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Gear Guy

Can you recommend an all-in-one kitchen for car camping?

I'm looking for a lightweight, compact "kitchen" for holding dishes and utensils while car camping. Can you recommend some sort of canvas or nylon box thingy? Vickey Freedonia, New York

A: I have just the nylon box "thingy" for you, Vickey. It's called a Beaver Tree Kitchen, a gadget I first saw at an Outdoor Retailers trade show a few years ago. Made of polyethylene plastic, the Beaver Tree is a kitchen-in-a-box, including compartments for utensils, plates and bowls, condiments, and kitchen accessories. It includes a lid that doubles as a kitchen base or wash sink, and can be adapted to hold a two-burner stove. This contraption also provides a work surface so food doesn't come into contact with dirty camp benches or tables. The cost is $139, which doesn't include dishes or utensils. For the extras, throw in the 16-piece Pioneer dish set from L.L. Bean ($75) and a 31-piece picnic set from Cabela's ($45). Pack your Beaver Tree Kitchen with the accessories, and just load the whole thing in your car. No grubbing around separate boxes and bags to find forks or saltshakers. It's a very slick deal.

Some things that I think are just about indispensable for outdoor cooking also include:
  • At least two non-stick skillets, preferably with folding handles for easy storage. GSI's eight-inch non-stick skillet ($14) fits the bill.
  • A two-pot, non-stick saucepan set, such as the MSR Blacklite Guide cookset ($44), which comes with three- and four-liter non-stick aluminum pots.
  • An Outback Oven ($65), which converts nearly any stove into a great convection oven to handle everything from brownies to pizza.
  • GSI's French coffee press ($22), because the cook deserves good coffee, after all.

    So, what time do we eat?

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