Testing the New OXO Outdoor Gear
Some people hate when their cult discovery goes mainstream—like when Supreme clothing went big-league or when indie rapper Saweetie signed to Warner Records—but not me. When OXO announced that it was rolling out a line of kitchenware designed especially for camping, I gave myself a smug pat on the back for having been an early adopter.
For at least a decade, I’ve included a Good Grips waiter’s corkscrew in my camp kitchen kit. Now, OXO wants all campers to know that the company’s famously grippy and durable cooking tools deserve a place in their outdoor kitchen. And to that I say: All aboard the bandwagon!
For summer 2021, OXO rolled out a line of 10 kitchen tools that comprise the new OXO Outdoor collection. Items include the Campgrounds French Press ($24.95), two pan-scrubbers (one made of silicone and a bristle-brush for cast iron), a squeeze-bottle set ($9.95), an 8″ chef’s knife ($14.95), the Steady Surface Cutting Board ($11.95), a can opener ($14.95) and a range of utensils—some made of silicone, and some built of stainless steel.
At first, I wondered why the company felt it was necessary to “outdoorsify” its already-great products. The pancake flipper and can opener that I routinely use in camp are just regular pieces of kitchenware that I bought from thrift stores, and they function just fine with or without a roof. But you only need know about OXO’s very first innovation to get it—a vegetable peeler that company founder Sam Farber designed for his wife, whose arthritis called for a beefier, grippier handle. As it turns out, those qualities also make it appealing to camp cooks whose hands are slippery from sunscreen residue.
First up, I tested the OXO Outdoor 8″ Chef’s Knife with Sheath ($14.95), which proved to me that some basic kitchen tools definitely benefit from outdoorsification. This stainless-steel blade comes with a polypropylene cover that keeps it sharp and prevents it from piercing other things (like my fingers when I reach into my RV’s kitchen drawer to retrieve it).
“Through our research, we saw campers wrapping knives in tin foil or creating their own cardboard sheaths,” says OXO spokesperson Mary Ogushwitz. Thus, when the company reenvisioned this basic product for camping, she explains, “We knew it was important to add something that was reliable and durable so it could be packed with confidence.”
That sheath is a simple but brilliant addition to a knife that’s intended for outdoor use, because I don’t carry a heavy, bulky knife block in my camper—I just dump my knife into a box filled with other utensils. The sheath even lets me toss this knife into a canvas picnic tote without fear of the blade slicing through the fabric. It’s also fabulously sharp (and has remained that way over a few weeks of use) and like all OXO items, the handle feels grippy and stable in my hand.
I also adore the OXO Outdoor Pots + Pans Scraper ($5.95), a palm-size piece of stiff silicone that’s become a staple in my camp kitchen. I use it to squeegee away residual pancake batter or spaghetti sauce before I wash the pot (pre-cleaning makes my wash water last longer, which is helpful when faucets are in short supply). The scraper also lifts away crusted foods, making dish sponges obsolete (and I’m thrilled to say goodbye to those unhygienic pads).
The Campgrounds French Press ($24.95) is another winner. Modeled after OXO’s Venture French Press Coffee Maker, the Campgrounds sports a cheery red-and-grey color scheme that looks more picnic-ready than the Venture’s black gloss. It also uses a more sustainable material: The Campgrounds’ shatter-resistant carafe is made of Tritan Renew, a 50 percent recycled resin made from plastic bottles that are diverted from landfills. (Read more about Tritan Renew here.)
“It is meaningful for OXO to use recycled materials when possible, and we understand use of these materials is important to the outdoor consumer and is something they look for in making product choices,” Ogushwitz says. Tritan Renew is also durable enough for rough-and-tumble transport or encounters with boisterous dogs (I banished glass from my camp kitchen after a playful golden retriever overturned a folding table laden with glassware).
Plus, the Campgrounds makes a better-than-average cuppa joe. A silicone gasket around the filter prevents grounds from seeping into your coffee, so my drinks were far less muddy than most pressed brews (the silicone also keeps the metal from scratching the carafe’s resin walls). And both touch points feel great, as you’d expect from any OXO product: The plunger feels custom-made for my palm, and the hoop-like handle doesn’t bash my knuckles.
Admittedly, there are a few OXO Outdoor items that did not earn a spot in my camp kitchen kit. The Campsite Squeeze Bottles ($9.95 for a couple) aren’t leakproof, so there’s no way I’ll trust them to transport oils, sauces or salad dressings. For those messy liquids, I’ll stick with repurposed jam jars or Nalgene’s small screw-top containers, which have never leaked salsa over everything in my cooler.
The Flexible Silicone Utensil Set ($16.95) and the Can + Bottle Opener ($14.95) are terrific, but identical to OXO’s “regular” counterparts, so they don’t deliver any additional functionality in outdoor settings. I’d buy them if I were starting a kitchen setup from scratch, but I wouldn’t seek them out to replace similar items that I already own and use in my mess kit.
I will, however, continue to keep a close eye on expansions to OXO’s Outdoor line, because the company is currently incorporating camping insights into future designs. “We are excited for the launch,” Ogushwitz says, “but also for year two and beyond, as our teams continue to work hand in hand on product development and testing with the goal of new, innovative tools being added to the assortment in 2022.”
So, good things are coming down the pike to camp cooks. But is a camp dishwasher too much to hope for?
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