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(image via flickr)

It’s funny how most of my favorite camping memories are about food. Like the time, two days into a camping trip in Big Sur, friends pulled profiteroles from deep inside their cooler like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat. They warmed rich, creamy chocolate sauce on the fire and drizzled it over the ice-cream-filled pastry puffs. We devoured the unexpected treat around the campfire, licking every last bit of gooey, rich chocolate goodness from our fingers. Decadent, delicious, unforgettable.

People camp for a lot of different reasons. Some are drawn to the “roughing it” aspect—carrying only the bare essentials, getting far into the wilderness, and relying on their physical abilities and wits for survival. Call me a wimp, but I’m perfectly happy with car camping in a gorgeous spot. For me, just the opportunity to spend extended time outdoors communing with nature is enough of a draw.

I pack a sub-zero sleeping bag, a thick Thermarest mat, my favorite pillow from home. I bring nice (plastic) stemless wine glasses, pots and pans, and a 2-burner stove. Depriving myself of creature comforts isn’t necessary for me to feel at one with the great outdoors. Sleeping under the stars, waking up to a brisk, dew-covered dawn, spending the days drinking in the fresh air on vigorous hikes, and sharing uninterrupted time around a crackling fire with dear friends are more than enough for me.

Anyone who has ever camped with me—or read Campfire Cuisine—knows that I never set out without what I consider to be absolute essentials: good olive oil, kosher salt, and lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. I’m not afraid of cooking duck or homemade pizza or even lobster in a makeshift campsite kitchen. In fact, I find that the camping experience is only enhanced by a few well-chosen luxuries.

Try it on your next camping trip: Pack a bottle of expensive bubbly in your cooler, nosh on a fancy cheese plate while sipping a robust cabernet, bring really good chocolate for your s’mores. These luxuries require little extra effort, but can elevate your camping experience to something truly unforgettable.