By Mike Henninger
Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated with vehicle dependent expeditions, or overlanding. I have wanted to take a vehicle and modify it in such a way that it would support me for an extended period of time. As I have gotten deeper into the overlanding scene and done more research, I have concluded that a well built overlanding setup can be transferable to a number of vehicles without changing its basic setup. That being said, I would like to show you how I went about setting up a budget friendly overland kitchen. The goals were simple and straightforward. It had to work in both vehicles I owned (05 Land Rover LR3, 76 Land Rover Series III 109) and with traveling for work (11 Ford E350) and it had to work with 4 people.
I have been using a bunch of MSR products from my camping days and knew that the car camping scene had a bunch of stuff to offer. I also knew that I wanted something close to what I see in the overlanding magazines and forums but not being Scrooge McDuck, I would have to scale back of the grandeur of my plans.
I decided to start with what I consider to be the key of any kitchen, the stove. I knew I wanted a two burner propane model. I researched a number of choices and chose the Primus Profile Dual ($139). It is a compact base camp style stove with a single burner and a grill top. I like the two different burners and the grill top side will work well for cast iron. The other feature of this type of stove is that they can run on compact propane bottles and with a bulk cylinder adaptor it can also run full size propane bottles.
Now was the tricky part, to make the stove work with a number different vehicles. I needed a free standing base kitchen that could be used independently of the vehicle. I chose the camp kitchen from REI for a few reasons. First and most important, it fit the Primus stove exactly. Second, was the minimal setup and modularity of it. Finally, the middle shelf had enough room to hold 2 water jugs. Having the water available in the kitchen is essential for the comfort of a large group.
Now I can hear you saying both of those items are over $100. There is nothing budget about that! True, but those are the only expensive items (over $100) that I did buy. Furthermore, you don’t want to skimp on these two items as they are the foundation of everything else that we discuss.
Water storage and transport comes from a Canadian company that you may be familiar with. They have been making water totes for as long as I can remember. Reliance Products has more offerings than you can possibly use but I opted for a jug that would handle a ton of abuse and stored plenty of water. The Jumbo-tainer ($19.95) is not their heaviest duty container but the two extra gallons make a big difference. Just be sure to keep an extra cap on hand as mine tend to crack. Three of the jumbo-tainers would provide 21 gallons of water, which would last 5 days for 4 adults. And as I mentioned before, two fit nicely on the shelf of the camp kitchen and add some stability to it with the additional weight.
Moving on to food prep, we have the area of the toughest decisions and where you can really start to customize your setup to meet your needs. My choices are based around the camping that I end up doing, which can be go and stay in one place for several days or going to a new place every night. There does not tend to be much in the middle right now. The cooking and food prep needs to be scalable and packed together as much as possible. Only having to unpack one tote makes a lunch stop quick and easy.
The tote I chose will surprise some people but once you see it in action you will understand why. It is the Wolf Pack from Front Runner Outfitters ($39.99). This is a storage box that is stackable so you can add boxes as your kit grows. They work inside or on top of your rig and the lid is removable allowing total access to the contents. A nice added benefit is that the Primus stove nests nicely on the lid of the box, good for storage or a quick meal stop. I also added the soft bag on the inside of the tote to cushion the cast iron and add a second level for the griddle.
Inside the tote you will find a cast iron skillet (12 inches), my repurposed MSR pots, a GSI Infinity Tableset, GSI Crossover kitchen set, water filter, food prep knife, and a cast iron griddle. Everything tucks neatly in the Wolf Pack and I have just enough room to add a few extras depending on the trip. For example, a small tarp to stand on since it was going to be rainy on my last trip.
Next time I will be going into more detail as I test this setup out and make improvements to it. I will also try to cover each section in a little more detail. Stay tuned as you watch my Overland kitchen grow into something I can really use.
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