One of summer’s great pleasures involves making ourselves at home in the great outdoors. Camping, glamping, and backpacking offer distinct ways of being at home in nature. The constraint of not having a home kitchen at your disposal presents creative opportunities for fun indulgences. But it does take planning. After a long day on the trail or a night sleeping on the ground, delicious food and drink are always a treat. Below are recipes and hacks for each of these distinct camping modes.
CAMPING (or “car camping,” as we call it):
If you’re not carrying supplies on your back, you can afford yourself some swank creature comforts. Still, I generally go heavy on pre-trip prep for most car camp meals and drinks while I’m at home. My “kitchen” time at camp is then streamlined, and usually requires only assembly or reheating of meals & drinks I’ve already prepared.
On the first night in camp, I love to have a big cobb salad for dinner. Lettuce can be a bit delicate to keep in the cooler for subsequent meals. I prep all the components in separate containers, and then assemble at the picnic table.
Pro tip: People can also build their own salads right from the storage containers, which works well for accommodating different palates or dietary restrictions.
If nights are chilly and you’re in a fire-safe area, a hot drink around the campfire is a lovely way to end the day.
While the kiddos eat s’mores, make yourself a fancy drink: garnish Smoky no.56 with a roasted marshmallow (I love the “cinnamon churros flavor by Smashmallows brand).
If marshmallows sound a bit sweet for your palate, a lemony hot toddy is just the ticket for for a cool mountain night!
Is The Saskatoon more your jam? Bring a couple bottles for dinner, and save some for a warming mug of mulled Saskatoon before slipping into your sleeping bag.
Pro tip: This recipe calls for the same cinnamon tea as the toddy.
Our most epic glamping experience was at a multi day festival-style wedding in the redwoods (The Wedstival. If you know, you know.). Jeff built us a canvas Casbah tent with an old Oriental rug on the ground and lounge pillows strewn around. I decorated the entrance with a multitude of yarn pom poms & battery string lights. Of course we had a LIT bar setup, with signature batched cocktails.
Plan a couple of signature cocktails (Saskatoon Sangria? Pleased as Punch? Both! You are glamping, afterall!). Pre-batch them in large thermoses or jars, and pack fruit, cucumber, and herbs. If your recipe calls for sparkling water, soda, or tonic, pack those separately and wait until serving to add that component. Herbs will stay fresh in food storage containers with a small ice cube inside. Bring skewers, or for extra flair, whittle foodsafe branches (like Douglas fir or pine) into drink skewers, and set out a garnish bar.
Charcuterie is an excellent glamping meal. This site has some camp-specific tips. Both Eva’s spritz and The Saskatoon are best friends with charcuterie boards.
Want to bring it to the next level? Pack some decent glassware! Stemless wine glasses are posh, and jelly jars with cute straws and lids are fun and fairly practical.
Pro tip: Theme, theme, theme! Glamping only gets better with a theme. Let that theme inspire the decor, your playlist, cuisine, and if your crew skews a little wacky as ours does, costumes! Really do it up! A gathering at an old boy scout camp inspired our “Scout’s Honor” costume contest & Wes-Anderson Moonrise Kingdom-inspired glamp
Backpacking is our family’s preferred camping form. The combination of quiet, near solitude, and natural grandeur replenishes my cup. With a little planning and some physical effort, you can access rugged and remote wilderness areas and even untrammeled corners of national parks!
I crave fresh veggies when I’m backpacking. But vegetables are heavy. That’s why this backpacker’s slaw recipe is a gamechanger. I love it so much!
Recipe for dehydrated lime-cilantro slaw: Follow dehydration directions here, but first toss the thinly sliced cabbage with liberal amounts of lime juice, salt, and roughly chopped cilantro. Pack the dried mix in a reclosable plastic bag. On the day you plan to eat the slaw, add one cup water to each ¼ cup slaw mix. Start it by midday, and it'll be ready by dinnertime. It's delicious with reconstituted frijoles and tortillas. The veggie crunch is so satisfying!
I’m willing to trade a little vegetable weight for a quality drink. Is there any happy hour more refreshing than one on the shore of a mountain lake after a long slog up switchback trails?
If smoky Margarita-style drinks are your thing, try Dreaming of Oaxaca, the camp edition: Make Dreaming of Oaxaca the day before departure, and freeze solid in a water bottle with head space and a loose cap. Tighten the cap and place the bottle in an outer pocket of your pack. Shake periodically, and by the time you reach camp, or by suppertime depending on temperatures and the length of your hike, you'll have a nonalc margarita slushie!
The Saskatoon is your most versatile backpacking drink: Enjoy it as an alternative to red wine with a hearty chilli dinner, then steeped with cinnamon tea for an easy mulled nightcap (perhaps garnished with foraged huckleberries, Saskatoon, or salal berries!), or if you’re lucky enough to find a clean summer snowfield, celebrate with Saskatoon snowcones!
Pro tip: Platypus makes a reusable, lightweight flask (BPA-free plastic) that’s also dishwasher safe.
When our kids were little, we had sweet “camping” occasions on the back deck. Our Ashland farmhouse got hot upstairs, so we’d take deluxe air mattresses and make a huge bed on the back deck, where I’d hang a large hoop with mosquito netting. Western states experience diurnal temperature swings that mean even the hottest days have cool, pleasant nights. We’d all burrow under a puffy comforter and read stories by headlamp.
Whatever form of camping suits you this season, even if it’s just a cuddle-puddle in the backyard, I hope you make sweet memories!