Camp Table for Backpacking




This lightweight camp table made from tent poles, weighs just 2 lbs, breaks down in seconds to fit in a pack, and is an essential food prep and cooking stand for camping in areas without picnic tables.

This versatile work surface is perfect for cooking because it is close to kitchen counter height (home counters are typically 36 inches). At 30" tall this table sure beats having to tend to a stove on the ground.

Some ultra light backpackers may consider a table an unnecessary luxury who's weight they can forgo. For me, the utility and convenience this little table provides is worth it.

When I camp I am willing to do with out the Lazy Boy, the Zenith, and the microwave..... but at least let me keep the TV Tray Table.

The 14" diameter work surface is more than adequate for cooking with a stove, mess kit and water bottle. Note: Be sure to check the Instructables link in step 10 for two light weight stove designs that have been used with this table.

Photo four on this step shows the table easily supporting the weight of 9 liters of pop.

Step 1: Description

The table structure is primarily old tent poles (Our Boy Scout troop found itself with an excess of tent poles because the fabric portion of several tents had to be retired over the years). Being strong and lightweight they were too good to throw away.

A fabricated wood block couples the tent pole arms and legs to complete the table's support structure. The complete structure weighs 1 lb. including the wood block and all the hardware and stakes.

The actual table top is a pizza cooking tray. The one I found had pre-punched holes for crisping the pizza (which has the benefit of making it lighter) and although it is steel, it only weighs 1 lb. I am on the lookout for an equivalent 14" diameter aluminium tray which would reduce the weight by about 1/3.

I found that the 14" diameter is a good workable size. Anything larger would require a wider leg stance to maintain stability and besides, 14" is the largest size that will fit within the width of my pack.

Step 2: Materials

Full Bill of Materials:

(3) Tent poles - Aluminum 21" long

(3) Tent poles - Aluminum cut to 11.5" long

(4) 1" diameter split ring key ring

(3) Wine Bottle Corks (man made corks work better than natural cork)

12" length of Light Chain

(3) Lanyard Clips

(3) plastic Molly Lags

(3) #10 Wood Screws

(3) Tent Stakes

2x4 Board (should be long enough to clamp while drilling with 3" hole saw)

(1) 14" diameter Steel or Aluminum Pizza Pan

Step 3: Splay Block

1. Use a 3" diameter hole saw to cut the the Splay Block out of a 2x4 pine stud.

2. Drill (3) 3/8" diameter through holes on a 30 degree angle from vertical. The holes should be spaced 120 degrees apart Start the center of the hole about 1/2 inch from the outside edge of the block.

3. Flip the block over and repeat drilling another 3 holes. These holes should be offset to be between the holes drilled from the top side.

The photos in step 8 show the intent of the angle scheme.

Step 4: Legs With Cork Feet

The longer tent poles are the Legs.

1. Drill a 1/8" diameter hole 1" up from the bottom of each leg. The hole should go through both walls of the tent pole.

2. Thread a split ring through the holes in each leg

3. Drill a 3/8" diameter hole in each of the corks. The blind hole should be about 1" deep.

4. Install the corks on the bottom of each leg

The corks prevent the legs from sinking into loose ground and the keep dirt out of the ends of the legs. On a smooth surface like wood or cement, they provide some grip.

I chose corks from Barefoot Wines. Their barefoot logo on the cork seemed appropriate for the "feet" of this backpacking equipment.'

Step 5: Tray Attachment

The shorter tent poles are the Upper Arms.

1. Find a plastic Molly Lag that can be press fit into the end of the Upper Arms

2. Drive a #10 wood screw into the Molly. Do this a few times. You want the screw to be loose enough to be able to remove and tighten by hand.

When the screw is use to hold the tray, the load on the screw is in sheer so there is no real need to tighten with a screw driver, a clamp load is not required.

Note: picture 3 shows the arms with the stakes stored inside.

Step 6: Support Chains

1. Separate the 12" chain into (3) 4" segments

2. Attach the chain segments to a single split ring

3. Attach a lanyard clip to the ends of the chain segments

The support chains prevent the legs from over splaying. This takes the outward load off the Legs and the Splay Block. it greatly improve the stability of the table.

Step 7: Install the Legs

1. Installed the tapered end of the three Legs into the Splay Block as shown.

2. Connect the Support Chains to the split ring at the bottom of each Leg.

Step 8: Install the Arms

Install the tapered end of the (3) Arms into the top holes of the Splay Block.

Step 9: Stake the Legs

This table is stable on its own, however because of its light weight it could blow over on a windy day. To prevent this and to counter an accidental bump, staking the legs is advisable as a measure of insurance.

Push the tent stakes into the ground hooking the split rings to anchor all three legs.

Step 10: In Action

1. Back the screws out of the Molly lags in the Arms.
2. Place the Tray on the arms; align the holes in the pan with the arms, and reinstall the screws.

Ready to go!...

The table is shown here with two lightweight backpacking stoves. It is perfect for food prep. and as a cooking stand, and eating table.

It also works great for anything you want to keep up off the ground. Between meals I keep it next to the tent as sort of a night stand. Throughout the day it holds things I want to have quick access to but don't want to have to rummage around for in my tent or pack (Pocket knife, water bottle, rope, etc.)

By the way... here are the Instructables links for the two light weight stoves seen in the picture below:



    • Weaving Challenge

      Weaving Challenge
    • Pocket Sized Contest

      Pocket Sized Contest
    • Pie Contest

      Pie Contest

    26 Discussions


    7 years ago on Step 10

    I love this! Might just make one myself, but I'll have to come up with the legs. All I have are fiberglass poles.

    2 replies

    Reply 1 year ago

    Ive given this some thought and would say that with a little adaptation of the design here and there, fibreglass poles would work perfectly well, the maker in this instance wrote that he used alloy poles because he just happens to have spare alloy poles available, I shall be making this using a top made from 6 mm ply and some old fibreglass poles that I happen to have from an old Litchfield that dissolved in the rain a couple of years ago.


    Reply 1 year ago

    PS, Im no longer a backpacker, since the dog became too old for the hill walking, these days I do my camping by motorcycle and have been searching for a suitable design of table that is ideal for packing on a motorcycle.


    8 years ago on Step 1

    You can find aluminum pans like this on eBay:

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Great Idea, Try this project with very little work. Take a 4-leg or a 3- leg Tri-pod seat, remove the fabric or not. Fill the top of the leg holes with epoxy, and place a molly bolt in the wet epoxy. Bolt the pizza tray to the four legs. (I use a GSI table and it lays perfect on top of a 4-leg seat. You have a table or an extra seat when not using the table. This works great for kayaking trips for a cooking table. Not worried about weight but size.Cost $20.00. Tom C


    8 years ago on Introduction

    great design, and couldn't agree more with the value of a stable table at camp. However I'd be willing to lower and simplify table to save bulk for canoe trips. My contemplated variation: short version with 3, foot long legs permanently hinged to pizza tray, keeping the corks, pegs and retaining chain. Goal would be to have it all fold down to size of tray, and half an inch thick. I'll start parts scrounging, and pass on details if I'm successful.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Nerdoug, eager to know if you suceeded in getting an even simpler and lighter table.
    I'll try on my side to get something proper. I don't where to find the pizza round plate so will be looking for thin aluminium sheet


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    That's sort of along the lines of a double negative... ;-)
    But then, ''DIY yourself'' ( as it was put) is why we're here.
    It's more fun that way.

    there no such coprehendable sentence or intelegable sentence that include the words "no need to do it yourself" you can always diy!

    I would think that if you saw the tray in half then put a hinge on it you could fold it up and wouldn't have to carry around a large metal circle on your back


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I suspect this design can be adapted to an "available materials design." Perhaps a sort of rope ring for the splay block, a stretched cloth table surface, and available wood or other straight-stock. I like the staking-features you included.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Like many others, I was a little hesitant at first regarding this instructable. Packing in a table seemed like much more hassle than it'd be worth. Something about packing in a big circular top seemed a little misplaced. However, after reading it and realizing that a) the top is only 14" and could be smaller and b) it packs down very light, has really made me reconsider it. Although I am contemplating about it on a solo trip I will almost definitely be making one to take when I go with a few friends. Having even a small table like this gets even more useful if you have a few people going. Also, very clear instructions and well thought out. Good job.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    You should be proud of your design. It is great, and looks far more useful than a similar product by Coleman, which I was thinking about emulating. Think I'll just build yours!

    I don't care what you 'ultralighters' say, cooking on the ground sucks just as much as sitting on the ground. I do consider myself a 'lightweight' hiker, but a few comforts do make a difference for me.

    I have to say that I thought this was a bad idea at first, but the fact that it is sturdy and only one pound makes it fairly reasonable, and when you find an aluminum pan this will be definitely worth bringing on backpacking trips. I hate cooking on the ground (idk why), so I'll probably be making one of these soon. Thanks.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    this is a terrific idea - very well done, and clear instructions! What's a molly lag, though? I've never encountered the term before, and Googling for it points to this ible!

    2 replies

    I may have invented a new fastener!.... Unfortunately, it was a naming combination of the few fastener types below. To be clear, the type of fastener used is classified as a plastic wall anchor (the one on the right in the picture below. Sorry for the confusion.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Only one of those is a Molly anchor. The one on the extreme left is an older design called a toggle bolt.