Thick slabs of steak, creamy baked brie, and camp cuisine that spoiled my outdoor perspective

During my first few climbing trips, my campside cuisine consisted of canned soup and instant mashed potatoes. Soon, fellow campers enlightened me about the camping bliss that could be achieved by simply adding an avocado to my instant mashed potatoes. Eventually, my food bin felt like a culinary success filled with parmesan cheese, canned Indian dishes, black beans, and tortillas.

I felt pretty darn fancy. I even started carrying a few spices with me to add a little extra flavor to those wonderful instant potatoes.

My humble perspective on outdoor cooking was absolutely shattered during the Havasupai excursion with the OmniTen and Columbia Sportswear. Holy mother of delicious. Our trip was guided by the wonderful folks of Arizona Outback Adventures, who not only successfully herded our crew through the canyon to the Havasu Falls campground, but truly blew our socks off with the best camping cuisine I have ever tasted.

It started with a gander at the camp’s impressive kitchen set-up. Our guides have a semi-permanent area pitched throughout the entire season, and the kitchen area was fully stocked with multiple grills, preparing areas, giant cookware, and everything in between. The first thing our guide, Brian, whipped out was a giant box of grapes – “well that’s a nice snack,” I thought to myself.

I was delighted by the prospect of popping a few plump grapes into my mouth to refresh my parched body after a 10-mile hike in the desert, but it didn’t stop there. Rather than tossing a bowl of grapes on the table, we were presented with multiple platters – of baked brie sprinkled with nuts and cranberries, assorted crackers, and a fanning spread of cheeses.

Wait, this was just the ‘starter’ course?

Judging by the appetizers we were served before dinner, I had a feeling things were about to get outrageous – and they did. For dinner, we feasted on the thickest steak and asparagus stalks that have ever entered my belly. The meat was complimented by a healthy helping of quinoa cooked with veggies, plus fantastic grilled mushrooms. I was a very happy camper at this point.

After a night of deep sleep, I woke up excited for a new day of exploring waterfalls and travertine tunnels – but first, breakfast. I stumbled out of my tent to find artfully plated platters of fresh fruit waiting to be devoured; and devour I did.

Our crisp and cool morning bites soon gave way to the main attraction: a sprawling cornucopia of scrambled eggs, grilled sausage, cheesy potatoes, and more. In an effort to accommodate our vegan companion, the crew even whipped up a batch of veggie sausage patties and vegan pancakes.

When it came time for our final dinner together before the 10-mile hike back out of the canyon, Arizona Outback Adventures once again outdid themselves with an Asian meal fit for royalty. Having experienced their culinary masterwork the night before, we were all curious about what we would be treated to as we watched the chefs get down to business.

To begin, they fattened us up with huge piles of edamame, and then continued the superior snackage with veggie pot stickers while they got to work on our main course.

Dinner left me wishing I could live at this camp forever. We were wowed with thick strips of Mongolian beef with sauce-smothered broccoli, grilled tofu and shrimp, white rice, and a colorful vegetable stirfry. Like I said, this was not your average campside meal. 

I think the entire Columbia Sportswear and OmniTen team will join me in extending an enormous amount of gratitude towards Brian, Jenn, Chris, and Sheldon for creating a truly unbelievable outdoor experience. While I will likely never again feast on two-inch thick steaks while camping, I am grateful for this amazing opportunity to partake in an adventure that was entirely catered and guided.

Sigh, now it’s back to instant mashed potatoes and corned beef hash out of a can – not that I can really complain; corned beef hash is the best way to start a long day of adventuring.