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Must-Have Items for Overland Cooking

photo by Volodymyr_Plysiuk via iStock

In recent years, the number of people engaging in outdoor hobbies, including overlanding, has grown exponentially. More and more people found a love for the outdoors, including a vast array of different people from different skill and expertise levels who have found a passion for venturing out into the backcountry for some four-wheel driven fun. 

If you plan on staying out in the wilderness for a few days with your truck, you are going to have to prepare meals. And unlike when you go backpacking, you have space for equipment.

In this article, we’ll discuss the must-have items for overland cooking. 

Camping Stove and Gas for Overland Cooking

Cooking on a fire

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The stove will inevitably become the heart of your overland kitchen, and thankfully, venturing outdoors in a truck is going to grant you a lot of space to bring larger equipment. This abundance of space will allow you to obtain a multi-burner collapsible stove for some comfortable cooking. 

There is a lot of variety in different brands, so you’ll need to do some research to find the best fit for your needs.

Consider the area in or around your truck where you plan to be cooking, as the wind could be a potential problem for your stove. Make sure to opt for a model that provides a little extra wind protection on the sides of the stove, like the Mountaineer stove from Camp Chef or a two-burner propane stove from Coleman.

Always have a miniature gas stove that screws directly into a small canister, so you don’t have to whip out the entire stove if you just want a cup of coffee or oatmeal. Or, in case of emergency, when hypothermia looms, and you need to get something warm in you and your travel companions, this is also a lot quicker to pull out and get that water cooking in comparison to a full-size stove. 

Travel Fridge or Cooler

Travel Fridge or Cooler

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A compressor camping fridge would definitely be best suitable for overlanding since they are the most energy-efficient once they reach their designated temperature and are unphased by the constant shocks and jostling while on the rougher roads. 

They are more expensive than absorption, or thermoelectric camping fridge would be, but they are absolutely worth it. Especially since they will not risk depleting your battery, most models will only consume about 1 Amp/hr once they reach their operating temperature. Some models even have dual-zone control so that one compartment could be used as a freezer and the other as a cooler. 

Using a sliding system to bring your camping fridge down to ground level can come in handy, especially in a lifted truck. These overlanding fridges are heavy and bulky and need to be strapped in one way or another. A sliding system also provides that security but if you don’t want that, make sure it’s safely secured and tied down so it won’t go anywhere while on the move. 

Overlanding Kitchen Tools and Utensils

grilling burgers on schenk grill

There is a wide array of utensil sets available, ranging in size and durability. Find one that suits your overlanding party size. These sets will include table setting spoons, forks, knives, cutting utensils, spatulas, tongs and often a cutting board. These sets usually come in an easy case for safe storage. 

This should go without saying but avoid bringing anything glass or ceramic as they have a risk of shattering while on the move. There are many different types of materials available, like plastic and enamel. However, it is recommended to stay away from melamine. Because these items contain bamboo or corn fibers, and when used, there is a risk that too much formaldehyde will end up in your food or drink. 

If you have any backpacking pots and pans in your possession, you can easily use those and just add a skillet or whatever you feel is missing from your arsenal. A typical base set would include a skillet, a kettle and a deep saucepan. 

camping and cooking with the schenk

As you may already know, one of my favorite cooking implements for camping and overlanding is The Schenk from J.A. Schenk Co.

If you’re unfamiliar with this device, it’s quite simple, yet enormously effective. It consists of  a steel ground rod, a foot stabilizer (or an optional fire ring attachment), and a steel cooking ring that allows you to grill, cook with a skillet or cast-iron pan, and brew your favorite coffee over the fire.

The Schenk

As you can see above, you can do all these things simultaneously to speed up the process of getting meals ready for your hungry crew.

Since the components of The Schenk are made of steel, they’re extremely durable and offer you long-lasting use. It’s easy to put together, too – just a few moments to get it put together and lock the cooking ring in place with the provided steel keys.

schenk best of 2021 3

Of course, you want something that’s also easy to transport, and The Schenk has you covered there as well. The beautiful Wannigan box it comes in helps you keep all the pieces and parts of The Schenk neatly organized and stored away until the next time you need it.

The Schenk is simply a versatile, functional tool with tons of utility. When it comes to cooking in the wilderness, there’s nothing better!

And then there is the matter of coffee. You have several choices beyond the “just add water” packs, and you can simply bring a small percolator or an AeroPress with filters. If you prefer unground beans, obviously bring a hand grinder to enjoy that freshly ground coffee in the morning. 

After all of these items have been used, you have to be able to clean them. Make sure you have a collapsible sink, biodegradable soap, a sponge and a drying towel available for your dishes. 

And lastly, make sure you have a place to store your trash away from hungry animals too. You don’t want to attract them to camp or start associating people with food. So if you can, have a box at hand to store your trash. 

Food and Water Storage for Overland Cooking

Food and Water Storage

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The most important thing is to store it safely, out of reach of opportunistic animals when it comes to food. Make sure whatever you don’t keep in your fridge is locked away in storage boxes. 

If you happen to get stuck out there, you should have enough provisions to last, and you need to know how to live off the land safely. Having a book where you could look up certain plants, mushrooms and berries to be sure not to poison yourself can come in handy. 

Access to clean water for consumption, cooking and cleaning is an absolute necessity out in the wilderness. Besides needing to be clean, it also needs to be safe. And you are better off having water at hand in your vehicle than having to look for a body of natural water and then having to go through the purification process.

Food and Water Storage

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It is always recommended to carry something like a life-straw in your backpack or truck, just in case your water storage eventually runs out. Size matters in this case; even if you were to have access to fresh drinking water available at a campsite, having a place to carry enough water could make your off-road trips longer and better. 

The amount of water needed per person can stack up quite a bit. But don’t go too big either, because carrying out an excessive amount of water will provide an unnecessary extra burden on your vehicle. 

Another vital importance is the material of the water container is that it needs to be non-toxic since the water is either for drinking or coming into contact with your body in other ways. This rules off many containers already as they are not BPA-free, so make sure to look for a container that is. 

Besides the material needing to be non-toxic, it also needs to be able to take a hit. If anything were to slip loose in your truck on a rough road and knock your water container, you don’t want it to punch a hole in it and end up soaking your entire truck interior. So make sure your water container can sustain minor impacts, and keep it in a place where it’s secured and relatively safe. 

Prepare for Overland Cooking in the Rain

Prepare for Cooking in the Rain

photo by Niko_Cingaryuk via iStock

Sooner or later, you will face having to cook a meal in the rain. And sometimes, waiting it out is just not going to work. In that case, it would be ideal to have a 270 awning on your truck. But if you don’t have that, a smaller shelter on your vehicle or even a tarp construction between trees could provide you with a dry space to cook comfortably. 

Always travel prepared and know what kind of weather to expect before your trip. But also keep in mind that weather conditions -especially in mountain areas- are very susceptible to change. You are always better off packing a tarp you don’t end up using than having to sit in your truck bed cramped up or half-wet trying to cook in the pouring rain. 

And lastly, make sure to bring a comfortable folding chair and possibly a table so you can sit back and relax after cooking to enjoy your meal in the heart of nature. What’s better than that?

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