Summer is in full swing, and Wirecutter staff members are retreating to their favorite campsites to celebrate, armed with coolers filled with our favorite snacks and ingredients for fireside meals. Here’s what we’ll be eating as we take in all that Mother Nature has to offer.
I’ll admit that TikTok made me try them, but I certainly don’t regret stuffing Medjool dates with creamy peanut butter for a protein-packed hiking snack that’s both sweet and satisfying. These sweet yet salty and chewy yet creamy bites require just two ingredients and a few minutes to assemble. Pry open the dates, remove the pits, add a healthy dollop of the nut butter of your choice, and enjoy. Some folks take it a step further by coating the stuffed dates with melted chocolate, which sounds delicious—they claim the flavor combination is akin to a Snickers bar—but requires entirely too much effort for me. If I’m going out for a quick day-hike, I make these peanut butter date bombs before leaving the house, wrap them in foil, and toss them in my backpack to eat on the trail. But if you’re spending the weekend outdoors, you can easily assemble these tasty treats at the campsite as long as you’ve got the essential ingredients tucked into your cooler.
—Elissa Sanci, trends writer
Fritos and chili (a version of Frito pie or walking tacos)
I never eat Fritos outside of camp, but they’re the perfect base for this easy recipe. It calls for only three ingredients: Fritos corn chips, your choice of chili, and shredded cheese on top. Sounds boring, but after a day of hiking and outdoor adventures, it’s so good and so easy with lots of crunch and flavor. All you need to do is heat up the chili and pile on the ingredients as you see fit, and you’re ready to enjoy. Plus, canned chili and Fritos are easy to pack and shelf-stable, so you only need to worry about keeping your cheese chilled during your trip.
—Nena Farrell, updates writer
My favorite meal for the start of a camping trip is this mostly make-ahead one-pan mac and cheese. It’s a little more indulgent of a recipe, with paprika and toasted breadcrumbs, but it always proves to be a delicious beginning to my camping trips. To pull this off, you have to prepare the cheddar cheese sauce and breadcrumbs ahead of time, and if you can’t find the no-drain pasta the recipe calls for (I’ve personally never spotted it in stores), you may have to cook the pasta at home, too. Once I’m at camp, I heat the pasta and melt the cheese over the fire, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top. Best first night at camp, ever.
—Nena Farrell, updates writer
Growing up in Maine, I went camping a lot with my family, and I always looked forward to eating foil dinners—there was nothing better after a day spent hiking, biking, and just being outdoors! What’s great about this dinner is that each person can customize their own meal. Add onions to the potatoes, try a different kind of sausage or vegetable—the possibilities are endless! Just remember to use lots of butter and your favorite seasonings. My favorite version of a foil dinner has a base of thinly sliced red potatoes, coins of turkey kielbasa, and chopped carrots, topped with mustard after it’s cooked. Use a 6-by-6-inch folded square of foil as the base (with a sheet of parchment paper if you’re feeling fancy), then add all of your ingredients and wrap another sheet of foil around it to keep the packet closed. Cook on the grill or right on some coals for about 45 minutes to an hour, flipping over your meal occasionally. Good luck remembering which one is yours—that’s part of the fun!
—Tabitha Rodrigue, product design director
A three-ingredient pita pizza
Pizza is the greatest food on the planet. Ergo, pita pizza is the greatest camping food on the planet. Three simple ingredients (four if you’re feeling extra fancy) combine into a crisp, smoky, complete meal of carbs, acid, fat, and joy. It’s simply a pocket pita laid flat, spread with tomato sauce and sprinkled with mozzarella cheese, wrapped in foil and placed on the edge of a campfire until the cheese has melted. You can add a topping like pepperoni or thinly sliced onions, but it’s truly not necessary. The hardest part is waiting a couple of minutes so you don’t burn the roof of your mouth biting into the still-molten cheese.
—Annemarie Conte, deputy editor
A protein bar that tastes like dessert
The humble Clif Bar might not be the most exciting campsite snack, but it’s my go-to for a reason: It tastes like dessert. During a grueling hike, I don’t want to snack on a handful of nuts or a protein bar that turns to dust the moment I take a bite. I want a reward for all the hard work I’ve put in, and depending on the flavor, a protein-packed Clif bar can certainly be the sweet treat that keeps me going. My favorite flavor is chocolate brownie (it’s chewy and dense, reminiscent of a fudge brownie), but mint chocolate and white chocolate macadamia nut are tied for second.
If traditional Clif bars aren’t your thing, senior staff writer Lauren Dragan recommends trying the Clif Nut Butter Bars. Both the peanut butter and chocolate peanut butter are family favorites because the peanut butter filling adds some welcome moisture and chewy texture. Lauren’s 6-year-old also swears by the chocolate brownie Clif Kid Z Bars both on hikes and at summer-camp snack time.
—Elissa Sanci, trends writer
If you didn’t roast marshmallows, did you actually go camping? The smell of gently charred sugar immediately floods my heart with memories of annual family summer trips to Ricketts Glen State Park in upstate Pennsylvania. But if you, like me, refrain from harming animals through your diet, regular old marshmallows are out (gelatin is a key ingredient in traditional recipes). Fortunately, I found a vegan alternative! Dandies look, taste, melt, and roast just like the marshmallows of your childhood but don’t have any animal ingredients. Pair (of course) with a Milkless chocolate bar and graham crackers for a cruelty-free s’more that will live up to its name.
—Lauren Dragan, senior staff writer
This article was edited by Annemarie Conte.