If you think eating while camping out consists largely of little bags of trail mix and strips of biltong, I've got news for you: Camp-site cooking possibilities are as vast and varied as the adventures you can have in the great outdoors.
Allow me to introduce you to Marnie Hanel and Jen Stevenson. Sure, the food writers have recipes for trail mix and biltong in their book The Campout Cookbook, but the fact that the trail mix calls for pepitas and dried gooseberries, among other ingredients - and that the biltong is bulgogi beef - might tell you something about their approach to cooking in the great outdoors. (The book's dedication: "For survivalists with standards".)
The truth is, you can eat just as well in a camp-ground as you can at home - or better, if you think nature makes everything taste better.
Here are some top tips from the two outdoor enthusiasts (their first cookbook collaboration was all about picnics) to make your next camping trip as delicious as it is fun.
Eat well. Go simple or fancy - it's up to you. Here are ideas for each type of meal.
"Breakfast should be hearty; very, very hearty," Hanel says. That means a lot of bacon. "This is your time to indulge. It's a party in the woods." The aforementioned pancakes are a no-brainer. And as long as you've got those eggs you packed so carefully, "you can make anything", according to Stevenson.
Pull out the pan and make a frittata or a hash. Fried eggs with bacon or sausage are a crowd-pleaser, too. If you're a baker, have dough for cinnamon rolls you've brought from home and can cook in a Dutch oven. Dutch babies - big, puffy pancakes - work great in cast-iron skillets.
Hanel and Stevenson don't typically plan on being at the camp-ground for lunch. That usually means they're toting a plowman's lunch with nuts, cheese, fruit and bread. Even if you are at your site, try to keep things quick and simple, so consider putting out sandwich fixings. For a sandwich upgrade, bring along a pie iron - kind of like a camp-fire panini press - to make "pudgie pies".
If you have a group, think about meals that people can customise. Stevenson is a fan of pizza cooked in a cast-iron skillet. Another classic possibility is the foil-packet dinner, so everyone can put together their own mix of vegetables and meat or other proteins. Rather than throwing ingredients in haphazardly, put ingredients that need a longer cook time (meat, potatoes, carrots) on the bottom, with more delicate, quicker-cooking ones (herbs, cheese) on top. (You can always flip the packet over, at least briefly, to get a hit of direct heat on the top.)
Use heavy-duty foil or a double layer of regular, and include a bit of moisture (wine, coconut milk, even water) so the ingredients steam. Just don't get a steam burn when opening them! If you're especially well-stocked or ambitious, you can cook a lot of different meals - roast chicken, chilli, lasagne - in your Dutch oven.
Pouring over the "s'moregasbord" in The Campout Cookbook almost made me want to run out into the woods pronto, what with combinations such as Milanos + Andes mints + sprinkles, and stroopwafels + blackberry jam + smoked honey.
And while s'mores will always have a gooey marshmallow place in my heart, I have an especially soft spot for the banana boats of my summer-camp youth. Make a slit in a banana, stuff it with your choice of toppings, wrap in foil and bake/roast until heated through and melty.
Sure, you want the basics (coffee, juice, milk and so on). But "don't forget the bar", Hanel says. Cocktails in flasks or thermoses you can pass around the campfire are convivial.