Campfire Cooking: Delicious Eating in the Great Outdoors

Sleeping under the stars, hiking underneath a canopy of trees, and cooking over an open flame. If those activities tug at your heartstrings, then perhaps you should plan a summer camping trip. Of course, travelling, whether it's on a road trip or into the wilderness, requires food that lives up to the scenery. For maximum enjoyment, a modicum of advance planning is necessary to enjoy a satisfying meal around the campfire. Check out our guide to food and equipment for a camping trip to remember.

The Food

Basic ingredients like hot dogs, corn, and potatoes are time-honored campfire foods. These ingredients can be easily cooked over an open fire with very little equipment. Try grilling the corn over an open flame, toasting the hot dog on a stick, or wrapping the potatoes in foil and cooking them among the coals. Each preparation will result in the distinctive flavor that fire gives food, which alone is reason enough to haul your backpacking gear out of storage.

For a non-traditional flavor profile, pack vegetables like bell peppers and eggplants, which will benefit from charred skin. For breakfast, rustic egg dishes are not only a delicious way to begin your morning, they supply the energy you need for a full day's hiking or swimming. For an extra protein-packed vegetarian meal, pack the time-honored camping staple of baked beans.

Bring a loaf of nutty, whole-grain bread for morning toast, midday lunches, and afternoon snacks. You might decide to camp out forever when you taste a slice of bread grilled over an open flame. It's a taste no toaster oven could replicate. Pack peanut butter and jam for a nostalgic throwback that supplies ample energy for hiking. On the savory side, a hard cheese such as Cheddar or Manchego will travel well and give extra flavor to sandwiches, eggs and more.

Only a few condiments are worth bringing: salt, pepper, cooking oil and extra-virgin olive oil. Pack the oils in lightweight plastic squeezebottles. Cover the lids with plastic wrap for transportation and pack inside a plastic bag for maximum security.

A camping trip would not be classic without oozing s'mores sandwiches, however, for a more healthful meal-ending alternative, try grilling peaches or another summer fruit.

Snacks are a must-pack for camping. Bring your favorite granola bars, trail mix, and dried fruit. Although it's important to pack as light as possible, you might be surprised at how hungry you are after hiking and setting up the camp, so pack extra snacks!

The Gear

You can get fancy with campfire gear, but you probably own many of the basics already. In addition to a lighter to get the fire started, pack tinfoil for cooking, a cast-iron skillet, tongs, and a simple over the fire grate for grilling. Don't forget to include some heavy-duty kitchen towels and an oven mitt so that you can handle the pan and tongs.

Very important tools include a can opener and a pocketknife. Often forgotten, these two tools are essential to getting from hungry to satisfied.

Light melamine or tin bowls will be the best for your back. Pack one bowl for each camper, and if possible, a spork (a spoon crossed with a fork). You don't need much more than this to eat well while camping.

What are your favorite camping foods or must-use tools? Let us know in the comments.

Photo: Loimere on flickr