Trail Tips: Camp Cooking for Your Next Off-Road Trip

Aug. 08, 2013 By Tom Severin
Campfire grills are a great way to cook food simply and easily while camping. Photo: Lion

Sitting around a campfire enjoying a finely prepared meal with friends is one of the most pleasurable aspects of four-wheeling. A hearty meal tastes so good after a long day on the trail.

Two previous columns, Cook Anywhere, Anytime With A Campbox and Tickle The Tastebuds With A Dutch Oven, discuss particular aspects of off-road cooking. Weíll talk in more general terms here.

Cooking for an entire group is fun, but itís also a fair amount of work. Rotate the cooking duties among the various families participating in your ride. Each family (or person) can showcase a favorite meal, thereby putting a distinctive flavor on the trip.

Each party can bring what is necessary to cook the particular meal. But plan for contingencies. If, for example, one family has to leave camp early, perhaps they can transfer their food to other vehicles. Also, each family should bring extra food in case they get separated from the group.

Spreading out the cooking gear among vehicles will help making packing for long trips more manageable. Itís also not a bad idea to double up on gear in the event something doesnít work or if someone in the group separates from the pack.

Consider spreading some of the cooking gear among the vehicles. Some redundancy is good Ė take along two stoves, for example, even if you plan to use only one. But itís not necessary to duplicate every item. As the length and remoteness of the trip increases, the issue of limited space and weight makes a planned group distribution of gear more appealing.

Half the fun of a trip is in the planning and that includes the assignment of meals and distribution of gear. However, itís also important that each family learn to be self-sufficient. Itís a good skill to develop, and for the more demanding trips, itís a necessity.

A dutch oven can be a great cooking companion for camping.

Some other items to consider:
Itís difficult to cook multiple dishes outdoors and make sure the food stays piping hot. Look for one-pot recipe ideas. A dutch oven or pressure cooker will keep your food nice and hot as it is served.

While shopping for items that require refrigeration after opening, look for smaller packages or jars and buy several of each. You may be able to consume an entire package or jar during one meal. If not, the smaller item will fit easier in the cooler.

Spread the extra condiments among the vehicles. If something happens to one vehicle, you will still have supplies for the group.

Avoid glass jars and bottles. Thereís too great a risk of breakage while traveling on rough roads. (Plus, glass beverage bottles are prohibited on many public lands.) Look for products the come in plastic containers or squeeze bottles.

Consider ingredients that donít require refrigeration (at least until opened). These include evaporated milk, Velveeta cheese, and others. It may require some ingenuity in substituting ingredients in the recipe, but that can be fun, too!

See if you can eliminate extra preparation equipment like bowls, pans, and such. For example, can you mix the cake batter in the same pan you are going to cook it in? Can the noodles be boiled in the same pan you are going to use to prepare the final dish?

Once driving is done for the day, itís great to have a beverage (adult drinks are fine once the driving is done!) and some snacks with trail companions after the ride. Itís great when everyone can bring an item or two to contribute for the group.

Re-package items at home to eliminate bulk and trash. Measure out and take only the amount of ingredients you need for the recipes. For example, the one cup of rice you need can be stored in a ZipLoc bag. Leave the box at home.

Another example: Measure three cups of Bisquick into a Ziploc bag, put one cup of sugar in another Ziploc bag with 1 and ½ teaspoons of cinnamon and put that Ziploc inside the Bisquick Ziploc bag along with a Ziploc bag containing 6 oz. of Crisco. Now you have all the dry ingredients for a peach cobbler in one package. You can reuse any of the Ziploc bags for trash after the meal.

For each item, we take along only whatís needed during the trip. No need to pack all the containers for each ingredient.

Preparing a ďhome-cookedĒ meal outdoors is fun and very satisfying. With each family contributing a recipe, your group can look forward to feasting on a variety of great meals.

Previous Trail Tip Stories
Checking the Weather Before Heading Off-Road

How to Replace U-Joints

What Causes Washboard Roads


Badlands Off-Road Adventure
Off-road trainer Tom Severin shares insight and tips on a variety of topics related to preparing you for that next off-road adventure. With over 40 years of off-road experience, Severin operates under his business Badlands Off-Road Adventures. He is a certified professional 4WD Trainer by the International 4-Wheel Drive Trainers Association and a Wilderness First Responder (WFR). He is a member of the California Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs (CA4WDC), United Four Wheel Drive Associations and the BlueRibbon Coalition. He also is a certified UFWDA and a CA4WDC 4WD instructor.

For more information about Badlands Off-Road Adventures, visit 4x4training.com.

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