There's a lot to love about camping. For some, it's reconnecting with the outdoors. For others, it's the taste of freshly melted marshmallow around the campfire. Whatever your flavour, here's our guide to keep your cooking easy, simple and satisfying.
Find your heat source
For the traditional experience, it's hard to go past a campfire. But it’s how you start the fire (and keep it going), that counts. A water resistant flint stick is ideal for all weather conditions, ensuring you can not only cook, but keep warm when camping through the cooler months.
When you can't light a fire
Rain, total firebans, or limited access to firepits/BBQs in designated areas means a campfire might be out of your reach.
To avoid cereal and sandwiches every day, come prepared with a gas cooker.
Lightweight, and no fuss, a gas cooker can be relied upon to fry your eggs and boil the morning coffee. If you've got the room, this is also an excellent back-up plan even if you are planning on a campfire.
Heat on the go
If you're camping and hiking, there are now super lightweight, portable gas cookers that will fit in your pack. They're easy to use and just as reliable as your usual gas cooker, so you can easily tuck into those rehydrated meals on the go.
Tip: If you're cooking with a flame during total firebans in your area, ensure your appliance is approved by a local authority, you're in a picnic area and have a reliable extinguisher (water/sand) nearby. If you're not sure, don't start one.
Prepare a meal plan
Spend a little time online and research recipes you know you can easily prepare for the duration of your trip. A lot of your home recipes might not translate on a campfire, and you'll have limited access to heat if you're using gas. If you're not sure where to start, Pinterest is an absolute goldmine for camping recipes.
Once you're ready, create your shopping list, and print out the recipes. Pop these into plastic sleeves for protection against the elements. You can also save these in your phone if you're confident on reception and you've got access to a reliable powerbank.
- If you're using a gas cooker with one burner, one pot recipes are your friend. Think stir-frys, basic curries, and bacon and eggs.
- Plan your recipes based on use and shelf-life. Try to incorporate an ingredient more than once (cook extra sweet potatoes at night, use the leftovers in a fry up in the morning), and plan to eat your most perishable items first.
- Don't rely on complicated recipes every night, especially if you're not familiar with the variety of cooking heat. If you're new to camp cooking, experiment with the easy, fun stuff first: smores, foil packet recipes and anything on a stick.
- That said, it's always an idea to have some dry goods as a back up. Pasta, bottled sauce, and maybe some packets of noodles...just in case.
Choose the right camping cookware
If there's quite a few of you and you've got enough room for the full kit and caboodle, it's a good idea to include a fry pan and a solid Dutch oven.
The oven should preferably be cast iron and definitely preseasoned to allow for easy release. Look out for styles with easy-pour spouts, as this can be helpful with stews, soups and sauces.
If you’re spending hours away from the campsite and are looking for a quick meal, an oven will quickly reheat anything you’ve prepared ahead of time; consider making a simple chilli con carne and keeping it in a cooler until you’re ready.
However, if there's just a few of you, you might want to consider a lightweight camp cook set instead. Look for something non-stick and easy to clean, and your meal-times will become far less of a hassle.
Lightweight, foldable cook sets are a must if you're overnight hiking. After a long day on your feet, a hot, rehydrated meal goes down well.
Cook in the daylight
With sunrise and sunset dictated by timing and location, try and avoid darkness come dinnertime. It can be tricky trying to cook in the dark, especially if you've got any small children with you.
To help you dodge potential mishaps, make the most of the ample daylight and do your prep earlier in the day. If that’s not a possibility, a compact and wearable head torch won’t impede on your cooking prowess but will allow you to see what you’re working with.
Minimise your footprint
In the interest of leaving no trace, remember that what you waste is just as important as what you consume. Keep your trash separated too. You should have a bag for general rubbish, a bag for recycling and a bag for fruit and vegetable waste that can go into your compost bin when you return home.
Avoid overusing plastic bags and cling wrap by keeping leftovers in reusable containers.