Cooking out is one of the great pleasures of camping out! Increased physical activity and fresh air, combined with cool crisp mornings and evenings make many campers want to eat heartier, more rustic, more filling and satisfying meals when they are camping. Salads are right out!
Here are a few of the Roaming Parkers’ favorite camp meals – mostly classics and standards, but a few might just pique your interest and inspire you to try something new!
A hot breakfast is a fantastic morale booster after a freezing cold night! We try to always make a point to plan a hot breakfast – especially when we are winter camping.
- Bacon (or black pepper SPAM) & eggs – You can’t get more classic than that! Meat & eggs can be done on a camp stove or a campfire but it’ll usually require a griddle. Or, if you have it, flip a Dutch Oven lid upside down and use the concave inside surface as a griddle. If you have cheese and veggies then you can make an easy frittata or scramble by sauteing onions and peppers and mushrooms and tomatoes until they are done and then pouring the eggs in on top for a couple of minutes and then topping with cheese.
- Instant oatmeal – add an extra dose of powdered milk and a handful of dried fruit or granola. This quick and easy camping breakfast can be prepared in a Ziploc before you leave home, then when it is breakfast time, heat some water and pour it into the bag and squish it around a bit and voila! Instantaneous breakfast!
- Likewise, instant grits can be doctored with bacon bits (or chipped-up jerky) and shelf-stable cheese like parm or plastic-wrapped cheese singles.
Lunch is usually quick and easy, often prepackaged because you don’t want it to interfere with whatever activity (fishing, hiking, climbing, etc…) you are doing while you are camping.
- Fruit, cheese, and summer sausage are shelf-stable and make a good trail lunch. Just make sure that you have a way to clean your pocketknife between cutting fish guts and cleaning your fingernails and cutting your sausage – maybe take a handful of alcohol wipes with you.
- Sandwiches – you can pre-make grilled cheese sandwiches or PBJ sandwiches, then Ziploc them and take them with you for lunch. An ultra-simple variation is ham&cheese burritos (sandwiches rolled up in tortillas).
- MREs – If you think you’ll be in the mood for something hot and hearty for lunch, there’s always the MRE (meals ready-to-eat). These things can be purchased online or at some big box stores and they come with their own chemical heater and about 4000 calories! Not my cup of tea, but if an MRE makes your outing more convenient, knock yourself out.
- GORP is an acronym for “Good Ole’ Raisins & Peanuts,” the base materials that go into trail mix. You can get big bags of various trail mixes or make your own. My kids tend to pick the chocolate and cashews out of any that I make and leave the peanuts and raisins – but that’s ok because it entertains them and leaves me with the Good Ole’ Raisins and Peanuts.
- Jerky is another camping/hiking standard – but I’m a cheapskate, so it tends to be a bit rich for my blood. You can get a lot of different meats or forms or flavors of jerky or you can make your own if you have a dehydrator.
- And while we’re talking about dehydrators, let’s not forget dried fruit. It makes a great, lightweight trail snack, and if you make your own you have a lot more control of your diet while on the trail.
- Pigs in a cornfield – Grease a Dutch oven and stand a bunch of ears of corn on end like trees in the pot. Nestle some sausage links upright between the corn ears. If you really have a lot of folks to feed, pour instant rice into the spaces between the corn and sausages and add enough water to rehydrate it. Cover the whole forest of sausages and corn with pork chops and pour in a couple of cans of cream of mushroom. Clap on the lid and cook it till everything is done. This is the ultimate in simple, hearty, one-pot meals.
- Kabobs – These can be prepared at home with whatever meat and veggies you like and cooked at camp over a campfire. If you don’t think that meat and veggies will be sufficient then you can get a few packs of flavored rice, like instant fried rice) and cook it as you’re heating the kabobs. Then serve the meat and veggies over a bowl of rice with a drizzle or two of whatever bottled sauce you like.
- Foil packs – this is a camping standard that I’ve never mastered. It is super easy to get half of the contents of the pack burnt to a cinder while the other half is raw. The best method I’ve ever gotten to mostly work is to pre-cook the ingredients (like burgers, carrots, potatoes, etc…) at home, put the packs together and put them in the cooler. Then take them out and throw them into the fire to reheat them at camp.
- Dutch oven cobbler (A.K.A. dump cake) – the classic is peach cobbler but my favorite is either cherry chocolate Dr. Pepper cake or blueberry/apple cobbler. First, put a paper liner into your Dutch oven. Don’t neglect this step or else! Then pour into the bottom a couple of cans of whatever pie filling you like – or even just canned fruit. On top of that, pour a box or two of dry cake mix. Dice up a stick of butter into tiny cubes and sprinkle them all over the top of the dry cake mix. Finally, take 20 ounces of whatever flavor soft drink (I like Dr. Pepper or 7-Up) and pour over the top. Don’t stir it or anything. Clap the lid on and cook it for 45-60 minutes with 10-15 coals above and the same below.
- Foil pack banana smores – this is one of my favorites – and it is Gluten Free! Take a banana and split it in half. Sprinkle chocolate chips, maybe some caramel chips, and some marshmallows between the banana slices. If you really want to kick it up a notch, sprinkle with brown sugar. Wrap in foil and twist the ends and put it near the fire (not in it or you’ll burn it to a cinder) for a good while until the banana is hot and soft and the other stuff is melted.
Camping cracker barrel
A cracker barrel is another name for an evening snack just before you go to bed. On summer nights you might skip the cracker barrel but on a cold winter night, you’ll definitely want to make a point to eat a warm snack containing some fat and carbohydrate to fuel your metabolism to keep you warm during the night.
- Cheese dip with tortilla chips and jalapenos – Canned nacho cheese is easy but homemade cheese dip in a dutch oven is much better! Chip up an onion and a roll of spicy pork sausage in the bottom of a dutch oven and saute it till the onion is translucent. Add a couple of cans of green chile peppers or a drained jar of jalapeno slices. Drop in a couple of blocks of sharp cheddar and a block of cream cheese and cook it till it’s melted, then stir it and serve it with chips. This will usually make enough so that half of it is left over to reheat for breakfast.
- Chili cheese Frito pies – Ultra easy cracker barrel – Heat the chili and pour it directly into the bags of Fritos. Top with shredded cheese or canned nacho cheese.
Camping water purification
If you’re going to be doing any of the recipes recommended above, you’re pretty much going to be at a developed campground with a potable water supply, just because you won’t be able to pack most of the ingredients and equipment you need out into the backcountry. But if you are pack-camping you will need to know about water purification and plan to camp near a water source.
- CDC recommends boiling water for 3 minutes or using any other 2 methods (filter, chemical, UV). Each method has its plusses and minuses. Boiling is easiest for making a lot of potable water for a camp. UV is fastest but relies on technology and batteries. Chlorine and Iodine are reliable and easy but they can take up to 30 minutes and make the water taste nasty. Filters can be slow and difficult to use.
- Bring water flavor packets to mask the taste of chlorine or boiled river water.