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FoodThe Camping Meals—and Campgrounds—Our Community Loves

The Camping Meals—and Campgrounds—Our Community Loves

There’s a reason the s’more is synonymous with camping. Requiring just fire, sticks, and three store-bought ingredients, s’mores epitomize what campfire cooking is all about: making the most out of a limited amount of food and a dearth of cooking equipment. A staple of camping for nearly 100 years now—its lineage can be traced back to a 1927 Girl Scouts guidebook—they’re also a nostalgic symbol of all that is wonderful about sitting around a sparking campfire, smoke spiraling up to the stars. Can you even call it camping without making a s’more?

According to our community, that would be a hard no. When we polled you on our Hotline and on Instagram for your favorite camping meal, the s’more was your most common response. (Never mind that it’s actually a dessert.)

Hobo Pies, also called Pudgie Pies, came second. For those unfamiliar, they’re essentially campfire panini: You stuff buttered bread inside a pie iron with your filling of choice—cheese, ham and cheese, fruit, s’mores fixings—then toast it over the fire.

The third most popular response: hot dogs. Even Lee Kalpakis, whose new cookbook, Out There: A Camper Cookbook, is filled with recipes that show you how to “think outside the hot dog and s’more box”—still loves a hot dog while island camping in the middle of Lake George, New York. She just zhuzhes hers up a bit.

“We caravan our little kayaks and canoes to the island for the weekend so we have to pack super light. Hot dogs are a must for this group and adding just a little something extra makes it feel so special. These Fancy Hot Dogs from my cookbook are the perfect dinner for island camping because you can make the topping at home ahead of time and then just throw a container in your cooler along with your dogs and beers.”

Once these bases were covered, our Food52 community ventured into more interesting campfire cooking territory (Skillet Pizza! Chicken Souvlaki!). Many of you also divulged your favorite camping spots. Read on to see where your fellow Food52ers love to pitch a tent and what they eat at camp. (And share your favorite meals and campgrounds in the comments!)

Yurts at Royal Gorge Vacation Rentals in Cañon City, Colorado.

Photo by Royal Gorge Vacation Rentals

When we polled you on our Instagram for your favorite camping meal, 80 of you responded! A number of you named recipes that rely on foil, like foil-pack potatoes (thanks @jaybthirteen) and sausages and veggies in foil over the coals (@jessoll). A few said Korean BBQ (kalbi in particular, said @sandysungjeon). We followed up to find out your favorite campgrounds, and here are a few of the gorgeous spots you shared:

Clutjens (@clutjens)

  • Favorite Camp Meal: Shakshuka
  • Favorite Camping Spot: Desolation Wilderness or Emigrant Wilderness, both in California’s Sierra Nevada.
  • Sites Available in Summer 2024? Backcountry permits for backpackers available for both.

Meg Schmidt Duncan (@melauraschmidt)

  • Favorite Camp Meal: Lamb stew
  • Favorite Campground: Tettegouche Park on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota
  • Campsites Available in Summer 2024? Yes

Sabrina Seltzer (@Carbonatedwaterr)

  • Favorite Camp Meal: Chili and Quesadillas
  • Favorite Camping Spot: Long Island on Lake George, NY
  • Campsites Available in Summer 2024? Yes

Heidi Rider DePuy (@hr.depuy)

  • Favorite Camp Meal: Pudgie pies! That’s a meal isn’t it?
  • Favorite Campground: I love Yosemite. But so many of the national parks are fabulous. There are a lot of state parks that deserve recognition. I grew up camping at Point Beach State Forest in Two Rivers Wisconsin, so it holds so many wonderful memories.
  • Campsites (at either) Available in Summer 2024? No.

Christina Green (@idonthaveone)

  • Favorite Camp Meal: Nachos
  • Favorite Camping Spot: Royal Gorge Vacation Rentals, Cañon City, CO. Stayed on a river where they had Airstreams and yurts overlooking the Royal Gorge Canyon.
  • Campsites Available in Summer 2024? Yes

Jen Mahan (@_jennmahan)

  • Favorite Camp Meal: Fajitas
  • Favorite Camping Spot: It’s actually not a campground as I typically backpack. The Overmountain Shelter in Roan Highlands which is part of the Appalachian Trail.
  • Available in Summer 2024? No. (It’s indefinitely closed.)

Arnett (@arnett_foodie)

  • Favorite Camp Meal: Not a meal. But s’mores, love taking advantage of the fire.
  • Favorite Camping Spot: Leo Carrillo in California and Yosemite
  • Campsites Available in Summer 2024? No.

Creekside Paradise

Photo by Shawn G./ Hipcamp

David Tannaccio (@chefdavidt)

  • Favorite Camp Meal: Paella
  • Favorite Camping Spot: I love a place called Creekside Paradise. It’s 42 acres with only 3 tent sites and one lodging site. It’s between Boulder Nederland and Rocky Mountain National Park. Beautiful scenery. Nice hiking trails and very few people.
  • Campsites Available in Summer 2024? Yes

Our Hotline is a goldmine of recommendations for campfire cooking, from how to “veganize” campfire food to the easiest camping meals. These tips come from our most current thread. We didn’t get many campground recs, but received lots of cooking and cookbook tips.

HalfPint

  • Favorite Meal: Last time I went camping (we car-camped), it was a basic campground with toilets and showers. No kitchen though. So I packed a small portable gas stove (the ones that use butane canisters) and my cast-iron dutch oven, a moka pot, and a skillet. For food, I brought: a bag of ice, 2 quarts of frozen homemade gumbo, eggs, ground coffee, powder creamer, roasted vegetables, 2 sourdough loaves (frozen), bag of potatoes, bag of salad greens, 2 large containers of water, frozen butter, shredded cheese, instant ramen, and canned peaches + Bisquick for peach cobbler. Also basic seasonings, salt, pepper, sugar. Except for the water and potatoes, all food went into a large cooler. The gumbo was our favorite!
  • Favorite Campground: San Simeon Creek Campground at Hearst San Simeon State Park in Cambria, CA. It’s near Hearst Castle. The campsite is near the beach with hiking trails.
  • Spots Available Summer 2024? Yes, but very limited.

Miss_Karen

  • Favorite Meal: While I was Grub Master for the Boy Scouts, I showed them how to make Beef & Carrots from Once Upon a Chef (Jenn Segal). It’s so freaking good. I keep this recipe in my tent bag. It works well with a Dutch oven, camp stoves etc. The Scouts loved it. I do too.
  • Pro Tips: To make the stew at camp, Miss Karen measures out the wine, balsamic, and broth into containers. She offered a few more pointers (edited slightly for space): Sear the meat in advance. Raw meat has a short travel time, seared meat can be frozen and put into a cooler. Sauté the onions and garlic and Ziplock those with the oil from the pan (once everything has cooled to room temp). Peel and chop the carrots as well. Pre-peeled potatoes will oxidize—do those at the location. Herbs and flour can be combined into another bag. Once at the location, dump the meat, onions and garlic into your pot and proceed with the recipe.

Nancy

  • Favorite Meal: One of the first things I learned to make (and love) as a child, either from summer camp or Girl Scouts was a hamburger patty sandwiched between potato and carrot slices, wrapped in foil and cooked on campfire coals. Easy, tasty and fun! Also a good thing to have your kids (about 7 years and up) make when you’re out camping—as long as they are old enough to safely handle a knife. Many recipes on the internet call it Hobo Dinner or Hobo Hamburger. Recent versions include directions for cooking over a grill or in the oven, so if you’re renting a cabin or beach house, it’s ok there too.

  • Camping Cookbooks: An old/classic cookbook: Simple Foods for the Pack, by Vikki KInmount Kath and Diana Cooke. Some recent reviews say some recipes are bland—I didn’t find them so, and you can always up the seasoning. Many good and great recipes.
    A more recent and well-reviewed camping cookbook, Cook it Wild, by Chris Nuttall-Smith, a food writer and media presenter.

Woodland Valley campground in the Catskills.

Photo by Tam Morales

Jojo Feld, Food52 General Manager:

  • Favorite Camp Meal: Campfire Banana Boat—foil, bananas, chocolate, and any other toppings you want over the fire. An alternative to s’mores (not my favorite—sorry, not sorry) and delicious!
  • Favorite Camping Spot: Indian Lakes Campground in the Adirondacks. It’s secluded island camping, with zero cell phone service, so you really turn off (and might be a bit scared that you’ll be stuck there forever … but in a good way!)
  • Campsites Available in Summer 2024? Yes (although very limited)

Amanda Hesser, Food52 Founder:

  • Favorite Camping Spot: ​​Under Canvas at Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone is great for glamping. The food, especially at Mt. Rushmore, was very fresh, healthy. Cozy beds. Showers! Mini sleep yurts for kids. Cornhole. The works!
  • Campsites Available in Summer 2024? Yes, at both locations.

Tam Morales, Producer:

  • Favorite Camp Meal: When it comes to camping meals, I go out of my way to make sure there’s breakfast burritos in the morning!
  • Favorite Camping Spot: I love Woodland Valley in the Catskills! It’s easy to get to from the city with lots of nearby water attractions.
  • Campsites Available in Summer 2024? Yes

Nicole Davis, Community Editor:

  • Favorite Camp Meal: Foil-packet potatoes, grilled steak, and Kit-Kat s’mores.
  • Favorite Camping Spot AMC Harriman Outdoor Center just north of NYC. They have cabins, campsites, backcountry camping, and a mess hall so you can order meals if you like—it’s like an adult summer camp.
  • Campsites Available in Summer 2024? Yes.

Sophia Cáceres, Community & Events Intern:

  • Favorite Camp Meal: Seafood Boil.
  • Favorite Camping Spot I grew up camping at Assateague Island in Maryland, and we would always go out in the bay to get some fresh clams and mussels. At the end of the day, we’d do a huge seafood boil over the fire with what we brought back. The freshest seafood I’ve ever had.
  • Campsites Available in Summer 2024? Very few spots remaining.


Got a favorite camping meal or a favorite camping spot? Share your picks below!

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