Essential Tools, Utensils, and Ingredients for Camp Cooking

If you don't make a habit of reading The New York Times, you might have missed this article about camp cooking. It is a bit high-brow, what with its talk of creme fraiche and fava beans, but it does illustrate a few good points, most notably that a well-stocked, yet minimalist kitchen is key to camp cooking success.

Years ago, I picked up a bargain bin chuck box and filled it with a few essentials, including a Coleman camp stove, coffee pot, skillet, and 2-quart saucepan. I also carry my trusty and dusty Boy Scout mess kit wherever I go and it's come in handy over the past 25 or so years. Utensils are simple and multi-functional: a spatula, wooden spoon, and tongs. Throw in a good knife and an odd assortment of silverware, and I'm ready to cook and eat most anything, anywhere.

As for ingredients, I keep them simple as well, with a lidded tote of staples ready to go at a moment's notice when I get the urge to split town on a Friday afternoon. In it, I keep some instant rice, pasta (usually macaroni), pancake mix, a few cans of beans and crushed tomatoes, plus an assortment of spices and a bottle of olive oil. There's usually a can of Dinty Moore in there and probably some Hormel corned beef hash, because sometimes all you want to do after long day of doing nothing is open a can and heat it up.

What am I missing? Obviously there's cold stuff that goes in the cooler, including a few venison steaks, some burger, sandwich meat or hard sausage along with a big hunk of hard cheese. And don't forget the beer and a bottle of tonic (with some limes, of course).

Do you have a chuck box or other camp kitchen tote? If so, what do you keep in it? What are some of your Wild Chef essentials for a successful weekend in the woods?