Tips for the culinary camper!
March 4, 2007 8:23 AM   Subscribe

What are your ideas for easy camping recipes?

Every time I go camping I end up eating lots of convenience food (instant noodles and the like) that I never would normally consider eating at home but with Spring coming around again I am determined that this year I eat as well as possible whilst enjoying the outdoors. I want recipes that use minimal amounts of fresh ingredients whilst still being tasty and enjoyable to eat.

Recommendations for easy recipes (bonus points for those that can be made in one pot, use minimal cutlery and can survive the heat of a campfire).

Also, recommendations of essentials for the camper's portable larder are much appreciated. Things that serve multiple purposes would be great.

posted by ClanvidHorse to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (26 answers total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: For breakfast, bacon, eggs, beans and pancakes (I use the "just add water" mix to save trouble, tastes great) are all easy single ingredient recipes. So is oatmeal. Creative forthough allows them all to be done using the same dish (although I usually just punch a hole in the can of beans and put it on the fire).

For dinner, rice with vegetables and dried shredded meat (e.g. shrimps, pork or whatever your favourite Asian grocer has on hand) is easy to be done, throw in an egg for extra protein. Beans and wieners is another easy one. You can spice if ramen noodles with the same technique. Couscous is another option and again you can easily add vegetables and a bit of meat if you have some. Another option is to have precooked falafel balls, although they squish easily.

For lunches I'll usually have crackers or bread with canned meat (those little tins of ham or tuna are perfect) and cheeses, or a tin of sardines.

My best tip is that on the first night of you trip you can splurge and have meals that you could never have on a long trip, for example a taco night is exceptionally easy to execute in the wild if you have frozen ground beef with you or started on the friday night after work. Often I'll prepare a chicken madrass in advance advance and just reheat it the first night with some basmati rice and naan bread. Obviously good planning needs to be considered for health and safety reasons.

On the subject of eggs, they keep well for a few days, and longer if they are not exposed to oxygen (dip them in cool wax, or coat them with lard or if you have a large enough container of flour you can pack them in the middle). I have one of those plastic cases that will hold six eggs. My trick is to put 3 fresh eggs and 3 hard boiled eggs (use a marker or the spin trick to tell which ones are which). That's a breakfast and a dinner with several lunch snacks all in one case.

In my larder I keep a bit of oil (for the pan), salt and pepper, dried dill (for an omlette or salad), grated parmesan (again for an omlette or salad) and some spicy seasoning just in case the food tastes bad and I need to mask it). I also carry a small vial of maple syrup for breakfast. It's the little touches that make a difference.
posted by furtive at 8:53 AM on March 4, 2007

Oh, and that pre-cooked bacon is perfect for backpack style camping.
posted by furtive at 8:54 AM on March 4, 2007

Oh, and there are lots of recipes for making your own jerky, but the smartest technique in the oven is to put toothpicks through the top of the meat and then hang them between the grills from the top rack of the oven, with a pan on the lowest rack to catch drippings.
posted by furtive at 8:59 AM on March 4, 2007

Grilled cheese sandwiches with canned tomato soup. mmm.
posted by deinemutti at 9:17 AM on March 4, 2007

My favorite recipe for car-camping was:
1 large can Dinty Moore Beef Stew (remove grease globules upon opening)
1 can Campbell's Pork 'n Beans
1 can green beans as filler if necessary
1/2 bottle Killian's Red beer
Pepper and Garlic Powder to taste

Mix all ingredients and heat. eat with lots of bread. Serves four if starving, six if not.

I shared that with random strangers in many a rest stop and many a campground across the country back in the day.
posted by notsnot at 9:23 AM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm going camping with furtive :)

ClanvidHorse, are you asking about backpacking food, or carcamping food? the latter offers you a LOT more latitude (you can bring more gear, and store it in the car instead of in your backpack)

For backpacking I will typically take oatmeal and instant coffee for breakfast; tortillas and little tins of flavoured tuna for lunch; a foil pack of tuna and dried noodles for dinner. I also like to pre-cook chicken diced in cubes on the night before camping, and put that into two ziplocks (in case it leaks). Then I can toss the chicken into a freshly cooked mess of pasta for the first night dinner.

Nalgene makes some small (1 oz) containers - I have one full of oil, another full of maple syrup, and I also bring some salt and pepper and other spices with me on the trip. I usually bring a water filter, a half-litre pot and a one-litre pot to cook in.

In my backpacking meal plan, I have two hot meals a day (breakfast and dinner). I also bring a ziplock baggie full of salted nuts, another with some hershey's kisses or mini-Mars bars or mini-Snickers, another one with trail mix (my current fave is yellow raisins mixed with salted cashews). I also like to bring small bits of wrapped cheese - either cheese pulls (check your grocery shelves, these are typical lunch items for kids) or mini-gouda cheese wrapped in wax. I also sometimes bring some hiking sausages - little dry pepperonis in a ziplock.

For car-camping, I will bring fresh fruit, fresh vegetables (a bag o' salad) and perhaps some avodacoes and some dipping vegetables like carrots, broccoli and cauliflower with a lovely philly-cheese dipping sauce, I'll put some salad dressing in the cooler, I'll bring some marinated meat to cook over the campfire (ribs, mmmmm) and of course a bottle of wine or two. Dessert could be some strawberries with whipped cream (in a can), or perhaps a chocolate cake - how big is your car? how big is your cooler?

If you are going the cooler way, then may I recommend buying ice packs rather than toss in some loose ice cubes in a bag and hope for the best. The ice packs make less of a mess while they melt. If you are going to a campground for the weekend, park the car in a shady area and keep your cooler in it, and the cooler will remain cool until it's time to leave.

And when you leave, make sure you leave the campground neat and tidy like you found it :)
posted by seawallrunner at 10:05 AM on March 4, 2007

Our family's traditional camping meal is very simple.

Throw some vegetables and some meat in tin foil. Wrap it up. Place on the rack over the fire (or even in the coals). Wait a while. Eat!

This can be as fancy as you like, with oils and sauces and whatnot, but we usually just kept it pretty simple.
posted by philomathoholic at 10:14 AM on March 4, 2007

Best answer: Cous-cous is your friend for camping. It's light, cooked with just boiling water and begs for all kinds of additions beyond the usual included flavor packet. All sorts of meat will go well and all kinds of vegetables. You can also take advantage of dried foods too - you can reconstitute jerky in boiling water. Add in some dried wild mushrooms and pour the whole thing into the cous cous plus whatever extra water you need to meet the recipe.

One of the things that makes camping food better is flavor. If you're back packing, repack stuff for more flavor. Spike your mashed potato buds with wasabi. Bring dried herbs in ziplocs. Garlic adds a lot of flavor for not much cost in weight.

Become an afficianado of foil cooking on coals. Wrap sliced veg, your carefully cooled single piece of meat for the first night or freshly caught fish and some herbs in several layers of foil. Cook on coals or on a big non-sedimentary rock over and surrounded by coals- probably 20-30 minutes.

Got some time? Bring a whole head of garlic, wrap in several layers of foil and cook on coals for 40 minutes to an hour. Pull out and let cool. Squeeze out caramel colored cloves onto bread or mix into your potatoes or, if you can try pan baking Pillsbury type biscuits. The Boy Scout Handbook I grew up on suggested spiraling dough (biscuit, bread, croissant) around a clean stick and baking it over coals, turning until done. Never tried that.
posted by plinth at 10:41 AM on March 4, 2007

Response by poster: thanks for the answers so far. Please keep em coming!

I am usually near a car but space is often limited (but less so than if backpacking) so I can't take too much stuff.

Also, I am in Scotland (and I usually go camping in the North West Highlands) so a few of the brands mentioned dont mean too much to me but I am sure I could make do with local equivalents.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 10:52 AM on March 4, 2007

Here are some things that my wife and I do backpacking:

Breakfast: I can no longer choke down instant oatmeal packets, so now I make real oatmeal, and put dried fruit (cherries are the best) and bring real brown sugar.

Lunch: outside of bear country: salmon jerky. Also, tortillas with hummus and chicken.

Dinners: Couscous is the best weight/bulk ratio food. It is, however, just barely edible. So we get boil-in-a-bag Indian food and pour it on top of the couscous. Problem solved, and it's something to look forward to all day.
posted by jimfl at 10:55 AM on March 4, 2007

Response by poster: mistake in the original question: I don't want long lists of ingredients but I would be delighted to eat as much fresh stuff as possible.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 11:01 AM on March 4, 2007

Best answer: For dessert: Bring some whole oranges. Cut off the top cap of the skin and carefully extract the fruit (eat it for breakfast or as a snack), leaving the peel whole in a dish shape. Fill half full with instant chocolate brownie mix and place them carefully in the coals of your fire. About 30 minutes later remove the burnt orange peel containers from the fire and allow them to cool. Peel away the burnt shell and you'll find some very tasty orange-chocolate brownies!
posted by maniactown at 11:15 AM on March 4, 2007 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Car camping:
Apple french toast: tear a loaf or so of stale french bread into chunks. Add chunks of fresh apple. Mix some eggs, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon and toss with the whole bunch til it's all a bit soggy. Cook in your dutch oven in butter or a little oil.

We like tandoori chicken and a greek salad the first night. Since the salad doesn't have lettuce, it holds up better. We marinate the chicken before we leave and throw it in the cooler. The salad is just tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, green peppers and feta, tossed with olive oil, red wine vinegar or lemon juice, and dried oregano.

American classic dessert: banana boats. Leaving bananas in their peel, slice them lengthwise, down to bottom peel, lbut not through it. Put either little marshmallows and brown sugar (my fave) or choc chips. Wrap in fire and put on coals.
posted by purenitrous at 11:19 AM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Correct above to say "wrap in foil". Duh!
posted by purenitrous at 11:20 AM on March 4, 2007

I very, very strongly 2nd jimfi's advice of couscous and Indian food-packet. It's easy and quick on its own and you can add all sorts of veggies to it if you want to make it a little less like something that you just, er, squeezed out of a foil packet. And it doesn't taste like typical bland camp food. This is stuff I eat as a meal regularly, at home in the city.

If you don't have a favorite, pretty much everyone I know is partial to the Tasty Bites Jaipur Vegetables (can you tell I'm a student?). No idea whether these are available where you are.
posted by crinklebat at 11:22 AM on March 4, 2007

Are you Car Camping?

Chili from gound beef was always a favorite for the first or second night.
posted by Good Brain at 11:28 AM on March 4, 2007

Best answer: My husband and I make Potato Packets when we go camping; they are so good we usually make them again every night. This is not a healthy dinner by any means, but it is so incredibly tasty. Now I am in the mood to go camping!

What you need:
Tin Foil & A big cast iron skillet (fire safe)
Lots of Potatoes, peeled or not, diced or sliced
1/2-1 onion depending on taste
Cubed or diced cooked lean ham (or pre-cooked bacon)
Lots of real butter
Shredded cheese
Sour cream
Johnny's seasoning salt

So we tear off a few pretty big chunks of foil, lay them all on top of each other to create strength...then we put plops of butter, then the onions, then the potatoes and then the ham, then we sprinkle generously with the seasoning salt, then we close up the foil, but not so good that you cant open it back up to stir the delightful concoction. Then we put the foil packet in the big cast iron skillet and plop it on the fire pit grate. We let sit for a few minutes till sizzle and then stir often depending on the heat of the fire. After the potato's are cooked through (I like them soft and my husband likes crunchy, so we make 2 packets), then we get out our big double paper plates and pile it on. Then add the sour cream and the cheese and also salt and pepper if you are so inclined.
posted by Jenny is Crafty at 12:32 PM on March 4, 2007 [3 favorites]

A fishing pole.
Maker's Mark.

Catch fish and clean. Place in pan/skillet. Pour a generous bath of Maker's Mark in skillet. Eat. Heaven.
posted by dios at 12:49 PM on March 4, 2007

I've started to bring tortilla skins (aka burrito wrappers) along camping. They taste pretty good, don't need to be refridgerated and really make clean up easier. We'll do the indian bag entree or whatever, and use the tortilla skin to mop up everything. It makes the pots and pans a lot less messy and lets you get the last bits of everything.

If its hot and summer and I'm feeling really lazy, i'll leave a couple cans of refried beans in the front window of the car. They heat up enough for warm dinner without having to set up the stove. If it turns out that they didn't get warm, they still taste good.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:49 PM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

On the potato theme, you can also wrap up some potatoes in aluminum foil (throw some lawry's or just salt and pepper first), stow them in your pack and throw them on/near the fire when you setup camp. Many veggies work roasted in this way.
posted by 10ch at 12:50 PM on March 4, 2007

Dutch. Oven.

Takes a little practice and research to get it right, but I've made everything from stuffed beef tenderloin to a perfectly baked peach tart. I use an aluminum dutch oven as it's far easier to transport (though slightly less legit) than the cast iron variety.
posted by aladfar at 2:50 PM on March 4, 2007

Bannock on a stick is one of the best things ever. Wrap on a stick, cook over a fire, and then fill the stick-hole with jam, butter, peanut butter, or whatever.

posted by ODiV at 7:13 PM on March 4, 2007

I'm a little late to the party here, but let me add that brown-n-serve rolls in a plastic bag are your friend. Here's the general idea: Melt a tablespoon or three of butter in your pan. Pour it into the bag with the rolls. Pour in seasoning*, twist the bag closed, and shake well. Then take the rolls out and fry them up in your already-buttered pan.

*Seasoning = cinnamon sugar for breakfast, garlic powder and basil for dinner, other combinations to suit your taste

The best part about backpacking is that you never have to feel guilty for eating so many calories. :)
posted by vytae at 2:15 PM on March 5, 2007

If you're a regular coffee drinker, I find that a packet of hot cocoa mix helps to make instant coffee go down a little easier.
posted by peeedro at 8:18 PM on March 5, 2007

Since your revised question includes fresh ingredients, don't forget foraging!
posted by allterrainbrain at 2:12 PM on March 6, 2007

Best answer: The Hungry Hiker's Book of Good Cooking is almost certain to interest you. I've eaten a number of its recipes and, heck, spent some hours curled up with it on the couch, absorbing its ideas and dry-running recipes in my head. Sounds like it's just up your alley. See also the Cheap Chow section of Steal This Book. (for the recipes, not the irresponsible thievery advice; thieve responsibly).
posted by eritain at 3:11 AM on March 7, 2007

« Older But do you think they'll REALLY fire me for an...   |   Is flying on LTU asking for trouble? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.