The Beauty of Foil Dinners and My Essential Camping Kitchen Tools

Sunburned, sleepy, and more-than-a-little sandy, we are home from our family camping trip. I’m pleased to report it was one of our better excursions as nothing major was left behind (save for our Bodum; but there are ways to get creative when making coffee), the bugs were few, and we had a lovely campsite near a small beach.

Fortunately, the rain stayed away, despite some violent thunder crashes that sent Noah scurrying back to camp from wherever he was exploring, and as I sit down to type these words I can hear the skies opening up. No matter now, as my boys are fast asleep in their own beds and there’s a roof over us all. Let it rain.

I find the weather always directly effects how much food we consume during a 60+ hour camping trip. If the sun is shining and we are busy hiking trails or swimming, food takes a backseat until about six pm, when we regroup around the fire pit and devour a hearty dinner. If it’s drizzling or cold, much time is spent stoking the fire and eating our way through provisions. Either way, food is always an important part of a camping trip, I think we can all agree on that!

Here’s a recap of our menu, plus a recipe for our favorite dish of the trip.

Dinner Day #1: Shrimp Kebabs, salad, corn, Danny’s birthday cake.

Breakfast Day #2: Scrambled eggs, hash browns, coffee.

Lunch Day #2: Wraps, fruit.

Dinner Day #2: Sausage & Vegetable Foil Packets (recipe below).

Breakfast Day #3: Buckwheat Pancakes (from my homemade mix), fresh local strawberries, bacon.

Lunch Day #3: Fried egg & cheese sandwiches, carrot & celery sticks. Eaten on the go.

Dinner Day #3: Bean & Cheese Campfire Burritos.

It may sound like a lot of cooking, but we were with family who: shared half of the cooking, did most of the dishes (thanks M & M!) and kept up a lovely fire. Teamwork is the best!

My Essential Camping Kitchen Tools

What do I get by with when I’m cooking off-grid? Here’s a list:

  • Swiss Army Knife (with a corkscrew)
  • 1 cheap chef’s knife (I keep a battered one in our camping kitchen box)
  • a cutting board
  • stainless steel locking tongs, the longer the better
  • can opener
  • wooden spoon
  • stainless steel spatula
  • cast iron skillet
  • camping pots
  • tin foil
  • dishwashing basin
  • dish towels
  • biodegradable soap

When camping, almost any cooking task can be completed with the tools above. Do you have anything to add?

Recipe: Sausage & Vegetable Foil Dinner with Garlic

This is an ideal dinner if you don’t want to spend much time cooking, yet want to serve a meal that’s wholesome and satisfying. The best part? No dishes to wash up afterward.

Get the kids involved with collecting firewood and adding the ingredients to the foil packages, then play a game of Frisbee while dinner bakes on the coals.

Be sure to choose nitrate-free, organic sausages and get creative with the varieties (I used rabbit and chicken). Happy camping!

Serves 6

  • 8 pre-cooked sausages, cut into thirds.
  • 2 lbs new potatoes, halved and par-boiled
  • 1 small red onion, cut into chunks
  • 6 small sweet peppers, cubed
  • 12 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • fresh herbs, torn, (I used basil and oregano)
  • salt & pepper
  1. Prepare fire by allowing to to burn down to coals.
  2. On the picnic table, lay out six squares of heavy-duty aluminum foil, about one foot square, and oil lightly.
  3. In the center of each piece of foil, place four pieces of sausage, a handful of baby potatoes and a few cloves of garlic.
  4. Divide up the onion, peppers, and herbs among the packages. Season with salt and pepper and dot with butter, if available.
  5. Bring opposite corners of foil together and seal. Fold over the seam and seal tightly to make a secure package.
  6. Place on coals (a little flame is fine) and roast, turning occasionally, for about ten minutes. Serve.

What do you like to eat when you’re camping or day-picnicking?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. I always take along a cast iron dutch oven for biscuits, beans, carne guisada, and cobbler. Our camping trips usually include a good deal of fishing, and we use foil packets to cook up the catch as well.

  2. Love your post! Recently, I took my two young children on a camping trip all by myself and decided to keep things very simple. We packed foods and drinks that required no cooking and refrigeration. We had 100% apple juice and water to drink. Trail mix and fresh fruit (apples, berries, banana, melons) for snacks. Peanut butter & honey sandwiches with cut up carrots, bell peppers and zucchini. Hummus. Plain homemade cupcakes without icing. Potato chips. Homemade krispie treats with puffed millet and sunflower seeds. We did keep the food in a cooler to prevent it from getting hot and added ice on the first day, but that was it. We stayed for 4 days. It was so easy.

  3. What’s your trick to keeping the raw meat cool? I’m always apprehensive to trust our cooler with such a task! We’ll be taking our 1 year old on his first camping trip this fall and I can’t wait!

    • Sarah, we keep a cooler packed with ice at all times. In it we keep our meats, coffee cream, butter and eggs. Have fun camping with your little one!

    • Michelle says

      I always marinate and freeze my meat in large gallon size ziplocs (you could use smaller depending upon the amount of people you need to feed) ahead of time. Then they go straight from the freezer to the cooler. With a well-iced cooler, they take three-four days to thaw :o) We cook mostly over the firepit or on a small portable grill (including those available at beach parks).

      A side note, I marinate my chicken in italian dressing and another batch in bbq sauce. They turn out great and taste fantastic! All the work of marinating is done ahead of time, and the flavor absorbs well while freezing. I even do this at home with my meat.

    • I’ve found that two coolers are a good idea. One that gets opened for drinks and on that holds food. For the food cooler I get a small chunk of dry ice. It lasts all weekend -becareful as if you use too much your food will freeze. SOLID!

    • My Opinion says

      I freeze the meats and any other items that can be frozen. Keep the cooler in the shade.
      We have used blue ice in insulated packs (cooler bags purchased in the grocery store for a couple days). We usually get 2 – 3 full days before we have to add ice. Our meats usually stay frozen until we need them and all the frozen foods help keep things colder longer.

      When we camp with electricity we take an electric cooler. Awesome!

  4. We’re so boring here! We make hot dogs and foil dinners mostly. I would add some skewers to the list; good for hot dogs or s’mores. 😉

  5. matildatill says

    wow! Awesome bonding there! great pics,,,I so loooove the tent..the kids…the food..the recipe…

  6. The sausage and veggies look delicious…. but we’re not going camping anytime soon. Any suggestion on what temp/how long to cook these if they were in an oven??

    • I would suggest the BBQ over the oven, Jenny. You will still get the wonderful smoky flavor. Use the same cooking time and method, but place the packages on the rack instead.

  7. Melissa @ Baking For The Boys says

    What a fun weekend! Love that your little one has his feet propped up on the cooler. Too cute. I haven’t camped since I was a teen and I love when my mom would dredge our fresh catch of the day in cornmeal and fry it up in the cast iron pan. It was usually rainbow trout and I loved it!

  8. We love camping, and I love simple meals like this cooked over the fire! Perfection in my book!

  9. I always bring my old aluminum coffee percolator. It’s the first thing to go on the fire in the morning.

  10. The post is really cool and camping is indeed such a fun thing to do! Thank you for sharing this one! I really got something new from here. I would love to go to camping too and try this one.

  11. I agree that the ebook is very nice… I’ve been using it to plan our trip next week. Love your camping posts too! These foil dinners look so good! Parboiling the potatoes and using cooked sausage takes a lot of the worry away… Do you boil them on site?

  12. We recently bought an RV and it has a small kitchen but haven’t actually cooked in it yet. Will probably still cook over the fire some just because of the heat in the RV. Will have to try some of the foil packets!

  13. I love making foil packs for campfire dinner! I usually bring along a jar of homemade bone broth to drizzle in the pack as well. I find it helps speed up the cooking sometimes as it steams the vegetables some as they’re cooking, and adds another layer of flavor. Another super yummy thing to try is slicing a sweet onion in half, adding a healthy chunk of butter, a sprinkle of sea salt and sometimes a dash of garlic granules then wrapping with foil and placing that butter side up on the edge of your coals and letting it cook til its good and soft. Then just unwrap and eat it with a spoon. Its sweet and carmalized, almost a kind of savory dessert.

  14. Great post! We eat like kings while camping. For me cooking over the fire is one of my favorite parts of camping. I wrote a post on my blog about it recently with our menus and tips on camping and cooking in the rain. Yes we had rain! It didn’t ruin the trip though. Loved seeing how another family does it. Makes me want to go again 🙂

  15. kurokuro26 says ..barbeque…and foil everything to keep it fresh!!
    I love the recipe for this sausage and vegetables.,..

  16. Camping kitchen essentials. May I add
    plastic table cloth
    cheese grater (for potatos, apples, cheese….)
    wooden clothes pins (closing bags, hanging wet towels, keeping foil on pans)
    Frisbee (use for plate, carrying water, fanning fire, play!)

    I love to camp and have a box of essentials always ready to go.

  17. I think this is such a great post. Its hard to pin it down. You cover so much good information. Thank you for this post.
    I am going to add the essential kitchen tools to my camping list.

  18. Thanks for all the great ideas! We are planning our first camping trip of the season including our Wheaten Terrier’s first ever kayaking trip complete with possibly buying our own kayaks finally so I’m about 100 kinds of excited and planning like crazy 🙂

  19. I’ve done the foil dinners in the coals before and love them! Do you mark who each packet belongs to? I tried permanent marker and it burns off.

  20. We make something similar when we camp. I hadn’t thought to parboil the potatoes – that will save a great deal of time. I usually make an extra packet and grill it up that night, then throw it back in the color. I empty it out on the grill in the morning, heat it up, and pour egg substitute over it for an easy, filling breakfast scramble for two.

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