Whether it’s the fresh air or stunning views, everything just tastes better outside. Even the most basic hot dog or mac and cheese seems like a delicacy when you eat it next to a campfire.
But some camp cooks think way bigger and love creating out-of-this-world trailside meals, whether they’ve hiked deep into the backcountry or road-tripped to a provincial campground.
If you’re lucky enough to camp with one of these people, you know you’re in for a treat. Coming up with gift ideas for outdoor chefs can be a challenge, so we asked MEC staffer Fiona to share some advice. When she’s not designing sweet graphics for our website and emails, she’s day hiking, backpacking, car camping and testing out new meals along the way.
“Everything tastes better when you’ve been hiking for 5 hours.” – MEC staffer Fiona
Here are our picks for the best gifts for camp chefs, with options for people into lightweight backpacking or car camping with a crew:
1. A fun, tasty treat
Who says all camp food has to be cooked over a fire? Pop a few ingredients into this ice cream ball, roll it around for 20 minutes, and voila! A frosty treat. “It’s amazing!” says Fiona. “Just make sure you have enough ice before you start, or you’ll wind up with a slushy mess.” These vacuum steel bowls will help keep it from melting.
2. An all-purpose cooktop
Grill a couple of steaks. Fry up pancakes. Boil a pot of water for coffee. This compact camp stove does it all. “I’d love to get this as a gift,” says Fiona. “It’s super versatile, and it’d be easy to store in my tiny apartment.”
3. A camping cookbook
More than 50 years of backcountry cooking experience went into these 200+ recipes, so you know they’re good. NOLS Cookery 7th Edition also offers tips on menu planning, food storage, fire preparation and more.
4. A durable cooler
To make fantastic camp meals, they’ll need to keep ingredients nice and cool. Reviewers rave about the MEC Chilli Cooler’s insulation and durability. “Everything stays cold even after 3 days,” writes one member.
5. A comfy chair
Let the chef enjoy some well-deserved rest in a lightweight chair. As a bonus, notes Fiona, “When your campfire needs a little boost, waving this a few times generates enough wind to have it roaring in no time.”
6. A campfire-friendly baking pan
Cookies or brownies or pancakes or pizzas? All of the above, please.
7. An upgraded cooking stick
“Great for the standard camp grilled cheese but also worked well for cinnamon rolls, veggies, eggs, bacon, and even steaks!” writes one reviewer about this little cast iron cooking iron.
8. A lightweight cookset
Everything they need for backcountry cooking in one convenient cookset package. “I love how compact it is – everything nests together so it doesn’t take up much space in your backpack,” explains Fiona. Plus, the carry bag doubles as a sink for clean up.
9. A camp coffeemaker
10. A lightweight kettle
Are they more of a tea drinker, or do they do a lot of winter camping? This compact kettle is light but tough enough for long treks. It’s also designed for easy storage – a fuel canister nests right inside.
11. A hand-powered blender
“Could you imagine being able to whip up a fresh smoothie with wild blueberries?” asks Fiona. “This hand-crank blender would make me the most popular person in camp.” It’s also good for making soup, baby food or even margaritas:
12. A perfect pairing
“After a long day on the trail, it’s such a nice feeling to break out a little bit of wine,” says Fiona. Keep your chef’s red, white or rosé at the just the right temperature for campsite sipping with an unbreakable insulated bottle. Packable nesting wine glasses add a little touch of luxury.
13. A durable mug
A cup of hot chocolate when they finally reach the summit, or a happy hour pint while setting up camp. These insulated cups keep hot drinks hot, and cold drinks cold. “Apple cider is my go-to hot drink, especially on chilly spring and fall evenings,” says Fiona.
14. A classy cocktail mug
Camp mixologists can show off their hometown pride while pouring Moscow Mules or Old Fashioneds. Plus, for every engraved copper mug sold, United by Blue removes 1 pound of garbage from the world’s lakes, oceans and rivers.
15. An awesome knife and chopping board
Watch your foodie friend show off their knife skills with this portable Snow Peak set. The cutting board has non-slip corners to hold it steady. When they’re finished, it folds up to create a carrying case for the knife.
16. Quick comfort food
After a long day hiking or driving to the trailhead, they’ll probably want a simple dinner. Dehydrated entrees are quick and easy – just add water. Fiona’s tried a ton of them, and her favourite is Mountain House Lasagna. “It’s the best!” she raves, and the 31 reviews on our website seem to agree.
17. next-level pizza experience
Does your foodie friend really love pizza? Take their commitment to thin-crust perfection up a notch with this outdoor pizza oven.
18. Craft s’mores ingredients
“Who doesn’t love chocolate?” Fiona asks. Your camp chef worked hard to cook a fabulous meal. Let them enjoy a dark chocolate treat while you do the dishes.