Base Camp Eats: Chili Mac

On a recent weekend mountain bike trip to Wyoming’s Curt Gowdy State Park and Happy Jack trail systems I was faced with a last-minute dilemma: what to bring for dinner? I’m a big fan of eating hearty meals after a good day of riding, but sometimes preparing those meals can require too much time and effort after spending all my energy on the trail. What I came up with was a simple, tasty one-pot meal that doesn’t require much – just my JetBoil, a saucepan, and a few ingredients I found in my pantry. Here’s what you need:

Chili Mac (2 hungry man servings)


  • 1 box macaroni and cheese, plus water to cook the noodles
  • 1 can beans, drained (I used black beans. Pintos are good, too.)
  • 1 can diced green chilies
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained (I prefer the fire roasted option.)
  • Dash of salt and black pepper
  • Optional: bottled hot sauce. A pre-seasoned can of black beans adds a nice touch.


  • Prepare the macaroni and cheese as indicated. In my opinion adding milk and butter is optional for this recipe, but they do add a creamy texture.
  • Add beans, chilies and tomatoes and heat over medium flame, stirring often to prevent scorching.

That’s it! Typically, I’d use a camp stove (like a Camp Chef) for bigger meals, but after discovering I neglected to bring a one-pound propane tank I had to find an alternative. I didn’t use the standard Jetboil cooking cup because it just isn’t big enough for a meal this size. Jetboil includes a nice pot support with the Flash system, however, which makes cooking with other small pots or pans a convenient option. The support is just wide enough for a saucepan like the one shown, and thanks to the fuel canister tripod the whole system rests comfortably on flat surfaces.

I’m sure the convenience of a Jetboil is familiar to most backpackers, but I use it just as much, or more, on car camping trips for the simple task of heating water so I almost always have it. Given the fact that the Jetboil system relies on a flux ring to maximize heat, I wasn’t convinced it would be powerful enough to boil water plus noodles in my larger saucepan. To my surprise, however, this little stove did a great job.

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