It’s just about time to head to deer camp, and, for me, the most important thing is a well-stocked kitchen. I’m always tinkering with just what goes in my chuck box, but here are 10 essentials that are getting packed this season.
MSR Strike Igniter: Matches get wet, and cheap disposable lighters fail—but a shower of sparks from this striker will fire up the stove or grill every time. It even works when wet and is inexpensive enough to add a second striker to your survival kit. $16; msrgear.com
Gerber Freescape Camp Kitchen Knife: Though the blade style is “Santoku-inspired,” don’t confuse this for a delicate-edged Japanese chef’s knife. It’s a tank, with a wide spine and full tang. Dice vegetables for dinner, then pair it with a bamboo baton to chop through limbs for a roaring campfire. $46; Gerbergear.com
Arctic Ice Cooler Packs: Melting ice makes a mess and doesn’t hold its cold as long as these hard-plastic cooler packs. Their slim design takes up less space than frozen jugs of water, too. See the full review here. $20 and up; Arctic-ice.com
All-Purpose Spice Blend: Fresh herbs and a stocked spice rack are nice to have but hard to find in deer camp. Instead, a one-shake-does-it-all spice blend is an easy alternative. I like Baldridge’s Seasoning, source locally here in Nebraska. But there are other great blends, including another personal favorite—Cavender’s. $7; amazon.com
Purcell Trench Grill: If you’re camp cooking plans call for an open fire, a good grill grate is a necessity. Purcell Trench Grills are the outfitters’ standard, crafted from stainless steel, made in the USA and come with a nylon carry bag to keep the rest of your gear clean. I personally like the Voyageur model, which is a little larger and has four grates. $60; Purcelltrench.com
Dutch Oven: No deer camp kitchen is complete without at least one piece of cast-iron. The skillet is great, but a Dutch oven is more versatile. You can use it to sauté, fry, braise, simmer, and boil, and there’s no better venison chili than a batch made in a Dutch oven. I prefer the style with a flat bottom, such as Camp Chef’s 12-inch Home Series. $55. Campchef.com
Hot Sauce: Like an all-purpose seasoning, hot sauce is a kitchen-table essential. There’s a pretty firm party line between Tabasco and Crystal’s, with Cholula coming in a not-so-distant third. It’s best to stock all three to keep everyone happy.
Heavy-Duty Aluminum Foil: My friend Scott Leysath, the Sporting Chef, likes to say there’s a special place in hell for those who buy cheap aluminum foil. I agree. Use the heavy-duty stuff for everything from wrapping up leftovers to making hobo packs for the grill.
The Plank Folding Cutting Board: If your deer camp kitchen is a mobile affair where space is limited, consider this handy cutting board. It folds up into thirds like an accordion to wedge into tight spaces in the chuck box, yet provides ample room for veg and meat prepping tasks. $25 for medium size; Cancooker.com
Water Filter: Unfiltered water often poses a greater threat to hunters’ health than food poisoning, so be sure to pack along a good water filter. For camp situations, a gravity filter, such as the Platypus GravityWorks 2L, is the way to go. Check out my review of it here. $110; platy.com
Dinty Moore Beef Stew: Inevitably, someone will shoot a buck at last light and enlist everyone to help drag it out. When you get back to camp late and don’t feel like cooking, a few cans of Dinty Moore is the lazy cook’s easy—and tasty—way out. I always have a few cans stashed in my chuck box.