After a long day of camping, all you want to do is sit down to a delicious hot plate of food underneath a starry sky. And no pot is better suited for camp cooking than the camping Dutch oven. It can quickly cook a range of recipes from bread to stew!
Not all Dutch ovens are alike though. Camping Dutch ovens actually have features that make them better suited to the campfire.
In a hurry and just want to know that the best dutch oven for camping is? I would choose the Lodge L12DCO3 Deep Camp Dutch Oven. The Lodge Dutch oven is affordable, US-made, durable and designed for camping.
Read through my selection of the best Dutch ovens for camping to see if you prefer the Lodge or one of the others.
What Is A Dutch Oven?
A Dutch oven is a heavily constructed cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid. A Dutch oven has unmatched heat retention and even heat distribution, which makes it ideal for braising, baking, roasting, and preparing soups.
Dutch oven cooking is suited both for the home and for camping trips, although the best type of Dutch oven in each situation is different. The best Dutch ovens are made of cast iron and can last many years.
Factors to Consider When Looking for A Camping Dutch Oven
A camping Dutch oven is designed for use over or in a campfire. If you are planning on using a regular camp stove, then this type of Dutch oven might not be appropriate. Consider, instead, another type of cast iron pot.
Dutch Oven Material
For centuries, cast iron has been the de facto metal of choice for Dutch ovens, and with good reason. Besides being incredibly durable and heat resilient, this material also boasts excellent non-stick properties when seasoned well.
However, cast iron is heavy and needs plenty of maintenance. Fortunately, for all those looking for alternatives, a Dutch oven can be made from other materials.
Although gorgeous and perfect for home kitchens, I don’t find enameled Dutch ovens suitable for outdoor Dutch oven cooking. Their enamel is prone to chipping and cracking, especially when exposed to high temperatures, such as open flame heat.
An aluminum Dutch oven, on the other hand, is a great alternative. It conducts heat well, is lightweight, and does a decent job of retaining the heat.
One major drawback of an aluminum Dutch oven is that the hard-anodized layer is more likely to get scratched over time, exposing the bare aluminum.
Dutch Oven Size
What is the best size Dutch oven for camping? Well, as ever, it really depends on how many people you are cooking for.
Don’t think – the bigger the better either! Some Dutch ovens are absolute monsters that need two people to handle!
Dutch oven sizes are measured in terms of quart capacity and range from 1 quart (0.9 liters) to 20 quarts (19 liters).
Theoretically, you can fill up your Dutch oven to the brim if you want to. However, to still have some room for stirring without spilling the food all over, I advise using only 2/3rds of the capacity.
As a rough guide, I would say;
- 1 quart (0.9 liters) to 1.5 quarts (1.4 liters) per person
- 2-quarts (1.9 liters) for up to two people
- 5-quarts (4.7 liters) is a family-sized dutch oven for three to five people
- 8-quarts (7.6 liters) or more for a group exceeding six people
Dutch Oven Weight
When deciding what to add to your camping luggage, weight is a crucial factor. Small-sized cast iron Dutch ovens will typically weigh between 8 to 15 pounds while a large Dutch oven can even go up to 45 pounds!
If planning to feed a large group, buying multiple smaller Dutch ovens is an excellent option to avoid weight. But that means cooking will be a hassle with all the pots.
Aluminum Dutch ovens are another way of avoiding the hefty weight.
Dutch Oven Handles
Dutch Ovens are pretty heavy. Thus, you want a well riveted, sturdy handle to avoid the risk of dropping the pot, or even worse, burning yourself.
As you are probably going to be using open fire when camping, these should be longer.
A long looping (wire) handle above makes it easier to carry and hang above a campfire for slow-cooked meals.
Be careful though – it’s likely the whole pot, including the handles are too hot to touch. The looping handle, may be the coolest, but you are risking burns. Don’t touch the surface directly – use heat-resistant gloves or a lid lifter to help you.
Some camping devices, such as this Dutch oven camping tool, can be used as a stand, to lift the lid, or even the entire Dutch oven (if it has a looping handle).
I call mine the “burn saver”. Don’t take your Dutch oven camping without it!
Dutch Oven Legs
Most Dutch ovens for camping will typically have three legs, which offers you some flexibility in your cooking.
When you have a Dutch oven with legs, you don’t have to rely on tripods or cooking stands. The legs help it stand in a campfire with embers underneath while providing a little distance to ensure even heat distribution.
While you can put a flat Dutch oven without legs comfortably on top of coals, you will be risking nasty hot spots. Flat Dutch ovens can also be a little challenging to balance on top of coals.
Dutch Oven Lids
Most camp Dutch ovens will come with flat lids as they are ideal for piling coals on top. And even if you aren’t planning on stacking coals on the cover, you want to have that option if needed.
Piling coals on the lid helps to cook food evenly, especially if you are trying to bake something.
Reversible lids that can function as griddles are a plus since pan frying foods like eggs is impractical using the thick deep pot. It saves you having to take another piece of cookware with you.
Some manufacturers add a little depth to the lids with the legs on top, enabling you to flip the lid and rest it on the legs. This way, you have two pieces of cookware in one: the Dutch oven and a griddle! Pretty cool.
One optional piece of kit that not all manufacturers supply is a lid lifter. A its most basic, a lid lifter is a long metal rod with a hook and a handle. You hook the lid and lift it without burning yourself. If your favorite Dutch oven doesn’t come with one, you can buy one on Amazon. Alternatively, you could use heat-resistant gloves. Or, to be safe, pack both.
Several brands make unique engravings or have designs on the lid. Although attractive and neat, these markings may make it a little harder to clean. I don’t consider this a deal-breaker, but you should keep it in mind before making your purchase.
How to Care for An Outdoor Dutch Oven
You may already know cast iron requires some care and maintenance, this is true for even the best Dutch ovens. Thus, if planning to occasionally use your cast iron Dutch oven, ensure your storage is as dry as possible and that you re-season it regularly to avoid rusting.
I recommend coating it in a light layer of long lasting refined vegetable oil before storing it. This protects it. Just make sure the oil isn’t one that goes rancid easily!
If it all goes wrong and your cast iron Dutch oven ends up rusting, all hope is not lost. You just need to use a 50/50 vinegar-water solution to scrub off the rust and immediately re-season.
For more information on this, check out this video:
Best Dutch Oven for Camping
There is a decent selection of the best Dutch ovens for camping, so have a read through the reviews to find the best one for you.
Lodge L12DCO3 Deep Camp Dutch Oven, 8 Quart (7.5 liters) (Best Dutch Oven)
For over a century, Lodge has provided quality cast iron cookware that can withstand the test of time. This Lodge Dutch oven is no different. It has all the characteristics of a great outdoor Dutch oven- a flanged lid that can double as a griddle, three well-fitted legs, and a loop handle for convenient handling.
This Lodge camp Dutch oven comes in several sizes, ranging from 2 quarts (1.9 liters) to 10 quarts (9.5 liters). The 10-quart should be able to feed two families (about 7-10 people).
The 8-quart (7.6 liters) Dutch oven is the deepest and can serve 6-8 people.
If you get the 6-quart version (5.7 liters; serves 3-6 people), there are liners you can use to make cleanup easier.
This Lodge camp Dutch oven is made in the USA, is affordable, and is high quality. It’s designed for camping and you will find it easy to use.
- Pre-seasoned and ready to use
- Sturdy legs perfect for Dutch oven cooking over an open flame
- Flanged lid that can double as a griddle
- Loop handles for convenient handling
- Easy to maintain
- Comes with a Dutch oven cookbook!
- High quality cast iron
- Complaints of some scratched models on the inside
Overmont Camp Dutch Oven, 6 Quarts (5.6 liters) (Runner-Up Best Camp Dutch Oven)
Best known as a lifetime pot, this 6 quart (5.7 liters – serves 4-6 people – in theory) cast iron Dutch Oven from Overmont is perfect for outdoor cooking. I love the thought that went to the lid. It has three tiny legs to double as a skillet for frying.
The legs on the lid are short enough to put it over a camp stove or even your kitchen stove. This is an excellent choice for both cooking at home and camping.
This Overmont camp Dutch oven also comes with a Dutch oven lid lifter to lift the cover or entire pot when it’s hot. Never underestimate the value of this tool. Try rigging something up like this with branches and you’ll find out why it’s so important!
Overmont also manufactures an 8-quart version suitable for larger families and group camping (6-8 people).
Unfortunately, the pot have a smaller size than is actually stated. If you buy an Overmont camp Dutch oven, I suggest ordering one size bigger, just in case.
Nevertheless, Overmont still makes a great Dutch oven, with the lid lifter being a nice touch.
- Sturdy legs to sit perfectly over the campfire
- Integral legs on the lid
- Flanged lid that doubles as a skillet
- Lid lifter to lift the pot when hot
- High-quality cast iron
- Made in China if that matters
- Pots hold less capacity than stated
Camp Chef Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 12 Qt (11.3 liters) (Best Designed Camp Dutch oven)
This Camp Chef pot is one of the best cast iron Dutch ovens for camping. The size is (serves 8-14 people) perfect for roasting chickens and cooking large stew batches for large families. The pot’s legs are convenient for standing directly on a campfire.
I love that the lid has built-in legs and effortlessly doubles as a skillet, making it almost the only cookware you need for camping.
This Camp Chef Dutch oven also includes a built-in thermometer notch, enabling you to manage the temperature inside without lifting the lid. The included Dutch oven starter booklet with seasoning tips is also a plus.
Considering the Dutch oven’s significant weight, Camp Chef provides a lid lifter that lifts the lid and the bail. This is great for fishing the pot out of the campfire.
This Dutch oven is available in a smaller 6-qt (5.7 l) model that is perfect for families of 4 to 5.
Several users report quality control problems with this pot. The casting process for this cast iron doesn’t seem to be consistent.
It’s a shame, as this is a cleverly designed Dutch oven. I love it, and if I knew I was getting a good version, it would be very tempting. For me, it would be risky to order it, though.
- Legs on the lid make it easier to use it as a skillet
- Legs to hold the pot above coals
- Built-in thermometer
- Comes with a lid lifter and starter booklet with seasoning tips
- Perfect size for large families and groups
- Reports of Quality Control problems
Texsport Cast Iron Dutch Oven with Legs, 4 Quart (3.7 liters) (Best Affordable Dutch Oven for Camping
Offering long-lasting durability at an affordable price, this is one of the best Dutch ovens for camping. The three little legs on the pot help it stand in a campfire while providing sufficient distance to ensure even heat distribution.
The Dutch oven features a tight-fitting lid that keeps foods warm, and bail with a center hook decent for hanging.
Weighing just 13 pounds (5.9 kg), I find this 4-qt small Dutch oven slightly lighter and convenient for carrying around than larger-sized models. It’s a great size dutch oven for a small family (2-3 people).
It’s worth noting that the Dutch oven comes with a slight waxy film that you will need to remove before the iron can be seasoned. The film helps to protect the Dutch oven from rusting and can easily be removed by warming the pot and wiping the layer.
Usually, cast iron comes pre-seasoned, so this is a slightly odd approach. It’s all about saving money with this pot.
The surface of the Dutch oven is a bit rough. Cast iron surfaces will be rough, but this is excessively so.
This pot is useable, yet it’s definitely on the budget end in terms of price and quality.
- Very affordable
- Legs on the pot help it stand in a campfire
- Sturdy bail with center hook decent for hanging
- It comes coated in wax
- Overly rough surface
- Not pre-seasoned
GSI Outdoors Hard Anodized Dutch Oven, 4 Quarts (3.7 liters) (Best Aluminum Camp Dutch Oven)
This hard-anodized Dutch Oven from GSI Outdoors is a great alternative, and probably the best, for those looking for a lighter outdoor Dutch oven. It’s well-constructed, works great, and has decent heat distribution.
The Dutch oven comes in three sizes, 10 inches (4 quarts), 12 inches (8 quarts ), and 14 inches (15-16 quarts).
Although the 12 and 14-inch have legs, this 10 inch (25 cm) version doesn’t, and you may need to use a stand that will raise it off the ground.
I like that the handle flips down one way, but this can also be a problem. If the pot is full of liquid and you carry it by the bail, it will flip over and spill your dinner.
Aluminum transfers heat pretty fast, so be extra careful with the placement of the coals.
Aluminum isn’t the safest material to use in cooking. Since this pot has a hard-anodized layer, it will seal the aluminum away from your food. In theory, this means it’s safe. But what happens when the pot gets scratched?
If you don’t want cast iron, then this is a good alternative. But, I do prefer my camping dutch ovens to be made of cast iron.
- Significantly lightweight
- Doesn’t require seasoning
- Easy to clean
- No legs on the 10” model
- Reports of the pot tipping over when lifted by the wire handle
- If hard-anodized aluminum gets scratched, it can be unsafe
King Kooker CI20S Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 20 Quarts (18.9 liters) (Best Large Camp Dutch Oven)
This large cast iron Dutch oven is a cooker fit for a king – and his whole court!
With the perfect size to serve up to 20 people, this pot is excellent for preparing chili, stew, soup, or pot roast for a small army.
The lid fits nicely and also doubles as a pretty big fry pan on its own. It’s worth noting that this oven is heavy, weighing at around 30 pounds (13.6 kg) and, when full, becomes almost impossible to carry alone. Really though, this is what I would expect in such a large camping Dutch oven.
The steel handle holds up well but isn’t stable with the coiling system being mobile, making it dangerous to handle. Aside from that, this is a real workhorse and one of the best Dutch ovens for group camping.
- Great size for group camping
- Lid doubles as a skillet
- Great price for a jumbo version
- No legs
- Unstable handle
Best Camping Dutch Ovens
Best Dutch Oven for Camping
I would choose the Lodge L12DCO3 Deep Camp Dutch Oven as the best cast iron Dutch oven for camping. In addition to the pot having legs suitable for campfire use, it also features a flanged lid convenient for frying. I also love that the model comes in a range of sizes from 2-qt to 10-qt, making it perfect for individuals and groups.
Plus I love the fact that Lodge has been making cast iron cookware in the US for over 120 years.
Best Budget Camp Dutch Oven
If you’re on a budget, consider the Texsport Cast Iron Dutch Oven with Legs. Yes, you need to season this Dutch oven from scratch, and yes it’s a bit rougher than usual, but that’s all manageable.
This is the camping dutch oven for those who have more time than money!
Best Non Cast Iron Camping Dutch Oven
If you’re looking for a different material, this hard-anodized Dutch oven offers a great alternative. I would say it’s the best non-cast iron camping Dutch oven.
Cast Iron Camping Cookware Sets
A Dutch oven can be be a versatile tool, especially if the lid doubles as a skillet, but that isn’t always enough. If you are looking for a full cookware set to camp with, then consider checking out my guide to the best cast iron cookware sets.
If you only have room for one extra piece when camping, then I would consider a cast iron griddle.
What’s great for cooking over a campfire?
If you’re using a cast iron Dutch oven, then anything you would cook in a pot would be good. But great camp food includes:
- Cast iron poutine
- Campfire Nachos
- Banana Boats
Can I Use My Home Dutch Oven for Camping?
While you can use your regular Dutch oven for camping, there are Dutch ovens better suited for camping. These can feature extra legs for more flexible cooking, long handles for open flame use, and even deep-legged lids to function as griddles. They’re also made of sturdy materials better suited to a campfire.
Is a Dutch oven a lot of work?
It doesn’t have to be. Cast iron does need to be treated correctly, and this applies to Dutch ovens as well.
Yet a bit of seasoning, a little gentleness when cleaning your Dutch oven, and some care when storing will go a long way. If you are in any doubt, check out my guide to cast iron, where I cover cleaning cast iron, seasoning, and restoring.
Pre-seasoned cookware doesn’t need as much seasoning but it’s worth adding a few layers of your own.
What is the best size Dutch oven for camping?
I recommend allowing 1.5 quarts per person for your camp Dutch oven. So for a family of four then perhaps a 6-quart Dutch oven. The right Dutch oven size also depends on whether you’re feeding small kids or hungry teenagers!
Can I put cast iron directly on coals?
Yes, you can put cast iron directly on hot coals. Make sure it is bare (i.e., uncoated) cast iron.
In fact, some camp Dutch ovens have a flat lid with a rim designed to put hot coals on top of it. Having coals on the lid promotes “all-round” heating.
Can you use enamel cast iron on an open fire?
No, you should not use enamel cast iron on an open fire. Enameled cast iron is heat sensitive and you need to keep it within the manufacturer-specified heating range (normally 400 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit).
I’ve never heard of a camp Dutch oven made of enameled cast iron. The soot would likely mar the surface or even damage the Dutch oven.
Why do I need to use a cast iron Dutch oven for camping?
The truth is that cast iron Dutch ovens are the only real Dutch ovens. You might hear about non-cast iron Dutch ovens, and anyone can technically call their cookware what they like.
But to me a Dutch oven that’s not cast iron is just a pot.
And you absolutely can use pots when cooking over a campfire. I wouldn’t recommend non-stick, but stainless steel can work. I recommend coating it on the outside with detergent for easy cleaning.
Be warned, though–A cast iron Dutch oven is just much more durable, especially when it comes to putting it in or over a fire.
What can I cook in a Dutch oven?
There are many Dutch oven recipes out there. With a good Dutch oven you can whip up a hearty stew, or fresh bread. See, for example, my vegetable soup recipe. Dutch oven cooking doesn’t need to be hard.
Cooking techniques can vary a little with a cast iron Dutch oven. Mainly, it’s just allowing for the fact it will take longer to warm up and to cool down. It continues radiating heat well after its removed from the fire or stove.