Camping and cooking

December 4, 2012

One of the highlights for me when camping is being really innovative with cooking. Having such tight restrictions, such as ingredients and cooking methods, allows for a greater sense of freedom and creativity. After a day out of doors everyone is pretty hungry and ready to devour whatever you have managed to put together, not as much fussy whinging as at home, and everyone is ready and willing to pitch in to get the job done. Satisfying on so many levels.

Our camping trailer – home for 2013

Camp cooking can be quite daunting at first. I have read lots of websites that recommend instant foods, packet mixes and dehydrated things. Great for bush walking backpackers who are trying to minimise their load. However for family style car camping I am going to be really radical and suggest cooking (almost) from scratch as the only way to go. You’ll need to be prepared, you’ll need the right equipment and some basic pantry staples and you’ll need a basic but good camp kitchen set up too.

Camp cooking over coals

For our year away next year, we will be innovating and adjusting as we go quite a bit. But for starters we will have our fabulous camp kitchen, handmade from wood by a small Australian company. ‘Drifta‘ kitchens are really lovely to use, easy to put up, and have a great amount of storage. We have used ours for the past couple of years on our occasional weekend and month long trips, however next year this will be our home away from home.

Our camp kitchen — made by Drifta – kids setting it up

If you do a lot of weekend or overnight camping (or longer) you should consider having a camping kitchen box — sometimes called a grub box, or a chuck box [build your own].

In your chuck box you should include:

  • - Reusable camping plates and cutlery and cups (melamine is good)
  • - Cutting board and good quality knives (keep in a chef’s knife roll)
  • - Lighter/matches (fire lighters), cast iron pot or old saucepans that stack inside each other to save space
  • - Frying pan, big pot for rice/pasta, strainer, billy for making tea and a big mixing bowl that doubles as a salad bowl
  • - Essential kitchen utensils (such as can opener, wooden spoon, soup ladle, spatula, tongs, etc)
  • - Clean up and organising things — ziploc bags, dishwasher detergent and kitchen gloves and wipes, rubbish bags and paper towels
  • - Camp (gas) stove, camping fridge or eski (cooler), torches and lanterns too
  • - Hand towels, dish cloths, first aid kit, foil and reusable plastic containers are essential
  • - To go in your camp fridge or cooler — butter, milk, cheese, eggs, meat, veg and fruit — all your perishables and fresh produce

We also love cooking over a fire, and have a couple of cast iron pots, a tripod, a handmade trivet, and a good water kettle.

Basic pantry staples (depends upon what you like to cook of course)

  • - Dried and ground herbs and spices (ground cardamon, cumin, cinnamon, chili, parsley, oregano etc)
  • - Condiments (oil and vinegar, salt and pepper, stock cubes)
  • - Tinned basics (tomatoes, tuna, white beans)
  • - Dried pack basics (lentils, brown rice, dried milk, dried fruits, dried peas, dried mushrooms, oats, nuts and flour)
  • - Other essentials include: Long life milk, tea and coffee and cocoa, peanut butter and cereal, flatbread keeps awhile too
  • - Baking soda and plain vinegar are also essential basics that have a multitude of uses – from cleaning, to cooking to hair care!
Rob relaxing at the campsite

Sometimes it is handy to have some quick meals ready to go, or quick and healthy snacks too. Buying lunch and snacks can really add up and ‘eats’ into your camping holiday food budget.

Prepare snacks in advance:

  • - Trail mix and snack bars
  • - Cookies and granola
  • - Keep a couple of tins of tuna and some dried fruits and nuts handy

Prepare meals in advance: (especially handy if you are going to be driving a long day and won’t get to your campsite until late:

  • - Foil meals — place carrots, and other vegies such as capsicum and zucchini, in a double layer of foil, add some spots of butter and salt and pepper and fold the foil over into a package. Keep in your cooler in a plastic reusable container, ready to pop on the fire or under the grill. You can use this method for chicken wings or burritos too!
  • - Use ziplock bags — you can marinate meats and chicken in a ziploc bag (stored in your cooler), prepare vegetables for salad or stir fry and store in a ziploc bag for later use.
  • - Dinner on a stick — use bbq skewers to prepare all sort of meat and vegetable combos — store in a ziplock or reusable plastic container, with the marinade poured over (simple soy and hone or dried spices and oil is simple and delicious).

Our favourite camp dishes to prepare:

  • - Everything sausage soup (Begin with a couple of tasty sausages, salami, or bacon is fine too. Fry these while chopping onions, carrots, potatoes and cabbage. Add onions to the pot and fry for a bit, add the remaining vegetables and a knob of butter, put lid on and let the veg sweat it out for a 5 minutes. Stir and then add spices, herbs, stock, water, tinned beans and/or dried peas and let simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegies are cooked through). This dish is great to cook on your gas cooker, but also works really well on the fireplace too.
  • - Roast chicken and roast vegetables in a cast iron pot on hot coals. And we also love a dutch oven pot roast — yum yum!

Roast vegetables ready to go on the coals

Camping dishes we want to try


I am collecting camping recipes — do you have any I can try?

2013: We are heading on our way around Australia :: 12 month family sabbatical to reconnect as a family and slow down our life :: A camper trailer :: 4 people :: A book to write [with Roost Books]:: Homeschooling :: Adventures, projects and treasure hunting … Yippee! I’ll be using Instagram [view: followgram or webstagram] and this blog (with updates on the newsletter) to document our trip as we go — follow our adventure!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Dawn Suzette December 6, 2012 at 11:08 am

What a thorough post. I will be coming back to this one before our next camping trip!
This fall we made “Bear Caves” in the coals of our campfire and they turned out great.
You basically cut a large onion in half and set aside the outer layers, chop the insides and add them to ground beef spiced with salt/pepper and other spices of your choice. Then you make huge meatballs and pack them in the outer layers of onion, making an onion/beef ball. Wrap this with foil and cook in the coals.
We used the leftovers for quick meatball soup the next day.
Thanks for all your great ideas.

Abbington December 13, 2012 at 9:39 am

If your family are yoghurt-eaters, then you might like to experiment with some UHT or powdered milk based yoghurt recipes – .
Looking forward to hearing about the travels.

kath_red December 28, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Oh what a great idea. Thankyou

Cate December 14, 2012 at 5:21 am

Having a kitchen on the back of our camp trailer makes all the difference to our weekends away! And I much prefer cooking foods from scratch (although I do like pre-cooking and freezing casseroles in winter for quick reheating)

kath_red December 28, 2012 at 9:58 pm

I love our camp kitchen too!

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