Finding a gorgeous spot away from daily life and setting up a tent? Amazing. Hiking through the woods, wondering at the birds and the bees and the wildflowers? So relaxing.
But cooking all of your meals outside? Not so much.
Let’s Go Camping: My Fave (Easy) Outdoor Meals For Hiking & Exploring
For a smooth and maximally enjoyable car-camping experience, a little bit of planning and the right tools go a long way toward having a good time. Here’s an idea for one full day of cooking and eating in the great outdoors, including the gear you’ll need and one very simple recipe. Add plenty of snacks for the drive, and you’ll be set.
7 A.M.: Coffee For Adults & Oatmeal For All
High-quality coffee is an absolutely nonnegotiable component of my day. I would never allow any minor inconveniences — i.e., lack of electricity — stand in the way of my morning brew. And I’m picky. I am not a French-press girl. Pour-over? Sure. Espresso machine? Yes, please. But the king of brewing coffee sans kitchen in my opinion is the AeroPress. This simple device is basically like a pour-over on steroids, and you can make an Americano or espresso(-ish) beverage of your choice with this compact, light coffee maker. You can purchase the AeroPress in a small travel bag where you keep the paper filters and a stirrer for the coffee grounds.
To brew your morning cuppa as fast as humanly possible, use the Jetboil MiniMo cooking stove. I have no chill when it comes to my morning coffee, and the Jetboil is much faster than using a regular camping stove. I don’t use the Jetboil for much else other than boiling water for various hot beverages — it’s really small. In a pinch, I’ve used it to make a single serving of ramen noodles, and if you want to backpack, you could use the Jetboil to add hot water to dehydrated food packets.
I guard my precious liquid gold by pouring it into my YETI Rambler Hotshot Bottle, which does not spill (as long as I remember to lock the top) and retains the heat, so I can sip my coffee in sweet, sweet peace overlooking a valley or river.
I also love the Stanley Legendary Camp Mug, which I bought for my husband because I love the classic aesthetic, and he drinks his coffee in approximately two giant gulps, so he doesn’t need an insulated tumbler.
After I’ve savored my coffee, it’s time to make oatmeal. Who cares how? Not me. Instant oatmeal packet goes into a bowl with hot water. Stir, eat. Bonus points if you put fruit or nuts on top.
12 P.M.: One-Pot Chili For An Easy, Hot Meal
I don’t believe in making a fuss over camp food for more than one meal per day. The point of being outside is to have fun and relax, not to stress myself out trying to do the most. That means that lunch is a one-pot affair.
I love to bring a can of chili, a bag of pre-made dal or a box of mac and cheese. My classic Coleman Gas Camping Stove — which has two burners and, crucially, a wind guard that works — is fantastic. Coleman stoves are classic for a reason: They work, and they’re budget-friendly. (Don’t forget to bring extra fuel.)
The pots I use to cook in are MSR pots I’ve owned for almost 15 years at this point and are still going strong. The MSR Ceramic Two-Pot Set is an updated version of my vintage pair.
If you’re bringing along items that need to be kept chilled (butter and milk for mac and cheese perhaps, or let’s say, an adult beverage), you’ll need a cooler. I use a value version of the YETI Roadie 24 Cooler I picked up at Costco. If you have the cash, I’ve never been disappointed in a YETI product.
5 P.M.: Hearty Beef Stew for Hungry Hikers
Camping with family and friends is all about making memories, and in my opinion, nothing says campfire food like cooking with a cast-iron Dutch oven. I use the Overmont Camp Dutch Oven. I also bring my Stansport Heavy-Duty Steel Cooking Tripod, so I can hang the Dutch oven over the fire (instead of placing it directly in the fire) to increase the types of recipes I can cook.
Making this beef stew takes a few hours, so this is a great recipe if you’re just hanging out, reading, playing games or playing cards around your campsite.
You’ll need a cutting board and knife set for the prep work, one reusable plastic bag for shaking the beef in flour, and stainless-steel stackable bowls and sporks for serving the stew. After dinner, you’ll want a roll of paper towels, a wash basin, Dr. Bronner’s soap, and a sponge for cleanup. Just be sure to prepare food and clean out pots and pans away from your campsite. Because…bears.
CAMPFIRE BEEF STEW
A modified version of the stew recipe in The Camp Dutch Oven Cookbook.
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 pounds beef chuck (cut into small cubes)
- 1/3 cup flour
- 2 cans of Ro-Tel
- 2 cups water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- As many small potatoes as you want
- 1 16-ounce bag frozen peas & carrots
- Heat the oil in the Dutch oven over hot coals. Toss the beef with the flour, salt and pepper. Shake off excess flour, then add beef to hot oil to brown for 5-8 minutes.
- Add Ro-Tel and water, bring to a boil. Remove some coals from beneath Dutch oven and (carefully) set the coals on the lid. Simmer, covered for 1 ½ hours, stirring intermittently. Add water if needed to prevent sticking or burning.
- Add potatoes and cook for 45 more minutes. Stir in peas and carrots last, cook for final 5 minutes before serving.
8 P.M.: S’mores & Hot Chocolate Around The Campfire
At heart, I’m a traditionalist when it comes to camping rituals. I never depart my home for a camping trip without my beloved s’mores caddy packed full of fresh graham crackers, Hershey’s chocolate and giant puffy marshmallows.
As a s’mores aficionado, I insist on using skewers, not sticks, because it increases my ability to achieve a perfectly golden outer crust on my marshmallow without too much char. Nothing brings me back to my memories of summer sleep-away camp quite like the taste of s’mores, and it’s one of my favorite rituals to share with visitors to the U.S.
If you’re going to go all out making s’mores, why not pair them with some hot chocolate? Grab a packet or two of good ole Swiss Miss, and mix it up in a Stanley Classic Trigger Action Travel Mug. I guarantee the hot cocoa will stay toasty as you pass it around the campfire in this thermos.
Shop Everything I Use For Cooking Outside
Enjoy making memories with your families outside this fall, and remember: When camping, keep it simple and be bear-aware.