooking is selecting your ingredients, the quick second is deciding how you’ll heat them. An entire industry has grown up around cooking outdoors, and the staff at GearJunkie loves to eat.
Below are three items that should make perfect gifts for the beloved campsite chef.
Level One: Lodge 6.5 in Cast Iron Skillet
Cast iron is great. It’s reliable, bombproof, and a favorite of outdoor cooks all around the world. And when it comes to cast iron, few makers have built a better reputation than Lodge.
This 6.5” model ($15) represents a nice scaledown of the brand’s larger skillets, with enough capacity to cook a couple of slices of bacon or scrambled eggs for two.
As such, this should be a perfect gift for the person who already has a larger pan in their kit. And for the cast-iron curious, it represents a great place to start.
Level Two: Jetboil Summit Skillet
There’s one problem with cast iron: Those pans are heavy.
If you’re looking for something a bit more compact and a whole lot lighter, check out the Summit Skillet ($45) from Jetboil. This foldable, nonstick pan weighs only 11.2 ounces, and was designed to work with all manner of backpacking stoves.
Its aluminum construction will also stand up to a standard propane system, and the ceramic coating makes cleanup a breeze.
We reviewed this skillet in full earlier this year, and found Jetboil’s design and construction to be on point. Cooks can always use another pan, and this foldable model should make for a durable, easy-to-pack gift.
Level Three: Coleman 1900 Collection 3-in-1 Propane Stove
Close your eyes, think back to your childhood, and picture a classic “camp stove.” Chances are that this imaginary object bears the iconic lantern emblem of Coleman.
But the 1900 3-in-1 ($230) is no vision from the past. It’s modern, versatile, and an absolute dream to use.
This stove floored us back in May, with its paired griddle/grill attachments and twin 12,000 BTU burners. It’s by no means cheap, and the total weight of 21.5 pounds (13.5 pounds for the stove and 8 pounds for the accessories) is on the heavy side, but this is a top-flight product from one of the most trusted names in outdoor cookery.
Stoves and cooking vessels get all the hype, but you can’t eat oatmeal or chop an onion with a pan. Instead, look to accessories for that person who has their outdoor kitchen mostly dialed in.
Two of the items below also provide an escape from disposable products, allowing you to feel good about the difference your gift is making in the environment.
Level One: TOAKS Titanium 3-Piece Cutlery Set
Leaving civilization behind is cool and all, but some niceties are worth taking with you. Forks, knives, and spoons are near the top of the list, saving you from scooping up food with your bare hands.
TOAKS has long been known for its quality titanium products, including its classic ultralight pot.
This same material makes great tableware, and this three-piece set ($20) offers one heck of a deal. They’re lightweight, durable, and can be clipped together with the included aluminum carabiner. They’re also dishwasher safe, in the event that you’re toting a Maytag on your back.
Level Two: GSI Outdoors Santoku Knife Set
Yes, you can use a pocket or belt knife to slice veggies. In fact, food prep is one of the main tests GearJunkie uses for outdoor knives. But when you’re relaxing at base camp, sometimes it’s nice to use a tool that’s purpose-built for the task.
GSI’s Santoku set ($40) represents exactly that. Its trifecta of blades features stainless steel and rubber construction, each fitted with a protective edge guard.
There’s also a microfiber cloth, a carrying case, and a cutting board that folds out to a 9- by 12.6-inch work surface. And if you’re looking for something a little less knife-centric, GSI offers an all-around toolkit for around $15 more.
Level Three: Ignik Gas Growler
Propane waste is a problem. You’ve seen those small, innocuous green cans that wind up stacked next to the National Park dumpsters. There’s a better way to bring the convenience of gas to your campsite, and Ignik’s Gas Growler ($110) has you covered.
Per REI, this “4.5-liter fill lasts five times longer than a single-use bottle, while costing roughly the same amount.” Composed of steel, rubber, and brass, this refillable canister is safe to transport and comes with multiple fittings, allowing easy connection to your stove or grill.
There’s also a Deluxe package available, featuring a multifunction, MOLLE webbing case.
When all else fails, give the gift of food. And there’s so much more to camping fare than canned beans and packets of salty tuna. Each of the ideas below should provide a boost of flavor to your next outdoor trip. Cooks love that kind of thing, and are likely to share the results.
Level One: Caramelo Sonoran Style Tortillas
Hear me out — these are not your average tortillas. If you’re breathing, chances are you’d be up for a tortilla filled with some combination of eggs, meat, or veggies. And when it comes to crafting this food delivery medium, Caramelo is one of the best.
These 6-inch tortillas have garnered near-universal acclaim, and have been featured on food shows and YouTube. Buyers can choose from versions made with duck fat ($9), pork fat ($7), or avocado oil ($8).
Each comes in a resealable 12-pack, and can even be frozen for storage at the campsite. This is a small-business product, so the wait time is long. But the quality and flavor are worth the price.
How much, exactly, do you like the person you’re shopping for? Because depending on their tolerance for spice, they’ll either thank you or never call you again.
In seriousness, this trio of sauces packs legitimate flavor in addition to respectable heat. They’re a product ($33) of the popular Hot Ones channel on YouTube, and come with more than 200 reviews.
Heatonist also lists suggested pairings for each sauce. Tacos and corn go with the original, for instance, and the Rojo is excellent with pork and beans. Those looking for flavor, forehead sweat, and a reason to grab another beer from the cooler will be happy to receive such a mouthwatering gift.
Level Three: Good To-Go Food Kits
Let’s face it, sometimes the best part about supper is not having to make it. Even camp cooks get tired of standing at the stove or grill, so why not let them put up their feet?
Good To-Go’s dehydrated meal kits ($77-273) will let them do just that. From weekend kits with oatmeal, mushroom risotto, and chicken pho to full-on 30-meal packs for thru-hikers, GTG’s highly-rated products require nothing but a spoon or fork and a little boiling water.
And with its variety of options, even the most finicky of chefs should find something to love on the menu.
A Final Oddball: Ooni Karu 12 Multi-Fuel Pizza Oven
OK, just hear us out: campsite pizza. Are there two more delicious words in the English language? And with its Karu 12 ($400), Ooni brings these concepts together.
Designed for use with wood or charcoal, this oven reaches temperatures that can cook a whole pizza in about 60 seconds. It’s also propane compatible, so long as you’re willing to pony up for the burner.
Yeah, it’s expensive, and at around 26.5 pounds, it’s not exactly ultralight. But if you want to enjoy some of the freshest, tastiest pies of your life without ever leaving the campsite, there’s no better tool than an Ooni.