Person holding a plate full of food.

From Disaster to Delicious: 6 Fail-Proof Camping Recipes

Outdoor lovers share their most memorable camp cooking fails, along with the go-to recipes that saved them

It’s camping season and in addition to all of the hiking, stargazing, and fireside singalongs, it’s the time of year for cooking delicious meals in the woods. Sometimes, of course, that also means attempting to cook delicious meals in the woods but instead dropping them in the dirt, blowing them into the lake, or remembering halfway through that you forgot a main ingredient. Ah, the joys of camping.

Fortunately, these unexpected disasters make some of the best stories. Not only that, they often result in what we call “Tested Tough” recipes—those fail-proof recipes that you know can weather any storm (sometimes literal storms). Just like rain jackets and puffy coats, these are the meals that have been subjected to rigorous (and often hilarious) field testing, and come out unscathed on the other side. You can also check out our "Hiking Picnic Ideas" article for easy meal ideas for your day trips.

To help you build up your collection of durable go-to camping recipes, we reached out to a handful of outdoor enthusiasts—from easygoing car campers to hardcore backpackers—and asked for their funniest camp kitchen disasters, along with reliable recipes that emerged. Check out what they had to say below.
Person cooking over a skillet.

Breakfast - Easy ‘Tested Tough’ Camping Recipe

One-Pot Biscuits and Gravy
From Tamaryn Gladden, Dover, New Hampshire

  • 1 tube of breakfast sausage
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 box of Bisquick

  • Directions: Pour soup into a pan and simmer. Add sausage. Mix Bisquick with water and drop the mixture into the hot pan. Cover with a lid and stir until ready.
    Why it works: “All you need is a tube of cheap breakfast sausage—the cheaper the better—a can of soup, and some Bisquick. Tada! Biscuits and gravy! Best ever!”

    Camp Breakfast Disaster Tales

    “I tried to make this easy ‘campfire dutch baby pancake’ thing with my cast iron skillet (we were car camping, obvs). Not only did it take FOR-EV-ER to semi-cook, but half of it stuck on the pan and the middle was still gooey. My friends still tease me about it. But bonus - they don't really make me cook on camping trips any more. I'm usually in charge of beverages.”
    ~Katie Coakley, Edwards, Colorado

    “There was a time when our fuel stopped working and our neighbors let us use their empty beer cans to make scrambled eggs on their fire. … yum aluminum eggs!”
    ~Gabaccia Moreno, Veracruz, Mexico

    “I love to make bean and cheese burritos—dehydrated black bean flakes, individually wrapped cheeses, and TONS of Taco Bell sauce! I also love adding powdered butter to my meals to make them better. One time while backpacking, I didn't realize the bag I had my powdered butter in had blown up a little with the altitude and when I opened it around camp it literally exploded all over me. I swear I was completely covered in butter-- which led all my camp friends to call me the ‘Butter Babe.’”
    ~Melia Shumate, Long Beach, California
    Hot dogs being cooked over fire pit.

    Lunch - Easy ‘Tested Tough’ Camping Recipe

    Car Camping Chili Mac
    From Bennett Rahn, Seattle, Washington

  • 1 can of chili
  • 1 box instant Mac n Cheese

  • Directions: Boil water and make Mac n Cheese. Drain the noodles. Add the can of chili (dehydrated if backpacking) and mix everything together.
    Why it works: “You can stir anything into it, it’s full of good stuff, and really fills you up. It is warm and wonderful.”

    Camp Lunch Disaster Tales

    “We were a big group (10 people) backpacking in Denali. It was a soggy day/trip and everybody was so ready to tuck into the mac and cheese. As the giant pot of ready dinner was being moved off the stove to serve, disaster struck. The pot tipped, a massive pile of delicious mac on the mossy tundra. Undeterred, we all lay on our bellies, eating spoonfuls from the pile, family style. Our quiet, satisfied dining was broken with belly laughs when somebody remarked, ‘I knew Alaska would be different, but I never imagined I'd be living off the land!’”
    ~Ian Petersen, Eugene, Oregon

    “My pal and I were using iodine-treated water and it turned our water dark blue—but only sometimes. When we made pasta, it turned blue. Oatmeal? Turned blue. Just tea? Not blue. We tried to experiment to see what the connections were between blue water for days, but obviously science is flawed on a 21-day backpacking trip. I still think about this sometimes and remain puzzled.”
    ~Elyse Bongiovanni, Fairbanks, Alaska

    “Back when we tent camped, my husband had learned from his father to place burgers on foil over the fire. Sounds good until the fat from the burgers have nowhere to go but up in flames. Needless to say, we had ‘flame-broiled’ burgers. They were quite crispy!! Now that we have an RV, things have gotten better but we still manage to get sand, pine needles, and the occasional side-of-dirt and/or rocks’ in our lunch when we cook outside.”
    ~Ellisa Fellows, Parkdale, Oregon
    Two people crouching near a camp stove.

    Dinner - Easy ‘Tested Tough’ Camping Recipe

    Deconstructed Spam Musubi
    From Josh Barstow, Troutdale, Oregon

  • 1 can of spam
  • 1 packet of seaweed snacks
  • teriyaki sauce
  • cooking oil

  • Directions: Boil the rice and drain. Fry the spam in oil. Break up the seaweed snacks and mix everything together with the teriyaki sauce.
    Why it works: “(You get to) eat your gourmet spam with pride while people who hate spam look grossed out.”

    Camp Dinner Disaster Tales

    “On Cozumel Island, we went camping to the northeast side. (No road, barely a path where we had to stop several times to move rocks aside). 20kilometer/hour, 1.5 to 2-hour drive. Got to a deserted beach, started the fire. (Discovered we) brought steaks but no salt or any condiments. Nobody is driving back obviously. You guess what we used as salt? Thin white sand from the ocean. It made it crunchy but still quite enjoyable! Everything tastes pretty good by the water.”
    ~Izaskun Lopez de Bikuña, Basque Country, Spain

    “We tried to make lasagna in a fire on the beach and dropped it in the sand. On the same trip, we tried making pancakes without a spatula. We ended up just drinking for three straight days because none of our food worked out.”
    ~Sonali Anuradha Sampat, Portland, Oregon

    “I guided for a river company that insisted on cooking loganberry-stuffed Cornish game hens for 30 in dutch ovens for dinner in the Frank Church—River of No Return Wilderness Area. It was bananas. On one of our 7-day river trips, somebody forgot to pack plates for the entire group, so everyone got creative using frisbees and ammo can lids. Creativity springs from mishap.”
    ~Bridget Crocker, Malibu, California
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