Every summer Jeremy and I head out to go camping here in the pacific northwest, and this year we decided to spend our first camping trip of the season spending out first night ever at the Wind River homestead. The weather was perfect, the pups were happy to be outside, and the native Oregon blackberries on the property were loaded with ripe, juicy berries. I got my basket and loaded up on as many berries as I could pick in a couple hour period (which felt like a lot, but MAN those berries are small haha. It would take about 200 of them to fill up the basket I had!) We snacked on them a bit that night, but tucked them away to use for breakfast the next day.
Ralph investigating all the tasty things stored in our Barebones Living backpack cooler
Jeremy chopped up some wood from one of the many slash piles on the property, and scraped off some thin bits for kindling with his Barebones Living field knife, and we got a little campfire going. For dinner we grilled up some local sausages in our Barebones Living cast iron pans, sat back, and enjoyed the sunset over the Columbia River Gorge. I made what I’m pretty confident was the comfiest camping bed situation ever in the back of the truck—which consisted of a couple air mattresses covered with a pillow top and then a fitted sheet, blanket, and sleeping bags on top. We brought 2 twin air mattresses but because of where the little pockets for the truck tires poke into the truck bed on either side, we could only fit one fully inflated twin mattress back there, and because I’m married to a 6’3″ giant, that wasn’t going to fly for two people. So, I wedged in the other air mattress between the completely inflated one and the side of the truck and inflated it until it kind of wedged itself between the two. Once I covered the whole thing with a pillowtop cover and fitted sheet, that side just felt kind of like a waterbed, and I actually really liked the cocooned feeling of being stuck in the wedge, (there’s something very snuggly and secure about it!), so that’s where I ended up sleeping like a baby later on.
Enjoying the ultimate air mattress set-up in the truck bed, complete with puppies, Barebones Living lanterns, a basket full of fresh blackberries, and blankets
We stayed nice and warm all night and felt safe and secure inside the truck shell (still not sure if there’s bears around the property or not….there probably are). We laid in the truck bed reading by the light of our Barebones Living rechargeable usb lanterns until about 10 pm and then fell asleep like a couple of old folks. The next morning I woke up and whipped up what ended up being hands-down the best pancakes I’ve ever made. They’re corn and blackberry pancakes and I made them from the wild blackberries I foraged on the property, which may have been part of why I loved them so much. But I also think that the cast iron pan got the crust perfectly crisp, and the batter recipe got the pancakes SO nice and light and fluffy inside.
Cooking up the foraged blackberry + cornbread pancakes in our Barebones Living cast iron skillet over the campfire
I have the recipe for these guys below, and highly recommend making them. The only downside was that there were some yellow jackets on the property and MAN did they love the smell of those pancakes. I had to stand and eat them in the line of smoke emanating from the dying campfire to keep them from hovering around me while I ate, but it was totally worth it (both to eat the delicious pancakes and to keep myself from having an anxiety attack from the yellow jackets). It was one of the best couple days I’ve had in months, and I can’t wait to camp out at the property more frequently. Every day I think about going back out there…it’s just such a special place.
Jeremy shaving off bits of wood from one of the brush piles with his Barebones Living field knife to get the fire/camping party started
So, after lots of camping out in the PNW, I decided to put together a little camping guide to help you make the most of your camping experience + keep you comfy + relaxed during your stay in the outdoors. I hope you enjoy it and that you have a blast on your camping trips this summer <3
Sleep While Camping is Important
I don’t know how much I can emphasize this. When you’re out in the wild hiking and walking around, nothing feels as good as a solid night’s sleep. And nothing feels as terrible as a bad one. There’s nothing like waking up stiff and sore and achy to put you in a bad mood. I *highly* recommend getting an air mattress and bringing a pillowtop cover to slip over it, then putting your sleeping bag on top of that. It feels just like a normal bed and makes camping infinitely more enjoyable because you have the energy and physical ability to run around having fun in nature all day.
Bring Light, Nature’s is Temporary
I’ve definitely had camping experiences where I forget that I’m in the middle of nowhere with no electricity until the sun goes down, and then I realize I didn’t pack a light source and have literally no source of brightness except my iPhone ‘flashlight’…and since I can’t charge my iPhone, it dies very quickly. This is where Barebones Living lanterns come in handy. Yes, I am partnering with them for this post, but no, it does not influence how CRAZY much I love their lanterns. First, they’re rechargable via usb connection. Second, they also have a usb port on them, so you can plug your phone charge cable into them and use them to charge your phone. Third, they look amazing. Fourth, they have little carabiners built into them so they easily clip onto things to make for great little makeshift hanging lights. I literally cannot say enough good things about these lanterns. If you stay outdoors for anytime after daylight, get one.
Prepare for a Variety of Temperatures
Sometimes you forget how big the fluctuation in temperature can be when you’re outside, since we’re so used to being indoors in the middle of the night, but MAN it can get chilly out there. Always bring extra blankets and extra clothes layers just in case it gets extra cool at night. Also, pack a couple light layers like shorts and a tank top in case it gets blisteringly hot during the day.
Keep It Cast Iron
Not all cookware can withstand the heat of the campfire, so stay safe and bring a solid cast iron pan to cook with. They’re durable as heck, and are really easy to clean. After you cook with them, just throw some water inside, put it back over the fire and bring the water to a boil, and then take it off the fire and let the water cool. Dump it out, wipe out the inside of the pan, and voila! It’s ready for another use. I really like this set from Barebones Living because it comes with a handy belt that loops around the two pans, which makes them really easy to transport, plus it comes with an awesome wood charger that you can set your hot pan on without worrying about leaving a burn mark or accidentally setting dry twigs under it on fire.
Prepare as Much Food as You Can Ahead of Time
Since you’re not going to have much in terms of clean working surfaces out in nature, try to prep as much as you can ahead of time and keep it in tupperware containers in your cooler and/or backback (or your cooler backback hybrid. Seriously, this thing is so damn handy. We use it for bringing beers to friend’s houses, salads on a picnic, La Croix on hikes…you name it, it goes in the cooler backpack). For example, before I left home for the camping trip I already mixed together the wet ingredient portion of the pancake batter in one container, and then I mixed together the dry ingredient portion of the batter in another container. The wet ingredient container went in the cooler since it had stuff like milk and eggs in it, and then when I wanted to make the pancakes in the morning I just had to mix the two together, toss in some blackberries, and BOOM! There were pancakes.
Plan Out The Menu + Bring Simple Cooking Tools
For me, one of the best parts of camping is campfire cooking, so I always get especially excited about planning out what I’m going to make for each meal. When planning the menu, keep meals simple—you don’t want to bring a ton of ingredients with you, and the flavor of the smoky fire and a seasoned cast iron pan are so good that you don’t need a ton of seasonings. Just good old salt does the trick most of the time. When you’ve planned out the menu, make sure you bring the tools necessary to make it happen. I always bring a lid lifter (a must for moving hot cast iron cookware), good knife, a wooden cutting board, a wooden spoon, and a metal spatula, since they’re so multi-purpose and can be used for both cooking and serving.
Blackberry Cornbread Pancakes
These pancakes are perfect for making both at home and out on a camping trip. To make it easy to transport for camping, I recommend mixing the dry ingredients and storing them in a container, and then mixing the wet ingredients and storing them in a separate container in the cooler before you leave home so it's easy to assemble the batter at the campsite.
- 1 2/3 cups flour
- 3/4 cup cornmeal
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons flake sea salt
- 2 eggs at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk at room temperature
- 1/2 cup creamed corn
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup ripe blackberries
- Unsalted butter for greasing the skillet + serving
- pure maple syrup for serving
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and flake sea salt until combined. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, creamed corn, and olive oil until smooth.
Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until the batter just comes together (it's okay if there's a few small lumps). Stir in the blackberries.
Let the batter sit while you heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Flick a drop of water onto the skillet, if it sizzles, the skillet is ready for the batter.
Add 1/4 cup of the batter to the skillet. Cook until small bubbles start forming on the top of the pancake, then flip it and cook on the other side until golden, a few minutes more. Remove the pancake from the pan and repeat with the rest of the batter.
Add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet as-needed to grease the pan between frying up pancakes. Serve the hot pancakes alongside the maple syrup and additional butter, if desired.
This post was made in partnership with the awesome folks at Barebones Living but all opinions expressed here are my own, per usual!