I am now officially married to a big Eagle scout. This means that we are always prepared for our camping trips, and our methods have been optimized to ensure we are comfortable yet still efficient. I’d like to share a few planning tips that I’ve picked up from my very own Eagle scout husband. Please note these tips are for car camping, and that different rules apply to backpacking.
Our Tips + Tricks
1. Have 1 or 2 designated plastic bins loaded with your camping essentials (see below). This is to ensure that everything is organized and packed in one place, and you aren’t scrambling to find things last minute. These bins will also help you pack the car and eventually the bear box, once you arrive at the camp site. Replenish these bins as needed before each trip – but otherwise, give yourself a pat on the back for your foresight.
2. Always plan your menus ahead of time and do as much food prep ahead of time as possible. You do NOT want to spend your time cooking at camp, so I find that making the food ahead of time, and doing some smart planning helps make this more efficient. Pack out smaller portions of snacks in ziplocs for hikes. I like to pre-marinate various meats and freeze them in ziploc bags – these become bricks of ice that not only keep the cooler cool, but will also defrost in time to grill for dinner. I also like packing frozen stews (see below!)/chilis – all you do is reheat! Simple as that. If possible, pre-wash and chop veggies ahead of time, and stick them into ziploc baggies. Keep breakfasts simple, with just instant ramen or bacon/eggs/toast. Lunch for us is usually something packable/portable yet filling for the long hikes, such as a meaty Vietnamese sandwich, some fruit, and granola. Dessert consists of (obviously) smores, instant cookie dough pizookies, and cut fruit. Nothing too fancy, but definitely satisfying and very tasty. Whatever you plan on eating, make sure the ingredients are versatile and work across multiple meals – this helps you reduce what you have to buy and pack.
3. There is a sweet spot when it comes to packing. Pack too much and you risk hauling that heavy stuff home with you and wasting a ton of gas. Pack too little and you’ll find yourself uncomfortable or having to stop in a nearby town or general store for provisions. I tend to err on the side of slightly over packing (especially with food and clothing), as I’d rather be warm and full, than hungry and cold.
4. Read the park rules, respect the park rules and keep your space in tact, if not better than when you arrived. My husband is giving me an ironic look right now, as I don’t usually like authority or following rules… but this one is important. The rules are in place for your safety and the safety of the habitat and the animals that live there. So please, follow the rules. Additionally, so many times we find that folks trash their camp sites, and it’s such a shame. Camping is a cheapish activity, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value or that it’s ok to trash. We can all work to stop the tragedy of the commons.
These are the things we normally have in our bin. Yes, some of these are ‘luxuries’ and not absolutely necessary, but we find that the amenities make for a more comfortable trip – which makes all the difference in the world after a long day’s hike. We’ve also included links to items we absolutely love and cannot live without, in case you are interested in purchasing.
Sleeping bag + pillows
Folding camp chairs
Bright and small flashlight + lantern (to light work area and also to be hung inside tent)
Good quality hiking boots or shoes
Comfortable shoes or sandals for around the campsite
Personal toiletries + hand sanitizer + toilet paper
Daypack or backpack and larger duffel or suitcase
Water canteen or durable water bottle
Light weight, fast drying and versatile clothing
Poncho or other lightweight rain gear (or use a plastic garbage bag)
Warm underwear or thermals
Swimming gear – trunks, swimsuit, etc.
Utility pocket knife
First aid kit
Spare carabiners + rope
Entertainment – deck of cards, board game, book, etc.
1-2 coolers + ice
Versatile personal bowl for eating (we each use a large plastic pho bowl)
Eating utensils – chopsticks, forks, spoons, knife (use pocket knife)
Mugs (for coffee + other non-water beverages – ahem, bourbon)
Cooking utensils – tongs, spatula, ladle
Chef’s knife with sheath
Plastic cutting mats
1 medium pot with lid & 1 frying pan
Small tabletop gas stove + extra butane
Matches or lighter
Large garbage bags to keep packs dry in case it rains and to help with clean up
Dish soap + sponge
Container to store water, acts as tub for dishes, face washing, teeth brushing, etc.
Simple spice kit (salt, pepper, fish sauce, Sriracha, soy sauce, sugar, etc.)
Roll of paper towels
A few aluminum trays + foil wrap
Long thick skewers – good for skewering meats and as marshmallow sticks
All the raw ingredients to support your menu
High energy snacks – nuts, granolas, dried fruit, etc.
Packable fruit – bananas + oranges are great in preventing cramps + constipation, and aid in hydration
Booze – helps you stay warm at night; also acts as a nice sleep aid
Wine Braised Boar Stew
Adapted from: Epicurious
Stews are great for camping trips – they are quick to heat, go down easy, and are hearty/meaty enough to satisfy even the hungriest camper. We still have about 30+ pounds of boar meat left, so I put it to use on our latest camping trip to Yosemite. This stew is aromatic and complex – filled with unexpected warm spices that really enhance the boar flavor. Don’t be alarmed by the anchovies – it adds great umami without being fishy. I’ve also made a few tweaks to the original recipe, chief among them is adding some veggies and a bit of cocoa, which I think pairs really nicely (in a subtle way) with the warm spices and red wine. And of course, you don’t need to go camping to make this – so enjoy!
3 lbs bone-in wild boar shoulder meat (cut down for stew; you could easily use lamb or beef here too)
1 large onion, diced (I used red, but normal yellow is fine)
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 sprig of fresh basil
1 cup red wine (I used a Zin I had been drinking)
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
1 tin of anchovies
2 carrots, diced
1 turnip, diced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, to taste
Salt and black pepper to taste
Olive oil for cooking
In a large dutch oven pot or other heavy-bottom pot on high heat, sear the boar meat chunks. Do this in batches as needed to avoid crowding the pot, as you’ll end up steaming/boiling the meat as opposed to getting a good sear. Once all seared, place all boar meat back into pot, and add a bit of olive oil and onions, sauting until the onions are soft. Then add the garlic, but be careful not to burn. Add the tomatoes and all their juices, along with the bay leaves, sprigs of rosemary and basil. Add the wine. Bring to a boil and stir in the cocoa powder. Add the remaining spices.
Once at a rolling boil, turn down the heat and allow the pot to simmer with the pot lid on the entire time. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom to prevent any burning/sticking. Add a half cup of water periodically and as needed throughout the cooking process to keep an inch or so of liquid in the pot. Cook for at least 2 hours, but longer will be required for a tender/fall-off-the-bone texture. The stew will thicken over time. This is an optional step but once the meat is tender, remove all the meat from the pot and strain the remaining liquid. Return all the meat and the strained liquid to the pot and add the carrots and turnips, then bring to a boil. This makes for a ‘cleaner’ and a bit more sophisticated stew, without all the gunk (delicious bits of tomato and anchovy). If you don’t mind the “gunk”, skip the straining, and just add the carrots and turnips straight to the pot then bring to a boil, cooking until fork tender. I add the veggies at this stage to prevent the veggies from becoming soggy, limp, lifeless things – we want to retain the texture and sweetness of the carrots and turnip. Taste test the stew and adjust seasoning as needed. Fish out the cinnamon stick, bay leaves and stems of the rosemary and basil. Serve with a crusty loaf of French or Italian bread.
What’s really lovely is that during the cooking process, that meat absorbs all the cooking liquids and slowly breaks down and darkens in color. The end result is this silky broth that enrobes the tender pieces of meat. The flavors have had a few hours to meld in the broth, which would benefit from some bread or perhaps a side of thick mashed potatoes.
I don’t have any photos of us eating the stew, as we packed all this up into tupperware that was then frozen and brought to camp. Just trust me when I say, that this is amazing.
Hope you enjoyed this entry and see you next time!
PS. Images were taken by me in Yosemite, Big Basin, and Sequoia National, respectively.