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Yum! REI Employees' Best Camp Cooking Recipes

We REI employees are known for our outdoor expertise—from choosing the right pack to finding a great local camping spot. But can we cook?

This summer, we put culinary skills to the test with REI's first-ever employee camping recipe contest. Employees were asked to submit a favorite recipe for cooking over a campfire or away from the kitchen. The winning recipes were chosen by hungry campers at 3 REI-sponsored Great American Backyard Campout events in Orange County (Calif.), Atlanta and Minneapolis.

Preparing a meal at the camp cook-offThe winning main-dish recipes:
Chicken Chutney Salad—submitted by Jennie Rose, sales specialist at REI Columbia, Md.
Twelve-Mile Chops—submitted by Marsha Hendrickson, sales specialist at REI Ann Arbor, Mich.
Smoked Salmon Pasta—submitted by James Tiefenthaler, assistant store manager at REI Portland, Ore.

Campers with a sweet tooth enjoyed these winning dessert recipes:
Jo's Pineapple Dessert—submitted by Joann Herbert, cashier specialist at REI San Diego
Dutch Oven Chocolate Lava Cake—submitted by Audrey Hook, camping specialist at REI Huntington Beach, Calif.

These yummy dishes are too good to keep to ourselves, so the full recipes are available below for your enjoyment. Now that we've shared with you, tell us what is your favorite meal or recipe to enjoy by the campfire.

Recipe story: For years, Jennie has been camp cook for expeditions led by her husband, a paleontologist. This crowd-pleasing recipe can be easily adapted for vegetarians.

2 cans (12.5 ounces each) chicken breast, well drained
1 can (13.5 ounces) pineapple chunks in juice, very well drained
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup diced red or green pepper
1/3 cup slivered almonds
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 to 3 tablespoons Major Grey's chutney
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon curry powder (more or less to taste)

1. Mix together chicken, pineapple, celery, peas, raisins, pepper and almonds; set aside.
2. Mix together mayonnaise, chutney, lime juice and curry powder; then stir into the chicken mixture.

Salad may be made ahead and chilled or served right away. Serve on a bed of lettuce for a lighter meal or with cooked rice for a heartier meal.

REI employee Marsha HendricksonMain Dish: TWELVE-MILE CHOPS
Recipe story: After a long day hike, Marsha and 2 friends created an impromptu and delicious camp dinner from their food stashes, including loin chops, apples, Fig Newtons and syrup.

4 center-cut loin pork chops, 1/2" thick
1/2 pound bacon, chopped into 1/2" chunks
4 Fig Newtons, diced
1/4 cup (heaping) salted cashews, chopped
1- 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons maple syrup
4 ounces cream
2 Granny Smith apples, quartered, cored and sliced thin
Lots of pepper

1. Cook bacon to desired level of crispness; place to the side on paper towel. Drain excess bacon grease, leaving the small bits of bacon in the skillet.
2. In the same skillet, add olive oil and heat slightly, then add the chops that have been salted and peppered. Cook 5 to 7 minutes per side. Remove chops and place to the side; cover to keep hot.
3. In the same skillet, add butter and melt. Add apple slices, syrup and cream. Stir constantly and cook until apples are soft.
4. Add Fig Newtons and cook until sauce thickens, around 8 minutes.
5. Add cashews and cook an additional minute or 2.
6. Place sauce over chops and sprinkle bacon bits on top. Enjoy!

Recipe story: James shared his recipe with 4 other paddlers on the last night of a canoeing expedition. After several days of paddling, it was wonderful having fresh food, bold tastes and fulfillment to cap off a wonderful trip.

2-burner stove or 2 stoves
1 pot
1 skillet
1 spatula


Olive oil
Asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
Onion (green and yellow), diced
Garlic, diced
Sun-dried tomato, julienned, packed in olive oil
Black pepper
Smoked salmon
Roma tomato

Penne pasta (rigatoni or farfalle work great, too)
Sea Salt
Basil pesto

Grated Parmegiano-Reggiano
Sea salt
Baguette and red wine (Cotes du Rhone and Rioja pair well)

1. Sauté asparagus, onions, garlic, black pepper and sun-dried tomato in olive oil, in a skillet, until asparagus is tender.
2. Add smoked salmon and diced tomato and cook until hot (not too long, or the tomato will turn to mush).
3. In a separate pot, add salted water and boil pasta according to package until al dente.
4. Drain pasta, then place back in pot.
5. Add pesto sauce and stir to mix.
6. Combine skillet ingredients with pasta ingredients in pot.
7. Top with grated Parmegiano-Reggiano; salt and pepper to taste.
8. Serve with sliced baguette.

REI employee JoAnn HerbertDessert: JO'S PINEAPPLE DESSERT
Recipe story: During a campout at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, Jo's dessert won rave reviews from neighboring camper Ron Kauk, the renowned climber and author.

For oven baking, layer all of the following ingredients in a 9-by-13-inch pan in the order of the recipe without stirring.

1 large can crushed pineapple (use half of the juice)
1 yellow cake mix (sprinkled evenly on top of the pineapple)
1/2 cup butter (in thin slices evenly layered on top of the cake mix)
3 ounces sliced almonds (sprinkled on top)

1. For Dutch oven baking, use a cake pan within the oven (or spray the Dutch oven with nonstick spray and line it with heavy-duty foil).
2. Put all of the above ingredients in the Dutch oven in the order of the recipe. DO NOT STIR.
3. Place 12 to 15 briquettes underneath and 12 to 15 on top.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30+ minutes. Yummy!

Recipe story: Audrey's favorite outdoor memories are when campers take their first bite of warm and gooey chocolate lava cake topped with whipped cream.

Dutch oven

1 box any chocolate-flavor cake (eggs and oil will vary from different brands of cake mixes)
1 15–16-ounce can of chocolate syrup
Whipped topping

1. Prepare cake as per direction on the cake box.
2. Place foil on the bottom of Dutch oven.
3. Pour chocolate syrup on the bottom of Dutch oven, then pour chocolate cake batter on top of chocolate syrup.
4. Place eight to 10 charcoals on the top and bottom of the Dutch oven.
5. Cook for 45 to 55 minutes, checking the cake after 15 minutes — it may be necessary to add additional charcoals to maintain 350 to 375 degrees of heat. (Each charcoal provides approximately 25 degrees of heat.)
6. Place Dutch oven on sheet of aluminum foil. Place 4 rocks at each corner to prevent foil from flying away.
7. Serve with whipped topping.

Bon appetit!

Posted on at 2:25 PM

Tagged: camping, cooking, employees, food, recipes and rei

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These recipes sound delicious but for the most part they seem much more appropriate for frontcountry camping than backcountry. Many of them require ingredients and/or equipment that wouldn't be very practical to take on trips where space, weight, and perishability are limiting factors (e.g. frozen peas, red wine & baguettes, Dutch ovens...). I'd be interested in seeing some more recipes that are better suited for a backpacker's kitchen, even if that means the recipes are less elaborate and gourmet. In my opinion, part of the fun of cooking while camping is how primitivity and exercise lower your food standards (as well as your supplies) so that (1) even very simple, non-gourmet dishes taste delicious and (2) you're forced to get creative.

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I'd be interested in hearing about creative recipes for longer backcountry trips, too! A friend would pre-cook meals, & vacuum seal it. This made it possible to cook within the bag, making cleanup easier.


I was very excited to read this article because I am always looking for practical, lightweight, but delicious camping meals. I was disappointed when I saw the recipes chosen. These are dishes that should probably be cooked in a full kitchen.

Minimal ingredients and equipment is a must while camping.

How about another blog with backcountry recipes?


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