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Budget Overland Kitchen Follow-Up

What a Year on the Road Looks Like

So I have been using and improving the Budget Overland Kitchen for just about a year now and there are some things that I would like to report and observations that I would like to share with you monkeys.



First off, let me say that all in all that I have been very pleased with the overall concept and the pack ability of the Front Runner Box. It really got tested. The kitchen has cooked food for up to 30 people without any issue. To give you an idea of its year, the kitchen has been to the LTWK Pouting, Overland Expo West, Overland Expo East, Mid-Atlantic Overland Festival, PWYP, and several smaller local camping trips.



So, yay Mike! You can read my original article here if you are unfamiliar with it or just need a refresher:


Ok now let’s talk about the observations and issues that have come to light. The first thing is that I was very hard on this bit of kit. Harder than I was comfortable with to see where it would fail. It received no maintenance outside of when I was out in the field. How it was packed when I got home is how it stayed until I went out again. If it was wet, so be it. The case stayed latched until I needed to get into it.


So first off, I chose cast iron cookware for a few reasons but as many of you know you need to maintain it for the best results. I have a lot of surface dust on the griddle and skillet. I would scrape it with the GSI scraper and heat and oil it before each use. It got no post use oil, which normally I would do. If you are lazy go with a different griddle and skillet. I would suggest the Pinnacle Skillet and Bugaboo griddle from GSI outdoors.IMG_0811


Second, when cooking for more than four people it was easier to use paper plates and haveIMG_1432 everyone bring their own eating tools than trying to rotate troughs the GSI plates and washing them. The plates did work quite well, even holding large rock cooked steaks and risotto. They survived having bush knives and sporks dragged across the eating surface and getting carried around by dogs. The cups and bowls did yeoman’s work as well. Hot or cold didn’t affect them at all.


Finally, the GSI cooking tools were my biggest fear when building the kit. How in the world would folding utensils hold up to the heat of campfire cooking and cast iron? Well you can definitely see some wear but they held strong and continue to work better than advertised.



The shakers in the cooking kit were a great size for a weeklong trip. However, if you like to season your food or have a larger group you may want to consider some backup. I chose to fill the squirt bottle with Dawn soap to not only clean the camp ware but also as a safety feature if we encountered any poison ivy or vehicle maintenance grease. Good on you, GSI Outdoors! I would not hesitate to buy any of their products and have actually done so.IMG_1428

Ok, on to the actual Kitchen setup. The foundation of this whole idea was the REI camp kitchen. It gave me plenty of room for the main
stove and a backup stove, a prep area, and enough storage to organize when we were in base camp. It also offered the flexibility to not use it if it was just an overnighter.IMG_0790

The one flaw of the camp kitchen was user error but you should learn from my mistakes so your friends won’t laugh and point like mine do. On our last trip to the Overland Expo East there were five adults and all of the stuff for camping and a show in our van. To say it was packed was an understatement. On the way down the camp kitchen ended up on its side and a full propane tank and several other packs were packed on top of it. The top of one of the wings had given way. The kitchen is still functional and will get a new top this winter. The one thing that I was unable to find a good solution for was a paper towel dispenser. I may try to mount one this winter when I replace the top.


Next is the heart of the beast! Words cannot describe how happy I am with the Primus stove that I picked. I liked it so much that I bought a second Primus stove with two burners to complement the main stove when there are a bunch of people out with me. I was able to make it through all of the camping and cooking with one large propane tank and was able to rig up a method to power both stoves off of the one tank. I am also currently researching if I want to add a propane lantern as a light source for midnight bacon. Speaking of bacon, at one point, the main burner was completely full of congealed bacon grease and had to be chiseled out and cleaned so it would work again.


Now for the unnecessary conclusion, I am really happy with this camp kitchen setup. You can put some time and research and get a setup going for less or you could go out and order everything I used from the first article and be super happy. Find pieces that fit your needs build your setup around who you like to overland with and get out there and do it. Put some miles on the gear that isn’t paying rent in your basement!



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Budget Overland Kitchen

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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