Camping Food Tips : How to Eat Well While Enjoying the Great Outdoors? Camping is a beloved pastime for many outdoors enthusiasts. Getting back to nature, breathing fresh air, and experiencing the serenity of the wilderness make camping a rejuvenating escape from everyday life. However, eating well while camping does require some advance planning and clever food prep. Follow these tips to eat tasty, nutritious meals during your next camping trip.
Plan Ahead and Prep Food at Home – Camping Food Tips
One of the keys to great camp cooking is preparing as much food as possible at home before you leave. This allows you to pack food that is already prepped, portioned, and ready to cook or eat once at your campsite. Here are some smart ways to prep food at home for camping:
- Pre-make hearty stews, chilies, and soups. Cool and pack in airtight containers. Simply reheat on a camp stove or over the fire.
- Grill or bake chicken breasts, sausages, and vegetables. Package in foil pouches for easy reheating.
- Chop and pre-cook any sturdy vegetables you plan to eat, like potatoes, carrots, onions, and bell peppers.
- Make foil pack dinners with meat, vegetables, seasonings and/or sauce. Seal packs and freeze until ready to use.
- Portion out oatmeal, pancake mix, trail mix, and other snacks in resealable plastic bags.
- Hard boil eggs. The protein makes them a very portable and convenient snack or meal addition.
- Make sandwiches before you leave and wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or foil.
Pro tip: Print out a checklist of your menu and prep plan so you can easily see what food you have prepared and packed for each camp meal.
Pack Food Appropriately for the Conditions
How you pack your camping food depends largely on whether you will be car camping (with access to your vehicle at the site) versus backpacking into a more remote campsite. Follow these tips:
For car camping:
Since weight and bulk aren’t as big of a concern, you can pack more perishable foods in a cooler. Just make sure the cooler is high quality and well-sealed to optimize ice retention. Some tips:
- Surround food with frozen gel packs and replenish ice daily to keep the cooler cold.
- Pack beverages and water in a separate cooler so the food cooler isn’t opened frequently.
- Keep the cooler out of direct sun and in the coolest part of your car or camper.
- Use block ice rather than cubes since it melts more slowly.
- Freeze any meat, poultry or seafood solid before packing it. It helps extend cooling time.
- Keep cooler contents organized so you don’t have to dig around in it too much.
You’ll want to go as lightweight and non-perishable as possible when backpacking since weight is at a premium and you likely won’t have access to ice. Some good strategies are:
- Repackage food into lightweight zip-top bags or reusable containers.
- Rely on foods that don’t require refrigeration like dried fruit, jerky, nuts, peanut butter, crackers, and powdered milk.
- Pack foods you can prepare with hot water like instant oatmeal, dehydrated camping meals, flavored instant rice/quinoa/couscous, and dehydrated soups.
- Foil pouches or canned tuna, chicken, or salmon make an easy protein addition.
- Hard cheeses, summer sausage, and shelf-stable precooked sausages are other proteins that don’t require refrigeration.
- You can take fresh fruits like apples and oranges; just plan to eat them in the first couple days.
Bring the Right Mix of Food and Drinks
To stay energized and avoid camp cooking burnout, be sure to pack a nice variety of nourishing, satisfying foods and beverages. Try to include a mix of:
- Proteins: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, etc. Proteins help you stay full between meals.
- Fruits and vegetables: Pack an assortment of fresh, canned, dried and pre-chopped fruits and veggies. They provide vitamins, minerals and fiber.
- Grains and starches: Breads, tortillas, pitas, crackers, oats, quinoa, couscous, potatoes, pastas, rice, etc. Help round out meals and provide fuel for activities.
- Dairy: Pack shelf-stable milk or powdered milk, hard cheeses, shelf-stable puddings and yogurts. Dairy products provide protein, calcium, vitamins and hydration.
- Comfort foods: Don’t forget about coffee, tea, chocolate, s’mores ingredients, condiments, spices and other comforts of home.
- Water and hydrating drinks: Bring plenty of water as well as sports drinks, juices, powdered drink mixes, etc. Dehydration dampens the camping experience.
Use Camping Cooking Gear Wisely
One of the best parts of camping is gathering around the fire or stove to cook a meal. Make the most of your camping cooking equipment:
- Dutch ovens: These heavy, lidded pots are perfect for cooking stews, chili, baked goods, etc. over hot coals. Use thinly-sliced potatoes, tin foil or a bread pan inverted on the bottom to prevent burning.
- Cast iron skillets: Great for frying eggs, pancakes, bacon, etc. Keep the cooking surface lightly oiled.
- Grill grate: Place over the fire to grill meats, veggies and even fruit. Bring small veggie or fish grilling baskets too.
- Camp stove: Best for quicker cooking tasks like boiling water for cocoa or oatmeal, frying eggs, making pancakes, heating soup, etc. Check current fuel levels before you leave home.
- Foil packets: Wrap chopped veggies with seasonings/sauce in foil packets. Cook directly on the campfire coals for an easy side dish.
- Pie irons: These allow you to enclose ingredients in a sealed cast-iron pocket and cook over the fire. Great for quesadillas, grilled sandwiches, pizza pockets, etc.
- Roasting sticks: Sharpen branches or bring collapsible roasting sticks to toast hot dogs and marshmallows over the open fire.
- Collapsible buckets: Great for washing dishes, hauling water, and transporting trash while leaving no trace at your site.
Practice Food Safety
While foodborne illness is not common, you still need to take some basic precautions when cooking and dining in the outdoors:
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water, especially before cooking and eating. Use hand sanitizer as a backup.
- Cook meats thoroughly, especially ground beef and poultry. Boil, filter and disinfect any natural water used for cooking.
- Keep perishables chilled in your cooler. Don’t let food sit out longer than 1-2 hours.
- Wash dishes thoroughly, especially utensils used for raw meat and poultry. Use hot, soapy water.
- Pack out all trash to protect wildlife. Use resealable bags for storage and transport home.
- Keep campsite clean and leave no crumbs or trash that could attract animals during nighttime hours.
- Protect against cross-contamination by keeping raw foods/juices away from ready-to-eat items. Assign different cutting boards for produce and meats.
Be Prepared for Special Diet Needs
If you or someone in your group has dietary restrictions or food intolerances, you can still accommodate them on a camping menu. Some tips:
- Vegetarian/vegan: Pack tofu, tempeh, beans/lentils, powders or milk substitutions (soy, almond, oat), meat analogs, nuts, seeds, nut butters, hummus and hearty vegetables.
- Gluten-free: Prepare or purchase gluten-free oats, pancake mix, pasta, tortillas, crackers, bread and desserts. Check labels carefully.
- Allergies or intolerances: If you have, say, a nut or shellfish allergy, be extra diligent to prevent exposure from cross-contamination. Pack safe alternative foods.
- Diabetes: Focus on complex carbs (veggies, whole grains), lean proteins and healthy fats. Bring extra diabetic-friendly snacks.
The key is to assess your special needs ahead of time and plan/pack foods accordingly so you stay nourished and satisfied on your camping adventure.
Helpful FAQs About Camping Food Tips
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about choosing, packing and preparing great foods for camping:
What are the best breakfast foods for camping?
Some of the most convenient, tasty camping breakfast foods include:
- Eggs: Boil ahead, crack directly into a pan or make scrambled eggs or omelets.
- Precooked bacon or sausage links
- Pancake or waffle mix (just add water) with syrup
- Breakfast sandwiches
- Burritos with eggs, cheese, meat
- Breakfast bowls with oatmeal, granola, nuts, dried fruit
- Muffins and breads (banana, zucchini, pumpkin)
- Yogurt tubes or cups
- Fresh or canned fruits
What are good lunch ideas for camping?
Easy lunches to make at your campsite include:
- Grilled sandwiches with meat/cheese/veggies
- Tuna, chicken or salmon salad sandwiches or wraps
- Hummus with sliced veggies and pita bread
- Wraps or sandwiches with sliced meat and cheeses
- Boiled eggs and veggie snack packs
- Leftovers from last night’s dinner
- Chicken or tuna salad with crackers
- Pita pockets stuffed with ingredients
- Quesadillas made in a pie iron
What should I pack for camping dinners?
Smart camping dinner choices include:
- Foil packet meals
- Grilled burgers, hot dogs, kebabs
- Stews, chili and soups
- Tinfoil baked potatoes topped with fixings
- Cast iron skillet meals
- Dutch oven lasagna, chili mac, pot pies
- Grilled vegetables
- Packet rice mixes with stir-ins
- Pasta dishes
- Dehydrated camping meals just needing water
What high-energy camping snacks should I bring?
Pack a variety of these energy-boosting snacks:
- Trail mix
- Protein or granola bars
- Dried fruit including apples, apricots, banana chips, etc.
- Fresh fruits like apples, oranges, bananas
- Pretzels, crackers, pita chips
- Peanut butter and nut butters
- Beef or turkey jerky sticks
- Cheese sticks and cheese snack packs
- Hummus and veggies
In summary, enjoying delicious food in the outdoors just takes some advance planning and smart packing. Use these tips to eat well on your next camping trip while creating wonderful memories out in nature. Bon appétit by the campfire!