Cooking under the stars (or outside of your favorite team’s stadium) is one of life’s greatest pleasures. We’ve tested a ton of equipment for cooking outside and have rounded up a bunch of our favorites here for the outdoorsy chef in your life.
7 of Our Top Gifts for the Outdoorsy Cook
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For the Car Camping (or Tailgating) Gourmand
Our Favorite Car Camping Stove: Camp Chef Mountain Series Everest High-Pressure Two-Burner Stove
Car camping can be downright luxurious; this stove made it easy to cook up a delicious spread under the stars (or in a parking lot while tailgating, if that’s more your style). With the highest heat output of any of the products we tested—20,000 BTU per burner—this stove got ripping hot and boiled water in just 4 minutes.
The two burners were controlled by clearly labeled knobs, and it was easy to turn down the heat to a gentle simmer for cooking chili and pancakes. Its cooking surface was roomy enough to accommodate two skillets at a time, and its built-in windscreen and backsplash helped contain splatters and protect the flames from the elements. It was effortless to set up, lights easily with an automatic igniter, and folds up compactly for easy carrying.
For the Trailside Chef (or Expert Water Boiler)
Our Favorite Backpacking Stove: Soto WindMaster Stove with 4Flex
Give the gift of the tiniest, lightest stove you’ve ever seen. If you’re hiking and sleeping on the trail, you can’t haul a car camping stove or a cast-iron skillet. Weighing 3.1 ounces (less than a deck of cards!) our winning backpacking stove is small but mighty.
It held backpacking pots and pans securely during testing and has collapsible, removable pot supports, making it ultracompact. The Soto also lived up to its “windmaster” claim, boiling water in an astonishingly fast 4 minutes and 19 seconds when set near a fan blowing 8-mile-per-hour wind. And it’s easy to use, once you get the hang of it. We also reviewed freeze-dried backpacking meals and found 10 great options. Perhaps a nice addition to round out the gift?
For the Person Who Swore Off Single-Use Plastic
Our Favorite Travel Utensils: Full Windsor Magware Magnetic Camping Utensils Set
Reusable utensils are great for eating trailside and avoiding single-use plastic when you’re out and about in town. We tested all different kinds of sets and found one that is the best of both worlds: Compact and truly functional.
It comes with a fork, knife, and spoon, allowing you to comfortably eat a wide variety of meals. The pieces are held together by magnets and the velcroed case contains everything tidily. We also named a winning spork, for the true minimalist.
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Engel HD20 22qt Heavy-Duty Soft Sided Cooler Tote Bag (left) and Swig Stemless Wine Cup (right)
For Keeping Things Cool on the Beach, at the Game, or Anywhere
Our Favorite Soft Cooler: Engel HD20 22qt Heavy-Duty Soft-Sided Cooler Tote Bag
A soft cooler that keeps ice for three days? Sign us up. In addition to having impressive cold-retention capabilities, our winning soft cooler is light, spacious, and easy to handle. We loved the boxy shape, which allowed us to fit more food and load and unload things more easily than with the more common tote-bag shape. The tab zipper was smooth and easy to pull (not a given with the other models we tested).
It comes with three different sets of handles so there are several ways to carry it comfortably—especially helpful when you’re trekking a chock-full cooler across hot sand. We also love hard coolers. Our winner from Yeti kept ice for an astounding seven days. Great, but you don’t always need that much firepower. An excellent soft cooler like our winner from Engel delivers impressive cold retention without the heft.
For Your Favorite Outdoorsy Cork Dork
Our Favorite Insulated Wine Tumbler: Swig Stemless Wine Cup
Keep drinks chilled and protected outside. A cold drink on the beach is one of life’s greatest joys. (Is that hyperbolic? Maybe. But is it true? Definitely.) But it’s not so joyful if your beverage turns tepid or another beachgoer knocks over it with a football. Enter wine tumblers: sturdy, insulated cups that promise to keep your wine (or whatever you’re enjoying) cold and safe—come hell, high water, or overzealous footballers.
This insulated stainless-steel tumbler stood out in our testing with a slim shape and smooth but grippy surface that made it especially easy to hold. It kept wine chilled for an impressive 4 hours and 30 minutes (far longer than it typically takes to drink a glass, but handy if you want to pack one for later). The lid was so solid that even when knocked over and thrown in a backpack, nary a drop of liquid escaped.
GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker Cookset (left) and Sunflora Picnic Backpack (right)
For the Overnight Backpacker with a Single Dinged Up Old Pan
Our Favorite Camping Cookware Set: GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker Cookset
Lightweight and compact, our winning backpacking cookware set makes it easy to eat well on the trail. The set comes with a 2-liter pot, an 8-inch skillet, a nylon strainer lid, two insulated mugs, two sip-through lids, two nesting bowls, a folding pot handle, and a storage sack.
And it’s easy to carry—the parts nest together and weigh just 1 lb, 11.2 oz. The cookware has a nonstick coating, which made it exceptionally easy to cook in and clean. The set was stable on a variety of backpacking stoves, which is more than we could say for its competitors.
For the Friend Who Loves a Picnic
Our Favorite Picnic Backpack: the Sunflora Picnic Backpack
Sure you can eat off of aluminum foil and cardboard, but cloth napkins and real plates? Talk about an upgrade. Whether you’re heading to an outdoor concert or planning to spend a sunny afternoon at a park, it can be a hassle to wrangle all the gear you want. It’s way more convenient to use a picnic basket or backpack equipped with everything you’d need for a picnic, from silverware and plates to cloth napkins and wine glasses. We tested a bunch of options and the Sunflora was the most portable, with wide, padded straps.
For a gorgeously whimsical set, go for the Picnic at Ascot Buckingham Picnic Basket. It’s larger and heavier but the basket’s charm and its stainless-steel silverware and real wine glasses make every picnic feel like a special occasion.