Outdoor vs indoor camper kitchens; what’s best for you?

If you are looking at a Caravan, Camper Trailer or Hybrid, and wondering whether you are best off getting an indoor kitchen, outdoor kitchen or maybe even both, you’ve come to a great resource, which covers everything you need to know.

Please remember that this is a personal decision, and you will meet people who’d never have an outdoor kitchen, and those who’d never have an indoor one! At the end of the day it all comes down to how you want to use your setup, and what compromises you are willing to live with.

Most setups today only come with one or the other, although there are a couple that have their primary setup outdoors, with a small kitchen inside, usually consisting of a single burner and a sink.

This allows you to make your cups of coffee and tea, and basic meals inside if needed, with the intention of doing most of your cooking outdoors.

Please know we have comprehensive guides on purchasing Camper Trailers, Hybrids and Caravans here:

Camper trailer buying guide

Hybrid camper buying guide

The ultimate guide to buying a Caravan

Now, onto indoor vs outdoor caravan and camper kitchens!

Reconn R2
Indoor or outdoor kitchen; what’s better?

What’s the downsides of an outdoor kitchen?

The wind can be very frustrating

Having grown up in WA, I can tell you that the wind can be one of the most annoying things you’ll ever deal with when camping, and this is amplified ten fold when you have an outdoor kitchen.

The wind not only makes it seriously hard to boil a kettle, or cook with a frying pan on gas, but it can blow dust and sand around, and make it rather unpleasant.

Whilst there’s already been a fairly significant move towards induction cook tops (we’ve just bought one!), for most people, the biggest issue is trying to boil a kettle, or cook when its windy using a normal gas burner.

We’ve had kettles take more than 15 minutes to boil, despite having every possible item trying to block the wind known to man kind.

On top of the difficulty to cook something outside, the wind can be tiring, and there is something nice about being able to go inside, and close the door to the wind behind you.

If you are camping in one place for more than a few days, and the weather turns bad, outdoor cooking can get old real quick. It’s difficult, frustrating and unpleasant, and you soon value the idea of an indoor kitchen!

Boiling a kettle
If its windy, it can take ages to boil a kettle on gas

There’s no escaping the bugs

When you are outdoors, you are inherently exposed to the bugs. Whether it’s the flies, mosquitos, sand flies, or even bee’s, you are at the mercy of how they decide to behave. I recall cutting up a lovely piece of meat in Kakadu National Park and having half of the countries flies come and land on us.

I also recall hopping around and being bitten by mosquitos at night time, and its really not much fun. Asides for dressing for the occasion and cooking quickly, there really isn’t much you can do to keep them at bay. If you are cooking indoors, you are almost entirely protected from this issue.

Amber light on our R2
The amber light certainly helps with bugs, but its not fool proof

If it rains, you get wet

Many outdoor kitchens are exactly that. If it rains, you have a shower. Some have kitchen hatches, or awnings that come out, but if the rain really comes down hard, or from an angle its still very easy to get wet.

We do our best to avoid camping in huge amounts of rain, and this makes it easier, but inevitably you will get wet at some stage, as a pose to being indoors doing your cooking!

Cooking in the rain
Trying to cook pasta in the rain down south

You have to go outside to do even basic tasks

In the morning, it’d be amazing to roll out of bed, pop the kettle on the stove, and sit down inside without even having to leave your van or camper. If you have an outdoor kitchen, that means you have to go outdoors to boil the kettle just to make a cup of tea, which can be annoying.

If you have young kids, often they wake and then its go time for everyone. It also means that you’d normally get changed before heading out. No sitting inside with a hot drink in your pyjamas, and getting up slowly!

Some setups are not very user friendly

I’ve seen some pretty epic outdoor kitchen setups, and I’ve seen some truly ordinary ones. If you have to walk to various locations to get food, plates, cutlery and saucepans out, it can be a frustrating cooking experience.

If you have no bench space, or gas burners that are so slow to heat cooking outdoors can be frustrating.

For us the kitchen is one of the most important parts of a camper trailer, as that and a comfortable place to sleep are the primary reasons you have one in the first place.

If you are looking at getting a camper trailer or caravan, make sure you are happy with the kitchen in terms of user friendliness.

Camper trailer pantry
Some outdoor kitchens are hard work

You can get easily sunburnt

Much like the rain issue, unless you have a hatch that covers the person in the kitchen, or you have an awning out, its easy to get burnt cooking food at breakfast time, lunch or even dinner, depending on when you eat. 

When its hot you can feel the sun scorching the backs of your legs cooking outdoors, and sometimes that’s even when you have an awning out. If you are cooking indoors its pretty hard to get sunburnt!

What’s the downsides of an indoor kitchen?

It takes up valuable space

The most common reason for not having an indoor kitchen is simply due to available space. If you want even a small kitchen, you need to have a decent amount of space, that is permanently there. For camper trailers, your kitchens are usually outdoors because there’s no where to put them indoors.

If you have a caravan, there’s often room to have a kitchen, but it can take up a good chunk of space inside, which could be used for beds, an internal ensuite or seating.

This is particularly important when it comes to hybrid caravans, which are designed to be as small and light as possible, so you can take them wherever you want to. Unfortunately you are limited significantly for internal space, and it has to be used very carefully.

We’d love an internal kitchen, but even more so an internal ensuite. Unfortunately there is room for neither, so we have them both outdoors! Want to know the pro’s and con’s of an internal vs external ensuite? Check this out; Outdoor vs indoor toilets and showers in a camper or caravan.

Caravan sunset
If you want a big indoor kitchen, you need a big van

It can smell your van out

You wouldn’t believe the number of people who refuse to cook inside their caravan, because it can be smelt out. Now, you’ll get various opinions on this, but there’s a reason so many meals are done on Weber BBQ’s outside of the van.

Obviously not every meal is going to smell your van out, but if you are doing fatty foods, or curries, you may end up with some lingering smells that some people don’t appreciate.

My folks (and many others) have cooked almost every meal inside their van with no major issues, so perhaps its more of a theoretical issue than a practical one.

Extra weight

Internal kitchens will always weigh more. When you have an indoor, and an outdoor kitchen you have extra weight again, so you have to pick what is most important.

Reconn R2 Weight
Internal kitchens are never light weight

It takes away from ‘camping’

If you have a nice kitchen indoors, you’ll spend more time inside your van. That’s fine, but it absolutely takes away from the ‘one with nature’ and camping feeling that you get when you head away from the big smoke. 

We noticed a significant change when those who we’ve travelled with moved from an outdoor to an indoor kitchen, and you end up spending more time apart. It’s not the end of the world, but some people prefer to sit outside and cook, and be one with nature.

Of course, this is a double edged sword as it removes a chunk of your privacy if you are camping close to people you don’t know (like in Caravan Parks!).

Reconn R2 at James Price
Outdoor kitchens give you more of a camping feel

Indoor vs outdoor kitchens

Ultimately no matter which way you go there will be downsides and compromises that have to be made. It will be in terms of size, weight, bugs, wind, user friendliness and the list goes on.

Overall we are happy with our outdoor kitchen, but when its windy, raining or the bugs are out we’d love to have a small internal kitchen.

Unfortunately there’d be no where to put it without getting something larger, and we aren’t prepared to do that, so we stick with our outdoor kitchen.

What do you use? Are you happy with it?

Cooking in our R2
Breakfast in the PJ’s

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