10 ESSENTIAL CAMP KITCHEN INGREDIENTS - PANERGY
SALT & PEPPER
Arguably the two most basic spices, salt and pepper belong in any camp kitchen spice kit. A little salt can draw out the best flavors of any dish you prepare (run a taste test first on food you’re rehydrating, which is often already high in sodium and may not need much). Pepper, its soulmate, works with just about everything. Look for shakers that can be sealed or closed to keep them fresh and avoid spillage, and you’ll be using these over the camp stove and at the picnic table.
RED PEPPER FLAKES
There’s a reason you’ll find a shaker of pepper flakes on the table at any pizza joint worth its salt. Crushed or dried from a relative of the cayenne pepper, these flakes are pretty agnostic—they add a zesty kick to just about anything, but they won’t overpower the other flavors of a dish. They’ll stay fresh for a season in a small mason jar, or save a few packets and stash them in your camp kitchen box next time you order a pizza.
Variety is the spice of life, but if your camp kitchen skills or the load you’re carrying aren’t ready to accommodate much variety, hot sauce is the next best thing. (Just ask a thru-hiker.) We won’t tell you which hot sauce to pack—that’s a deeply personal decision—but if you don’t already have a tried-and-true favorite, most come in small, camp-friendly bottle sizes. Consider a handful of sauces for various dishes; your fellow campers will thank you for the variety.
When a clove of freshly minced garlic isn’t readily available (or practical), garlic powder will do in a pinch. It adds a touch of umami flavor that gives veggies and other light dishes a satisfying meatiness. Plus, it’s readily available in the spice aisle at just about any supermarket, which means it’s easy to throw a container in your spice kit.
Dehydrated stock—in other words, a bouillon cube—is a lightweight, economical way to up the flavor of any dish. Simply toss one or two in with pasta, mashed potatoes, grits, or any other savory dish; they’ll dissolve in hot water for an infusion of savory goodness. Look for a container with individually wrapped cubes, which are shelf stable.
Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you have to rough it. If you’re bringing a cooler, those who take cream in their coffee can stick with regular creamer; if you’re hiking in (or camping for long enough that a cooler could be iffy), powdered milk is the way to go. It’s also a great addition to oatmeal and other sweet breakfast dishes, and it adds a creamy consistency for pastas and other sauce-based dishes.
Hunger acts a little differently when you’re camping—a meal that would seem filling at home might not cut it when you’re spending days working hard outside and nights in a chillier environment than your living room. Toss a package or two of instant mashed potatoes into your camp kitchen kit for an easy-to-prepare side or addition to lots of camp meals.
Ramen noodles aren’t just for college kids. A few packages of this cheap, shelf-stable snack are a must-have in any camp kitchen. Not only do they make a delicious, salty post-hike snack, they’re also quick and easy enough to make in the morning and put in an insulated thermos before heading out for the day for some easy midday calories.
Grits might just be the most versatile staple in a camp kitchen. They make a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast; make them sweet by adding dried or dehydrated fruit, nuts, and chocolate chips, or savory with some cheese, hot sauce, and your preferred spice combination. And if the dinner you brought doesn’t seem like quite enough after a long day, it’s easy to dress them up as a side.
A BOX OF WINE
Gone are the days of poor-quality boxed wine. Many grocery and liquor stores carry a decent variety of boxed wine, and whether you go for red, white, or rosé, you won’t have to worry about keeping glass bottles from breaking. Some dishes call for wine (risotto, anyone), and in any case, it’s a simple way to make any meal feel a little fancier.