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Camping Made Easy: Hobo Packs

Alex is a Virginia Beach local that enjoys the wondrous natural beauty of Virginia and sampling local food and drink.

Cooking While Camping

I've done a lot of cooking while camping. I've cooked hot dogs on the open fire, I've made chili on the fire, and I've even made Dutch oven enchiladas. All of which were amazing, however, I am not about the clean-up. To make it easier I tried prepping as many of the meals ahead of time as I could. But still, I had to wash a lot of dishes after the meals. Which is the last thing I want to do.

I experimented with a foil pack on a fall camping trip. I knew we would be getting to the campsite just before sundown and I did not want to prep dinner in the dark. I loved how easy it was. I just snatched them from the cooler, plopped them on the grate over the fire and dinner was ready in just 20 minutes. To make it better I had almost no clean-up after dinner! Score!

On our last camping trip, I decided to go a step further. Every meal was prepped at home and made into hobo packs. It worked fantastically! The only thing we had to wash after each meal were our forks and our coffee cups in the morning. Not only did I spend less time washing but I spent less time having to fill the water jug and lugging it back to our site.

What Are Hobo Packs?

Simply put—they are foil packs! The heavy duty foil serves three purposes. It acts as a container, cooking dish, and plate. This makes for an easy meal while camping. Just prep them at home before the trip, label them with a sharpie and you're good to go.

You can customize your pack and make it as extravagant or as simple as you want.

What Can You Make?

Just about everything. We've done a shrimp boil pack and we've made steak. We even made banana boats on our last trip. When I was looking up recipes I noticed that no one had cooking times for cooking on a fire. I thought this was a little weird since that's probably the only time I'll make a foil pack. But for a rule of thumb, I started at 20 minutes for meals and increased the time from there depending on how intense the fire was.

During my research, I also noticed that people said you could only use potatoes if you prepared them right before cooking. Well, to me that ruins the whole idea of prepping and having nothing but cooking to do at the campsite which was the vibe I was going for. I had an idea. I used gold, or yellow, potatoes. They don't brown as easily as a russet. I prepped all the foil packs a day before the trip and two days later the potatoes were still perfect! Another nice feature of the gold potatoes is they cook faster than a russet, which receded the cooking time. This meant I could have perfectly fire-roasted potatoes without steak that wasn't well done.

Some Of Our Favorites

Cilantro Lime Shrimp

This is a tropical feeling meal that is great for lunch. This will be enough for two people. The only idea I had for making it again was to add sausage.

  • 4 sheets foil
  • 1 pound shrimp- peeled and deveined
  • 2 ears of corn - cut into thirds
  • gold potatoes - cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 lime - thinly sliced
  • Fresh cilantro

Divide the foil into two sets. Put a few pieces of butter (maybe 1/2 tablespoon each) in the middle of each sheet. Lay the potatoes in the middle of each sheet over the butter. Add the corn and shrimp on top of the potatoes. Salt and pepper. Top with fresh cilantro, more butter, and limes. Wrap the packs with the first sheet and then the second. Label. Cook on a grate over the fire for about 15-20 minutes. Shrimp are done when they turn pink.

Chicken and Asparagus

This is a refreshing meal that is light and filling. This will make two meals.

  • 4 sheets foil
  • 2 chicken breasts - cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 bunch of asparagus - cut the though bottom part off and then halve
  • yellow squash (we had a lot at home)- cut into half moons
  • 1 lemon -thinly sliced
  • butter
  • olive oil

Divide the foil sheets in two. Lay half the lemon slices over two of the foil sheets in the middle of the sheet. Combine chicken and veggies in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and salt and pepper as desired. I also added a little paprika because I could. Divide the chicken and veggies over the two sheets, trying to keep them on top of the lemons. Top with the remaining lemon slices and a little butter. Wrap each pack with the first sheet and then the second. Label. Cook over a grate on the fire for about 40 minutes. You may need more time if you're fire is not very hot, but you can remove a pack from the fire and check the food.

Steak and Potatoes

This will make two foil packs, perfect for a nice dinner for two.

  • 4 sheets foil
  • strip steak - cut into cubes
  • gold potatoes - cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Yellow squash (we had a bunch so I just added it) - cut into half moons
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • fresh thyme

Add the cut steak, potatoes, and squash to a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper as desired. Divide the foil sheets in two and top with the meat and veggies. Top with 1/2 tablespoon butter and a sprig of fresh thyme. Wrap the pack with the first sheet and then the second. Label. Cook for about 30 minutes on the grate over the fire, more or less time may be needed depending on the intensity of the fire.

Banana Boats

This one became Nic's favorite very quickly. This is awesome considering he was skeptical about it at first. I honestly prefer these over s'mores, especially since it means I don't have to clean up gooey marshmallows. This makes one banana boat, which is perfect for one person.

  • 2 sheets of heavy-duty foil
  • 1 banana - peel removed and cut longways
  • cinnamon graham crackers - I use one per banana
  • mini reeses cups - they even have them available by the bag without a wrapper

Set out the foil sheets. Take the peeled and cut banana and top with crumbled graham cracks and mini reeses (which you could swap out with chocolate chips or mini marshmallows if you wanted). Wrap the topped banana with the first sheet of foil and then follow with the other. Label. Cook on grate over the fire for 15 minutes.

Some Advice

Use heavy-duty foil and double wrap each pack. This will make the pack more durable during travel, less likely to break while cooking, and ensures little to no clean up. We remove the packs from the fire with tongs and put them on plates for stability. Honestly, with the double wrap, we didn't even have any spillage on the plates.

Be careful when you open the foil packs. There will be some steam escaping the top of the folds.

We made breakfast burritos ahead and wrapped them in foil for easy breakfasts. There weren't a lot of foil pack breakfast recipes floating around the internet, which is fine because the burritos were great!

One Last Thing

Staying hydrated is important. If you are like us then camping usually means a fair amount of beer and coffee. Coffee just tastes better over a fire, ya know? However, after a few trips, we realized we really needed something else to drink. The water can taste different, and this can make it unappealing to drink by itself, and we don't drink soda.

I had the idea to take 8 oz mason jars and some tea bags. We make sun tea when we camp. I make four at a time. Just a tea bag in each, fill with water, seal and set in the sun for a few hours. I make a set while the coffee is heating, and when we're back for lunch they are ready. I then make another set after lunch and they're ready for dinner. This means we are getting 32 oz of water each, at least, each day since we typically will have two at a time. If you prefer sweet tea you'll need to add the sugar before you add the water so that it is able to dissolve in the water over a few hours. Though you should give it a shake every now and then to keep the sugar from settling in the bottom.

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