The Ultimate Guide to Camp Cooking Gear for Van Life: 17 Affordable and Efficient Solutions11 min read

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camp cooking gear. knife and ax on logLiving life on the road has become a popular trend, with more people embracing the freedom and adventure of van life. As a van dweller myself, I understand the importance of having practical and affordable solutions, especially when it comes to cooking.

In this guide, I’ll take you through the world of camp cooking gear for van life, highlighting the benefits, factors to consider when shopping, and the essential equipment you’ll need to create delicious meals while on the go.

The Benefits of Camp Cooking Gear for Van Life

While you can buy cooking gear especially invented for vans and RVs, my experience has shown me that there are also some great (and more affordable) options in the camp cooking gear department. Here are some additional benefits of shopping in the camping section for your van’s cooking gear.

Portability and Space-Saving:

When living in a van, every inch of space matters. Camp cooking gear is designed with portability in mind, making it a perfect fit for limited van kitchens. With compact and lightweight items, you can easily store and transport your cookware, maximizing the available space.

Durability and Longevity:

Van life comes with its fair share of challenges, including vibrations while driving and limited storage options. Camp cooking gear is built to withstand these challenges. The sturdy construction ensures that your cookware remains intact and functional, even in rough conditions, providing you with long-lasting companions for your culinary adventures.

Versatility and Multi-functionality:

One of the most appealing aspects of camp cooking gear is its versatility. Whether you’re frying, boiling, or baking, these tools can handle it all. Additionally, many camp cooking items serve multiple functions, eliminating the need for excess equipment. This versatility not only saves space but also reduces costs.

Factors to Consider When Shopping for Cookware for Van Life

Size and Space: Consider the available space in your van kitchen and opt for cookware that fits well within those limitations. Look for nesting cookware sets, which allow you to stack and store multiple pieces efficiently, maximizing space usage.

Heat Source Compatibility: Different vans use various heat sources, such as propane stoves or electric burners. Ensure that your cookware is compatible with these heat sources. Materials like stainless steel and cast iron are known for their compatibility with different heat sources and even heat distribution.

Easy Cleaning and Maintenance: In a van, water usage is often limited. Therefore, choosing cookware that is easy to clean and maintain is essential. Non-stick coatings or stainless-steel options are excellent choices, as they require less effort to clean and don’t retain food odors.

If you want to learn how to install a kitchen in a van, watch this video by Salty Vanventures: AMAZING DIY Van Kitchen built CHEAP | Ford Transit Conversion

Essential Camp Cooking Gear for Van Life

camp cooking gear. gas stoveSimplicity is key when it comes to buying cooking gear for your van. But there are always some things you just cannot do without. So, here is a list of essential camp cooking gear you will need for your van.


When it comes to cookware for van life, investing in a versatile set will serve you well. Here are the essential pieces you’ll need:

Skillet: The Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet (insert affiliate link) is a top-rated choice for van life cooking. It offers excellent heat retention, durability, and versatility for various cooking techniques.

Pot: The GSI Outdoors Halulite Boiler Pot (insert affiliate link) is a highly recommended pot for van life. It is lightweight, durable, and features a convenient folding handle for easy storage.

Saucepan: The MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set (insert affiliate link) is a popular choice among van dwellers. With a non-stick ceramic coating and nesting design, it offers convenience and versatility in a compact package.

Cooking Utensils:

Having the right cooking utensils will make your van life cooking experience much more enjoyable. Here are the essential utensils to consider:

Spatula: The OXO Good Grips Silicone Flexible Turner (insert affiliate link) is a top-rated spatula known for its heat resistance, durability, and versatility.

Tongs: The HOT TARGET Stainless Steel Kitchen Tongs (insert affiliate link) are highly regarded for their sturdy construction, comfortable grip, and locking mechanism for easy storage.

Multi-purpose Knife: The Victorinox Swiss Army Classic Chef’s Knife (insert affiliate link) is a versatile and reliable knife that van life enthusiasts swear by. It offers a sharp blade, ergonomic handle, and excellent cutting performance.

Food Storage Solutions:

Efficient food storage is crucial for maintaining freshness and preventing spoilage. Consider the following options:

Airtight Containers: The Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Containers (insert affiliate link) are highly recommended for van life. They feature airtight seals, stackable design, and are made of durable, BPA-free materials.

Vacuum Seal Bags: The FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer Bags (insert affiliate link) are a popular choice for van life food storage. These bags are designed to keep food fresh for longer periods, and they work seamlessly with FoodSaver vacuum sealers.

Portable Stove and Fuel:

Having a reliable portable stove is essential for cooking in van life. Consider the following options:

Portable Stove: The Coleman Classic Propane Stove (insert affiliate link) is a top-rated stove for van life cooking. It offers reliable performance, easy setup, and compatibility with standard propane canisters.

Fuel: The Coleman Propane Fuel (insert affiliate link) is a widely available and trusted fuel option for portable stoves. Ensure you have enough canisters to last your cooking needs during your van adventures.

Remember, the specific equipment you choose may depend on your personal preferences and the available space in your van kitchen. Prioritize functionality, durability, and ease of use when selecting your camp cooking gear, and you’ll be well-prepared to whip up delicious meals on the road.

Budget-Friendly Camp Cooking Gear Recommendations

camp cooking gear. cast-iron potsWhile there are many fancy brands on the market, there are also some more affordable options that offer just as much value and endurance as their top of the range counterparts. Here are some of my budget-friendly camp cooking gear recommendations.

Affordable Cookware Brands:

When shopping for budget-friendly camp cookware, several brands offer quality options at reasonable prices. These brands prioritize functionality, durability, and affordability. Here are a few notable ones:

Stanley Adventure: Stanley Adventure (insert affiliate link) is a well-known brand that offers a range of affordable and reliable camp cookware. Their products are designed for outdoor enthusiasts and van life adventurers. Stanley Adventure cookware sets are known for their rugged construction, efficient heat distribution, and easy-to-clean features.

They offer excellent value for the price, making them a popular choice among budget-conscious campers.

GSI Outdoors: GSI Outdoors (insert affiliate link) is another brand that offers affordable and high-quality camp cooking gear. They have a wide selection of cookware sets, pots, pans, and utensils designed for outdoor use. GSI Outdoors focuses on lightweight and compact designs, making their products ideal for van life.

Their cookware is known for its durability, heat distribution, and user-friendly features, all at an affordable price point.

Coleman: Coleman (insert affiliate link) is a trusted name in outdoor gear and camping equipment, including camp cookware. They offer a variety of affordable options suitable for van life cooking. Coleman cookware sets are designed to be lightweight, compact, and easy to use. They prioritize durability and heat efficiency, ensuring that your meals are cooked to perfection.

Coleman products are known for their affordability and wide availability, making them a go-to brand for budget-conscious van dwellers.

By considering cookware from these budget-friendly brands, you can find reliable and affordable options that meet your needs without breaking the bank. Remember to compare prices, read reviews, and look for any ongoing discounts to maximize your savings while equipping your van kitchen.

Thrifty Alternatives and DIY Solutions:

When living a frugal van life, there are various thrifty alternatives and DIY solutions that can help you save even more money while equipping your van kitchen. These options not only contribute to a minimalist lifestyle but also add a unique touch to your cooking setup. Consider the following ideas:

Repurposing Household Items:

Look around your home for items that can be repurposed as camp cooking gear. For example:

Cast-Iron Skillet: If you already own a cast-iron skillet, there’s no need to invest in a new one. Bring it along on your van adventures to enjoy the benefits of its durability and even heat distribution.

Mason Jars: Repurpose mason jars as storage containers for spices, herbs, or small food items. They are affordable, readily available, and provide an airtight seal to keep your ingredients fresh.

Cutting Board: Utilize a sturdy cutting board from your kitchen as a multipurpose surface for meal preparation in your van.

Thrift Stores and Secondhand Markets:

camp cooking gear. green vanThrift stores and secondhand markets are treasure troves for finding affordable camp cooking equipment. Consider the following tips when shopping:

Utensils and Cookware: Look for gently used pots, pans, spatulas, and other cooking utensils. Inspect the items for any damage or signs of wear, ensuring they are still functional and safe to use.

Outdoor Gear Sections: Explore the outdoor gear sections of thrift stores for camping cookware and accessories. You might stumble upon hidden gems at a fraction of the original price.

Check for Sales and Discounts: Thrift stores often offer sales and discounts, so keep an eye out for special deals that can further reduce the cost of your camp cooking gear.

Considerations When Shopping for Secondhand Camp Cooking Equipment:

Condition: When purchasing secondhand camp cooking equipment, thoroughly inspect the items for any damage, such as cracks, dents, or loose handles. Check for signs of wear and tear, ensuring that the equipment is still in good working condition. If possible, test the functionality of stoves or other appliances to ensure they operate properly.

Cleanliness: Hygiene is crucial when it comes to cooking equipment. Before purchasing secondhand items, make sure they are clean and free from any residue or contaminants. Look for equipment that has been well-maintained and properly cleaned by the previous owner.

Brand Reputation: Consider reputable brands known for their durability and quality. While purchasing secondhand equipment, opt for brands that have a track record of producing long-lasting products. This increases the likelihood of finding reliable and sturdy camp cooking gear that can withstand the demands of van life.

Compatibility: Ensure that the secondhand equipment you’re considering is compatible with your van setup. Check for compatibility with your heat source (e.g., propane, electric, or campfire) and the size and space available in your van kitchen. Consider how the equipment will fit into your cooking area and whether it aligns with your specific needs and preferences.

Pricing: While secondhand equipment is generally more affordable than buying brand new, it’s still important to compare prices and evaluate the cost-effectiveness. Consider the condition of the item, the original retail price, and the age of the equipment to determine if the asking price is reasonable. Don’t hesitate to negotiate or look for alternative sellers if you feel the price is too high.

Remember, the goal of thrifty alternatives and DIY solutions is to embrace a minimalist lifestyle while being resourceful with what you already have or finding affordable options. By incorporating these ideas and considering the aforementioned factors when shopping for camp cooking equipment, you can create a functional and budget-friendly van kitchen that reflects your unique style and values.


In conclusion, you don’t have to spend a fortune to equip your van kitchen with the essential camp cooking gear. By considering budget-friendly options, exploring thrift stores, and getting creative with thrifty alternatives and DIY solutions, you can create a functional and affordable cooking setup for your van life adventures.

Repurposing household items, browsing thrift stores, and being mindful of considerations such as size, heat source compatibility, durability, and easy cleaning will help you make smart choices while staying within your budget. Embracing a minimalist lifestyle and seeking out cost-effective solutions not only allows you to save money but also adds a unique touch to your van kitchen.

So, get resourceful, hunt for bargains, and enjoy the process of creating a frugal yet stylish space where you can whip up delicious meals on the road. With the right camp cooking gear and a thrifty mindset, you can savor the joys of van life without breaking the bank. Happy cooking and safe travels!

camp cooking gear. Thank you

Thank you so much for reading this article! If you are interested in learning more about traveling on a budget, minimalist living, or van life, please see our other blogs. Happy traveling!

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