It’s hard to overstate the amount of satisfaction that comes from cooking and eating in the wilderness—as long as you’re cooking good food. Chowing down on a hearty meal at your campsite can be wonderfully fulfilling, but scrounging around for snacks and eating cold food from cans in the woods can feel woefully pathetic. Unless you’re really into post-apocalyptic LARPing, you probably want to go with that first option.
Fortunately, we’re here to show you some delicious—and simple—meals you can cook at practically any campsite. Keep reading, and try not to let your mouth water all over your merino wool base layers.
We thought we’d start with some hearty breakfast suggestions (after all, it’s the most important meal of the day). Pancakes might seem a little elaborate, but trust us—these are dead-easy to make, and you only need a few simple pieces of equipment.
Best of all, camping gives you an excuse to eat high-calorie foods for breakfast since you’ll be burning more energy than usual to stay warm. If you’ve been waiting for an excuse to eat pancakes for breakfast, this is definitely it.
Look, we get it—not everyone likes pancakes (okay, actually we don’t get it, but we still want to provide alternatives). This french toast jam-packed full of strawberries (see what we did there?) and mascarpone is an excellent choice for those of you with other early-morning cravings, and you’ll even manage to get a serving of fruit!
This dish can be prepped in minutes and usually takes under half an hour to cook. Best of all, you can do the whole thing with just a camp stove and a skillet—along with the ingredients, of course.
It wouldn’t be right not to provide a savoury breakfast suggestion, so try these hearty taquitos filled with eggs, cheese, and sausage links. You’ll get a good mix of carbs, healthy fats, and protein for an energy boost that can carry you right through the morning.
Let’s talk about beer—as a marinade for this filling and flavourful chicken dish, that is! Chicken is an excellent source of protein that can give campers energy to spare, and this recipe helps spice it up to keep lunch or dinner exciting.
You can’t get away with just any beer for this recipe, though, so keep your Kokanee in the cooler and bring along a bottle of something dark and rich like Negra Modelo. You’ll also need a dutch oven to pull this one off (although you might be able to use a cast-iron skillet as a substitute).
Plenty of vegetarians and vegans like camping, too, so we made sure to include a few ideas on making vegetables sizzle (literally) for your outdoor meals. Check out this recipe for crispy and delicious veggies grilled with oil, sriracha, and red pepper flakes in a cast-iron skillet.
One of the best things about grilling vegetables is that you can pick and choose your spices. Not a huge fan of paprika? Try switching it with garlic powder for an entirely different flavour profile—or go crazy and use both!
Okay, this one’s ridiculously easy—but it’s also ridiculously delicious, so you’re welcome. Best of all, you can make it using almost anything that won’t melt over a campfire: a cast-iron pan, a baking sheet, a pizza stone, etc.
The ingredients for this recipe are simple too. All you need is some frozen pizza dough, tomato sauce, cheese, oil, and whatever veggies or meat you want to use for toppings. We’ve put this one on the list because it’s a great way to feed picky kids if you happen to be on a family camping trip where they aren’t thrilled about eating more adventurous fare.
While we admit that french fries aren’t the healthiest snacks in the world, we also can’t stress enough that how you prepare them matters. In fact, it’s not even really fair to call these “fries” since you’ll bebaking them in foil packets on top of the campfire instead of deep-frying them.
These potato wedges (there, happy?) can be made in minutes, and they taste even better when drizzled with sour cream or covered in bacon bits. Plus, they go amazingly well with the last item on our list, which is…
Chili is practically a campfire staple, with its origins in the cowboy culture of the American Southwest. However, while most people don’t want to simply eat pre-made chili from a can, they probably don’t have the time to prepare dry beans, either. This recipe saves some time by letting you use canned beans—but gives you control over the flavour with easily-customizable spices and veggies.
With a mere 35-minute timeline for the entire meal, this is a terrific way for hungry adventurers to warm up quickly in chilly (chili?) weather. Put it together with the cheesy garlic fries in foil listed above, and you’ll have the perfect camper’s comfort food.
Make Cooking Your Favourite Campfire Activity
With these recipes in your back pocket (or backpack), cooking while camping can be fast and fulfilling. Who knows—you might even start making a few of these dishes at home after trying them out in the wilderness! We wouldn’t blame you… after all, do you really need to head out to the middle of nowhere to justify eating garlic fries? In any case, we hope you’ll love making this food as much as we did! Bon appetit!
Spring camping offers incredible experiences—the fresh scent of new flowers blooming, more baby animals to admire (at a safe distance), and way fewer insects to worry about than your typical summer trip. However, spring camping isn’t always guaranteed to be a walk in the park, so you’ll still need to pack and prepare for your trip responsibly.
Below, we’ll cover the environmental conditions you should expect to face when camping in the spring and how to be ready for them. We’ll also include details about the best gear to take on a spring camping trip (and a few tips for setting up your campsite). Read on—adventure awaits!
Spring Camping Weather: What Should You Expect?
It’s tempting to pack for warm conditions when planning a spring camping excursion—after all, spring is when the snow starts melting, right? While that may be true in a general sense, it’s vital to remember that inclement weather still occurs in spring and pack accordingly.
Furthermore, spring is the least predictable season in Canada when it comes to weather, offering much more variety than the others. Our winters are typically harsh, our summers tend to be short and relatively hot, and even autumn is easier to prepare for since people tend to anticipate the gradual onset of cold conditions once summer ends.
What you don’t want to do is anticipate summer conditions while packing for a spring camping trip—or you can easily find yourself at the mercy of unexpected wind, rain, snow, and hail. All it takes is one look at Trip Advisor to find horror stories of underprepared spring campers who were forced to find motels when things got too cold and wet for their light clothing and thin sleeping bags.
Hot (But Not Too Hot) Weather Tips for Spring Campers
The days might be getting warmer, but the nights can still get cold. Stay cozy by packing warm layers and a suitable sleeping bag (more on this later).
Many mountain lakes will likely still be frozen until late April, so don’t plan on canoeing. However, you also shouldn’t plan on walking across the ice because it will be in the process of thawing and more likely to break.
While we’re on the subject, let’s talk about what to take if you want to make the most of your spring camping experience. The following is a list of items we consider essential for staying safe and comfortable throughout the season:
A 3-season sleeping bag is designed to keep the average person warm in temperatures ranging from -15°C to -1°C. Don’t just look for this rating, though—you’ll want to consider other factors as well, including the bag’s fit, features, and insulation type.
Also, make sure to check the forecast for the area where you’ll be camping ahead of time so you can tell whether a 3-season sleeping bag will actually offer enough warmth. Certain regions can drop below -15°C even in the springtime, and it’s best to use a bag rated for a few degrees colder than the conditions in which you plan to sleep. If you’re camping in elevated or remote northern regions, you’ll probably want something warmer.
Tents have similar ratings to sleeping bags. A 3-season tent will likely be adequate for spring camping in most regions, but it never hurts to take a 4-season tent just in case. For best results, take the 4-season tent as a backup (you should have a backup tent anyway, just in case the one you’re using becomes damaged during your trip).
Appropriate layers are a must for springtime campers since the weather can be so mercurial. Pack moisture-wicking base layers with long sleeves and pant legs, an insulated hoodie or jacket for your mid-layer, and an outer shell that provides high resistance to both wind and rain. If you’re going somewhere colder, put an insulation layer made of down or synthetic material between the mid-layer and the shell as well.
Springtime Campsite Setup Tips
Finally, here are a few key considerations for setting up your campsite during a springtime trip to the woods or mountains:
Bring a pad to go between your sleeping bag and the tent floor. The ground is still thawing during springtime, so it will be colder and harder than it would be during the summer.
Take along a tarp to shield your tent from rain and provide a covered space for activities such as cooking. It can be hard enough to start a fire outdoors without rain falling on top of it.
Consider bringing a portable propane or electric range as a backup cooking solution.
Be extra careful when disposing of leftover food and garbage. Baby animals are more likely to be out and about in spring than any other season—and while they can be adorable, you probably don’t want them (or their parents) digging through your campsite for scraps while you sleep.
Master Your Next Spring Camping Trip
Spring can be fantastic for camping—as long as you prepare accordingly. Use what you’ve learned above to pack the right gear, plan for appropriate activities, and optimize your campsite so that you can enjoy all that nature has to offer on your camping trip this season.
When you think about making food on a camping trip, you probably imagine cooking over a roaring fire. While the image of good friends eating hearty food around a firepit is iconic, there are also other ways to cook in the great outdoors — and it pays to know them, in case you can’t build a fire on your next adventure.
For your convenience, we’ve assembled a list of the best ways to cook while camping. This guide will tell you when to use each of these methods and give you helpful advice on how to master them.
Campfires: the Tried & True Method
Campfires are the most popular way to cook in the wilderness, and they’re one of humanity’s oldest methods of meal prep — short of just tearing raw meat off the bone like an animal. We’re guessing you don’t want salmonella, though, so let’s assume that’s not an option.
It’s also important to realize that there are numerous ways to cook with a campfire. You’re not limited to just skewering things and roasting them on the open flames! Moreover, cooking directly over fire can burn your food or cook it unevenly, making some meals unsafe.
Here are a few of our favourite ways to make use of the firepit at your next campground:
Bring cast-iron cookware: cast iron is denser than other common metals used in kitchenware. As a result, cast iron pots and pans are better at retaining heat and more likely to distribute it evenly.
Use a grill grate: these metal grids can be placed on top of a firepit and used for several purposes. It’s usually possible to cook meat by placing it directly on top since the metal will conduct heat and cook the food more evenly than an open flame. Grates can also support cookware — allowing you to do things like boil water without holding the pot yourself. They are typically made from stainless steel or cast-iron and have an enamel coating.
Wrap with aluminum foil: wrapping protein and veggies with foil allows you to place them directly in the coals, resulting in evenly cooked food that you can eat right out of the package. There’s no short supply of recipes that use this method, and foil can be used to line cookware as well.
When Can’t You Use a Campfire to Cook?
There are a few different situations where using a campfire for cooking just isn’t possible. Be aware of them so you can have a few backup plans ready.
Most areas don’t allow campfires under certain environmental conditions. Restrictions tend to be most common during dry and windy conditions when forest fire risk is highest. Before setting off on your adventure, it’s always smart to check the list of fire bans for the province where you’ll be camping.
Even when fires are allowed, sometimes it’s impossible to start one. Rain may extinguish a flame before it can spread from the kindling to the tinder. Damp wood may not even light with fire all around it, so starting a fire in clear conditions can still be difficult if it has rained recently.
The Fire Won’t Grow
Cooking over a bonfire is much easier than cooking over a weak flame. It’s like the difference between a kitchen element set to “high” and one set to “minimum”. If your campfire keeps going out or isn’t getting large enough to cook efficiently, it’s best to explore alternatives — that is, unless you feel like waiting an hour to boil water.
Other Ways to Prepare Meals While Camping
If you can’t use a campfire for cooking, try using some of these methods instead:
Portable Stoves & Grills
Travel-friendly kitchen appliances make it easy to cook without an open flame — just make sure you have enough fuel or a power source nearby. Most portable grills and ranges are either electric or gas-powered, so you may want to pack spare cylinders or a small generator if you plan on using them.
Pre-Cook & Pack Food Before Leaving
Some meals taste better cold, especially if you go camping in warm weather. Try cooking rice or quinoa at home before leaving for your trip, and use it as the base for a filling and nutritious salad.
Eat No-Cook Foods
Some foods don’t need to be cooked at all! Sandwiches, cereal, cold cuts, and canned food are all easy to bring on a camping trip and can be enjoyed with practically no preparation beforehand. However, make sure you store them in a cooler so that their scent won’t attract wild animals.
Many Ways to Cook While Camping
Your campsite may not have all the conveniences of a modern kitchen, but it still offers plenty of ways for you to cook creatively. Campfires are much more versatile than most people think — and when you can’t build one, smart packing and a portable stove will ensure that you have other options.
Those who truly love camping love it year-round. Weathering the winter winds can be just as rewarding as sleeping under the summer stars. Of course, the keyword there is “weathering” — so if you’re going camping in the cold, make sure you pack the proper equipment!
The following items will help you stay prepared for the elements on your next winter camping adventure. Read on to discover what you’ll need, and how it will keep you and your party protected.
Camping in the winter will be colder than going during other seasons — but that’s not all that makes it different. In addition to planning for extreme temperatures, you’ll also need gear built for environmental conditions such as ice and snow. Winter campers in backcountry regions will also need protection from howling winds, freezing rain, and avalanches — you know, all the fun stuff!
Finally, make sure you carefully study the area you plan to camp in before leaving home. That’s common sense for campers at any time of year, but in winter, it’s especially crucial since emergency help will likely be harder to reach and will take longer to arrive if you need it.
The Winter Camping Gear You Can’t Go Without
This gear can be useful on any camping trip — in fact, we don’t even recommend that you go camping in the summer without it. However, winter camping trips usually require specific versions of the items listed below, or additional knowledge on using them. Read carefully, so that you’ll know the difference between a sleeping bag that will save your life and one that will just turn you into a frozen burrito for bears.
Layers are the law when it comes to camping — but in winter, you’ll need to choose them extra carefully. Just throwing a sweater and some wool socks over generic long underwear won’t necessarily be enough to stop a chill from seeping in through the fabric. We recommend the following three-layered approach:
An inner layer of thermal underwear made from moisture-wicking merino wool or synthetics
A mid-layer made from either flannel or fleece
A top layer that offers strong protection against wind and moisture (such as a ski jacket with a GORE-TEX membrane)
As a general rule of thumb, winter campers should avoid clothing made from cotton. Cotton fabrics can absorb as much as 27 times their weight in water, and don’t hold body heat nearly as well as synthetic or merino wool products.
As we’ve mentioned in other posts, high-calorie food is your friend when you go camping in the wintertime. The more energy you consume, the more heat your body can produce while burning it, making fat- and protein-rich foods ideal. Stock up on bacon, pre-cook a pot of chilli, and pack a few frozen beef burritos — you’ll need to eat roughly double your regular daily caloric intake to keep your energy up. Yum!
What, did you think you could just melt snow to make water? Well, you can — but only if you have a way to purify that water before you drink it. Bringing water purification tablets and a portable stove will allow you to top up your supply if you’re camping in a snowy region. That said, it’s still a good idea to fill your canteens and hot water bottles before embarking.
Pay special attention to your tent and sleeping bag while packing for a winter campout. It’s vital to take a tent that is rated appropriately for the conditions you expect to face.
We strongly recommend taking a 4-season tent, as they are made from stiff materials and generally designed to be more compact. These qualities make them sturdier in high winds, less likely to collapse under snowfall, and better at insulating heat.
Mummy bags are generally better for cold-weather camping than standard rectangular sleeping bags. The extra room in a rectangular bag may seem more comfortable at first, but your body will have to produce more heat to warm the excess air between you and the bag as you sleep. Mummy bags are much more snug, meaning you’ll lose less heat at night.
Finally, make sure to carry an emergency shelter on your person to use if you get separated from your campsite and can’t find your way back. Tarps and spare blankets can serve this purpose in the spring or summer, but it’s a safer bet to carry a bivy sack in winter.
You always need a way to start a fire when you’re camping, but winter campers can’t always rely on finding firewood at their campsite. Snowy tinder will most likely be too wet to burn, so you’ll need to bring your supply or pack an artificial heat source. Portable stoves will also help you melt snow into water, as mentioned above.
There’s no such thing as a knife just for winter, but you’ll want any utility knife you bring on a winter camping trip to satisfy a few criteria. Firstly, you might want to bring a knife with a brightly-coloured handle so that it won’t get lost if you drop it in the snow. Secondly, consider bringing a knife with a padded grip so that you’ll be able to use it comfortably in the cold.
Winter first-aid kits should come with a few items not found amongst typical medical supplies. Most of these are for preventing hypothermia by raising a person’s body temperature. You’ll want:
A mylar blanket
An instruction manual for dealing with hypothermia and frostbite
Finally, make sure you take along a safety whistle and a pack of flares. You’ll need them if you become separated from your party or need to be found by a search and rescue team.
Don’t count on electronic navigation tools when you’re camping in sub-zero temperatures. Battery-powered devices are notoriously unpredictable in the cold, so take a map and compass along — and make sure you know how to read both of them. Pace counting beads can also help you determine how far away you are from your campsite if a blizzard obscures your tracks or covers up landmarks.
Flashlights are great for lighting your way in the dark, but they’re not as good for helping you work in dim conditions — since you need an entire hand just to hold them. Lanterns are a great alternative when you can rest them on solid ground, but they’re more likely to sink or tip over when you put them in snow.
Headlamps provide reliable and controllable illumination while leaving your hands free. Just remember to take an external battery pack if you’re camping in the cold since these devices can be just as susceptible to battery problems as an electronic GPS.
We know — now that summer’s over, you’ve already stowed away the sunscreen. Well, you’d better dig it out of the closet and pack it into your winter camping supplies, because the sun still shines in the wintertime.
What’s more, snow and ice can reflect up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays into your eyes and skin from unexpected angles, causing damage and obscuring your vision during potentially dangerous activities. Besides sunscreen, always bring a pair of polarized sunglasses on a retainer leash, plus a sun-hat and SPF-rated lip balm.
With Winter Camping Gear, Details Make the Difference
While you might enjoy camping in any season, not all of your gear will serve you year-round. Learning how to augment your regular loadout will ensure that you stay protected from bad weather and ready for action — even in the harshest environments.
When you get cold at home, the solution is normally pretty easy. Just crank up the thermostat, run a warm bath, or throw on one of your many cozy sweaters! But what are you supposed to do when you’re on a camping trip far away from luxuries like central heating, hot water, and a full wardrobe — run laps around the tent? Look, we support exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle, but trust us: there are better ways.
Chilling in the woods shouldn’t mean feeling chilly in the woods. Below, we’ve compiled some of the best tips and tools for keeping warm when you go camping.
Before we dive into the list, it’s important to note that not all of these strategies involve creating warmth. Your body does a fair amount of that all by itself — the problems start when this thermal energy is needlessly lost. Some of our suggestions involve making heat with specific tools, but many of them are about helping you trap the heat you naturally produce and keep it in the spaces where it will be most useful to you during cold weather.
It can help to think about insulating yourself in much the same way you would insulate your house. The materials in question may be different, but the end goal is the same: prevent the heat from escaping into the outside air where it can disperse and leave you cold.
And Now: The Top 12 Ways to Keep Warm On Your Next Camping Trip
Without any further ado, here’s our list! Most of these can be accomplished with minimal financial strain, so incorporate as many as you can on your next journey and bask in the feeling of a job well done.
Layer Up Early
If you’re waiting until it gets cold before putting on extra layers, you’re doing it wrong. Layering up keeps heat close to your body, but there’s not much it can do if that heat is already gone. As soon as you notice the weather starting to cool down in the evening, it’s best to throw on a sweater or jacket.
Pack Long Undies
Outerwear will only get you so far without underwear. The layers on the bottom are just as important as those on top, so consider long-johns or leggings made from merino wool or high-quality synthetics. They might look a little goofy, but who cares? They go under the rest of your clothes!
We’re going to level with you — we love blankets. Think of them like an extra layer, only more versatile; in addition to covering your body, they can be used to help insulate a tent or provide warmth for a small group of people.
Use the Right Size Tent
We tend to think bigger is better when we’re picking out tents — but that’s not always the case, especially when it comes to staying warm. The extra space inside a giant tent can indeed feel luxurious but remember: that’s also more air in which thermal energy can disperse. A tent with less room will keep any heat in the space more concentrated.
Consider a Tent Carpet
While we’re on the subject of tents, a fitted tent carpet can prevent you from losing heat through your tent’s floor. Don’t feel like buying one? No problem — just bring a throw rug or two from home and put them on top of the groundsheet. You can also spread out styrofoam mats beneath your sleeping bag for a bit of extra insulation (not to mention comfort).
Choose the Right Sleeping Bag
Speaking of sleeping bags, make sure you pack a good one. In general, you’ll want a sleeping bag that fits snugly and can zip up all the way to cover your head (also known as a mummy bag). A cheap sleeping bag or a thin one made only for summer camping will breathe too much, whereas a loose sleeping bag will let too much heat escape from the spaces between your body and the material from which it’s made.
Add a Sleeping Bag Liner
If you only have a summer sleeping bag available, you can improve its heat-retention capabilities by adding a liner to the interior. Silk liners are soft and good at trapping heat, but they can also be fragile. We recommend fleece if you toss and turn a great deal in your sleep.
Sleep with a Hot Water Bottle
Hot water already warms many of our homes, so why shouldn’t you use it to stay warm during a camping trip? As long as you have a hot water bottle that won’t leak and a way to heat water, this is a fantastic way to keep a sleeping bag cozy at night. We recommend warming the water up with a saucepan and portable stove, but you can even use the campfire!
Buy Disposable Heat Packs
Air-activated disposable heat packs are available from many grocery and home improvement stores. Leading brands last for hours and can raise temperatures between 38 and 55 degrees celsius when appropriately used. Many disposable heat packs are meant to be slipped inside gloves while working outside in cold weather, but variations exist for boots and socks.
Sleep Near Other People
You’ve all seen penguins huddle for warmth in nature documentaries, so this suggestion should come as no surprise. Heat naturally flows from hotter objects to cooler ones, so you’ll keep each other warm if you sleep in groups.
Be Active Before Bedtime
A little exercise before tucking in for the night will raise your body temperature, allowing more heat to be captured by your sleeping bag and clothing — as well as any other people who happen to be sleeping near you. Just… try not to sweat too much.
Eat Well & Sleep Full
They don’t call it “burning calories” for nothing, you know. When we eat, our body converts food into energy — and some of that energy gets released as heat while we sleep. The harder our body has to work to metabolize food, the more heat is produced, so fats, carbs, and sugar are your friends here. Who doesn’t need an excuse to eat chocolate before bedtime?
Stay Warm by Staying Smart
You don’t need to break the bank on fancy gear to stay comfortable in a cool campground. We make most of the heat we need all by ourselves — it’s just a matter of ensuring that heat stays close and having easy access to a few external sources. It’s worth investing in a few essential items, but simple household objects can do a lot of the work for you if you know how to use them. Keep this guide as close to you as your favourite pair of long-johns so that you can make sure your next outdoor excursion leaves you with that warm and fuzzy feeling.