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Chowhounder suggestions for meals while Camping?

Hey Folks,

So I'm planning a 5-6 day trip into the woods and I'd love to hear some ideas for food. I've already read a previous thread (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6559...) and got a few ideas there, but since I'll mostly be carrying everything on my back, my trip comes with a few caveats:

- No heavy cast iron (dutch ovens or skillets are out), only a couple of lightweight aluminum pots and a small grill grate. I'll have little other cooking gear / utensils and only a wood fire for heat
- Minimal on-site prep. Pre-made/seasoned dishes are definitely a bonus.
- Nothing very temperature sensitive - I may be able to keep a few things cold for a couple days, but probably can't do things like fish, chicken, milk, etc.
- Nothing very fragile/squashable - bananas, tomatoes, eggs, most types of bread, etc. won't work

On trips like this in the past, I've usually done grilled sausages or pre-marinated kabobs for the first couple of days (super easy and require no utensils or clean up). Then I have to move to cans, PBJs, or rehydrated stuff for the remainder. Do my fellow 'hounders have any campfire classics that might fit the bill? I'd love to hear suggestions for breakfasts. lunch and dinners!

Thanks from Oregon!

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  1. My introduction to serious backpacking with a couple of Oregon college kids included:
    - Mtn House freeze dried meals
    - instant oatmeal
    - hot jello
    - pop tarts
    - peanut butter in reusable squeeze tubes
    - salami
    - pilot bread

    seasoned instant mashed potatoes (various flavors) are convenient and not too bad.
    quick grits
    90 sec. rice pouches. Better than instant, but heavier. Use less fuel than regular rice
    couscous is another quick starch

    tuna and salmon in foil pouches. Even spam comes in single slice pouches.
    boil in a bag Indian and Thai meals - try a few at home to see if you like them. Some are spicy hot.
    If you want milk, hispanic groceries carry whole dried milk, Nestle Nido brand.
    If there's a Trader Joes near you, they have a good selection of nuts and dried fruits, chocolate (covered espresso beans), instant foods, even squeeze tube apple sauce. :)
    Durable breads include bagels, flour tortillas, pilot bread, pita bread and naan.

    2 Replies
    1. re: paulj

      Trader Joe's also has a foil pack of roast beef hash that is OK. Foil pouches are they way to go, much better that freeze dried, although heavier which might be an issue for back packing.

      1. re: cajundave

        +1 to the roast beef hash from TJs, although getting it to brown in a lightweight skillet might be a challenge.

    2. The Uncle Ben's Bistro Express meals can be prepared in a skillet (as opposed to a microwave), and they actually don't taste bad (although a little high in salt). You could easily amp up the protein by bringing along some dried sausage, and throwing that in with the meal. They weigh about 8 oz. each, so six dinners would be 3 lbs.

      Breakfast is tricky; you could bring pancake mix that only needs water, but I've never found one that's very good, and syrup is heavy and sticky! At Scout camp, we soaked beans over night, and then fried them with onions and salt pork the next morning. We had a "seasoning pack", which I think was basically chili powder and salt, but I'm sure you could figure out one on your own.

      I know bread would be a problem, but I've found that heavy European style ryes don't go stale for quite some time, and they're substantial enough that they won't get squished, especially if you have some tupperware or similar container.

      And grabbing a few extra condiment packets your next time at the drive-through might spice things up without adding lots of extra weight..

      1. There's a "foods to take to burning man" thread that was here about a week ago, but the parameters are similar. Check it out.

        1. Tuna helper with the foil pack tuna, works great for supper when folks are real hungry and just want to eat, light and compact. if it calls for milk, bring powdered milk.

          1. My favorite...
            some beef jerkey rehydrated in a pot of simmering beans. Great protein, very filling and easy.

            1. I have a GREAT backpacking cookbook that has been around since the seventies if you want the name of it. Perfect for backpacking as opposed to park and camp.

              Take any box of couscous with you, and prepare as you would in your lightweight aluminum pan. add a fifteen ounce can of crushed tomatoes and small can of sliced black olives and a small shaker of parmesan to sprinkle on top. Fabulous! I don't know if you have little kids coming along or not, but that's a very adult friendly dish. A can of drained garbonzos ups the protein. And what the heck, if you want, buy a small box of wine, and before you go, carefully remove the hard carboard box. You end up with a small, lightweight bladder of wine which goes well with this dish.

              Here's another one that is more kid friendly, but I LOVE It anyway for adults. Ridiculously simple. Heat one can of plain spaghetti O's, add to that one can of DRAINED black beans and sprinkle a little grated cheese on top if you have it Sounds gross but it's so good.

              1. I forgot to add. To the first dish, DRAIN the sliced black olives. Enjoy!

                1. For breakfasts, here's what I did this summer backpacking. At HOME, take some white flour tortillas and spread them with a layer of good peanut butter, then a thin layer of Nutella hazelnut spread, sprinkle with dried coconut and sunflower seeds, then roll up tightly and then tightly roll these up individually in plastic wrap and store in a zip lock baggie. No need to keep cold and VERY yummy!

                  You can alter these with adding chia seeds, raisins, etc. Very healthy, too.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: natewrites

                    The mention of Nutella reminds me that Cost Plus World Markets sells this in little single service packets. They carry a variety of items (many inports) in small, shelf stable packages that convenient for travel and camping.

                    1. Lots of good info, and lots of links to other posts...

                      I second, from thirty years experience, the instant mashed taters, instant grits (or oatmeal packs), powdered milk, home made gorp (but I'd leave out melty chocolates). Also good and light are hot cocoa packets or real cocoa, sugar and powdered milk in a ziploc, instant coffee--a must-have, instant gatorade or other types of instant drinks, tea bags. EmergenC packets are awesome.

                      You can't really go without, especially if you plan to cook in/on your wood fire, aluminium foil, spray olive oil in a can--for use with fish or taters in foil. Baking small potatoes in the coals of a mellowed out fire is a great way to prepare something fresh that doesn't require refrigeration. They do need to be treated as usual meaning poke lots of fork holes in them first!

                      Freeze dried food gets kind of old, especially when so much of it is very high in sodium but try to remember that you'll be sweating a ton and the sodium will actually be needed. Plus, those packets are not only light but essential in case you have a day of poor fishing.

                      Don't skimp on utensils. Bringing real metal utensils makes a big difference especially when you go to stir something in the pot and realize you only brought plastic ware to avoid added weight. Yes, I did that once. Worth mentioning.

                      Little containers of real milk or soy milk in those individual serving sized tetra packs can be nice to have along even though they add weight. Set a weight limit and then after your pack is ready, if you have extra room weight-wise, add a couple of those and you'll be glad you did. I never went over 45 pounds and was very small (90 lbs) most of my backpacking years and was still able to carry 45. You'll probably be able to pack much lighter nowadays!

                      We often brought fresh corn on the cob but it does need to stay cool-ish and to be kept from animals. We kept ours in a thick rubbermaid and the critters still found their way in. Could be nice on the first night though...with a little of that butter flavoured olive oil spray, wrap it in the foil and put it on your grill. Corn does not take long to cook and can easily be burned.

                      Dehydrated everything! If you don't have a dehydrator, natural markets carry those little containers of "just tomatoes" and "just berries" and so on. They weigh nothing and are super flavorful. They are pricey in my opinion but yummy.

                      Apples are another popular treat for the critters but are so tasty and don't require refrigeration. Love apples when camping...I would bring a whole 5lb bag if you are able to hang up your food out of reach bear-bag style.

                      Don't forget the essentials such as the aluminium pot handle, an oven mitt (that you don't care about) for retrieving potatoes from the coals, a tiny or regular can opener, sugar, salt, pepper, that non-stick olive oil or cooking spray, a spatula, gorp or granola with nuts. I got kind of carried away but it was fun to be reminded of the old back packing days...

                      Have fun!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                        Speaking of tetrapacks, CostPlus sells Spanish gazpacho this way (390g).

                      2. Thanks guys - got some more good ideas here. I was already planning on foil wrapped baked potatoes going straight into the coals and this time I might try "pre-seasoning" by cutting open and dropping in butter, chives, etc. before leaving. That way I wont have to carry the ingredients separately and the flavors will meld while cooking. Fajitas were another good idea in the same style of doing kebabs - premarinating in a ziplock and bring along some flour tortillas which will keep well and not get squashed. (no utensils and minimal cleanup as well!)

                        I'm probably not going to be doing anything more complicated than that, but I might try out this "fondue" type recipe that I found in one of your suggested threads as a treat one of the first days in...