Camping well and eating well simply go hand in hand. There’s just something about eating a great meal that’s been prepared outside as you enjoy being outside. Why not make a meal as epic as your surroundings? You don’t need to spend a lot of money on fancy outdoor gadgets, many of the same pots, and pans you use every day make the transition to camp cooking just fine. Bring whole foods, real plates and cups, and your “A Game,” … and maybe a few wash tubs.

While we’ve only been living out of our small travel trailer for 7 years, we have been cooking outdoors and teaching what we’ve learned for decades. In this article you’ll find some of our favorite equipment, some tricks and tips, and a few of our “go to” recipes that help us eat more sustainably and lower on the food chain, without scrimping a bit on flavor, protein, texture, or quality.


Camp Chef Hutch

We Never Go Camping Without...

Banks Fry-Bake: This is hands-down the best piece of backcountry / camp cooking gear we ever purchased and we’ve used the same one for 6.5 years, every single day, sometimes 2x per day. There’s nothing fancy about it, it’s just simply the best pan for the job. It fries like a skillet and bakes like a Dutch oven, but it’s lightweight so we take it backpacking too. We can make pizza, cornbread, brownies, eggs, sauté veggies, and more. We use it on our two-burner stove, our backcountry stove, and on a campfire. You can only buy this indispensable pan online at frybake.com.


Banks Fry-Bake

Dutch Oven: This is the ultimate campfire cooking tool, especially for large families or groups. It does a great job of evenly cooking large quantities of food over a fire. Heat with coals from below and on the lid as well. You can even stack multiple ovens into a vertical column of heat, for larger groups.


Dutch Oven

Grill Basket: This might be our favorite camping kitchen hack! An old steamer basket from a former pasta pot now serves as a steamer basket, colander, veggie grill basket, and salad spinner – 4 uses in one! If you are downsizing to a new life on the road, keep this basket and donate the huge pot.


Grill Basket

Stove-Top Waffle Iron: We love waffles, but an electric waffle iron just doesn’t fit into our tiny mobile life. With this product, homemade waffles are back on the menu for breakfast, dinner or even dessert!


Stove Top Waffle Iron

Lessons We’ve Learned Along the Way

If you’re looking for a throw it in a pan, set a timer and walk away method, this isn’t it. Cooking outside requires attention, albeit, the hang-out around a fire with a cold beverage in hand kind of attention. Here are some tips that help us up our cooking game:

Keep it small. Cooking with fire typically only requires a small one that will burn down 30 minutes to an hour or so before you begin cooking. Develop a good coal bed and you’ll be able to do anything from bake to roast, fry or simmer.

Keep it nearby. Having everything you need at hand is as important outside as it is inside. Spatulas, pot grips, hot mitts, tongs to move coals, all your ingredients, and an extra pile of firewood are all things you want to have at the ready when you need them.

Keep it turning. Whether cooking on a one or two-burner stove, or an open campfire, uneven heat can lead to hotspots and scorching. An easy solution is to rotate the pan or Dutch oven every so often to even out the heat.

Keep it level. When using fire or a backcountry one-burner stove, we’ve often needed to prop up one side of the pan with a rock to keep things level. Find a rock that is the same height as the stove and you can easily rotate the pan to get a nice even heat.

Keep it in check. Cooking outside requires and engages all of our senses. You have to get a feel for this. How does it smell, how hot do things feel, is it making the right sounds, what does it look like? Frequent check-ins will keep you from turning your prized meal into a brick of charcoal. Just trust yourself, if the bottom smells like it’s starting to burn, remove it from the heat and keep the fire going on the lid. This is how we frequently “finish” our cakes or cornbread so that the bottom won’t burn while the top continues to cook.

Keep practicing. Nobody ever did something cool without a little practice. Start with one of our easier recipes, like backcountry pizza, and get a feel for cooking with fire. Once you’ve mastered this one, move on to something else. We get good at what we practice.

Favorite Recipes

Leave tasteless, pasty, instant oatmeal and just add water meals on the shelf...forever. These vegetarian camping recipes are tasty and packed with plenty of whole foods, protein, antioxidants, and fiber -- perfect for an active lifestyle. Some are quick and easy, while others challenge the true camp chef who wants to delight and entertain their group. Many can be altered slightly to be vegan and dairy or gluten-free.

Breakfast

Loaded Overnight Oats (GF, V, DF)

Killer Egg Sandwich (can be DF)

Protein Packed Pancakes (GF, can be DF)

Breakfast Tacos & Quesadillas (can be V)

Loaded Root Vegetable Hash (GF, can be DF)

Dinners

Backcountry Pizza (can be V & DF)

Ridiculously Easy Chili (V, GF, DF) & Campfire Cornbread (GF)

Veggie Lasagna

Loaded Portobello Mushrooms (GF, can be V & DF)

Desserts

German Chocolate Cake (cake is V, frosting is Veg)

Amish Belgian Waffles with Fruit & Whipped Cream (can be DF)

Key to Abbreviations: V = Vegan, GF = Gluten-Free, DF = Dairy-Free

Shari and Hutch
Author: Shari and Hutch
In 2012, David Hutchison “Hutch” and Shari Galiardi left behind careers and a comfortable home in North Carolina to travel with the vintage camper trailer they lovingly restored, outfitted with solar, and named “Hamlet.” What they thought would be a year or two adventure around the continent transformed into a new lifestyle. 6.5 years later, with no end in sight, they share stories and insights from their mid-life adventure to large industry travel shows, intimate college campuses, open tiny houses in REI parking lots and a growing online audience. Traveling over 100,000 miles to 49 states, countless National Parks and other public lands, the couple pursues what it means to live the good life on their own terms and sustain it. The writing and photography duo currently pen the popular “Full-Time Campers” column in The Dyrt’s online magazine and contribute to Renogy’s solar blog as well as other publications.

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