By Amanda Wilks
All the fun of camping is difficult to boil down concisely; there's just something about being out in the open air without the shackles of the modern world holding down one's conscience that can't be replicated without stuffing a backpack and driving off into the woods. Unfortunately, not every aspect of camping is as fun as fishing or hiking, especially when the day winds down and your stomach begins to growl. Cooking, while always fulfilling in one way or another, can feel like more of a chore than it has to be. Starting off with battered cookware you don't feel uncomfortable forgetting or misplacing might seem like a good plan until you get out into the woods and your eggs burn in the morning followed by your burgers sticking to the pan when dinner rolls around. Save yourself the headache and look into pots and pans that can handle the outdoors without falling apart or ruining your food.
As a rule of thumb, you'll likely benefit from having a dutch oven or cast-iron skillet as well as a non-stick option for more delicate recipes. Check out the best scanpan reviews and make sure your cookware is as ready for the great outdoors as you are. Once you have that sorted, check out some of the best ways you can cut the hassle out of campfire food fun on the go!
1. Prep Breakfast Before Breakfast
Chances are you won't want to spring right into meal prep the moment you emerge from your sleeping bag like a bear leaving hibernation. The concept of a pancake and scrambled egg breakfast may be the closest thing to a perfect hiker's breakfast for those looking to conjure up classic camping imagery, but you probably don't want to pack a backpack full of flour and eggs in their shells, either. Good news: You don't have to! Empty out a few condiment bottles and give them a thorough wash, then fill them back up with pre-mixed flapjack batter or pre-scrambled eggs, ready for the pan. Make sure you store them in a cooler and pop them out when breakfast rolls around. If you have trouble doling out portions from stubborn bottles, you can always put the mixtures into quart-sized bags and simply snip off a corner to create a makeshift piping bag, too.
2. Set Aside Instant Coffee
For those who own a percolator coffee pot, nothing quite matches setting up your morning brew and soaking in the morning sun while waiting for a pot of coffee that can't be beaten without a trip to a coffee shop.
For everyone else, lugging around coffee pots and grounds aren't quite as exciting. You can leave your pot at home and instead bundle up coffee grounds in single-cup serving sizes inside coffee filters, secure the top, and then use them like teabags to cut down on your morning routine hardware.
3. Keep Your Cooler Going Strong
While it may be tempting to load up your cooler with ice cubes and pile in food wildly, you'll have better luck if you approach packing your cooler in a two-front manner.
First of all, forget ice cubes and instead fill freezer bags with water, then lay them flat in your freezer while they solidify. This will leave you with giant, flat sheets of ice that will melt much more slowly than smaller individual cubes.
Pack your cooler in layers with these ice bags and you'll keep everything cooler instead of having a very chilly outer core of food with a warmer center, which can lead to less than ideal conditions for your perishables.
4. Air Dry Your Cookware
You probably weren't planning on lugging a dishwasher into the woods, but you can significantly cut down on drying your cookware by taking a mesh bag for the sole purpose of hanging from a branch or laundry line, then filling it with wet dishes after cleaning up. They'll have a chance to both air out and drip dry without cluttering up your campsite or picnic tables with wet cooking supplies. After everything has dried, wrapping a length of rope around a tree trunk and hanging pots and pans from carabiners keeps them off the ground and out of harm's way.
5. Don't Risk Your Mealtime
If you've just found an awesome recipe on the 'net that seems like it'd be right up your alley, give it a try! Just don't make your camping trip the first time you give it a go.
Try all of your recipes before your trip begins to see how you or your family react to it. If you're lucky, you just might find something you like so much that you add it to your home meal rotation. Scrambled eggs are a safe bet, but something more adventurous like a Dutch Oven Caramel Apple Pie requires a bit more prep that just might be worth a little extra packing!
Camping is a time to unwind and enjoy nature, not get bogged down in the finer points of how to prepare a turducken in a campsite with nothing but a bit of aluminum foil and a charcoal grill.
Pack smart and prepare your food as much as you can before you leave and make sure your recipes are solid before you take them on the road. All that time you could spend worrying about cooking can go towards worrying about how to get your tent erected and stabilized instead!