Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Campsite Cooking (For Those Who Hate to Cook…)

Our family climbs a lot.  And when we climb, we usually camp.  And also eat…a LOT.   In fact, one of my favorite parts of a climbing weekend is sitting around a fire at the end of the day with my family and friends – bellies full of food and hearts full of laughter as we retell highlights from the day’s antics.  But this post is not about hallmark-card sentiments, it’s about food!  So let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the matter…(sorry I couldn’t resist ;))

First of all, let me preface by saying that by no means would I consider myself a good cook.  That’s not to say I DON’T cook – during the week we almost always eat daily home-cooked meals as a family.  But my “recipes” (if you can even call them that), are elementary at best.  In other words, no frills – chicken, fish, pasta, rice, and steamed veggies make up the bulk of our ingredients.  That being said, our family’s style of campsite cooking is no different. With Cuisinevault it’s not difficult.

A simple dinner with friends at Obed River, Tennessee

A simple dinner with friends at Obed River, Tennessee

 I know a lot of families who load their car with all the latest and greatest camp kitchen supplies, and divide their entire refrigerator contents amongst their 12 coolers of varying sizes.  Each weekend always features a different menu, and it’s always something extravagant that I would be hard-pressed to make in the comforts of my own kitchen, let alone in the Great Outdoors.  Not us.  Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not opposed to a gourmet campfire meal.  If someone wants to make me a hearty beef stew with loads of fresh veggies, I will for sure be part of the clean-plate-club.  But left to our own devices, that’s just not gonna happen.  For us, the main focus of our weekend (and therefore contents of our trunk) is climbing-related…after a long day up on the rocks, we want something fast, filling, and requiring minimal effort to fix.    

The following are all tasty options that require very little prep time with very few ingredients.  They also require minimal refrigeration (some none at all!)  

Rustling up some pesto pasta after a day of climbing in the Linville Gorge, NC.

Rustling up some pesto pasta after a day of climbing in the Linville Gorge, NC.

Supplies: campstove, pot
Ingredients: jar of pesto, box of pasta, pre-cooked chicken 
Directions:  Boil water and cook pasta.  Drain water and mix in chicken and pesto until everything is warmed up.  For a completely fridge free option, use canned chicken.  You can also switch out marinara or alfredo sauce for pesto if you prefer.

Supplies: small cooler, campstove and pot if you want your beans/meat heated or cheese melted (we’re usually too hungry to care…)
Ingredients: tortillas, beans, cheese, sour cream, salsa, guacamole (Wholly Guacamole is pretty darn good for pre-made), 
Directions:  This is a great potluck option if you are camping with a group of people, as individual ingredients can easily be “assigned” for people to bring.

Supplies: aluminum foil, open fire, oven mitts, openfire grill top (optional), cooler (depending on ingredients)
Ingredients: Meat, potatoes, veggies, olive oil
Directions:  This one is probably the most time-consuming, but is still a pretty simple option, and it’s probably the healthiest.  Chop everything up, dab on a little oil, and wrap your goodies up in the foil.  Set it in or on the fire.  They will be HOT when they come out, so be careful!    Cook time varies depending on what’s inside, but the sky’s the limit with the variations you could choose!  Peppers, onions and other summer veggies are always a great addition.  If you’re still hungry and in the mood for something sweet afterwards (after all you’ve still got that fire going, right?), cut up some apples and wrap them up in the same way, sprinkling liberally with brown sugar, cinnamon, honey, or even peanut butter!  Campfire rings made from stones are PERFECT for this. Best ever sweet dessert.

MAC N CHEESE (originally found on this site)
Supplies: open fire, disposable pie plates, aluminum foil, tongs, small cooler for dairy
Ingredients: pre-cooked pasta, cheese, milk
Directions: Divy out the pasta into individual pie plates.  Add a splash of milk and cheese to taste, then cover it up with foil, doubling over the folds on top to make a sturdy “handle.”  Cook until the cheese is melted, then stir and enjoy!  You can always add your pre-cooked meat of choice if you’re the type of person that needs meat for dinner.

Men-folk munching on appetizers while the hobos do their thing in the fire.

Men-folk munching on appetizers while the hobos do their thing in the fire.

NO COOK DINNER DIP (originally found on this site)
Supplies: small cooler
Ingredients: Ready-to-eat steamed lentils (you can find them at Trader Joe’s), can of bruschetta topping, feta cheese, tortilla chips
Directions:  This makes for a great appetizer for those of you who get impatient waiting for water to boil.  Just mix everything together and find a chip to dip!  Serve over boil-in-a-bag rice for a hearty meal (meat-lovers can also add accordingly)

These meals will probably not win any awards for presentation.  In fact, some of them look downright ghetto (especially if you use canned chicken…).  But I can guarantee that what they lack in the looks department will be made up for in taste and efficiency.  And after all, a yummy meal shared with those you love IS the happy, hallmark-card ending you were looking for, right?  

If you’re new to the camping scene and looking for basic supplies, lots of great deals can be found on, a free to register website that has daily “Flash Sales” on a wide variety outdoor equipment.  We are big fans of Light My Fire Camping Gear  in our household, and you can find a host of that brand and more on The Clymb.  For all of you camping veterans out there, what are some of your favorite dinner basics?  Remember, nothing fancy!  🙂




13 Responses to “Campsite Cooking (For Those Who Hate to Cook…)”

  1. Sarah

    All my camping is done in furtherance of climbing (aka, I’m never EVER backcountry camping or making hikes in someplace). So keeping that in mind, I love a cast iron skillet. You can just plop that bad boy on hot coals, throw whatever inside, and clean up is just water (while it’s still hot) and wipe out with a paper towel. That’s not really food– put it opens up cooking options. You can even do something like fry bacon in the pan, then use a pancake mix, mixed in a plastic cup.
    All that aside, I hate camp cooking after climbing. I’m usually starved and rushing and undercook everything.


  2. Joy

    This is not a dinner dish but a really easy, no fuss breakfast idea. Whenever I am out climbing/camping, you will rarely catch me without a couple of mason jars in the supplies. In the morning, I feel them 1/3 of the way up with rolled oats, a big scoop of peanut butter, a nice drizzle of honey and then top with boiling water. Give it a good stir then let sit for 3-4 min. Afterwards, enjoy some yummy hearty oatmeal 🙂


  3. Yay! That dip is awesome. Love the idea of putting it on rice.


  4. We love to backpack and when we do, we do oatmeal packets for breakfast. But when we car camp with the kids, it’s full on breakfast…blueberry pancakes from scratch, bacon or sausages, OJ. Tastes so good at the campsite. Here’s my recipe (from my book) for camp cakes.


  5. Erica

    Sarah – Yup, I hear you on the undercooking temptation!

    Joy – I’ve seen you work your oatmeal magic before. Definitely a great on-the-go option 🙂

    Michele – If you wanted to be super fast, you could pre-cook the rice (or buy the pre-cooked wild rice at Trader Joe’s!).

    Mad Dog Mom – Sounds amazing! The recipe seems easy and sounds perfect for a laidback weekend of car camping! I like how a lot of it can be pre-mixed beforehand. For a climbing trip however, I can picture my crew balking at the amount of cooler space that meal would need for just one breakfast though! 🙂


  6. Love the dinner dip! So trying that. Maybe even this weekend at City of Rocks! We do the pesto pasta a lot. Especially backpacking. But we also add a jar of sundried tomatoes, bacon bits, and olive to make it feel more gourmet. 😉


  7. Heather

    Nice post!
    Last year during our road trip we were running low on supplies and I randomly threw 3 ingredients in a pot: cous cous, garlic and herb tuna, and chick peas. Ever since then it has become a camping tradition. Last time we threw in some spinach as well. Yummy!


  8. Yolanda

    We have figured out a simple meal plan for our little family that has worked wonders: cook an amazing meal the night before (pasta primavera, spaghetti, chili, curry, etc), throw it in double zip-lock bags, then bring a big pot and heat up the leftovers! Easy, quick, and delicious! 🙂


  9. ManuelaE

    Oh such great memories in those pictures!!
    My favorite for dinner is definitely the Mexican Feast, something in there for everyone, whether vegetarian or meat eaters.
    One of our camping food staples is home made Bircher Muesli, we prepare it at home with shredded apples, rolled oats, flax seeds, raisins, and kefir, it holds up pretty well in the cooler for a weekend trip. Add any fresh fruit to it in the morning and it makes for a quick and healthy, mess-free breakfast.


  10. Paula

    When we were into the car camping thing after a long day of climbing, we were never patient enough to wait for something hot. We always packed boiled eggs, ate cold burritos, and appetizer type foods. For the morning, yogurt, cereal, nuts and fruit. The only heated item the water for the French press! Haven’t camped with the little one yet, but suspect our mode won’t change drastically.


  11. Daniel Fineberg

    I don’t read your blog but I do stumble onto your site every so often. I think you two are just too cool and do an amazing job with your family.


    • Erica

      Thanks for the kind words, Daniel, and thanks for dropping by!

  12. “Camping, climbing, and eating, sounds like the perfect combo! 🏞️🧗‍♂️🍔 I love the simplicity of your campsite meals – quick, tasty, and low maintenance. Hobos with veggies over the campfire are a personal favorite. Thanks for the ideas! 👍🔥”


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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN