(Photo: Elizabeth Wells)
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8 Easy Ways to Elevate Your Car Camping Cooking Game

With a little planning and the right gear, it’s easier than ever to whip up tasty meals in the outdoors


There’s nothing wrong with eating mac and cheese at your campsite or chomping jerky as an hors d’oeuvre. While it can be tempting to stick to old routines, with a little planning and the right gear, it’s easy to create tasty meals in the outdoors and elevate your car-camping experience. “Wherever you can bring a stove and a cooler, you can create an amazing meal,” says Linda Ly, a lifelong adventurer and author of The New Camp Cookbook, which helps people take chef-inspired meals into the outdoors. The key to cooking well, says Ly, is to be organized and think ahead.

Break Some Eggs

Break and whisk your eggs at home and store them in a leakproof container like OtterBox’s Elevation 20 Tumbler, with its screw-on thermal lid. It’ll save space and keep you from having to fret over fragile eggs all weekend. Start by cooking crumbled sausage in a cast iron skillet, then add the eggs for a quick scramble. Load the eggs and meat into flour tortillas and sprinkle with cheese and salsa.

Pack a Portable Picnic

Rugged soft coolers like OtterBox’s Trooper LT 30 Cooler, which has backpack straps, make it easier than ever to get fresh ingredients and cold drinks to pretty places in the outdoors. For a simple but tasty lunch, pack some salami, cheese, and strawberries and use the Venture Cutting Board as a backcountry cheese board. Pair that with your favorite beer or canned wine and you’ve got lunch with a view. Have a smaller group? Opt for the Trooper 20 Cooler which is perfect for quick trips and has a wider opening for easy access.

Pre-Batch a Cocktail

Beer and wine are great, but sangria can be even better, especially when you mix up a batch at home, store it in the Elevation 64 Growler, and then surprise your friends with a backcountry cocktail. Follow this no-frills recipe.

Campfire Sangria

1 bottle red wine
1 can seltzer
1 cup orange juice
½ cup brandy
¼ cup sugar
1 orange, sliced
1 apple, sliced
1 cup strawberries, sliced

Mix all ingredients in a pitcher, muddle the fruit, and then pour it all into the Elevation 64 Growler. Serve over ice in Elevation 10 Tumblers.

DIY Pickles

Ly loves to ferment vegetables—a process that can take weeks—but she also loves to “quick pickle” veggies at camp. Slice some cucumbers really thin and put them in a jar with white vinegar (1/3 cup), water (1 cup), and sugar (1/3 cup). Let them rest in the cooler until you’re ready to eat them as a pre-dinner appetizer.

Keep Everything Organized

If you’re heading out for a long weekend or camping with a big group, you’ll want at least one big, hard-sided cooler with a slew of user-friendly features, like the OtterBox Venture 45 or 65. A dry storage tray and bottle opener come standard, and optional separators slide into grooves on the inside of the cooler, so you can keep dry snacks or your bags of marinated meat and cut vegetables away from the beer and ice. Once you get situated at your site, the Venture’s exterior mounting points make it easy to keep track of everything: a bottle opener, drybox, double cup holder, and side table all can slide on and off easily as needed.

Bake Crescent Rolls on a Stick

Keep the rest of the crew busy making crescent rolls on a stick. Wrap crescent rolls (we’re fans of Pillsbury) around the oiled end of a s’mores stick and cook over a fire, rotating the rolls often so they cook evenly. When they slide easily off the stick, they’re done.

Do Some Prep Work at Home

Ly likes to go all out for dinner, but she also “cheats” and does all of the prep work at home. She’ll chop and marinate meat for Korean barbecue and pre-cut onions, peppers, and pineapple, and divide them into baggies. Cook a big batch of rice at camp while you’re grilling the meat and veggies and you have Korean rice bowls with a side of pineapple.

Make a Cake

That’s right. Bake. A. Cake. All you need is a Dutch oven and a few charcoal briquettes. While your coals are heating, line the Dutch oven with aluminum foil. Pour in premixed chocolate cake batter and cover with the lid. Set the oven on 10 hot coals on the edge of the campfire, then carefully place 10 more hot coals on top of the oven. Now, patience: let it bake for 40 minutes before checking. Top with tiny marshmallows and chocolate chips for bonus points. There’s no better way to cap off a great day in the outdoors than with a freshly baked cake.

Lead Photo: Elizabeth Wells