One piece of preparing for a camping trip that you don’t want to forget is meal planning and preparation – otherwise, you end up out in the wilderness looking for edible bark, berries, and beetles. I jest, but figuring out what you’re going to eat while on your camping trip is an essential part of the planning process. Depending on where you’re camping, you may not have ready access to a local supermarket or diner, so it’s vital to consider these things before you venture out.
The first thing to consider is what sort of cooking options you’ll have available to you. Some sites offer a simple fire ring, while others may provide a grill. Some campers choose to bring along a mini camp stove, but no matter what, you’ll need to make sure you have plenty of fuel for cooking. If you’ll be in bear country, it is highly recommended to have a bear canister and some parks even require them.
Equipment & Cooking Methods
There is a myriad of cookware and utensil options available when it comes to camp cooking, but most of the time, keeping things simple is the best plan. Just remember, particularly if you’re hiking to your campsite, whatever equipment you choose will add to the weight of your pack. If you have a good bit of distance from your car to your site, you may want to limit yourself to the bare necessities. Items you may want to consider are a dutch oven or pots and pans, knives, utensils for eating, a spatula, a ladle, tongs, potholders, and possibly a personal mess kit.
Dutch ovens can be an excellent option for cooking meals over a campfire. A dutch oven is a cast iron pot with a tight-fitting lid, and it can be placed directly on the coals of your campfire or used in conjunction with a camp stove. When used with coals, place coals on top of the lid as well as underneath to cook from all sides. There are plenty of one-pot dutch oven meal recipes that can be made this way. You’ll want to bring olive oil to coat the inside and possibly a wire brush to remove ash from the lid. Make sure you don’t use soap on these pots as it will ruin the seasoned coating; to clean them, all you need to do is wipe out the food with a wet cloth.
Another cooking method that works particularly well is cooking on coals using foil packets. Place any protein and veggies of your choice into an aluminum foil packet with butter, salt, and pepper (or add other favorite seasonings) and place on the coals. When placing packets onto the coals, you’ll want to move larger logs to the edge of the fire and create an even coal bed. Softwood tends to burn out quicker than hardwood. It’s best to flip your foil packets every 10-15 minutes to ensure even cooking.
If you do decide to bring along a camp stove, there isn’t much you couldn’t make. There are also several easy to make meals that require only a few pieces of equipment such as spaghetti, hamburgers, hotdogs, sloppy joes, and scrambled eggs. Plus, there’s always PB&J.
Some meals can be prepped partially or entirely at home in advance of your trip. Veggies can be chopped up, and meat can be marinated in advance. You can premix dry ingredients for pancakes and store them in a container. Try to incorporate the same ingredients into several meals so that you have fewer items to pack. For example, if you’re going to add diced green peppers to your eggs in the morning, maybe you’ll add the remainder of the pepper to your foil packet later than evening.
You’ll want to make sure there’s room for everything in the cooler that requires refrigeration. Check with the campground in advance to see whether there’s a close supply of ice to restock your cooler. If you aren’t going to be able to resupply ice, it’s best to eat items that require refrigeration first on your trip and limit the number of times you open the cooler.
As long as you plan things out ahead of time, there’s no reason cooking while camping has to be an overwhelming chore. Just think about the things you enjoy at home and adapt those meals to work with what you’ll have available.