Having the Sprinter Van has gotten us a little further away from our small tent, large backpacks, ultralight camping stove, compact sleeping pads etc. This summer we have been enjoying the luxury of the van and with that comes some car camping accessories that we have been getting a lot of use out of. Some of these items we have had for a long time (read: belonged to our parents before us). Other things we discovered just recently.
1. Roll-Up Camp Table
We had been using our folding camp table for quite some time before we had the van. They were great for setting up an extra side table when camping at a campground. In the van they have served as a temporary kitchen table and seating inside the van. Now that we have a new custom kitchen setup they might see less use, but I think we will still bring them along. Its always nice to have a little extra table space every now and then.
I am honestly not sure the exact brand of the table we have. It’s branded as REI, Coleman, Crazy Creek, and others – but they are all the same design (and likely all made at the same factory in China). The table is extremely easy to setup and break down and is pretty sturdy given its light weight. It could be a little taller for cooking (height is around 32″) which makes for a fairly comfortable eating position but is a lot lower than your standard 42″ countertop. With the adjustable legs it would be awesome if they could accommodate both activities well, but that’s not what this table does.
Overall though we have been very please with the performance of this table over the years.
There is something amazing about how gas lanterns work. Honestly, I have no idea how they do it, but the amount of light they put it is incredible. Cooking, reading, playing cards – all easily accomplished by the lantern light. Our Coleman two mantle white gas lantern has worked very well. The only thing I can complain about is the fragility of the mantles. I know this is inherant to the magic of how lanterns work, but it seems like every few times I pull the lantern out one of the mantles is broken. This is easily fixed with a spare mantle (and we carry a lot of spares for this purpose) and they are very easy to install, but its still a bit annoying.
Yes, everything is propane these days, but as you’ll see we have largely avoided use of propane entirely in our car camping setup. The thing about propane is, unless you have those large 5 gallon (or larger) propane cylinders, the small propane canisters are non-refillable and rather difficult to recycle (I have heard this is getting easier, but I haven’t looked into it). However, white gas (or ‘camping fuel’ as its sometimes called) continues to be readily available pretty much every where we go and doesn’t have the same amount of waste. We can go a long time off a single gallon can of fuel, refiling our various camp accessories when needed.
I am not a coffee drinker, but my wife is. And she requires her morning coffee. We tried the powdered coffee thing (yuck) and we went through several press pots, percolators and other coffee making gizmos. In the end, the Coleman propane coffee maker stood the test of time. Its extremely easy to use, basically like every other kitchen counter top coffee maker you have every seen… but this one runs on propane. You simply attach a bottle of propane (I know, I just had a paragraph explaining how I don’t like propane – so it goes), put in water, a coffee filter and your favorite coffee, and then light it up with the built in igniter. That’s it, minutes later hot coffee comes out. The plate the carafe sits on is even heated, so several cups of coffee can be enjoyed without fear of it getting cold.
Its also super fun to share coffee – because the coffee maker makes 10 cups – you can hook up your friends or make new friends at the campground. Again, I am not a coffee maker, but I have found the offering to be a great icebreaker. One thing to note – it comes with a glass carafe. This is probably not the best fit for camping. We immediately upgraded to the stainless steel unit which is obviously much tougher.
The stove we use has been in my family for a long time. And it still works very well. Talk to a Gen X or Gen Y that grew up camping and they will likely remember the ‘big green stove’. These stoves continue to be legendary. Though a little bit harder to come by these days, replaced by their similar propane brethren, you can still get the big green stove from Coleman.
These don’t light up as quickly as propane or simmer as perfectly, but as noted above, white gas (or camp fuel) is so much less wasteful (in my opinion), I am happy to forego the perfect simmer and a little bit of time priming. And, as noted above – the stove we have been using has been in service since the late 70’s – so you know it’s a well built item. Not sure how the new ones compare and hopefully wont have to find out any time soon.
Though not specifically a ‘kitchen’ item, we pack all of our kitchen accoutrements into a Rubber Maid Action Packer cargo box. This is another item that we have been using for a long time and it has served many roles. For a long time it was the home of the climbing gear, but lately it has served as storage for pots, pans, plates, utensils, cleaning supplies, spices, cooking oils, etc. Of course any kind of large cargo box will do for this – we just happened to have picked the Rubbermaid up a long time ago and continue to find it useful. The best thing about it, is that as long as we remember to carefully put everything back into it after use (and after doing post camping dishes) we don’t have to look very far to repack our kitchen the next time we go out.
That wraps up this Top 5 list. Of course there are lots of other great items we use around are car camping kitchen, but these are the items that stand out. I am sure we will get back to the trails and tents shortly, but the novelty of the van has yet to wear off and there is still so much to do and see. So for now, these items are getting used quite a bit.