How to Eat Well Around the Campfire
A camping trip is a vacation. A vacation is supposed to be relaxing. But when you are stuck with kids already in their car seats, still trying to figure out what to stick in your cooler, you are going to feel anything but relaxed. Many people undertaking a wilderness vacation have no idea what to expect and arrive at their destination only to discover they forgot something critical or packed their entire kitchen to avoid missing that something. Planning out what food to bring on a camping trip is unfamiliar territory for someone new to camping, and seasoned campers are always looking for new ideas. For your benefit, I have compiled some of my favorites here.
If You Have a Campfire
Have you ever cooked a meal over live coals? You may be surprised at the variety of simple and tasty options available to you, from pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon for breakfast to hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch! At some point, everyone needs to try making delicious tin foil dinners with beef, carrots, onions, and potatoes for dinner. While you enjoy your fire, prepare your tin foil dinners by double wrapping the components in tin foil (the flatter the parcel, the more evenly it will cook), and once the flames have died down to hot coals, place them on the hot spots. Turn them periodically (if you do not have tongs, use sticks. You are camping, after all,) and expect them to be ready in 45 minutes to an hour. For extra flavor, add garlic, salt, and pepper. For a fun snack, try popcorn, s’mores, or roasted marshmallows and starbursts. Your kids will love you for it.
If You Have a Camp Stove
Here, the cooking techniques are a little different and you might be better off with something like coffee and oatmeal for breakfast, as it is difficult to heat a griddle with a small stove. Have soup for lunch and pasta with marinara for a delicious and satisfying dinner. And do not forget the hot chocolate!
Food for Backpackers
If you are backpacking, weight is critical and minimal cooking is ideal. As you have to carry everything on your back, you will want your food to be as light as possible. My first backpacking trip was with a scout troop when I was twelve. Unfortunately for one of the boys, his helpful mother had packed him canned soup for dinner and canned pasta for lunch. We did not discover why he was complaining the whole way up the mountain until we stopped to eat and found he had hauling what might as well have been a sack of rocks the whole time. While it is important to carry water with you (it is also crucial to have a water source—I recommend a water filter so you can fill up along the way), skip the cans!! How much easier would it have been for that boy to have brought a soup mix? How does a filling oatmeal breakfast sound? Try a bagel and cream cheese, tuna (from a pouch) on crackers, or a pre-made sandwich for lunch. Any kind of rice or pasta is light to carry and bulks up in the pot. Bring trail mix and jerky to munch along the way. Pudding mix makes for a fun dessert, and you can make it wilderness style—mixed in a Ziploc bag! Just cut off the corner and squeeze. There are plenty of dehydrated meals available that are ultra-light and convenient for backpackers. You can even pick up a few of these at a local Wal-Mart.
Remember, when you are out hiking and exploring the wilderness, you will consume a lot more calories than you normally do. Plan ahead and figure out what you are going to eat for each meal to ensure you have enough. Camping can be really fun and a truly rejuvenating vacation if you are smart about what you pack. With so many fun foods to choose from, your trip is sure to be one your family will talk about for years to come!