Camping food hacks to keep your meal time fun time
Food hacks for camping are a crucial part of packing and preparing for your next adventure. Not only do they lighten your load for those 1000m portages, but being organized and one step ahead means you can actually spend more time enjoying the great outdoors, instead of scrambling around trying to do meal prep without a solid surface in sight.
If you’re already a seasoned camper, then you know that any good camping trip starts off at home. What you pack in your bags to bring with you can make or break the trip. If you’re a coffee drinker, that’s especially important to note- glass jars aren’t the best option and I know at least one person who suffered through a week in Temagami with six kids and no coffee in sight after a jar broke on day one.
A few items every good camper should have for cooking are a cast iron pan, a pot to boil water, aluminum foil, and of course, the necessary elements to make a fire.
If you’re sticking to one campsite and have the access to a cooler, then you’ll have an easy time keeping food cold. Keep the cooler colder for a few days with more than just ice. Frozen water bottles (bonus points if they’re reusable) juice boxes, Ziploc bags filled with frozen soups or stews all work well for keeping your perishables from perishing. If you’re not into carting a cooler around then have a dedicated storage compartment of your food sack for cold food items, preferably a dry sac.
From breakfast to dessert, here’s my favourite food hacks to keep your meal time fun time.
We all know the old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and this holds definite truth considering how many calories you burn hiking/canoeing/portaging. If you’re into omelettes, then pack them to go in a handy Ziploc bags. Crack the eggs, peppers, onions and then add the cheese and anything else that floats your bag (er boat). Toss in a pot of boiling water and you got yourself a protein rich breakfast. Eggs also keep fresh without refrigeration- try coating them in Vaseline- it’ll lock the air out of the eggs shell and keep the egg fresh for weeks (some say months). Carbs are an important part of a complete breakfast, and pancakes are easy if you portion them out ahead of time. Pack a pancake mix that just uses water in a Ziploc bag, then mix as you go, and even get crafty squeezing shapes out into your cast iron pan.
If the frozen soups are starting to melt, then now is the best time to use those up. Other great lunch options are cans of tuna, beans and wieners, but you can elevate lunch to new heights by baking some simple bannock bread. Portion out all the ingredients at home and use powdered milk instead if you didn’t bring fresh. Bannock can be turned into something sweet or savoury, so toss in some raisins or eat it on its own with some cured meats or a hearty stew for a simple but satisfying meal.
If you’re handy with a rod and managed to catch your dinner, then your cast iron pan will come in handy again. After you filet your fish, you could pan sear it au natural, but if your snack supply includes the Canadian classic Hickory Sticks, then you have the best bang for your buck right there. Smash the sticks and coat your fish for a distinctly smoky flavour. If you’re more of a meat and potatoes camper, then tote a marinated flank steak up with you. Flank steak is amazing and versatile, either with a chimichurri or even just olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and Dijon mustard. Keep it fresh in a Ziploc bag and fry it up in the cast iron pan with baked potatoes for a nourishing camp fire meal. Forget foraging for mushrooms (too risky), pack ultra-light dehydrated mushroom blends and add water to rehydrate. Toss in the cast iron for a perfect complement to the steak.
Sure, everyone loves s’mores, but why not take your marshmallow sandwich to new heights with flavoured marshmallows which are popping up in lots of gourmet grocery stores. If you can dream it, it’s a marshmallow, with flavours like cotton candy (pictured) or Bailey’s, the possibilities are endless. While you’re at it, ditch the graham cracker cookies for something even tastier, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are sturdy enough to contain the gooeyness, and the chocolate chips mean one less thing to pack. If you’re keen on baking, then bring up a few oranges, remove the flesh and use the vessel as a baking dish. I’ve brought up Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, placed them inside the orange halves and baked with tin foil on top over the fire with great results. Don’t forget the icing sugar!
By Libby Roach
Libby was born and raised in Ontario growing up with an avid outdoorsmen for a father who also kept a dark room for photography in their basement. Leveraging these two sports together, Libby is an avid camper, photographer and writer living and loving life in Toronto.