Camping Food

I know, I love my sous vide circulator as well, but I don’t think it’s the best idea to experiment with modernist cuisine while in the great outdoors.

But why would you want to? This type of dining is a gastronomic pleasure all of its own. Even if the meals are not the most memorable, the experience definitely is.

If you have no idea where to start when putting your menu together, here are a few things to set you on your way.

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what kind of food should I bring camping

What are some good meals for camping?

Everyone who goes camping but never makes a chili should be sentenced for crimes against humanity. Con Carne or sin Carne, it doesn’t matter. What must be done, must be done.

To that point, anything that can be cooked in a cast-iron pot is a camping must. The cast-iron pot is a must itself. Use it to cook on a grill, over a direct flame, or bury it in dying embers.

Foods that like to be cooked in one of these guys are quite easy to pack and take with you on the road. Root vegetables don’t need special refrigeration, just a little bit of sun protection. Canned beans are great in a pinch, but you can pack dry ones and bury them so they can cook long and slow.

If your campsite is not too far from a regular kitchen, you might want to put all the ingredients for your stew in a container and let them marinade during your trip. That will eliminate any need for fireside prep, and that extra couple of hours of flavors mingling together can’t hurt.

Then there’s grilling. A lot of commercial campsites provide grills, but even if you’re roughin’ it, you can make it happen with a portable setup or a simple wire rack.

Almost anything you can grill at home, you can grill when you go camping. And for some extra prep, why not throw some side dished in foil packets? When you get the munchies, just throw them on the grill to reheat.

what kind of food should I bring camping

Should I bring pre-prepared meals camping?

This would be a good idea if you’re going on a short outing. First, you don’t have to waste precious outdoor time on meal prep. Second, and a bit more important, pre-prepared food has a shorter shelf-life. You wouldn’t enjoy having it as your only source of nourishment for a whole week.

But even if you’re planning that long trip, you can pack at least one pre-prepared meal to make settling in that much easier.

mac and cheese camping

What food should I not bring camping?

Raw chicken is the biggest no-no. It’s just food poisoning waiting to happen. The same goes for other poultry and non-cured pork bits. If you’re fishing, you’ll have fish for dinner. If you’re not fishing, you will survive a few days without fish.

Produce that is eaten without peeling or cooking can be problematic if you don’t have a place where you can wash them. If you’re taking them from home, it should be okay. But if you’re buying them on your way, don’t bother if you’re going off the grid.

Oh, and chips and other pre-packaged snack food. I don’t trust you to not misplace a wrapping or a bag, and that would be plain rude.

beand and raman noodles for camping

What are some quick and easy meals I can cook when camping?

The quickest will be instant mac n’ cheese, ramen noodles, or freeze-dried meals.

Next are tinned bean stews and soups. They will mostly include building a flavor base and heating the beans through.

Vegetable skewer and grilled freshly caught fish are also a great option – incredibly quick and easy, and massively delicious if you pack the right seasoning.

And finally, we have the good old hot dogs. They are already cooked, so all you’re doing is adding a little flavor and caramelization. Or charring – both work.

water purifiers camping

What is the best way to bring water and what type?

Most camping grounds will have a source of drinking water. But if you’re going off the grid, you’ll be in a bit of a pickle.

The best solution will be to pick up a water filter like The LifeStraw

The Survivor Filter Pro That way, as long as you have access to a river or a stream, you’ll have fresh drinking water.

water purifiers camping

I’m only camping for 3 days – What food Do I Bring?

Because you’re not setting out on a long campaign, you don’t have to worry about every single ounce of cargo. So feel free to plan your menu based on what you want to eat, instead of what you need to eat.

You can’t go wrong with canned and freeze-dried food, as well as pre-cooked meals. Pack up as much of your cooler as possible with fresh fruit, and if ’tis the season, get a Godzilla sized watermelon.

Some things are a lot more fun to make when camping. For example, fire-roasted sweet potatoes, or a curry cooked overnight in dying embers of a fire you used to roast those sweet potatoes.

Don’t forget all the stuff you’ll need for smores.

freeze dried meals camping

How do I pack my camping food properly?

The condiments and spices usually don’t need to be in a cooler. Still, put them in an opaque bag or a container and don’t leave them in direct sunlight.

Your root vegetables, garlic, and chilies can go into jute sacks, wood crates, and baskets. The same goes for nuts, dry fruit, dry beans, and grains. Just keep them away from direct sunlight as well.

Things that have to go into your cooler are fruits, dairy, eggs, meat, and any pre-prepared meals you are not cooking on the first day. Pack your cooler in order of use – your cooler will stay cold because you are not keeping it open for too long while you’re looking for what you need.

And take as many insurance policies in case of spillage. If it happens, what do you think will happen if you have to take everything out of the cooler to clean it up? Yeah…

freeze dried meals camping

How do you keep food cold while camping?

Getting organized a bit and packing your cooler in layers will help a lot. But also, think about freezing everything you can so they can act as extra ice packs. Those veggies that are marinating? Yup. That carton of milk? Yup yup. Thos pre-cut potatoes with garlic-porcini salt and thyme? Yup yup yup. Freezing will also keep those items fresh for longer.

If the campsite allows it, or if you are off the grid somewhere, consider digging a hole and keeping your cooler in it. The ground will act as an extra layer of insulation and will make even the shabbiest and cheapest of coolers do a great job.

cooler first time hiking gear

What are the best ways to keep milk and dairy fresh while camping?

The password is UHT. Unless it’s the height of summer and as long as it’s still in the original packaging, UHT milk is shelf-stable for up to 6 months. But don’t just take my word for it – see what each brand has to say on the topic.

In any case, a few single-serving packs will than the full size one.

Hard and aged cheese will be fine simply wrapped in some parchment or beeswax cloth unless it’s blistering hot.

Yogurt, cream, soft cheeses, and even butter should stay home unless you are camping in an RV and have access to an actual fridge.

uht milk for camping

What are some good snacks to bring camping?

Ever heard of the trail mix or jerky?

In any case, that’s pretty much it. Whole-grain crackers, dry fruit, nuts, and preserved meat are best because they’ll give you all the energy you need for being outdoors while being a source of slow-release energy.

While marshmallows and chocolate are vegetables, try to stay away from other sugary treats. Leave the chips at home as well.

camp food snacks jerky smores crackers

I don’t want to cook when camping – What food do I bring?

If it’s just the matter of getting your calories in, go for the nuts, jerky, dry fruits, crackers, and aged cheese. But if your “don’t want to cook” doesn’t extend to boiling water, check out some freeze-dried meals.

They are not as heavy as the ones that come in cans since all the moisture was removed. The only thing you will have to do is add hot water, re-seal the packaging, and wait for a bit.

Free-dried meals are not only for preppers anymore. Today you have many brands and options to choose from.

long lasting vegetables for camping

What is a shortlist of essentials I’ll need when camping?

No matter what your taste buds prefer, there are a few things that are a safe bet when you’re packing to go camping. You can use the checklist below to make sure that you didn’t go blond and forgot to pack half the stuff you’ll need.

  • Seasonings and condiments – Salt, pepper, spices, dry herbs, mustard, vinegar, etc. Duh
  • Garlic, ginger, and chilies – They don’t need special handling, but will bring lots of flavor to the party
  • Onions – A must for building a flavor base, but why not brig enough for an outdoor french onion soup?
  • Root veg – Potatoes, carrots, beets, etc. They don’t need to be refrigerated and there’s so much that you can do with them
  • Cooked, canned, and cured meat – It’s safer to go this route so you don’t find yourself with tummy issues in the middle of nowhere. If you still want your pound of flesh, go for beef or game
  • Canned food – No chilling needed, and special prep needed when the munchies attack
  • Dry food and nuts – A staple of any hiking or camping adventure
  • Freeze-dried food – Needed a category on its own. In theory, you could just pack these guys and you would be fine
  • Eggs – The answer to almost all camp food alchemy.
  • Smores stuff – Double duh!
long lasting vegetables for camping

How can I make my cooler ice last longer?

Start with a bigger block of ice instead of ice cubes. Large mass to surface ratio means that it takes a lot more time for your ice to melt.

Add items that are fridge or freezer cold, and pack that bad boy to its full capacity. Not too many places for the warmth to wiggle in, and no need to waste cold air on cooling things down first.

Now, roll 20 for a great item. Cooling gel mats. They take less space but stay cold longer than regular ice packs. You’ll usually find them in the wellness or sleep sections of any big box store.

cooling mats for cooler camping