5 Easy Camping Meals: Being in Nature Never Tasted so Good

Whether you’re a frequent camper tired of choking down re-hydrated meals approximating mac n’ cheese or you’re a newcomer to the wilderness world who’s worried you won’t be able to stomach the decidedly less-than-desirable contents usually found in those tear-open packages, we’re here to help.

With a bit of planning and the right ingredients, camp cooking can yield meals that are delicious, nutritious, and freshly made — you just have to think beyond the dehydrated powdered omelets and protein sludge. From the car camping weekend where coolers abound to the overland backpacker who has to account for every ounce carried, you can enjoy amazing camping dishes if you bring along a few fine foodstuffs and have access to plenty of water.

Below, you’ll find the ingredient list and step-by-step instructions for two breakfasts, a lunch, and two dinner camping recipes. With a bit of resourcefulness, you’ll find great ways to use these camp food recipes as jumping-off points that can be modified into myriad meals. (Swap out pre-cooked salmon for chicken or use beans for a protein-rich dinner that’s vegetarian-friendly, for example.)

all you need to worry about is what liquor you’ll keep in the flask, because we’ve got your breakfast, lunch and, dinner covered. Oh, and bears. Also worry about bears.

Breakfast

You know the expression: “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper.” When you’re roughing it in the wild, you need to eat plenty of calories at every meal anyway, but you can eat a camp breakfast fit for royalty just the same.

Almond Apple Oatmeal Bowl

Almond Apple Oatmeal Bowl

Sounds boring, does it? Even passé, perhaps, eating oatmeal for breakfast at your campsite? Well, this meal can deliver you more than 600 calories and will require about three minutes of active preparation at your campsite. Add in an ounce or two of bacon bits or pumpkin seeds to give yourself a couple hundred more calories and plenty of protein to burn. You can use real bacon, provided you bought the factory-sealed, room-temperature-stable variety.

Ingredients (per person):

  • 1 cup of oatmeal (quick-cooking, of course)
  • 1/4 cup of diced dried apple
  • 1/2 cup of chopped almonds

Method:

  1. Cook the oatmeal as dictated by the instructions and/or basic common sense, then toss the apple and almonds on top and let everything sit as the oatmeal absorbs the water and softens.
  2. Stir and enjoy.

Quick and Easy Campsite Quiche

crustless quiche
missbossy/Flickr

For this protein-packed woodland meal, you’ll need an all-metal pan, a pot, an awesome cast iron skillet, or even just that trusty metal mug of yours. And what you won’t need is pie crust. Sure, quiche traditionally uses pie crust, but you’re about to cook in a goddamn fire, so tradition is out the window, man. For the record, this recipe is for the car campers, not the trekkers.

Ingredients (per person):

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • Cubed ham, diced onions, and pepper — but play around with your ingredients!
  • Butter or cooking spray

Method:

  1. Butter or oil the interior of your pan, pot, or mug.
  2. Mix everything all the ingredients in the pan, pot, or mug.
  3. Nestle the pot/pan/mug down into a big bed of hot coals created by a fine campfire. You can let the fire burn down or move the blazing logs over a bit, just make sure it burned for a good 30minutes or so to ensure plenty of heat in the coal bed).
  4. Wait a few minutes. Remove from fire and enjoy.

Lunch

Lunch is perhaps the trickiest meal to prepare when you’re hiking, mountaineering, or enjoying some other daytime wilderness activity. If you’re on the move, you don’t want to stop and break out all of your cooking gear, as that consumes valuable time and energy. On the other hand, you do need to keep up your energy through the ingestion of plentiful calories. So what are you to do?

The Camper’s Lunch Wrap

kale wrap

The key to smart camp dining is to reduce the water weight in your foods as much as possible and to choose foods that occupy minimal physical space. We use wraps (or tortillas) instead of bread, vegetables consumed whole (onions come with many layers that must be discarded, for example, so we pass on these), and dried foods when their use won’t sacrifice flavor.

This meal, as is, provides protein, carbs, and some vitamins and iron and such. You can flavor the wrap with a packet of mustard or soy sauce, add other ingredients, or use chickpeas instead of tuna.

Ingredients (per person):

  • 1 big ol’ wrap
  • 1 package or can of tuna
  • 1 handful of kale chips
  • 1 handful of cherry tomatoes or 1 standard tomato

Method:

  1. Chop the tomatoes (or tomato) and mix the moist bits around with the kale, rehydrating it a bit.
  2. Mix in the tuna
  3. Wrap it all up and eat it.

Dinner

At the end of a long day of trekking, climbing, or pounding beers around the campfire, the last thing you want is a laborious cooking process. Fortunately for you, couscous exists.

Chicken with Peas and Couscous

cous cous peas

Couscous (the standard tiny little grains, not the larger pearl stuff) is arguably the ideal campsite food. It cooks fantastically quickly, it soaks up any flavor you add to it, and it’s easy to measure out portions. The ratio of couscous to water is a glorious one-to-one. In other words, you can fill a cup with couscous, then measure out the same cupful of water, and that’s the amount of liquid you need.

Ingredients (per person):

  • 1/2 cup couscous per person (dry)
  • 1 can or packet of pre-cooked chicken
  • 1 handful of dried peas

Method:

  1. Ideally, you can cook the couscous in a sizable pot. As soon as you have grains and boiling water mixed, toss the peas on top and stir them in, followed by chunks of chicken, which can be left sitting atop the veggies and grains.
  2. dd a bit of sauce of your choice, if you brought it (soy, Worcestershire, lemon juice, etc.), and consider adding one more splash of water is you skip the sauce.

Angel Hair Pasta Carbonara

carbonara pasta spaghetti

This meal can bring you the taste of the Old Country with minimal effort and without adding much gear weight. As angel hair pasta cooks in about four minutes, it makes a great meal for the end of a long day when you’re hungry and tired in equal parts. Quick pro tip: Break the pasta noodles into halves or even quarters to help prevent them sticking to the cook pot and to make transport easier.

Ingredients (per person):

  • 1/4 lb angel hair pasta
  • 1/4 cup chopped salami (I use Olli Salumeria’s Genoa mild salami because it comes pre-sliced and stored in shelf-stable packages)
  • 1 tbsp dried parmesan
  • 1 egg white, ideally, or a bit of oil (optional)

Method:

  • Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water, making sure not to overdo it.
  • Quickly drain the pasta, reserving a few tablespoons of the water, and toss it with all other ingredients.
  • Bring the mixture back to high heat briefly if you added egg.

And there you go. A full day of great-tasting, gourmet camping meals that take almost no effort whatsoever. Bon appetit.

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