Camp food can be so much more than marshmallows and hot dogs charred over an open fire (though we’re not knocking the classics!). With the right camping cookware, dinnerware and techniques, a huge selection of delicious meals can be prepared and enjoyed in the great outdoors. We worked up an appetite researching this article, but it’s everything you need to know to become a campsite gourmand. Or at least feed your hungry family after a day of hiking or swimming.
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Plan ahead For Camping Cookware and Dinnerware
Plan your meals before you hit the road to avoid those annoying last-minute trips to the store. Make a list of the foods you’ll need for every dish and consider the equipment you’ll need to cook it.
Campsites can be small and for hike-in sites, you’ll be carrying what you’ll eat. So pack light, both in terms of your equipment and your food. Lightweight cookware and utensils, preferably designed for camping, can help. Opt for lightweight plates, cups, and utensils that won’t take up too much space. Some camping utensils fold or collapse.
Dehydrated or freeze-dried foods are lightweight and fit well into backpacks or other small spaces.
Use a camp stove
If you’re not actually trying to win on an episode of Survivor, a camp stove isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. They’re far easier to use and more reliable than a traditional campfire. A good camp stove will be useful every meal, from sizzling up bacon and eggs to boiling water or grilling some burgers.
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Invest in a good cooler
Your cooler is not where you pinch pennies on a camping trip. A quality cooler will keep your food fresh and give you peace of mind for up to several days, even in warm temperatures. At a minimum, your cooler needs to have thick insulation and a tight-fitting lid.
Bring a cast iron skillet
A cast iron skillet is a camping cliche for a reason. It’ll cook everything from pancakes to burgers to roasted vegetables. Cast iron is durable and can withstand the heat of a campfire or any accidental drops.
Use foil packets
A cheap, easy DIY hack is to wrap anything you need to cook in foil packets. Simply wrap your food in foil and place it on the camp stove or over the fire. Foil packets are ideal for cooking potatoes, vegetables, and even fish, preventing burning but locking in flavor even when you can’t exactly control your cooking temperature.
Pack a Dutch oven
The cast iron pan’s older sister, a Dutch oven is a large, heavy pot that can also cook just about anything. Their thick walls make them ideal for a long simmer of stews or soups. You can even use them to bake bread while camping. Dutch ovens tend to be larger, so they’re especially good for cooking for larger groups, whether on a camp stove or over an open flame.
Bring a propane grill
Propane grills bring the backyard experience to your campsite but in a compact, portable form. They’re perfect for quick cooking that meats-and-veggies post-hike meal.
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Use a campfire tripod
No, this campfire tripod isn’t for your camera. These three-legged stands are used to hang pots and pans over a fire. They make cooking stews, soups, and even roast meats over an open flame. With low heat, a campfire tripod can turn your Dutch oven into an analog slow cooker.
Bring a portable oven
Camping doesn’t mean you have to pre-bake brownies or bread. Thanks to portable ovens, usually powered by propane or electricity, you can enjoy freshly baked bread, pizza, and even cookies on your trip.
Use disposable dinnerware
Disposable dinnerware is a great way to save time and reduce the amount of cleanup necessary. Just remember to leave no trace and either bring it with you or throw it away.
Pack reusable dinnerware
A more eco-friendly option is reusable dinnerware. There are entire sets available specifically made for camping. These lightweight, durable sets usually include washable plates and utensils.
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Bring a cutting board
Easily one of the most often forgotten – and deeply regretted – pieces of cooking equipment on camping trips. Look for a small, lightweight cutting board that can be easily transported.
Use a portable sink
When camping, packing everything but the kitchen is generally a bad idea. Unless the sink is portable, in which case you’ll definitely want it, especially if your campsite won’t have running water.
Bring a camping kettle
Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you won’t still need coffee in the morning. A camping kettle can boil and pour water for your tea, coffee, or even meal.
Pack multi-purpose utensils
Your camping trip is the spork’s moment of glory. When it comes to camping, the more functions you can cram into one eating utensil, the better.
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Use a portable water filter
Potable water isn’t a luxury when camping; it’s a lifesaver. Fortunately, there are plenty of portable water filters that are lightweight and easy to pack and carry.
Pack spices and seasonings
Nothing’s worse than getting a great meal all ready and realizing it could use some salt, pepper, cumin, rosemary, or parsley. This is where saving all those tiny take-out packets of salt and pepper comes in handy. If you love red pepper flakes on your burger or curry rice, be sure to pack the flavor with everything else.
Don’t forget the can opener
Trust us, this is the one item you can not forget. You can eat with your fingers or make do with cold deli meat, but getting into a can without a can opener may be possible, but it is extremely difficult and unpleasant. So just pack the can opener.
Bring a portable grill grate
A portable grill grate allows you to cook food over a campfire without having to build a fire pit.
Pack lightweight cookware
Pots and pans don’t have to be heavy, but definitely choose the lightest ones you can find that are also easy to transport. Don’t forget to consider space, too.
Don’t forget the s’mores ingredients
If there aren’t s’mores, it’s not a camping trip, period. Friendly reminder you’ll need all of the following: graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows. And remember, the kids make their own.