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01 camp cooking lead photo

Camp Cooking

Ideas From Mild To Wild

Photography by Harry Wagner and courtesy of the manufacturers

If you are looking to spend more than a few hours on the trail, you will likely need to eat.  And even if you are only planning a quick day trip, those can often turn into longer than expected if someone in your group breaks or gets stuck.  Any time we head out on the trail we bring plenty of water and something to eat.  That varies from some granola bars and fruit to complete meals on longer trips. Keep reading for some ideas on how to eat healthy and delicious meals when you are out on the trail.

02 camp cooking waterport

Water is even more important to bring along on the trail than food, particularly if you are out in the desert.  We use the two-gallon WaterPORT GoSpout to cool off and wash our dishes.  We have even sprayed it in the radiator of an overheating truck to help cool the vehicle down.

Day Trips

Even if you are just going out for the day, it is wise to have snacks with you on the trail.  This prevents both kids and adults alike from having a meltdown when winching or trail repairs end up taking hours.  We typically keep protein bars in our glove box, but fresh fruit or chips and salsa taste a lot better and don’t take up much room.

  • Easy – Chips and salsa, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Healthy – Celery and peanut butter, fresh fruit, trail mix
  • Delicious – Parmesan crisps, yogurt covered raisins, chocolate chip cookies
03 camp chef everest stove

A good two-burner stove like the Camp Chef Mountain Series Everest is a critical piece of equipment for preparing meals on the trail.  The Everest is compact and lightweight, but allows you to fry eggs or cook your bacon on one burner and heat up water on the second burner.  We often steam vegetables and cook up fish at the same time so both items are hot and ready to serve at the same time.

Breakfast Ideas

A good breakfast provides the fuel that you need in order to power through an active day on the trail.  If it is warm out and you are in a hurry, single serving yogurt and a banana will get you moving so you can start your day.  When it is colder out we typically heat up coffee and single serving oatmeal if we are in a hurry, or make eggs and bacon when we have a more relaxed pace.

  • Easy – Individually packaged instant oatmeal
  • Healthy – Individual yogurt cups, fresh fruit
  • Delicious – Eggs and bacon, pancakes on the griddle 
04 camp chef stryker

The Camp Chef Stryker 200 is a compact backpacking stove that takes up hardly any room in your vehicle, but can boil half a liter of water in two minutes. The Stryker quickly heats up water for coffee, oatmeal, freeze dried meals, and more.  We regularly use our Stryker for a hot breakfast, or for making soup and hot chocolate when we are out snow wheeling. 

Lunch On The Trail

Lunch is often eaten on the go, so we pack similarly for day trips.  If it is hot out, lunch under your Smittybilt Awning is a nice way to escape from the sun while you enjoy cold cuts or dip veggies. On colder days, we often prepare burritos or hot pockets in the engine compartment.  Place them near the exhaust in their wrapper and they will be ready to eat when you stop for lunch!

  • Easy – Burritos cooked on the engine
  • Healthy – Baby carrots and hummus, veggie wraps
  • Delicious – Hamburgers, hot dogs with all the fixings
05 camp cooking dinner

Dinners like this are easy to create on the trail with a little planning.  Fish cooks quickly, but it can stink up your ice chest if it is not sealed up.  Note that plastic plates will have to be packed out in your trash bag, but if we used paper plates we could just put them in the campfire when we are done eating.

Dinner Plans 

There is nothing better than enjoying a good meal at a beautiful campsite out in nature. If there are no campfire restrictions, our preference is always to cook over the fire.  Note that this requires you to make a bed of coals first, so it requires some time and patience.  If you are setting up your tent in the dark and are exhausted, freeze dried meals mixed with hot water are a great way to get some calories to keep from becoming hangry.

  • Easy – Freeze dried meal
  • Healthy – Stir fry vegetables with fresh fish
  • Delicious – Steak and baked potato over the campfire
06 camp cooking table

A sturdy surface to prepare your meal, cook, and eat at is critical on the trail.  That work surface can come in many forms, from your truck’s tailgate to a portable table like the Dometic GO Compact Camp Table. Always ensure that your work surface is flat and stable to avoid spills. Sturdy chairs like the Smittybilt Camp Chair are also valuable to give you a comfortable place to eat with their integrated table.

Tips For The Trail

Regardless of what meal you are cooking or how many people you are preparing food for, there are a few tips that are universal to make camp cooking a more enjoyable experience.  Just as we like to prep our vehicle at home in the garage rather than working on the side of the trail, we do as much food prep in the kitchen before we leave home.  This includes chopping vegetables and mixing sauces, which get put in our freezer/fridge in sealed plastic containers.  

We have seen others take food prep to the next level vacuum pack entire meals so all you have to do is boil them before enjoying your meal.  Remember to bring plenty of paper plates, cutlery, and spices to share your creations with your friends on the trail. Start simple with your meals and take what you learn to make “upgrades” to your recipes just like you upgrade your vehicle.

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