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By:    On: 2011-09-21

Most camping excursions – unless there’s some major upset and you have to hit a restaurant – include eating at the campsite.  Hopefully you have a camp kitchen already set up (if not, see my Camp Kitchen post), so you’re able to cook…but what will hold your food and what will you use to eat the food?  Let’s discuss dishes and cutlery a little today, shall we?

There are two schools of thought when it comes to campsite dishes and cutlery. {Ok, there are probably more than two schools but I’m only going to address these two today. ;) } Those two schools are paper & plastic and reusable.


Paper and Plastic

When I use the term paper, I am of course referring to paper plates (hopefully you don’t insult the landfills with those horrible Styrofoam jobs) and bowls. When I use the term plastic I am referring to plastic cups and plastic cutlery.

These are a good choice for the occasional camper - someone who might camp once or twice a year.  They are lightweight and disposable and they don’t take up a lot of room in your vehicle.  That being said, however, paper and plastic can really be a pain in the hindquarters when it comes time to actually eat with them.  Most paper plates aren’t very thick or sturdy enough to handle the weight of a decent meal and if you put anything with a sauce on them, the plates tend to flop pretty quickly.  Plastic cups are ok as long as they don’t get used as bowls; the heat does bad things to the cups.  Ditto the cutlery; I have seen many a fork and spoon melt from too-hot foods. I know of some people who will actually wash and re-use their plastic cups and cutlery.  While I can see the concept behind this practice, I won’t recommend it.  The plastic particles will break down over multiple washings and could actually poison your food.  Just be careful, ok?


I use the term reusable to denote permanent dishes, cups and cutlery; the stuff you would just as easily eat off of at home as you would at a campsite. 

If you are an avid camper – you go out several times during the three seasons – investing in a permanent set of dishes, cups and cutlery is likely your best option.  Our dishes are composed of 4 coffee cups, 8 hard-plastic cups (similar to what you might find in a pizza place), 8 bowls and 8 plates.   (We are a family of 5 but it’s always a good idea to have extras.) I picked up these dishes at the Wal Store as separate pieces when they went on sale and paid about $.50 per piece.  We also have a set of metal cutlery – service for 8 – that hubby found for $2 at Wal Store.  All this stuff is stored with our camping equipment during the season and then it goes into our disaster kit in the off-season.

Permanent dishes are great because they can be rewashed after each meal.  We put less money into buying the stuff over time than we would spend if we bought disposable pieces for each trip. Yes, they do take up space and are heavier than the paper and plastic, but because we camp a lot we have a designated “holding” area for these pieces. 

And now, a short word about mess kits.  They’re really cute, and yes, they are useful because they are essentially a little package of cook pot, dishes and cutlery.  However, I don’t recommend them.  First, because they’re made of metal, there’s a good chance of getting burned and for them to eventually rust – especially the aluminum jobs.  Second, they can really be tough to put back together when you’re finished with them.  Finally, they take up a lot of space when you’re a group of more than 2 people – much more than just a set of standard dishes.

So there you have it – a couple of different options for your campsite dishes.  What kind of camper are you and what do you use when it’s time to eat?  Drop me a line and let me know!  I love hearing from you.

Happy camping,


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