July is National Grilling Month! It’s the peak of summer, and farmers’ markets are bursting with fresh fruits and vegetables, so what better time to fire up the grill and get cooking?

Our favorite way to enjoy this season: deep in the woods with a portable grill table. Whether you’re miles from home or just in the backyard, everything seems to taste better when cooked outdoors. And with the right gear, you can make a five-star meal anywhere the open road takes you. Below, check out our must-haves for great grilling in the great outdoors.

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GCI ambassador Jason Nicosia (@overlandeats) whips up something special on a two-burner stove, set up on his Master Cook Station™.

A Stand-Out Grill

Take your pick—the options are no longer limited to charcoal grills (although there’s something to be said for a tried-and-true classic). A portable propane grill is easy to start up and can provide high-power cooking plus precise temperature control. Other options are even more versatile, allowing for both grilling and smoking.

Whatever you choose, make sure you have the correct fuel source, whether that’s a propane cylinder or a bag of charcoal briquettes. A chimney starter and newspaper can help you get a charcoal grill started up quickly. Don’t forget to pack a box of matches—ideally ones that are waterproof and windproof.

A Hassle-Free Portable Grill Table

A portable, durable grill prep table is a must-have: it gives you a spot to store food before cooking; it keeps essential tools, basting juices, and cleanup supplies at hand; and it’s where you’ll set out cooked foods, condiments, and more. The best portable grill table for camping is one that’s lightweight, easy to assemble, and durable. But why stop there? GCI’s camp kitchens are designed for real life—so they also feature paper towel holders, extra storage racks, and heat-resistant surfaces perfect for setting up a griddle or camp stove. The best part: their one-piece design means no tools needed and no missing pieces, ever. Plus, they fold flat for storage!

GCI ambassador Owen Quirk (@aweebitquirkybbq) brews up morning coffee in a percolator placed on top of his Master Cook Station™’s aluminum tabletop: “I honestly don’t know how I camped without one of these!”

Tools of the Trade

Because the tools you need depend on how elaborate the meal you’re grilling is, we’ve divided them into essential tools (which you’ll definitely need for most meals) and nice-to-have tools (which can make the experience a little more convenient). Make sure your tools are long-handled and able to withstand high temperatures; having a heatproof wooden handle is a great bonus.


Tandoori chicken kabobs from Owen Quirk (@aweebitquirkybbq)
  • Grilling tongs
  • Metal spatula
  • Two-prong meat fork
  • Grill brush for cleanup

Nice-to-have tools:

  • Instant-read meat thermometer
  • Aluminum foil for making grill packs
  • Silicone basting brush, to help keep your food moist and flavorful while cooking
  • Grilling basket, for easily cooking and turning fish and smaller vegetables
  • Stainless steel or bamboo skewers for making kabobs, which are quick to prep ahead of time, easy to rotate while on the grill, and fun to eat!
  • Cedar grilling planks, which can give your food a delicious smoky flavor
  • Cast iron grill press, for pressing out excess fat from meat

Night Lighting

Cooking outdoors doesn’t have to be limited by the sunset. Portable grill lights come in both clip-on and magnetic styles to suit your grill, letting you keep both hands free for cooking. To keep yourself covered while camping or road-tripping, look for a rechargeable model that can also be operated by batteries.

Another option: a bright outdoor lantern, if your grill prep table can spare the room. Our Master Cook Station™ saves valuable space by incorporating a telescoping pole for hanging a lantern.

Personal Protection

Finally, don’t forget some essential heat protection. While you may be tempted to channel your inner caveman while cooking outdoors, a burn will quickly spoil the fun. At minimum, we recommend a pair of BBQ gloves that protect your hands and forearms while you turn food and arrange coals.

If you’re cooking a meal that tends to splatter, you may also want to bring along a grilling apron. Look for a heavyweight, water-resistant, flame-retardant material like waxed canvas; if you can spend a bit more, invest in suede or leather. Bonus: most BBQ aprons feature generously sized pockets, which can keep essentials like a meat thermometer or bottle opener right at your fingertips.