The best part of camping is waking up. Chirping birds mix with the zshhhh of tent zippers and shifting sleeping bags to form a glorious but alarm-level predawn cacophony, and the brisk mountain air in those early moments is like a healing tonic for your lungs. The worst part of camping is also waking up: The temperature difference between the interior of your sleeping bag and the outdoors is a terrifying abyss, more bracing than even the blackest cup of coffee — something you desperately need because the glaring sun woke you up three hours earlier than your usual weekend consciousness. Your body is stiff from ground sleep; dirty from, well, dirt; and your bladder is telling you it’s time to pee somewhere weird and cold and very much not a toilet. 

Then ... breakfast. Out here, amid the humbling hugeness of crisp skies, drifting meadows, mammoth trees, and craggy mountains, everything tastes a little better, a little sharper, and a little more earned. Even a crumbly protein bar satisfies in a different way when you’re sitting on a stump in the dappled morning sunlight, surrounded by pine needles and nothingness. So then imagine a hollowed-out winter squash, smoky from a night in the embers of your fire, filled with a mess of eggs, chorizo, and dill-infused yogurt. Or maybe it’s a PB&J, dunked in egg batter and fried to gooey French toast magnificence. With these, the lousy night’s sleep vanishes, your body temperature rises, and the birds sing louder as the sun finally crests the mountaintop. You’ve achieved the camping nirvana that lured you out here in the first place, and it’s barely 7 a.m.

There’s no reason why camp cooking can’t be an exhilarating experience, a fire-kissed series of meals just as alluring as the fresh mountain air. To that end, Eater has teamed with some of America’s most experienced camp cooking enthusiasts — Lucas Sin, Kena Peay, Kirsten Kirby-Shoote, Nettie Colón, Al Culliton — to plan out an epic (but achievable!) start-to-finish three-day meal plan. Their breathtaking culinary adventure features everything from a salmon crunchwrap (perfect for throwing in a backpack and eating atop a vista) to a lovingly tended-to skillet chocolate chip cookie to beefy naan tacos, best devoured beneath the stars. (Seriously, though, if the idea of a multi-day cooking project seems too out of reach, we get you — there’s a guide to the best ready-to-eat meals, too.)

And because preparing for a camping trip can feel like a maximalist exercise to the extreme, we have your grocery lists and your pre-trip prep schedule, plus tips on everything, including equipment, packing a cooler, doing dishes (because you have to), and all the ways to avoid literally dying while camping — foraging is very cool but please don’t eat those mushrooms. Also, bears are real. And hungry.  

Consider this guide the key tool in your kit for having the most delicious no-brainer camping trip of your life, whether you’re a first-timer or an honorary forest ranger. S’mores obviously included. 

Make-ahead Itinerary

Want to get a head start on your weekend in the great outdoors? Many components of this blowout, multi-meal itinerary can (and, dare we say, should) be made ahead to guarantee you more time to enjoy the natural surroundings, and less time sweating over your campsite cutting board. Before you embark with your trunk and cooler packed to the gills, consider tackling the following:

Up to 3 Days Out:
Up to 2 Days Out:
1-2 Days out:
The night before, to prep:
Here is our recommended cooking-equipment packing list:
  • Cast-iron skillet(s)
  • Dutch oven with lid
  • Tongs
  • Sharp knife
  • Whisk
  • Medium or large bowl
  • Spatula
  • Utensils
  • Cooler
  • Bowls/plates for eating 
  • Cutting board or some other kind of portable surface
  • Measuring spoons


Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Meet the Chefs

Al Culliton

Al Culliton is a writer, bartender, and cocktail historian based in western Massachusetts. They are the president and chief correspondent of Al’s Cocktail Club, a weekly newsletter for curious, history-loving home bartenders.

Kena Peay

Kena Peay is an outdoor enthusiast and chef whose outdoor cooking videos have been featured on, Buzzfeed, WorldStar, and Backpacker magazine. The winner of episode two of the inaugural season of NBC’s Food Fighters, Kena has a social media community of over 400,000 followers, and is passionate about diversifying representation in the outdoors.

Kirsten Kirby-Shoote

Kirsten Kirby-Shoote, a member of the 2021 Eater New Guard, is an Indigenous urban farmer and cultural food worker based in Detroit, Michigan. In addition to growing, she hosts pop-up suppers to educate the public on traditional foodways and Indigenous food sovereignty efforts.

Lucas Sin

Lucas Sin, a 2019 Eater Young Gun, is the chef of Nice Day Chinese and Junzi Kitchen in New York City and New Haven, Connecticut. Raised in Hong Kong, Sin opened his first restaurant at the age of 16; before opening Junzi and Nice Day, Sin got his start hosting a pop-up in his college dorm, and working in Michelin-starred restaurants.

Nettie Colón

Nettie Colón is the ever-roaming chef/founder of Minneapolis’s Red Hen Gastrolab, which has been dubbed “the persistent pop-up.” Always up for the challenge of where to cook the next meal, she specializes in fire- and earthen oven–cooking methods, such as pibil, pachamanca, and curanto.


  • Editorial leads Erin DeJesus, Rebecca Flint Marx, Lesley Suter
  • Editor Elazar Sontag
  • Developer Graham Yan MacAree
  • Designer Alyssa Nassner
  • Contributors Nettie Colón, Al Culliton, Farley Elliott, Brenna Houck, Matthew Kang, Kirsten Kirby-Shoote, Nicholas Mancall-Bitel, Rebecca Flint Marx, Meghan McCarron, Kena Peay, Lucas Sin, Elazar Sontag, Lesley Suter
  • Recipe testers Ivy Manning, Deena Prichep
  • Illustrator Rachel Jung
  • Photographer Dina Avila
  • Copy editor Kim Eggleston
  • Engagement Adam Moussa, James Park, Milly McGuinness


  • Art director Erin DeJesus
  • Photographer Dina Avila, assisted by Arthur Hitchcock 
  • Food and prop stylist Nathan Carrabba, assisted by Donna Grisham
  • Model Anthony Adams
  • Materials provided by REI, Duluth Trading Company, Red Wing

Special thanks to