Cooking outdoors

Trent Wilkie

Cooking over a fire is tough. Being a canoe guide off and on for the past fifteen years, I know this first hand.

The intangibles of rain or bugs or wind are just the beginning. There is also which types of wood burn the longest and produce the best heat? What order do you cook in? What is the best way to disperse the coals to get a nice even source?

On top of all this, cooking outdoors offers more than just the challenge of the fire. There are your reasons for being outdoors. Are you on an extended canoe trip? Are you escaping the city to get out into the clean air for a quick getaway? Are you introducing your family to the outdoors, doing what I like to call car camping, with your car parked right at your campsite?

On an extended wilderness trip of any kind, it is important to listen to your body. Obvious? Perhaps, but not always done. There isn’t a grocery store to stop by for a quick snack. There isn’t electricity for hundreds of kilometers. Heck, there isn’t even a roof. 
If you get sick or hurt, there isn’t anyone around to help, so paying attention and eating well is paramount.

When traveling with a group, you must look out for your trip mates. Hunger can affect people in many ways. Some become sluggish. Others get confused easily and in some cases it can make people pretty sick. Watching what you eat and when you eat can turn an uncomfortable and somewhat dangerous outdoor experience into a positive life long memory.

Everyone has felt this at some point; the inexplicable need to get out of town. Work is too much or things aren’t going your way or you just need to see trees without houses around them. Problem is, time is of the essence and you don’t have anything planned. This is not the problem that it may seem. The preparation for this is more about what you take rather than how much. In under an hour you can be prepared for a phone-free weekend whether it rain or shine. Just remember, even if it is raining, you can still enjoy the outdoors. This is where food is imperative. All you have to do is prepare for the worst.

Whenever I cook outdoors, I try to keep three things in mind. Simplicity, flavour and nutrition. If the foods you are cooking don’t have all three of these, then save them for the kitchen. Everything tastes better when you are outdoors, so you might as well keep yourself as healthy as possible when you are out there.

Wilderness canoe guide Trent Wilkie considers the deep dark woods a therapy that comes only at the cost of comfort. He is also a member of the Mostly Water Theatre Comedy troupe.

Quinoa salvation

The ancient grain is perfect for an extended outdoor trip and is cooked like rice.

  • 1¾ c quinoa
  • ½ c lentils
  • ½ c raisins
  • 1 pkg low sodium soup mix

diced beef jerky (not necessary, only for carnivores)

Place all in 3.5 cups of boiling water. Eat when mushy.

Serves 4.


Delicious and refreshing, with a little bit of that summer feel. To be done before leaving and placed in a cooler.

  • 1 bottle white wine
  • 1 diced apple
  • 2 fruit cups in their own juices
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 handsful frozen mixed berries

Pour all into pitcher. Will be ready when you arrive (even tastier after a bit of a hike).

One pan breakfast burritos for two

Now it is the morning after your escape and you need something to fill your stomach. You can do this without all the unhealthiness of a cooked meal in a bag.

  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ c salsa
  • 1 sweet pepper
, diced
  • 3 green onions, diced
  • ½ c old cheese, grated
  • 4 links turkey sausage, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 4 small flour tortillas

Mix everything with the eggs, and throw into pan over small fire or camp stove on medium. Steam tortillas: while eggs are cooking, wrap the tortillas in tinfoil with a slightly moist paper towel and throw in the fire for a few minutes.

Makes 4 burritos.

Banana fire wonderfulness

The key to any family camping experience is keeping the children happy. I don’t care what is going on in your life or what type of mood you are in, if the kids aren’t having a good time, there is no way you can. The challenge is showing them the outdoors while still keeping that safety-of-home feeling inside them. Good food does this very well.

Take a banana. Slice open tip to tail. Place trail mix (peanuts, raisins, dried fruit, chocolate chips) inside slit, wrap it in tinfoil. Watch the kids’ faces turn to amazement as you throw it directly in the fire. Say aloud: “What have I done?” Leave it there for 3-5 minutes, depending on fire, pull it out with a stick. Let cool. Unwrap and eat with a spoon.