One of the best parts of any camping trip is enjoying meals prepared in the great outdoors, so selecting foods to take along is an important part of planning your trip. When you choose the right types of foods to pack for your next camping excursion, you'll be ahead of the game once you arrive at your destination.
Considerations for Planning Camping Meals
Before you start your meal planning, give some thought to the logistics of camping.
Type of Camping
It's important to consider what type of camping you will be doing when creating a food list of things that you will take along on your trip. If you'll be camping in a tent or camper in an improved campground, you'll have many more meal storage and preparation options available than if you are backpacking.
When camping at an improved campsite, you can take foods that require refrigeration because you'll be able to use an ice chest or portable refrigerator for storage. You can also pack a variety of cooking tools, such as pots and pans, aluminum foil, tongs and other things that can be used to create interesting meals on a grill or over an open fire.
If you're backpacking, you'll need to select foods that don't require refrigeration or much preparation and that will allow you to travel as lightly as possible. For these types of trips you'll want to opt for pre-packaged foods that are easy to transport and are packed with nutrition.
Which Foods Work Well When Camping
Depending on how much effort you want to put into it, you may find that you aren't that limited when it comes to determining which foods to take with you camping. While camping in an RV will allow you to plan out more elaborate meals than if you are tent camping, there are several foods that work well when camping, no matter where you are. These include:
- Canned foods such as soup or chili you can heat quickly
- Prepared, prepackaged foods such as granola bars, energy bars, crackers and cookies
- Fresh produce and fruit that requires little (or no) refrigeration and cooking
- Meals made and frozen ahead of time at home that you can quickly reheat over the campfire
- Barbecue staples such as hot dogs and hamburgers that take little preparation or cooking time
Make things a little easier on yourself when camping by doing a lot of the food preparation at home before you leave. This includes doing things like:
- Chopping vegetables for shish-kabobs and stew and storing them in air-tight containers until needed.
- Shaping hamburger patties at home or buying pre-formed patties to take along.
- Bringing "just add water" box mixes for things like pancakes so you don't have to spend time measuring and stirring individual ingredients.
- Packaging all the ingredients for a single meal together so everything is easy to find and ready to use.
- Bringing single serving containers of things like condiments that can be used and discarded without taking up a lot of space.
- Purchasing precooked versions of some foods, like sausage and ham, so you only have to heat them up, not worry about cooking them all the way through.
Popular Camp Food Ideas
Foods that Require Cooking
If you'll have access to refrigeration and a grill or fire ring, consider taking a selection of foods that you can enjoy cooking and eating in the outdoors. Some of the best camp food ideas that require cooking include:
- One-dish meals that include things like sausage, vegetables and rice cooked together.
- Hot dogs
- Hobo stew (combine ground beef, potatoes and carrots in aluminum foil)
- Dutch oven stew made of chunks of meat, chopped vegetables and water or broth
- Pork or beef ribs
- Smoked sausage
- Kabobs made of chopped vegetables and pieces of meat threaded onto skewers
- Baked beans
- Corn on the cob
- Fresh vegetables for grilling
In addition to these foods, you may also want to plan on bringing foods that need some preparation, but not a lot of cooking, such as salads.
- Apples, caramels and cinnamon for a baked apple dessert
- Bananas, marshmallows and chocolate chips for banana boats
- Graham crackers, chocolate bars, and marshmallows for S'mores
- Barbecue sauce
- Seasoning salt
- Pasta sauce
- Other condiments
- Fresh fruit
Prepackaged Foods for Camping
If you'll be in the backcountry, the majority of your meals will consist of prepackaged or very easy to prepare food items that you can easily store and transport in your backpack. Even if you are camping in an area where cooking is an option, you probably won't want to have to prepare every meal from scratch. Some of the best convenience foods for camping trips include:
- Peanut butter
- Canned beans
- Dehydrated meals ready-to-eat
- Instant oatmeal
- Protein bars and shakes
- Summer sausage
- Cheese and cracker packages
- Granola bars
- Protein bars
- Peanut butter crackers
- Trail mix
- Dried fruit
Meals to Consider When Camping
With a little ingenuity, it's possible to enjoy many different types of food when camping. A few meals you may want to consider when you plan your trip include:
- Cook a diced potato and some veggies in a cast iron skillet.
- Pour on some beaten eggs and cook at the edge of the fire until the eggs are set.
- Slice into triangles to serve.
- Heat a Dutch oven or cast iron pot over the fire and place some cuts of meat to brown in the bottom.
- Add cut vegetables like peppers, sweet potatoes, summer squash and mushrooms.
- Pour on either prepared broth or water.
- Let simmer over the fire until the meat and vegetables have been cooked through.
- Chop some sausage, peppers and onions.
- Place them in a cast iron skillet with some pre-cooked rice or diced potatoes.
- Set the skillet in the coals of the fire and cook until the sausage is brown and the vegetables soft.
By planning and preparing the types of food you plan to bring with you camping ahead of time, you'll find it easy to ensure you have lots of good food to choose from when the day of the trip arrives. Do some cooking ahead of time, plan on making some campfire meals and bring plenty of prepared foods; the variety will see you through the entire trip.