I don’t backpack, but I do have a backpacking stove. Somehow, they’re just easier to use than the big two-burner stoves, easier to store, easier in general. So we travel with two small backpacking stoves (currently we use Coleman Guide Series® Compact Dual Fuel Stove
because that was the absolute best-of-the-best (except for weight) when we first started camping, and since it worked, it didn’t make sense to change…but now that the price has more than doubled in the past couple years, we’re also using the Coleman Bottle Top Propane Stove). (You can find my reviews on these two stoves here (Dual Fuel Stove) and here (Propane Stove).) So this post is generally what we cook when we’re traveling… using one or two single-burner stoves!
5 Easy Camping Meals that can be made on a backpacking stove
Several cups of water (for boiling the noodles)
1 or more boxes (about 7.25 oz. each) Macaroni and Cheese (Kraft is fine; I like Wegman’s store brand. We use five boxes for our group; adjust as needed)
Butter or margarine, as specified on the box of macaroni and cheese
1 or 2 cans of chili, nacho chips, and/or Italian seasoning blend (optional)
Bring water to a boil in a large pot; add noodles from the box of macaroni and cheese (remove cheese packet before pouring noodles into boiling water; don’t ask me how I know that forgetting this is a bad idea). Boil for time specified on box; drain. Add butter or margarine and cheese powder from packet. Stir well to combine. Serve with chili, crushed nacho chips, Italian seasoning blend, or topping of your choice.
(Note: You can add the milk specified on the box if desired; we find this less-soupy version easier to deal with in the wilderness.)
Several cups of water (for boiling the spaghetti)
1 can (approximately 24 oz.) Hunts brand spaghetti sauce (any flavor – my favorite is Vegetable), label removed (of course, you can use any brand of sauce – but we like Hunt’s because it’s not too sweet)
½ or more lb. of spaghetti, thin spaghetti, or angel hair (we use 1 to 2 lb. to a can of sauce)
Pre-grated parmesan cheese (like Kraft) (optional)
Place can in pot; pour water over can. Heat to boiling. (Yes, this is safe – an engineer explained it to me something like that because the contents of the can and the water are heating up at the same pace, it doesn’t explode. Or something like that. At any rate, it’s perfectly safe to boil a room-temperature can in cold water.) Remove can; add spaghetti and cook for time specified on spaghetti box or bag. Drain. Open can; serve spaghetti with each person helping him or herself to sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired.
Several cups of water (to cook the pasta)
3 cans (15 oz. each) chili (with or without beans), labels removed
6 c. uncooked pasta (we like penne, but elbows also work well)
Place cans of chili in pot; cover with water. Bring to a boil. (Yes, this is safe – see above.) Remove cans and add pasta; cook until desired doneness. Drain. Allow each person to help themselves to pasta and then chili.
(Actually, I like to eat my chili on sandwich bread. But then again, I like sloppy joes and most members of my group aren’t exactly fans of those, either.)
Lipton Side Dishes Turned Main Dishes
We sometimes eat this as an entire meal, but most of the younger end of the group aren’t fans, so we’ve more or less retired this meal.
1 or more packets (about 4.4 oz. each) Lipton (or generic) brand pasta side dish (they come in envelopes). They can be all one flavor, or mix and match flavors. We liked an alfredo-chicken mixture, made with 5 packets for our group
1 or more boxes (about 4.8 oz each) Pasta Roni (or generic; I like Aldi’s Reggano) Pasta Entrees (I personally prefer Shells & White Cheddar; again, we use 5 boxes)
Water and butter or margarine specified on the package
Place water and butter or margarine in pot; cook according to package directions. Allow to stand, uncovered, for a few minutes to congeal. Serve hot, as this meal isn’t very good when it’s cold (like, Grand Canyon at 19 degrees).
Hot Doggies and Smashed Potatoes
1 or more packages of hot dogs (we usually use three packages, each containing 8 hot dogs)
Water for boiling hot dogs
1 or more packets (usually about 4 oz. each) flavored instant mashed potatoes (we use 2 packets)
2/3 c. mashed potato flakes per packet of flavored mashed potatoes (we measure these out ahead of time)
Water and margarine called for to make both types of potatoes (if it calls for milk, simply substitute water, unless you have plenty of milk in the wilderness)
Place hot dogs in pot; cover with water. Bring to a boil; remove from heat. Meanwhile, on a second stove, bring water and margarine for both types of potatoes to a boil. Add both types of potatoes; stir well, and allow to rest a few minutes before eating.
Soup, Soup, Soup!
1 or more cans (about 18.8 oz. each) soup, such as Campbell’s Chunky (or generic; I like Aldi’s and Wegmans’) Soups. We make up 5 cans: one chicken flavor, two beef flavor, and one “something else” flavor – like Chicken Corn Chowder (my favorite!) or Baked Potato and Bacon. Mark cans and then remove the labels.
Several cups of water for boiling soup cans
1 or more packages (3 oz. each) ramen noodles (not instant) – we use 5 packages
Water specified on Ramon noodles (usually 2 cups per package for a total of 10 cups)
3 c. instant rice
3 c. water (to cook rice) (Really, you just want equal amounts of rice and water – so measure what works for you)
Place cans in large pot; mostly cover with water. Bring to a boil; remove from heat.
Meanwhile, heat Ramen noodle water to boiling; add noodles (remove spice package first – again, don’t ask how I know it’s a bad idea not to follow this advice) and cook according to package directions (likely 3 minutes). Remove from heat and add contents of spice packages. Stir well.
When there’s an unused stove to be had, measure rice water into a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat; add rice and allow to stand 5 minutes or until water is absorbed.
Remove cans from water; open cans and allow everyone to help themselves – rice first, soup on top, ramen plain or mixed with whatever soup you want!
What do you like to make on a backpacking stove?