How To Make Campfire Hobo Packs

28 May


When I first heard about hobo packs I was on the very first “meeting the boyfriends parents” trip to Washington. We were camping out on our way to visit Mount Saint Helens and Jonathan got super excited when it came time to make his favorite camp food cuisine. I learned that making “hobo packs” over an open fire while camping has been a family tradition in the Freeman family since Jonathan was a kid – and it is now one that we intend to keep up as well.

This past weekend, while camping at the Grand Canyon in Arizona, we introduced our friend Nate to hobo packs and I thought, hmmm, why not make a blog post out of it? I’ve been meaning to make a kind of “Freeman Family Cookbook” soon (which is currently disproportionately packed with Cajun foods and booze), so taking picture of and blogging about our favorite recipes is something I intend to do over the next few years at any rate.

A hobo pack is, essentially, a foil packet containing a piece of meat and some vegetables, seasoned however you want. It’s a simple as that. While I’ve tried to be a good foodie and track down the origin of the hobo pack, the best I can find is that boy scouts have coined the phrase for the dish and make them while being outdoorsy. The title of the food is an obvious reference that hearkens back to the days when hobos used to procure their food by cooking it over dumpster bonfires, and not panhandling on intersections and using conned money to buy cheap vodka and fast food.

The concept of the hobo pack is genius in it’s simplicity. You really can’t mess this recipe up. Apparently there is a whole camp cooking subculture that deals with the myriad recipe possibilities that involve shoving random eats into a packet of foil, some bordering on being downright gourmet. But whenever we make our hobo packs, we keep it simple with good ol’ fashioned meat and potatoes.

Here’s the Freeman Family Hobo Pack staple. You’ll need:

Ground Beef

Red Potatoes




Garlic Cloves

Olive Oil

Hamburger Seasoning

Aluminum Foil

1. Get your fire started.

My husband is a ridiculously outdoorsy mountain man and takes his campfire building very seriously. So I won’t even begin to try and go into the details he insists are involved in starting a “real” fire. (While he prefers to build old fashioned organic fires from found wood that he labors over lovingly with an ax in hand, he has been known to get wild with the lighter fluid from time to time.) So suffice it to say, once your fire is started, let it burn down for about an hour. What you want is glowing embers, not a crackling fire. While your fire is working it’s way down to a smoldering heap of yum yum making embers, get to work on step 2….



2. Prepare the fillings.

First, work your ground beef into hamburger patties and season it with your favorite seasonings. We used Pappy’s for these packs, but we’ll change it up depending on what we have on hand or feel like at the moment. You can make the patties as big or small as you’d like, but flatten them out into a patty so that they cook evenly!

Next, slice the carrots, onions, mushrooms, and red potatoes (we like to keep the skin on ours). And depending on how garlic crazy you are (we are somewhere between ‘bat shit’ and ‘Tom Cruise’) prepare some minced garlic, or whole cloves. We went with the whole cloves.



3. Fill your packs.

Double up the aluminum foil and spread a little olive oil on the surface. Then, pile the veggies and meat into the center of the foil. The size of the pack should match the size of your appetite. Whats awesome about these packs is that everyone can mix and match up their own pack to their own taste. So when it comes to filling time, you can be as uniform or creative as you’d like. Once they’re to your liking, lay another layer of doubled up aluminum foil over the top and wrap them up by turning in and pinching the corners. I fold each edge down two or three times and then dog ear the corners.


4. Cook your packs.

Place the pack on the embers and surround with coals. You should hear these bad boys sizzling in no time. The foil should expand to the heat, but they won’t shouldn’t explode. Let them cook for 30 to 40 minutes. Again, this depends on how big the packs are, and how hot your campfire is. Use your judgement or just err on the side of well done and pick them out by the 40 minute mark. Once you’ve pull them out of the embers, let them cool for 10 minutes.

When you’re ready to serve, cut them open (be careful of the steam!) and serve right out of the packs or shovel onto a plate. You can add BBQ sauce or teriyaki sauce, or anything really. The beauty of these packs are their versatility to suit individual cravings. These are the perfect camping food and super fun to make. Once you try them, you won’t want to go back to hot dogs and hamburgers!




11 Responses to “How To Make Campfire Hobo Packs”

  1. Sierra May 28, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    This is such a great idea! Can’t wait to try it out next time I go camping 🙂

    • gynjii May 28, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

      Let me know how it turns out if you do! They’re so easy to make and really a lot of fun!

  2. Suzi May 28, 2013 at 5:21 pm # I’m hungry! For those of us who think ‘roughing it’ is going into the back yard, you can easily make these in the oven too! After the above mentioned first outing w/ the Freeman clan, Gingi came home raving about these…so we made some here. I like the Reynold’s brand ‘pop up’ foil, it comes in pre-cut pieces for ease of use. I’d think, for a campfire, you’d have to use 4 pieces, so that each side is doubled. Or, you can use the super heavy duty foil that feels like aluminum siding! That stuff’ll cut you tho. We talked about trying these with pieces of chicken, the way I make foil-wrapped chicken, but haven’t tried it yet. Yum! I am LOVING your blog!

    • gynjii May 28, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

      Yeah, I found a cookbook online that has a whole section on hobo packs… everything from lamb and rosemary to ham and pineapple to chicken and asparagus…. *drools* It’d be a fun summertime project / experiment to cook as many variations as you could!

      • Suzi May 30, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

        Better than cooking in the hot kitchen this summer!

  3. Pip May 28, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    What an excellent idea!!

  4. Nia Simone July 16, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    Brilliant! Now I want to go camping again just to cook these packets.

    • gynjii November 25, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

      Yeah, they are a MUST for our family!


  1. Have a Lovely Friday! | Always, Sierra - June 28, 2013

    […] you I will have stories about how amazing these turn out to be. I also plan on making some hobo packs, does anyone have any combinations they recommend […]

  2. 53 bug bites and an itch ain’t one | Always, Sierra - July 9, 2013

    […] when we learned no campfires allowed for the whole weekend. That meant no campfire cones and no hobo packs, but we survived and didn’t lose any bits or pieces to frostbite. I even turned the leftover […]

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