Camping season is here, and that means whether you're pitching a tent in the back yard or driving the family out to a nearby state or national park, you need to fuel the fun. Sure, you could throw together a few sandwiches on your way out of town and pop open a bag of chips – or you could get a little more creative.

With the right outdoor cooking gear, you can cook meals as inventive and tasty as the ones you enjoy at home with the extra-special ingredients of woodsmoke, birdsong, and fresh air. Even campground classics like roasted hotdogs and popcorn can be taken to the next level with couple upgrades to your camping kit – with plenty of room left in the car for the tent, sleeping bags, and charcoal. 

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Outdoor Cooking Gear for Car Camping

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IceMule's dry-bag style backpack coolers come in a variety of sizes for solo treks or group adventures © Meghan O'Dea / Lonely Planet

1) IceMule Cooler
If you've banged your shins against a bulky box cooler while trying to move it around the campground one too many times, it's time to look into a backpack cooler. Perfect for trips to the beach, park picnics, or those outdoor trips that fall somewhere in between car camping and backpacking, Ice Mule's rugged coolers have a dry bag-style construction that keeps the cold and moisture where it needs to be and sand and dirt out. IceMule Pro X-Large33 liter capacity, $129.95; Ice Mule.

2) Camp Chef Popcorn Popper
Kids of all ages will love getting to turn popcorn kernels into fluffy white snacks over the campfire with this old-fashioned popcorn popper. 3.5 quart capacity, from $24.49; Amazon.com

3) Lodge Cast Iron Cook-It-All
Cast iron cookware is perfect for car camping – it works well on gas stoves and can stand up to cooking over open flames and coals. Lodge's Cook-It-All is even more versatile, with two cleverly designed pieces that work in different combinations as a griddle, grill, wok, skillet, Dutch oven, and pizza stone. Bring it along for breakfasts, lunches, and dinner with the ability to fry pancakes in the morning, slow-cook cowboy chili, and even grill smoky campground pizzas.  14 inches, $119.95; Lodge Cast Iron

Focus on grass on cliff and blurred image of traveler pressing aeropress on metal mug on cliff at lake, brewing alternative coffee at camping. Making hot drink at picnic outdoors
Making a hot drink at picnic outdoors © Bogdan Kurylo / Getty Images

4) AeroPress Coffee Maker
Even the most finicky coffee connoisseurs praise the flavor produced by the AeroPress method, which also happens to be incredibly portable. At just 11.2 ounces, the travel version of the classic AeroPress is easy to bring along for the ride, even if your car is full of other gear. AeroPress Go Portable Travel Coffee Press, $31.95; Amazon.

5) Camp Chef Everest Stove
Consistently amongst the highest-rated two-burner camping stoves on the market, Camp Chef's Everest model boasts a pair of 20,000 BTU burners, built-in ignitors, functional wind screens, and an easy-clean drip tray that clocks in at just 12 pounds. Camp Chef Everest Two Burner Camping Cooking System, $148.00; Camp Chef.

6) Marshmallow and Hot Dog Roasting Forks
It's not a classic campout without roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire – but you can't always count on the right stick being available, or not losing your 'mallow to the fickle campfire gods. These telescoping forks get it just right every time. Rollaroaster, set of 2, $16.89; Amazon.

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Give your regular kitchen utensils a night off with this camping-ready set © courtesy of GSI Outdoors

7) GSI Outdoors Gourmet Kitchen Set
Eleven kitchen essentials are packed into one handy ballistic nylon traveling case, including a spoon, spatula, collapsible whisk, 4 compartment spice shaker, 2 reusable condiment containers, cutting board, scrubber, scraper, and camp towel. This set is the perfect addition to a well-rounded camp kitchen, meaning you don't have to schlep your regular kitchen utensils out of town. GSI Outdoors Gourmet Kitchen Set, 1.1 pounds, $42.95; Amazon.

8) Field Barista Set
If you love the ritual of making coffee as much as the finished product, you'll love Snowpeak's array of professional-grade, beautifully designed coffee tools. The Field Barista Set includes a kettle, grinder, and coffee drop in stainless steel with wooden accents. For larger groups, you might opt for the brawnier Car Camping Coffee Set, which comes with a 1.8 L kettle and a pair of steel mugs. Espresso hounds, meanwhile, will gravitate to the Cafe Latte Set with a French Press, Titanium Foamer, and carry case. Snowpeak Field Barista Set, 33oz, $260; Snowpeak.

9) Reliance Aqua-Tainer
Long a favorite of car campers, overlanders, and vanlifers alike, this smart water jug has handy features that classic jerrycans don't match, like a chubby front spigot that makes it easy to dispense water at the campground. Reliance Aqua-Tainer, 7 gallons, $18.95; REI.

10) Snowpeak Takibi Fire Grill
Everyone loves to gather around the campfire – but not every campground is equipped with a fire ring, and not every environment safely allows for open fires. Be prepared for any scenario with the Takibi Fire & Grill, a portable system that lets you enjoy campfires and cooking over them wherever you are, with easy cleanup for Leave No TraceSnowpeak Takibi Fire Grill, 31.5 pounds, $319.95; Snowpeak.

You may also like:
4 recipes with a global flavor to make with kids
This is the year to plan the perfect camping vacation
See these new glamping spots around England

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