12 Camping Food Hacks For The Outdoor Chef

camping hacks

As wilderness warriors, we don’t always have the luxury of cooking a five-course meal at the campsite, but…

Just because you’re in the woods doesn’t mean you have to eat like an animal.

Instead of lugging your entire kitchen to the campsite, there are plenty of simple tools, tricks, and recipes you can use to whip up a tasty meal. Follow these 12 camping food hacks and become a master outdoor chef.

1. The Aluminum Foil Multitool

aluminum foil grill

It doesn't matter if you forget every piece of cookware on your next camping trip as long as you have aluminum (or tin) foil. You can use this rolled up miracle to:

  • Create a makeshift pan for over-, or in-the-fire cooking
  • Fold it to make a bowl or pot to heat up food
  • Ball it up and scrub your dishes
  • Make a top for your mug to keep your coffee or cocoa hot (and to keep the bugs out)
  • Store your leftovers

The best part is that you can just ball it up and throw it away when you are done!

2. The Swedish Fire Log Cooker

If you don’t have the benefit of a campfire grate or grill, don’t fret. There is still an age-old, Scandinavian trick that you can utilize: the Swedish Fire Log. Here's how:

  • 1
    Before heading out to the campsite, see if you can find a 2 ft. log, about 12”-18” in diameter, and flat on both sides.
  • 2
    Using a chainsaw (and proper safety gear), cut a star-shaped pattern into the log, but only go down about half-way. Okay, you probably don’t have a chainsaw just hanging around but ask a friend or rent one from the local hardware store.
  • 3
    Next, start a small fire in the middle of the cut using dry kindling.
  • 4
    Slowly, push the flaming kindling down into the center of the log, and continue adding more tinder on top. Soon you’ll have a hot, flat surface to use to cook some of your favorite meals.

Sure, it may seem difficult to construct, but you’ll definitely impress your camping buddies with this interesting cooking technique.

3. The Bottled Ice Pack

frozen bottle water

Can’t find enough ice packs to keep your freezer cold at the campsite? No problem! Simply freeze a bunch of plastic water bottles, and use them as ice packs to keep your food at or below 40°F.

Verify this by putting a thermometer inside your cooler so that you can have the peace of mind that your food is safe to eat. For more information, check out how to store food properly at the campsite.

4. The Can Opener Without a Can Opener

Personally, I think there is no worse feeling of dejection than have a bunch of canned food, and nothing to open it with.

Luckily, several other campers have faced the same issue, and they’ve spread the word about different techniques to open a can without a can opener.

open can with knife

Use a Pocket Knife: On a flat surface, position the tip of the pocket knife on the edge of the lid. Firmly holding the butt of the knife, tap your hand so that a small hole would form in the can. Continue to do this around the outside of the can until you can pry off the lid with the flat side of the knife.

open with spoon

Use a Spoon: Position the spoon in between the can’s lip and lid and slowly work it back and forth until a hole is former. Continue to do this around the entire circumference of the can, or until you pry off the lid.

open with rock

Use a Flat Rock: Place the can upside down on a rock and firmly rub the can back and forth on the rock (but not too hard). By doing this, the lid should come off with a simple squeeze of the can, or if you need a little more help, use a flat object like a knife to open.

5. The DIY Coffee Bag

There is nothing more refreshing than waking up to the crisp woodland air and starting your day with a fresh cup of coffee. But brewing a pot of java can be difficult in the outdoors. Sure, you can go the instant route, but it’s just not the same as what you’re used to, is it?

That’s why you should make your own homemade coffee bags to itch your caffeine scratch at the campsite. Here's how:

  • 1
    In a normal coffee filter, place your desired about of ground coffee in the center.
  • 2
    Fold up, and twist the filter so that the coffee grounds stay in place (think about how a lollipop is wrapped, but upside down).
  • 3
    Use a rubber band or unscented dental floss to tie it off.
  • 4
    From there, you’ll just steep it in boiling water at the campsite.

6. The Spice Transporter

store spices in dispenser

If you’re like me, you use a lot more seasoning than what the recipe calls for: a little salt here, a little garlic powder there, and some ground pepper to top it off. But how are we supposed to bring the whole spice rack to the campsite?

We improvise.

To bring store seasonings to the campsite, you can use

  • Old tic tac boxes 
  • Pill organizers 
  • Plastic wrap to tie off your spices. 

If you know what you will be cooking at the campsite, you can even pre-mix all your spices together so that you don’t have to carry separate containers.

7. The Repurposed Squeeze Bottle

squeeze bottle

Instead of tossing out your old condiment squeeze bottles, repurpose them to create an easy way to store liquid foods at the campsite. 

First, you’ll need to thoroughly clean out an old plastic squeeze bottle. I use an old BBQ sauce bottle and clean it with hot water and soap, and then baking soda to deodorize.

Once the bottle is completely dry, you can add in your favorite prepared foods like your homemade pasta sauce, pancake mix, or even scrambled eggs!

Voila, a storage and delivery method all in one simple bottle.

8. The Ziploc Bag Omelette

ziploc omelette

Start off your adventurous day in the outdoors with an easy to make ziploc bag omelette.

  • 1
    Boil water over the fire or with whatever method is available.
  • 2
    While waiting for your water to heat up - Crack a few eggs into a ziploc bag.
  • 3
    Add cheese, vegetables, and whatever other ingredients of your choice, and seal it up tight.
  • 4
    Place the omelette mix in the boiling water for 12-15 minutes, then remove carefully.
  • 5
    Let it sit for a few minutes before you dig in so you don’t burn your mouth.
  • 6
    Dig in. You can even eat it right out of the bag if you want!

9. The Walking Mexican Food Bag

walking taco

We all love spicy Mexican food. No no, if you disagree, you're wrong.

But, how are we supposed to pack all those hard-shelled corn tortillas to the campsite?

The simple answer is that you don’t have to! Instead, grab a bag of your favorite chips, add in your taco ingredients and eat it with a fork. 

It's simple to clean up, and best of all, you don’t have to worry about all those toppings falling out of the back end of the taco.

10. The Cooking Tool Organizer

Nobody looks an unorganized kitchen, and the same goes for the outdoors. Rather than having pots, pans, and cooking utensils spread across the campsite, you can use a rope and carabiner to tie them to a tree.

If there are no trees in the area, or if you don’t want to go through the hassle of rigging up an entire kitchen storage unit, use a shoe organizer. That way, all of your kitchen campsite will be neatly put away in its proper place and you won’t have to worry about forgetting an item when you head home.

11. The Soda Can Popcorn Maker

aluminum can popcorn

While you may not be able to relax in front of the silver screen, you can still enjoy a delectable bag of popcorn a the campsite by using only a soda can.

  • 1
    First, get any aluminum can. There's usually one or two beer drinkers at the campsite, ask them.
  • 2
    Cut a flap in the middle to eventually direct the popcorn into a pot or pan. 
  • 3
    Next, you’ll want to add kernels into the bottom of the can, and throw in some oil or butter (I always carry an airplane liquor bottle filled with olive oil).
  • 4
    Place the can on the campfire, or in it if you have to, and catch the popped kernels in a heat-resistant container. That’s it!

12. The S'more Remix

waffle cone smore


camping smore

We'll finish these camping hacks with everyone’s favorite campfire dessert: the S’more. 

But, instead of sandwiching two graham crackers together, you're going to cook a waffle cone that will have your entire campsite wanting more.

The trick here is to not use bars of chocolate and giant marshmallows, but small marshmallows and chocolate chips. Here's what you do:

  • 1
    Layer the chocolate chips and the marshmallows into a waffle cone, one after the other, until you reach the top.
  • 2
    Wrap each cone in aluminum foil, and toss it directly in the campfire.
  • 3
    After five minutes, you’ll have a tasty, gooey dessert that is a lot simpler than making traditional S’mores.

Final Thoughts

Impress everyone at the campsite with all the expert camping food hacks that you’ve learned about today. Think we missed an outdoor kitchen hack? Leave your comment below!

Jay toes the line between hiking enthusiast and vagabond as he treks across the world, soaking in it’s natural wonders. When he’s not exploring the trail, he writes articles to help guide others through their outdoor conquests.

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