One of the greatest things about hiking any trail but especially the Appalachian Trail is the memories you gain from eating food that has been cooked pioneer style over an open campfire. There is no match for a campfire made trail meal in the mind of any hiker. Except for maybe the occasional pizza! Ah the memories of coming off the trail for a day or two in places like trail towns Helen, Georgia, and Erwin, Tennessee to enjoy a hot pizza.

But when you are on the trail it may seem easy to whip out your trusty whisper light camp stove or a pack of waterproof matches and start a cooking fire and whip up a nice hot meal. But the truth is, if you do not perfect cooking in the wilderness you will be eating a lot of dry foods, and food that tastes more burnt than nutritious.

Most hikers carry some sort of notes with them on cooking on the trail. Either, notes they have jotted down themselves after a great experiment turns into a great meal or a campfire cookbook if there is a lightweight one. There are indeed many ways to cook while on the trail, I guess most probably prefer to cook with fuel since it is fast and less work.

But for some of us, the spirit of traditional campfire cooking cannot be forgotten and we choose to build a fire and cook over the flames or hot coals. Below is a collection of great cooking secrets that we can thank our friends at Backpacker magazine for:

-Rub a bar of soap on the outside of a pot to protect it from burning over an open fire. The soot sticks to the soap instead of the pot, which wipes off. Keeps your gear looking new!
-Since not everyone may be experienced enough at first to “wing it” with some dishes, use a sharpie to write the recipe and cooking directions on the zip top bags that contain your ingredients. Or make a note on paper and put it in the bag with the stuff.
-Choose the right stove for your trip. Every hiker will need to carry a stove with some waterproof matches or lighters because the rain will keep you from cooking over a fire sometimes. Cold temperatures call for an MSR Windpro! But if it is the time of year when the wind is even more brutal you may want to carry a Bruton Raptor for its four leg stability and concentrated flame.
-Clean dishes using snow, since it acts as both a scrubber and rinser. Leave no trace, remove big scraps first and then scatter the snow.
-For a fabulous dessert, dehydrate fruit pie: Crumble it up, thinly spread the pieces around the dehydrators circle, and turn it on for the night. Viola! Crispy pie crumbles! Rehydrate with just enough water to soak it through, but they taste great dry too!
-Bring essential spices, chicken bouillon for savory flavor and cinnamon for sweetness. You can carry an all in one spice canister that weighs nothing too, available at most any hiking /camping store. Put the canister in a ziplock bag though to keep moisture out.
-Re-hydrated meals will often become mushy. But a handful of nuts such as sunflower kernels will add crunch and tastes great in most all dishes!
-Carry bamboo chopsticks, they are cheap, lightweight, sustainable, heat-resistant, and easy to clean; and they would work great for serving pasta, toasting marshmallows, frying food without scratching pans, stirring stuff, getting hot water into corners of freeze-dried bags and more.

No matter what your style on the trail is when it comes to cooking always remember that perfection comes through practice. Go slow when you cook and try not to cook over flames, better to cook over hot coals. Sometimes time is a factor on the trail and fatigue at the end of a hiking day, but even just a handful of coals removed from the main fire can cook a meal for one.

Above all else, enjoy the trail life, enjoy the food and even though it is winter it is a good time to get out and hike and cook over an open hot campfire.

Author's Bio: 

I am a published author and freelance writer with over 30 years experience. I have written for many high profile companies online including Yahoo! Inc.,,, and have done 1000’s of gigs for freelance writing for folks all over the planet. I’ve had pieces published in many high profile magazines such as The New Pioneer, American Frontiersman, Backwoodsman, American Survival Guide, and Self Reliance digital magazine. I currently am a feature writer for Athlon Outdoors Inc. where I write pieces for The New Pioneer, American Frontiersman, and Survivor’s Edge magazines. I write about things that benefit others, because, to me, this is the reason I exist, to help others and to be a truth bringer. Writing is poetry, it is powerful and has a way of uncovering darkness even in the darkest times. I specialize in all things, natural living. But I also write about Zen, Spirituality, homesteading, green and organic living, off-grid living, hiking the Appalachian Trail, prepping, survival and other subjects associated with these. If you are into these or subjects like these, follow me, you won’t be sorry. Find all my books here: