Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Planning a Camping Menu

Fact: Food tastes better when it's cooked and consumed outdoors. One of my favorite parts about camping is all the great food I bring with me. If you're new to the idea of spending a weekend or more out in the woods or if you're just looking for a little inspiration, here are some helpful tips on planning meals- along with a few of my favorite foods.

What you'll need:
  • Water jug- 5 gallon jerry cans work nicely
  • Cooler packed with ice
  • Camp stove and a propane tank
  • Skillet
  • BBQ grate if your site doesn't come with one. Bring a wire brush to clean the grate whether its yours or the campsite's. Then, right before you put the food on rub the grates with either an onion or a lemon that's been cut in half. 
  • Charcoal and lighter
  • Cooking utensils: knife, tongs, spatula, spoon
  • Eating utensils: spork (I love the Lite My Fire kind but they melt so don't use for hot applications or just get the titanium one), a good pot/bowl/plate multi use dish.
  • Weber Chicago Steak Seasoning. It's like catnip for men and you can put it on anything.
  • Dutch Oven- for the intermediate to advanced level campers
  • Clean up supplies: Scotch-Brite pads, detergent, paper towels.

Things to consider:
  • Serious campers and ultralight backpackers take this form of eating on the trail to a whole different extreme. While you can pack MRE's and freeze dried eggplant parmesan- that's certainly not the way I like to camp. 
  • The less refrigeration your menu requires, the better. Frequent trips to the camp store for ice get old.
  • Do some prep work: take out the slices of bread you know you won't use, chop up onions or other ingredients ahead of time. Use that noggin.
  • Keep an eye on the burn bans where you plan on camping if you plan to cook over an open fire. Usually this doesn't include charcoal or propane stoves but check with park rangers if you're unsure.
  • A menu and a shopping list aren't the same. Make sure you think through all the items you'll have to pack and haul out to your campsite and then what it takes to prepare that food. If it gets too complicated, make something else.

A Sample Menu:

Friday Night:
Summer Sausage, Cheese, Triscuits. Remember to throw the sausage back into the cooler after it's been opened.


Bacon, eggs, Pancakes, Sausage. Cook in that order. Use the bacon grease to cook eggs. You'll never look like a mountain man if you don't eat like one.

Sandwiches, Chips, Oreos. Keep it simple with PB&J. Don't forget to use the peanut butter generously on top of the pancakes too.

Trail Mix (or Gorp. I never call it that because it sounds stupid). Avoid the M&M kind in the summer. At all other times double recommended amount of M&M's in the recipe. Make and distribute into ziplock bags beforehand.

Steak, Roasted Potatoes, Baked Beans. Apply Weber seasoning to steaks. Cut new potatoes in half, place on 18" sheet of aluminum foil, sprinkle with Weber seasoning, add large chunks of onion and butter, wrap in foil adding an additional sheet around the first layer. Cook for 30 minutes at same level above coals as steak flipping once. Cook baked beans in opened can, stirring frequently.

Dutch Oven peach cobbler (like this one from the illustrious Pioneer Woman. Her cookbook has been good for our marriage. And before you get all up in arms about my man card, my wife found it and fed it to me. I never once complained). Instead of placing it in an oven, place it near the coals of your fire and cover the lid with coals and cook for about the same time. Another good one to prep ahead of time. Line the oven with foil to save on clean up. Substitute canned peaches to make life a little easier, but cut no corners when making this at home. Trust me.
Admit it. You're buying a dutch oven on Amazon right now.

Donut Holes, OJ. Easy to manage while packing up the campsite.


Other great camping foods:
Bratwurst, beef jerky, instant oatmeal, hamburgers, dutch oven apple pie, fresh caught fish (if you're into that. I'm not.), roasted hot dogs.

Aside from these slight variations, my camping menu hasn't changed much for a weekend trip since my Cub Scout days- and with a list like this, does it really need to? I am open to suggestions though- what masterpiece do you muster on your excursions?

You may also like:
Spring Cleaning Part II: The Grill
A Man's Burger Part I: The Frontiersman
Insult of Injury Pt. 1: The Fall


  1. On our most recent camping adventure, the Outdoor Man and I had: breakfast burrito's - composed at home, frozen and then heated on site, backpacker's meal of chicken risotto on a hike, flat bread pizza's and a repeat of the breakfast taco's. Since it was just the two of us, this was easy to plan/pack and assemble.

    For a trip with a bigger group, we do eggs, pancakes, bacon, muffins - made beforehand - for breakfast, sandwiches and fruit for lunch, hobo packs for dinner (meat/tons of veggies cooked over the fire) and things along the 'mass prep' vein. Repeated for the number of days and meals.

    Sounds simple, but all are easy to 'gourmet' up. If we have to sleep in a 2-person hiking tent, we WILL have good food. Amen.

  2. That all sounds really good! How do you make the pizzas? Along the breakfast taco line- we sometimes make tacos in a bag: individual Dorito bags that you fill with taco meat, sour cream, salsa, lettuce, and cheese. Those are easy to appease the masses with too. Great for everything from youth group events to tailgate parties.

    Did he ever tell you about the time an armadillo infiltrated our campsite?

  3. Armadillo? I thought they only came in 'dead' variety? Just kidding ... No, I don't think he did.

    For the pizza's, we used pita's, sauce (tomato for him and pesto for me!), pre-chopped veggies (mushrooms, onions, etc.), cheese, and a can of chicken (seasoned up real good) for a little protein action.

    Do you use the actual Dorito's for the taco's? Nacho cheese variety? We do not speak of those in this household. SOMEONE doesn't do powdered cheese. Ahem.

  4. Wow... I had no idea he was so high brow. My apologies. And yes, we used the actual Doritos crunched up and mixed in with the tacos. They're outstanding.

    The armadillo incident involved your husband, Jon Wayne, and myself hunting what we thought was a coon with the biggest rocks we could find. It ended with a terrified armadillo scampering away into the bushes. It was very prehistoric.