Whether you’re a frequent camper tired of choking down re-hydrated sludge approximating beef stroganoff or tuna mac n’ cheese, or if you’re a newcomer to the wilderness world and worried you won’t be able to stomach the decidedly less-than desirable foodstuffs usually found in those shelf-stable tear-open packages, we’re here to help.
With a bit of planning and the right ingredients, easy camp cooking techniques can yield you meals that are delicious, nutritious, and freshly made–you just have to think beyond the dehydrated powdered omelets and protein sludge. In fact, even the overland backpacker who has to account for every ounce carried can enjoy amazing camping meals. Today, we’re sharing the ingredient list and step-by-step preparation for one breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With a bit of resourcefulness and ingenuity, 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.)
With these camp food ideas, all you need to worry about is what liquor you’ll keep in the flask, because we’ve got your dinner covered. Oh, and bears, also worry about bears.
CAMPSITE BREAKFAST LIKE A KING (ISH)
You know the expression: “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper.” Well, nuts to that, dinner rules! Also, when you’re roughing it in the wild, you need to eat plenty of calories at every meal anyway. But you can still eat a camp breakfast fit for royalty just the same.
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 (we can kick that up to around 800 with our little twists at the end) and will require about three minutes of active preparation at your campsite.
Per person, plan to pack…
- 1 cup of oatmeal (quick-cooking, of course)
- 1/4 cup of diced dried apple
- 1/2 cup of chopped almonds
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. Then stir and enjoy. Now, do you want to add some extra heft to your breakfast? Add in an ounce or two of bacon bits (or use pumpkin seeds) to give yourself a couple hundred more calories and to add plenty of protein to burn. You can use real bacon, provided you bought the factory-sealed, room-temperature stable variety.
A WILDERNESS LUNCHEON
Lunch is perhaps the trickiest meal 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? Why, just reach for…
The Camper’s Lunch Wrap
The key to smart camp dining is to reduce the water weight in your foods as much as possible, and also to choose foods that occupy minimal physical space. Thus we use wraps (AKA tortillas in some parts) 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 where their use won’t sacrifice flavor.
Each wrap will include…
- A big ol’ wrap. Whole wheat offers extra calories and nutrition and such
- A package of tuna (or a can, they don’t weigh much, really)
- A handful of kale chips (or homemade dried kale)
- A handful of cherry tomatoes or one standard tomato
Chop the tomatoes (or tomato) and mix the moist bits around with the kale, rehydrating it a bit. Then mix in the tuna and keep mixing a bit longer. Now wrap it all up and eat it. You can flavor the wrap with a packet of mustard or soy sauce, and sure, go ahead and add other stuff if you want, but this meal as-is provides protein, carbs, and some vitamins and iron and such. And sure, you can use chickpeas instead of tuna, but you’ll definitely need some added flavor.
CAMP DINNER: HOT, FRESH, EASY
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. (Actually, the last thing you want is probably to step in a bear trap, but on this list of unwanted whatnot is the laborious cooking process.) Fortunately for you, couscous exists.
Chicken with Peas and Couscous
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 could not be easier 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.
Each diner needs:
- A bunch of couscous. At least a 1/2 cup per person (dry)
- A can or packet of pre-cooked chicken
- A handful of dried peas (like actual little round peas, not dehydrated snap peas)
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. Add 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.
And there you go. A full day of great-tasting, gourmet camping meals that take almost no effort whatsoever. Bon Apetit.
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