11 Camp Cooking Hacks From REI Experts

If you’ve spent at least a few weekends in a tent, you’ve likely got a few tricks up your sleeve for making car camping meals, snacks and drinks as tasty and hassle-free as possible. This camp cooking list features some of our favorite hacks for roughing it resourcefully when it comes to recipes, organization and dish cleanup. Get ready to impress fellow campers on your next trip!

1. Before your trip, fill a clean condiment squeeze bottle with pre-made pancake mix or scrambled eggs. Pro pancake tip: Add a little tonic water to the mix right before pouring it on the griddle to make flapjacks extra fluffy.

Squeeze Bottles

2. Make simpler s’mores by using chocolate-topped cookies. Little Schoolboy cookies are a favorite—try the dark or extra dark chocolate ones.


3. Dishes: a tedious chore at home and no better out in nature. Hang a mesh bag from a tree and put freshly washed dishes inside to air dry. This will help keep them free of woodsy debris and clear up valuable picnic table space.

Hang Dishes

4. Make breakfast in a bag. Line the bottom of a paper lunch bag with half strips of bacon. Crack an egg into the bacon basket, fold the top of the bag down and poke a hole through it with a pointy stick. Hold the bag over the fire—once the bacon and egg are cooked, eat straight from the bag! We recommend setting the bag on a plate before digging in—a greasy pant leg is not an ideal way to start the day.

Paper Bag Breakfast

5. If you’re a climber, you’re with a climber or you just like to bring climbing gear wherever you go, loop a rope around a tree and hang pots, pans and utensils from it using carabiners.

Carabines to hang dishes

6. Keep track of your cooler’s temperature by mounting a thermometer inside with a strip of hook-and-loop fastener. Knowing that it’s at least as cold as your fridge at home (around 35° F) will give you peace of mind that your perishables are OK to eat and your cooler is sealed properly.

Cooler Temp

7. Speaking of cooler coldness, before you leave home freeze one or two jugs of water to place in the cooler instead of ice. A full cooler stays frosty longer, so try to pack cold items into any extra space.

Frozen Water bottles

8. Hang a multi-pocket, over-the-door shoe organizer from a tree or off the side of your tent to keep ingredients, tools and spices off the ground. The kind with transparent pockets works best, for obvious reasons.

Shoe Hanger for Utensils

9. Deviled eggs at the campsite? You bet!
 After peeling off the shell (which is compostable) and slicing each egg in half, put the yolks in a plastic zip-top bag with whatever spices and ingredients you want, including mustard and mayo. Massage the bag to combine all the ingredients until smooth. Then clip off a lower corner of the bag and use it like a pastry bag to fill the egg whites. Delicious campsite appetizers!

Eggs in a bag

10. Make a Swedish torch with a seasoned log round and an axe. Chop the log into four even quarters and shave off the interior walls about three-quarters of the way to the bottom. Place the quarters of the log back together with the shaved sections on top so there’s a cavity in the center. Then build a nest of kindling in the cavity and start a fire—oxygen will flow inside through the cracks and fuel the flames. Now you can set your pan on top and fry up something tasty.

Swedish Torch

11. Pop fresh popcorn in a soda can. Cut a small, rectangular “door” with a flap near the top of the can, pour in a small amount of vegetable oil (about ½ tablespoon) and drop in some kernels. Set the can on a flat rock next to the fire or on the grill over coals and place a frying pan next to it. The flap will help direct the popcorn into the pan and not onto the ground.

Soda Can Popcorn

For more camping tips and gear from REI, check out our camping checklist or view our selection of camping gear.

Have a favorite hack that makes camp cooking better? Please share in the comments below.