Creative Camp Cookery – Part 1

…Or How to Cook a Chicken on Your Back

From: Episode 203 – Roughin’ It

Dian Thomas, camping mavin extraodinaire visited the show to show me some secrets from her book Recipes For Roughing It Easy. Meals don’t have to be humdrum when you dine the Dian way!

Backpack Chicken

Dian has a great idea for cooking chicken while you hike. It’s easy, fun and most of all, delicious! Here’s how:

You’ll need:

  • A small chicken or game hen
  • 3 medium sized rocks
  • 18″ heavy tinfoil
  • Tongs
  • Heavy gloves
  • 2″ stack of newspaper
  • Barbeque sauce
  • 1 medium sized backpack

Choose your rocks

Backpack chicken depends on the selection of your rocks. Look for one rock that will fill the cavity of the chicken and two more that are flatter and will rest on either side of the chicken. Make sure the rocks are dry – rocks that have been sitting in a stream or are soaked through can explode when heated. Dian also says not to use limestone or sandstone because of the porous nature of that type of rock. Once you’ve found your rocks wash them well with soap and water and dry them (Dian says they won’t explode from being exposed to the water needed to wash them). She also says you can wrap them in foil if you’re worried about their cleanliness.

Heat Them in Your Campfire

Then, put your rocks in a campfire. Make sure you have permission to build a fire on your campground. Some campgrounds don’t allow open fires. Put the rocks in the fire for about 35 to 45 minutes. Dian says to turn the rocks frequently to heat them completely. If you’re not allowed to have a campfire you can heat them over charcoal briquettes or even on a gas grill.

While you’re heating up your rocks, lay out your newspaper so the sheets are open, then lay a sheet of foil out on top of the paper.

Place the Rocks

Clean your chicken and set it on top of the foil.

Put your gloves on for this next step. Take the rocks out of the fire and put the one selected to fit in the chicken’s cavity in place.

Put the first rock in the cavity of the chicken.

Then put the other two along side the chicken.

Put the other two rocks on either side of the chicken.

Next douse it with the barbeque sauce.

Douse the chicken with barbecue sauce

You can then wrap the foil around the chicken…

Wrap the foil around the chicken.

…and start wrapping it in newspaper. You can still be burnt by the hot rocks until you have several layers of newspaper wrapped around the chicken, so be extra careful and handle them with the gloves on and the tongs until it’s all safely insulated by the paper.

Wrap the foil covered chicken in layers of newspaper.

Now this is how Backpack Chicken got its name – once the bundle has been assembled it can be put into your backpack and you’re ready for your hike.

Put the bundled up chicken in the backpack. Hence the name Backpack Chicken


As you walk the rocks will release their heat into the chicken and cook it. An average sized chicken will take about three to three and a half hours to cook. A Cornish game hen will take about an hour. When you reach your destination, unpack the chicken, discard the rocks and enjoy!

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