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Camping Hacks 2: Outdoor Dining



The key to a successful family camping trip is getting your meals organized in advance. Even if you only have a campfire or camp stove to work with, there’s no reason your family can’t eat like kings! First you need to find out what type of cooking setup you’ll have access to. Most of these dining hacks can be executed on the barbecue, camp stove, or over the campfire.

One thing to keep in mind is that food may take longer to cook over a campfire, so factor that in when planning out your menu. After you’ve picked out your main meals, compile whatever ingredients you can (although keep meat separate from everything else). Chop up a veggie mix in advance that can be added to breakfast, lunch, or dinner and store it together in a sealed plastic bag. Mix up the spices for your planned meals at home, and put them in plastic baggies or empty spice shakers before you leave. A general Mexican spice goes great with campfire chili, fajitas, or even breakfast foods like egg and veggie scramble. Mix together equal parts chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and oregano for a flavorful addition to your meals! Get creative with your dinnerware to cut down on clutter. Empty chip bags or Ziploc baggies can both serve as bowls to eat from.

One of the biggest challenges when planning your camping meals is keeping food cold in advance. A great way to plan for this is to eat the food that needs to be kept cold first. Plan a meat-based dinner for the first night and then try to use canned or dry goods for the next day. Try to think outside the box when it comes to refrigerated foods. You need to have protein at some point, but rather than worrying about keeping meat at the required cool temperature, pack a few different types of canned beans. They can be added to chili as a substitute for ground beef. Also, most almond and soy milks don’t need to be refrigerated before opening so consider bringing those instead of dairy milk. If you buy them in one-liter packages and open one at a time, your family should be able to go through most of it in one sitting without wasting too much.

Outdoor Dining

Click here for the infographic

If for some reason your campfire meal doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would, keep in mind that campfire desserts have long been able to carry the meal the triumph. Try toasting “extreme s’mores” by adding snack-size chocolate bars to the mix. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, York Peppermint Patties, and Mars bars are delicious when sandwiched between marshmallow and graham crackers. Or, bring along a pie iron to make pudgie pies over the fire. The only dessert that’s easier to prepare than a s’more – the pudgie pie is basically a grilled cheese sandwich with fruit pie filling rather than cheese. Place buttered bread (butter side out) with pie filling in the middle, over the fire and toast for four of five minutes, until golden. Sprinkle with sugar and serve. For a healthier alternative, make dessert kebabs by alternating fruit, berries, and marshmallows on the skewer.

After checking out these dining hacks, you may never eat a campfire hotdog again. It’s easy to get pigeonholed into eating the same foods while camping, but once you start getting creative with campfire meals you’ll realize that the sky is the limit in terms of what you can make in a single pot over the fire. For more campfire dining hacks, read Amy Whitley’s guide to camping hacks for families.

Want to know more? Check out these related articles:

How to Tie the Best Knots for Camping and Survival

Is Cast Iron the Ultimate Camp Cookware?

Simply Delicious Camping Snack Ideas

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  1. Laurel

    December 29, 2014 at 10:09 AM

    Used to do dessert similarly at 4-H camp. Banana chunks + chocolate chips, or Apple chunks + caramel cubes. Not sure of the timing, but it was much shorter than the main dishes listed here. We were taught to use heavy foil, but the hack using two layers of regular allows you to use the inner liner as the “bowl.”

    • Sarah

      December 29, 2014 at 5:31 PM

      I was taught to peel the banana almost to the end, but leave it on the banana. Then slit the inside of the banana and add the chocolate, etc. Then wrap in foil. They cook inside the banana peel.

    • David Seitz

      January 3, 2015 at 9:40 AM

      and mini marshmallows

  2. Bruce Hartog

    December 30, 2014 at 5:43 AM

    Having a large cast iron pot and lid is very handy for multiple cooking. The lid can be the steak chef and cook the steak of depending on what you are cooking the steak can be cut into squares and added to what ever you are cooking in the kettle. No matter what you are trying to do just make sure you have kosher salt, black pepper and a few other greens to add more flavor to the food as it’s being cooked! The lid can be used for biscuits while the items in the pot! It’s very good eats!


  3. Jean

    January 3, 2015 at 9:11 AM

    Aluminum foil/pans are the major cause of Alzheimer’s. One should be careful not to overuse.


    January 3, 2015 at 7:24 PM

    Need to cancel membership. In signing up for the credit card knives I was given an opportunity to get the pocket knife free, shipping & handling $9.95. Fine print said $19.95/month membership fees.
    Clicked the red X and it said congratulations… only asking for more money… Please cancel.

  5. Greg

    January 4, 2015 at 10:21 AM

    You have a couple of d ones we have not tried. One uwe loved is cooking a frozen 12 lbs garbage can turkey that kept the cooler cold for 3 days. Use a 20 gallon ashcan as an oven. Layout foil on ground near fire drive a metal stake in ground to mount turkey. Place can over thawed,buttered turkey. Move coals on top of can and around the bottom. Place some charcoal on top and alaround bottom. Will cook for 2 hrs no tending needed. Brush off ash from top and lift can carefuly over turkey,Enjoy!

    • Linda

      January 5, 2015 at 2:44 PM

      Love this – will try it. Thanks!

  6. Dave

    January 18, 2015 at 9:17 AM

    Just a little information on dietary fiber, that may effect ones food choices while camping.

  7. Pingback: 25 Badass Camping Hacks For Your Next Trip | Survival Life

  8. john mc

    June 20, 2018 at 5:46 AM

    what is your true definition of HACK, where did that name come from and what word did it replace? what do you mean HACK.?

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