No-fuss morning meals to jump-start your outdoor adventures
Preparing your meal can be half the fun, but like most pleasures, it has its time and its place. First thing in the morning is seldom the time, and the campsite – where you have so many more enjoyable things to do – is seldom the place. You'll enjoy the crisp morning air just that much more if breakfast is made up ahead and ready to eat as-is or after a few minutes on the campfire while you just sit back and enjoy your cup of coffee.
Even if you're a light eater in the morning, the fresh air of a camping trip can make a hearty breakfast hash sound pretty appealing. Sizzle up some chopped ham, corned beef or sausage in a skillet with onions and potatoes, then pour in a cup or two of scrambled eggs. When the eggs are just barely set, take the skillet from the burner and let the hash cool for 15 minutes or so. Transfer it to a plate and refrigerate it, uncovered, until it's completely chilled. Set out a sheet of heavy foil or a disposable foil pan, and fill it with hash. Top it with cheese and green onions, then wrap the foil tightly around the hash and freeze it. When you're at your campsite, take the hash from your cooler and heat it at the edge of the campfire, turning frequently, until it's hot all the way through.
Baked French toast or breakfast casserole
Arrange thick slices of bread in a disposable foil pan or two, and pour in enough egg-and-milk mixture to cover the bread liberally. Sprinkle it with cinnamon if you wish, or add cooked ham, sausage or bacon to each portion. For a breakfast casserole follow the same basic procedure, but leave out any sweet ingredients or warm spices and instead add fried onions, extra meats, and shredded cheese. Bake until it's barely set, then take it from the oven, cool it, and freeze it. Reheat the whole pan over your campfire, or freeze it in individual portions for faster heating.
Breakfast sandwiches or burritos
Breakfast sandwiches or burritos are another way to enjoy a savory breakfast in the great outdoors. You can buy these at your supermarket, but homemade is better. For a burrito, saute onions and diced sweet peppers with scrambled eggs, and then layer them into a tortilla with your choice of cheese and cured meats. Roll them tightly in parchment and then foil, and freeze for later.
For sandwiches, cook scrambled or hard-cooked eggs and stack them on an English muffin or bagel with bacon, sliced ham or a sausage patty and a piece of cheese. Wrap them in parchment and then foil – the parchment keeps them from sticking – and freeze them immediately. When you're camping, pop them onto the edge of the grate or fire, and heat until they're warmed through.
Breakfast fruit and berry crumble or cobbler
This may seem more like dessert than breakfast, but all the fresh fruit makes it pretty healthy. Toss your choice of fruits or berries with sugar and cornstarch, and layer them into disposable baking pans. Top with crumbs made from flour, sugar and butter, or granola that's been "buzzed" in a food processor, or your favorite crust if you prefer cobbler. Bake until the top is set and golden and the fruit is cooked, bubbly and thickened, and then let it cool. You can make this up in one pan or divide it into single-serve portions, and serve it either cold or reheated at the campsite.
Deluxe overnight oatmeal
On longer trips, it's handy to have things you can prep at the campsite and enjoy the next day. You could do that with the fruit crumble, bringing the dry ingredients and using packed-in fruit or foraged berries for the rest. Another option is overnight oatmeal. Simple versions are very simple indeed, requiring just a container, some oatmeal, and water, milk or other liquid to soften the oats. You can up the ante by adding dried fruit, sweeteners or warm spices to suit your taste. It works if you simply leave the oats to soak overnight, and it's even better if you put your sealed pot in the ashes of the fire to cook slowly over the dying embers. For an even tastier variation on the same idea, start with granola rather than plain oats, and layer it with fruit and thick Greek-style yogurt.
A word about food safety
Your made-ahead breakfasts don't have to stay hard-frozen as long as they're at a fridge-like temperature of 40 degrees F or less, which is the threshold for food safety. Your best bet is to layer your frozen items with gel packs or ice, so you can use the items on top while those underneath stay frozen. An inexpensive refrigerator thermometer in the cooler will help you monitor the temperature. It's also handy to have in instant-read thermometer, so you can be sure you've reheated foods to a safe serving temperature. According to USDA guidelines, that's an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F.