From chilaquiles to French toast, even a coffee-shop-quality latte, here's how to rise and really shine in the backcountry kitchen
We’re not going to say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, because we love all our meals equally. But too often, camp breakfast is an afterthought. A limp granola bar and instant coffee? Sure, getting up and hitting the trail early makes sense on a thru-hike, but if you’ve got nowhere to go, why not spend a few minutes making something grand?
“I am all about the camp breakfast,” says Timothy Fischer, executive chef at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel and an outdoorsman who runs a foraging business called Northern Foragers.
You don’t need to be a pro to pull off a fantastic camp breakfast. You will need, however, a cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven and a bit of time. To help you in this worthwhile endeavor, we tapped Fischer and some other chefs for their favorite recipes and tricks of the trade. We promise, the effort will be worth it.
- 2 1/2 cups berries
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Muffin or vanilla cake mix
My grandmother always insisted that leftover fruit cobbler was a breakfast food. I happen to agree: It has fruit in it, so how unhealthy can it be? Fischer’s go-to camp breakfast is a berry buckle made with foraged fruit. “At the berry patch where we forage, we’re lucky—it has blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and sarsaparilla berries,” he says.
To make this recipe, pick or pack in about 2.5 cups of your favorite berries. Toss them with a few tablespoons of sugar. Make sure to reserve some of the mix to top your final product, but throw the rest in the bottom of a ten-inch cast-iron skillet. Top the berries with your favorite muffin or vanilla cake mix, made to the package directions. Put the lid on the Dutch oven and slide it over very hot coals. Bake for about an hour. Right before serving, sprinkle the extra macerated berries over the top.
Sourdough French Toast
- 2 eggs
- Touch of milk
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Sourdough bread
Alex Hong, founder of San Francisco restaurant Sorrel and brother of pro climber Matty Hong, says his go-to breakfast is French toast. Hong likes to minimize what he’ll have to pack out at the end of the trip by using dinner leftovers for breakfast. His French toast uses sourdough bits and is the perfect vessel for delivering lots of carbs. “Sourdough gives the toast a better flavor, and you can really get a nice browned crust on it in a way you can’t with soft white bread,” he says.
Hong’s recipe is simple: Whisk two eggs with a touch of milk, a tablespoon of brown sugar, and half a teaspoon of cinnamon. Heat your cast-iron skillet by placing it on hot coals. Melt butter or oil in the pan. Coat thick slices of bread in the egg mixture and let them fry until a deep crust has formed. Flip and wait. Hong eats his French toast plain—it’s that good. “But if you have a sweet tooth,” he says, “you could put maple syrup on it.”
Cast Iron Chilaquiles
- Tortilla chips
- 2 tomatoes
- Cooking oil
- 1 onion
- 1/2 jalapeño, diced
- 2 eggs
These are a favorite for Vegas-based chef Johnny Church, an avid rock climber and camper. He also oversees operations at the Rocky Gap Casino and Resort in Flintstone, Maryland, a hub for hikers, paddlers, and climbers—so he’s used to satisfying athletic appetites. Usually you’d fry the tortillas on the spot, but that’s too much work for camping. Ready-made tortilla chips do the job just fine. Start by roasting two tomatoes in an oiled cast-iron skillet set over hot coals. Roast until they blister, then set them aside, saving any juice. Add a touch more oil to your skillet and sauté a diced onion. Add a few big handfuls of tortilla chips (about two dozen is right), plus the blistered tomatoes and half a diced jalapeno. Cook just until things are hot. Top with eggs cooked however you like them best (Church votes for fried). Throw in a bit of cilantro, queso fresco, and sliced avocado, and you’ve got yourself some tasty campfire-cooked chilaquiles.
- Ground coffee
- Milk (optional)
There’s no reason to drink subpar coffee in the backcountry. Last year, we ranked ways to make camp coffee, and one of our top picks was the adorable GSI Outdoors Stainless Espresso Pot. It heats up quickly and makes a single, strong espresso shot. Turn that shot into a froufrou latte by gently heating four to five ounces of milk over the stove. Pour the warm milk into a jar with a lid and shake vigorously. Pour the espresso into a mug and top with the foamed milk. For a hint of sweetness, we recommend a shot from an Untapped Maple packet.
- Eggs (as many as you want)
If your morning is going to be a rush of packing up and shipping out, Fischer recommends popping a few eggs into your campfire’s ashes just before you head to bed—of course, because you’re responsible, you will make sure the fire is dowsed enough to ensure no danger of the coals or ashes escaping the fire ring. In the morning, you’ll wake up to hard-boiled eggs. “Sometimes they can come out a little overdone,” Fischer says, but if you wait until the last second before bed to tuck them into the ashes and rise early the next day, you should be fine.