Let’s face it. For kids, the success of a camping trip rarely hinges on what waterfalls you see, what birds you hear, or how great the hike was. Kids likely will remember two things: the weather and the food.
You can’t control the weather, but you can make food a highlight of every excursion, whether that’s a short day trip or a multiday backcountry adventure.
My wife, Sarah, and I spent seven seasons as croo in the AMC high huts system and another six as trail crew leaders for the Student Conservation Association. Below are a couple of key campfire tips from our years on the trail, followed by a few favorite recipes that kids of all ages are sure to love.
CAMPFIRE COOKING HINTS
When cooking over a campfire, always be sure to follow Leave No Trace (LNT) principles and to use established fire rings wherever possible. (Read more about minimal-impact campfires.) Once you’ve mastered LNT, you’re ready to cook.
CAMPING RECIPE: HOBO DINNER
Every hungry camper gets a sheet of heavy-duty tinfoil, about 1 foot square. Layer the following on the foil, from bottom to top:
Wrap to create your hobo pocket. Don’t just scrunch up the foil; it will leak. Bring the edges together and fold them neatly over each other one or two times, the way you would a paper bag. Adding a second layer of foil will keep the food from scorching.
Bury your hobo packet in medium-hot coals and cook for about 40 minutes. Carefully remove and unfold the foil to check for doneness. If your packet needs more time, fold it up neatly, put it back on the fire, and check it every five minutes.
CAMPING RECIPE: COZY PIGS
This dinner will delight even the youngest kids, but patience is a must to avoid burning those piggy blankets. You’ll need:
Wrap each dog in a roll, making sure the roll ends overlap so the whole thing stays together. Skewer your dog on a long stick and cook it over the coals. Here again, cooking over the coals will decrease the char and smoke, and you can control the heat. Once the rolls are golden brown, they’re ready to eat.
CAMPING RECIPE: BROWNIES IN AN ORANGE
This is the simplest and possibly the most mind-blowing of all campfire foods. You’ll need:
Cut the tops off your oranges, as if you were carving a pumpkin. Scoop out the orange innards with a spoon, eating as you go and reserving the orange tops. Spoon in your brownie batter, filling each orange shell no more than half full.
Put the tops back on the oranges, wrap them in foil, and bury them in medium-hot coals. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The foil and the orange peel will temper the heat of the coals, allowing the brownie batter to bake slowly inside. Unwrap; peel back the orange shell; and enjoy supermoist, orange-infused, chocolately heaven.