Interlude – Packing a Kitchen Box for Car Camping

Bass fishing — Lower Granite Reservoir – Yep, we caught some

There’s a post primed in my head about the whole “disbanding the police” controversy going on right now in Minneapolis, that’s a perfect example of Value Set/Meme filtering, and what you do with organizations that have effectively turned into what I call Vampire Colonies, but my brain just can’t take the B.S. Anyone thinks that a decentralization effort means total abolition is not going to be receptive to anything resembling what will actually happen, nor the trajectories possible. And yeah, it just makes my brain hurt.

So let’s talk about something a little lighter-hearted — in the afternoon hours, after writing and tending to the usual Industrial Design Clinic business, I’ve been methodically sorting through a true, Agile MVKB — a Minimum Viable Kitchen Box. I’ve even drawn up a downloadable Check-off List (in pdf form) that you can put in yours to make sure you’ve got everything you need. For those unfamiliar with car camping, though all these objects seem obvious, there seems to be hidden magic in getting them all together, in one place!

I also have a large aluminum dry box that I use for longer rafting trips, that has all sorts of additional things in it, because it’s large, and things have become accreted over time. There’s also stuff to fix the raft, which one doesn’t necessarily need for a long weekend.

The box itself is about 24″x18″x16″ and is a cheap tote. It fits nicely in the back of my Subaru Outback, which is the point. I want to upgrade this box a bit, but that will have to wait until the next trip to Lewiston, ID, which is about 35 miles away, and the North 4D — this is a true Hillbilly Heaven fantasy store, for my international readers. We don’t eat a lot of pasta, so for my kitchen box, I don’t have a big pot to boil spaghetti. I know that this must seem sacrilegious to some folks – not to eat spaghetti on a camping trip, but that’s the deal with a keto-ish diet. I do have a big frying pan. Bacon and eggs are part of the morning in my camp!

Here are some pictures.

Nothing fancy — and yes, it’s cheap
It fits… barely!
Silverware container — yes that is a pasta strainer! Tongs are handy, as well as scissors and a can opener!

A kitchen box should be lift-able by the smallest functional person in the group (I’m not talking about your 6 year old nephew.) It’s also nice if you can sit on it (the one in the picture, eh, not so much.) I’ve separated out the list with replenishable items, and permanent fixtures. The other advantage of the list is that, for me, I can put all the items back IN the big metal dry box, for a longer raft trip, and then quickly repack the Long Weekend Kitchen box. These boxes are virtually indestructible. They’re also very expensive.

I’ve attempted to build some redundancy into core systems. I have a good, old-fashioned Coleman two-burner stove. Yes, I used to have a white gas stove, but over time, I’ve become convinced, for as much as I camp (not as much as I used to) the gas isn’t worth the hassle. One or two propane canisters is all you need for the most cooking-intensive long-weekend camping trip.

But I always take along my backpacking stove and a butane container. For those curious, I recommend (and have) this MSR product.

One thing we are very particular about is dishwashing and keeping E coli out of our systems. There’s nothing worse than folks getting sick from food-borne infection (no uncooked chicken on my camping trips!) so I use a three dishpan system of wash/rinse/bleach sterilize to keep everyone healthy. I also recommend getting a hanging dish drainer. These are great things that also work fantastically for keeping bad bacteria at bay.

Dish Drying Bag attached to a Roll-a-Table

When I go camping with young children, I ALWAYS make sure to have a hand wash station, made from those big white paint buckets. But that’s a story for another time. This one’s a fancy one from Northwest River Supplies, who have been patrons of mine since forever — but you can make your own out of two buckets, some hose, a little tubing and an outboard gas pump for about $25. That will be another post. With adults, I assume that they get the hand washing thing and carry some hand sanitizer. You have dish soap to wash hands with at camp, plus I’ve also included bar soap and hand sanitizer on the list.

There you have it! I’d guess the total cost of everything in the box, with the box included, (sans the backpacking stove, which really isn’t that expensive) with a two-burner propane stove, is around $200. Probably less, and all available at Walmart. Amortized over a couple of trips, it’s gonna be about the same as four trips to the pub. If that sounds like a lot of money, and you’re that broke, you’re probably already camping — under a bridge!

Leave any additions you like in the comments! I’m sure I probably missed something. But nothing that a little whiskey couldn’t cure!

7 thoughts on “Interlude – Packing a Kitchen Box for Car Camping

  1. It would seem the bispectral or trispectral analyses discussed in a previous post (‘ringing society’s bell’) woyld be relevant—how to optimally combine possibly orthogonal and linear functions nonlinearly. Sort of like a packing problem where all your objects aren’t identical, you might have oranges, guns, bars of gold, a microwave oven, and other campfire neccesities.)

    just spend a few minutes writing out an equation that tells you the best way to fit all that in. (one could use this to solve social conflicts as well–put everyone in their proper place.)

    when i go out i have 9 things on me (now 10 since you need a mask)–i keep a list (keys are #1). my pack has maybe 15 depending on the weather (eg flashlight, a lighter, umbrella) plus papers and books, and sometimes i have guitar to use to pass the time or for security. (usually the way i play does the trick—i once met a grizzly bear face to face on a mountain top in alaska (it was coming up the other side when i was o my side and we met at the top) —and i played it a little song and it ran away. (smaller animals run away even faster. )

    In summer in the country –usually appalchians—i used to try to travel light but usually have to hire a porter like the ones in the himalayas for 5$ a day which i think is a good wage in himlayas or on my treks—mine is even better because yiou dont have to carry 200 pounds up mt everest for 5$.
    appalchians are an easy 5$.

    . (while i hire these porters, at the end of the day in general i decide they didnt do a good job or i actually dont have the money so i stiff them. only porter i can find is myself–if you are multilented and gifted one can do both.)

    i like to take the whole kitchen sink but settle for a blanket, some plastic, matches and lighters, and papers to read. (i’m the only person i who carries more papers than anything else. when i did carry more , food, tent, and sleeping bag were first to go. i stopred these various places i can’t remember. in summer you dont need these unless you are a pack animal.) .

    one can often find food and a place to stay somewhere if you known the terrritory. (sometimes i regret having abandoned everything.)


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