No matter how many times you have been camping, there is always a momentary panic when you start to think of ‘What Food to Take Camping’. In a perfect world we want a mix of the quick, easy and tasty. A few more gourmet options work well too.
Packing food that is easy to serve, prepped ahead of time, easy to store, and simple to dispose of is essential to enjoying your outdoor adventure.
What food should I take when camping? Including several non-perishable meals and snacks along with sandwiches, meats, dairy, and salads ensures an amble food supply in case of an accident. Prepare perishable food at the beginning of the trip to avoid spoilage or contamination.
Camping with your friends or family can be an incredible experience, but often the planning phase of the trip results in frustration. Bringing the right food is at the top of your to-do list, but without having access to a refrigerator, the task seems daunting. However, if you prep the meals before you leave, you can safely enjoy delicious food. All it takes is a little slicing, dicing, and cooking. You’ll be enjoying the outdoors, with a full belly, in no time.
Be warned – the photographs in this article are going to make you hungry
15 Essential Foods to Take Camping
We are going to get onto some more exciting, adventurous food later. Here’s a list of tasty camping food that should be on every camping checklist:
- Trail Mix
- Energy Bars/Granola Bars
- Canned Soup
- Beef/Turkey Jerky
- Dry pasta with sauce
- Chicken Salad
- Dehydrated Fruit
- Graham crackers/cookies
- Hot Dogs/sausages
- Purified Water
- Coffee (not instant) and Tea
What Food to Take Camping – Essential Foods by Category
When deciding on what food to take with you in can be helpful to think in terms of food types or categories. It’s particularly useful for the hikers and athlete’s who just have to get the right mix of food.
Trail mix Energy/granola bars Dehydrated fruit Crackers
Beef/turkey jerky Hot dogs/sausages Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Oatmeal Pasta Canned Soup
Coffee and tea
Bottled or purified water
Non-perishable food, such as canned goods, sealed pasta packs, energy bars, or jerky, does not need to be refrigerated. However, exposing the items to extreme heat can lead to spoilage. If you cannot bring a cooler to your campsite, rely solely on non-perishable items.
Check the labels on your food for the proper storing temperatures. If you keep your non-perishables sealed and away from direct sunlight or heat, you’re unlikely to experience that problem.
How to Keep Food Cold While Camping
Keeping your food cold for several days is simple if you have an insulated cooler. Although they’re pricier than the standard coolers, they’re worth it. Insulated coolers, like this Yeti model, keep food cold for long periods and retain more ice than conventional models.
Freezing your meals and water bottles before packing them in a cooler will also assist in keeping your food frosty.
Try to avoid placing warm or room temperature food in the cooler. The colder the food is when you pack it, the longer it will stay cold.
Take a look at our article on the best camping coolers for an in-depth review of the options available.
12V Coolers and Camping Fridges
Traditional Chest Coolers have been at the heart of camping trips and tailgate parties for many years. Now, there are increasing numbers of very able 12V camping coolers and Camping Fridges. If you are going to be camping regularly, we strongly recommend investing in a Camping Fridge. Camping fridges will drain your car battery quite quickly.
You will need a secondary source of electricity – our favorite continues to be to use an inverter-generator. We continue to investigate solar power. I feel sure we will make the jump quite soon.
- 【Warranty for your rights】The CR22 12V refrigerator comes with a 2-year warranty. If you have any questions about the product, please REACH OUT TO BougeRV before returning it, as we provide hassle-free after-sale service (Package included: dc power cord, ac power cord, and user manual).
- 【Fast Cooling Down to 32℉】With Compressor refrigeration technology, this 12v car refrigerator could achieve 20 min fast cooling from 77℉ to 32℉ and 50 min from 77℉ to -5℉, keeping your food fresh. No ice needed, no food spoiled, money and space-saving. (Dimension：22.24*12.40*12.79in, Weight: 22.27lb lightweight)
- 【45W Low Power Consumption】With ECO energy saving mode, this 23 Qt portable refrigerator's operating power is less than 45W. Even running on MAX mode, it consumes far less than 1kwh/day for its intelligent cycle work. You can run this portable freezer fridge with 12/24 V DC power on various vehicles, such as SUVs, trucks, RVs, Camper, Van, Boat, etc.
- 【45dB Low Noise】The truck freezer is designed to run with low noise to make sure you have a good sleep after long driving. This camping fridge also has a shock-proof design to face the uneven road, operating with no problem in case of a 30 ° inclination when you are off-road.
- 【3 Level Voltage Battery Protection】The RV fridge/freezer is equipped with a 3-level battery monitor to prevent the fridge from draining your vehicle's battery. You can choose at what battery voltage the fridge shuts off to prevent complete battery drain.
- 【BLUETOOTH CONNECTION & LCD PANEL】Our car refrigerator support Bluetooth connection.Built-in Bluetooth module,you can remotely control the portable car refrigerator through the APP, without having to operate beside the machine, convenient and efficient to enjoy your life; Car refrigerator is equipped with LCD panel, through which you can intuitively see the operation of 12v car refrigerator and real-time temperature, and adjust the temperature range at any time.
- 【HIGH EFFICIENCY&LOW ENERGY CONSUMPTION】Euhomy 12 volt car refrigerators use advanced compressors and are equipped with powerful refrigeration technology to achieve rapid cooling. Our 12v freezers are UL certified for energy efficiency with extremely low energy consumption. The average energy consumption of our on-board portable refrigerators is only 45W. Save money and space. With ECO/MAX cooling modes, you can choose from ECO mode for energy saving or MAX mode for fast cooling.
- 【POWERFUL CAPACITY & REMOVABLE BASKET】49 Quart large Capacity portable refrigerator freezer allows you to store a wide variety of foods while keeping them fresh.This powerful, high-capacity RV refrigerator meets the needs of truckers, boat owners and campers to store seafood, snacks, meat and drinks for travel, boating and camping. The interior is equipped with a movable storage basket, you can put food in and reach, keep the refrigerator clean and tidy.
- 【LOW NOISE & BATTERY PROTECTION】With a running sound of only 40 dB, the 12v refrigerator can be placed for use in any indoor or outdoor setting without disturbing your enjoyable trip and rest. The running sound is so low that you don't notice it. Euhomy car refrigerator is equipped with three levels of battery protection to protect your car from power loss. You can choose the battery protection level suitable for you according to your needs.
- 【WARRANTY & SUPPORT】Euhomy offers a 1-year quality guarantee. If you have any questions about our 12 Volt refrigerator, please feel free to contact our customer service team.(Package included: Car Refrigerator,DC Power Cord, AC Power Cord, and User Manual).
- 【SMALL VOLUME & LARGE CAPACITY】The car refrigerator is compact and portable, with a large capacity of 19QT（18L), better design brings more capacity.Portable Refrigerator can be easily moved and carried, and can be used anywhere. It can be a refrigerator or freezer, which you can adjust by temperature control, no additional ice cubes are needed,allows you to store a variety of foods while keeping fresh, which fully meets truck drivers, boat owners and campers to store seafood, meat, vegetable.
- 【FAST COOLING & LOW ENERGY CONSUMPTION】The Euhomy 12 volt refrigerator uses a state-of-the-art compressor with advanced 3D refrigeration technology for rapid cooling from 50 ° F to 32 ° F in just 15 minutes. Euhomy 12v cooler are UL Energy efficient certified with very low energy consumption. The average energy consumption of portable refrigerators is only 45W, which greatly reduces costs.
- 【MAGNETIC SEALING DESIGN】The cover plate of the electric cooler adopts a unique magnetic design, which can achieve a very good sealing effect with the rubber ring, and provide a good insulation effect to improve the efficiency of RV refrigeration and insulation; The design of magnetic opening cover increases the number of times of opening and closing the door cover, which is convenient and durable, and can be used with confidence;
- 【SILENT＆HOME/CAR DUAL-USE】The 12v car refrigerator has a low noise design and operates at just 40 decibels, providing a quiet environment for your journey. Euhomy 12v car refrigerator cooler can be connected to 110/240V AC and 12/24V DC adapter, the use of a wide range, do not have to worry about the use of scenarios;
- 【COMPLIMENTARY ACCESSORIES & WARRANTY】Euhomy 12V refrigerator is equipped with 110/240V AC and 12/24V DC adapters and can be used at home or in the car for a variety of use scenarios. Euhomy offers a 1-year product quality guarantee. If you have any questions about our car refrigerator, please contact our professional customer service team and we will help you as soon as possible.
How to Store Food While Camping
Store pre-prepared meals in airtight containers, and use Ziplock bags for fruits, vegetables, crackers, sandwiches, and seasonings. Reseal all bags after use to avoid lingering odors that may attract wildlife.
When packing your cooler, place raw meat or seafood at the bottom of the cooler. Although many campers recommend putting all the food that will be consumed first at the top of the cooler, it’s unwise to place raw food above cooked or ready-to-eat food. If your cooler is damaged or defective, it may not retain cold temperatures and can lead to your raw hamburger dripping on your chicken salad container or sandwich bags.
Yes, that scenario is unlikely to occur when you own an expensive insulated cooler, but it’s not worth the risk. Food poisoning makes people miserable in their comfortable homes but would be a nightmare on a camping trip.
Ideally, you should bring one cooler loaded with raw meat, and place drinks and cooked food in another cooler. If you cannot bring two coolers, tightly seal your meals and put them in separate containers.
Food to Cook While Camping
If you’re against cooking campfire staples like hot dogs and hamburgers, you may want to get creative. Frozen pizzas and Greek gyro with pita are two options that people rarely associate with camp food, but they’re incredibly easy to cook.
Wrap frozen pizza in aluminum foil and place it on the coals of the campfire. It takes about twenty minutes to bake, but you will be surprised at how great it tastes.
To make gyros, cook the meat so that when you get to the campsite it only needs to be reheated in a pan. Wrap pita in foil and lay it on the fire’s coals for five to eight minutes.
Here are some gourmet options at the campsite:
- Blackened shrimp on skewers
- Grilled marinated chicken or beef
- Buffalo wings (baked in foil or grilled)
- Grilled tilapia with tortillas
- Blueberry Cobbler in a Dutch oven
For more ideas, check out these suggestions from Bon Appetit. Or you can get some mouthwatering ideas by watching the video below
Prep Ahead of Time
One of the keys to enjoying stress-free cooking at the campsite is prepping ahead of time. You don’t have to worry about the ready-to-eat items such as energy bars. Some of the meals you can prepare in the days before you leave include pasta with sauce, sandwiches, chicken stir fry, and chili.
At the campsite, you can serve your famous pasta sauce. Cook the sauce at home and freeze it in an airtight container. When you’re ready to cook on your trip, drop the sauce in a pot and cook it over your camp stove or fire. Boil your dry pasta separately, and you’re all set.
Make sure that the sauce container’s base is not wider than your camping pots. If the sauce is still frozen when you want to cook it at the site, you’ll have a hard time getting it into a smaller pot.
If you’d rather purchase a high-end, freeze-dried pasta meal, try this one.
Prepare your favorite sandwiches such as peanut butter, turkey and cheese, or pimento cheese at home. Wrap the sandwiches in plastic wrap and seal them in a Ziplock bag.
If you’re going to store them at the top level of your cooler, it helps to seal the sandwiches in an additional bag to avoid sogginess.
Chicken Stir Fry
You can use beef, seafood, or tofu in your stir fry instead of using chicken. If you don’t want to cook the rice at the campsite, mix the cooked rice with your meat and veggies before you freeze it. The rice will not be as firm if you freeze it instead of cooking it, but it’s not too bad.
Add stir fry sauce to the meat, veggies, and rice before you freeze it to keep the dish from tasting bland or dry when you reheat it at the site.
Make a batch of your blue-ribbon chili and freeze it in an airtight container. It helps to cool the sauce in an ice bath before placing it in the freezer. Keep the chili in the freezer for at least three days before placing it in a cooler.
Don’t Forget the Smores
How to Pack Food for Camping
Seal all your camp food in plastic and use airtight containers for raw food or prepared meals. Remove air from Ziplock bags before sealing. Your food will last longer and will not emit odors favored by wildlife.
Pungent or aromatic food items benefit from a double layer of protection. Use two Ziplock bags for shrimp or fish, and marinated meat should be wrapped in plastic wrap before you drop it in a Ziplock bag.
Any bag or cooler that contains multiple food items should have
- chicken at the bottom
- beef on the next level
- seafood above beef
- and ready to eat food at the top.
This system mimics the federal code for restaurant inspections and protects your family and friends from food-poisoning. However, placing all raw meat and seafood in a separate cooler is the safest option.
One of our top tips for awesome camping is to take 2 coolers. You are going to want to keep one just for drinks. This is the one everyone in your party is going to want to open and close all the time. It will get warmer quicker. That doesn’t matter too much for most drinks.
How to Dehydrate Food for Camping
If you love beef jerky and dehydrated fruits and vegetable, you may want to purchase a dehydrator. They’re inexpensive, and they put you in control of the flavors you crave at the campsite. Some models, like this one, cost under forty dollars and are simple to use and clean.
Slice up your favorite cuts of seasoned meat, sauté them, and place them in the dehydrator. After a few days, you’ll have your very own jerky to serve your camping buddies. Fruits and vegetables take less time to dehydrate than meat, and they’re superior to store-bought versions.
How to Properly Store Food When Camping in Bear Country
Bears have an enhanced sense of smell and pose a risk to your health and food supply. All food should be tightly sealed in plastic and placed in an airtight container or cooler. Some campsites offer bear boxes to protect your food. If they do, take advantage of it.
If it’s near the campsite, store all your food in your vehicle at night to provide an additional layer of protection from a bear’s sensitive nose.
After finishing your camp meals, reseal all food bags and containers. Pick up leftover crumbs and keep refuse away from sleeping and eating areas. Insulated coolers are the perfect place to store food since they are airtight. Some even claim to be bear-proof.
How to Keep Food Cold for a Week Camping
If you’re planning to camp for a week, it is best to bring two insulated coolers. Freeze your prepared meals several days before you place them in a cooler and plan to serve raw meats and seafood during the first days of your trip.
Opening the cooler as little as possible will allow it to keep the food colder. Store the cooler in a shady spot. The sun’s rays will quickly raise the cooler’s temperature.
Whether you plan to serve hot dogs or gourmet cuisine on your camping trip, the first rule is to have fun. Cooking food in the wilderness shouldn’t be a chore. Even when dispersed camping, with proper planning and a little common sense, you can enjoy nature and forget about your busy routine in the real world.
Last update on 2023-12-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API