There are fewer smells better than a crackling campfire in the woods, fewer pleasures more distinct than a pitched tent, a cold beer, and conversation. And there are even fewer inventions as genius as the humble pie iron.

Although my fiance and I recently acquired as a gift a fancy camping stove, I’m not entirely convinced we need it. The possibilities with a pie iron—-two cast-iron squares, roughly the size of a piece of bread, hinged at the top and attached to long handles—-are awesome to contemplate. With this one primitive piece of equipment, some wood, a couple of ingredients, and a little patience, you’ve got every meal covered: breakfast (try store-bought biscuit dough with cheese and a slice of turkey stuffed in the middle), lunch (some nutty bread, a slice of Swiss and a marinated Portobello) and dinner, the always-reliable pizza pocket (bread, sauce, cheese, and whatever else you like). Apply cooking spray to your iron, stack your ingredients, close it up, and stick it in the fire. That’s it. A few minutes later, you can flip out a neat, toasty package encasing simple ingredients, made melty and smoky from open-fire cooking.

Pie irons are sold in most camping stores, although I’ve never bought one. Pizza pockets were, I think, my first solid food as a child and the pie iron (a Tonka toaster) I inherited has been in my family for 30 years or more.

But if you don’t have one, don’t sweat it. Just get outdoors. Three-day weekends with near-perfect weather are too rare to sit inside your air-conditioned apartment. Camping in Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania is super fun…and close!

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