When it comes to planning for a camping trip, there is a lot of information you need to take into consideration. For many people, what food they will bring with them can be just as important as what clothes or gear they decide to take.
The key is finding foods that are both easy-to-prepare and long lasting in order to make sure your precious time isn’t filled with thinking about what to cook and/or worrying about running out of food.
With this blog post, we will discuss the best food for camping that fit all those criteria – you’ll have zero excuses not to pack up some delicious grub before heading out on your next adventure!
How to Store Camping Food
Storage is one of the most important factors to take into consideration when deciding what food to bring on your camping trip. With so many options available, it can be tough to decide which method will work best for you and the amount of hassle it might take to get the food in the appropriate container.
First, we recommend making a list of which “type” of foods you might need for each meal of the day ahead of time so packing goes faster and easier. For example:
- Breakfast – cereal, milk (F), eggs (F), bread, fruit juice, tea/coffee
- Lunch – pasta, soup, cheese (F), canned tuna, salad, fruit
- Dinner – BBQ food (F), rice, potatoes, vegetables, tinned tomatos, chicken breasts (F)
In the above, F stands for ‘fridge required‘.
If you don’t have access to a camping fridge then we recommend sticking to the less perishable items like breads, fruits and vegetables instead of meats or dairy products.
Dried Food Choices
Dried rice, noodles, beans and pasta last almost indefinitely if stored in bags with an airtight seal. You can ‘vacuum seal’ a simple ‘ziplock’ plastic freezer bag by squeezing out any excess air before sealing shut. This also help keep bugs out at the campsite!
Freezer bags are great for storing dried foods. They also make it easy to organize and pack up your items for travelling both before and after your trip away. The bags will pack well into a storage basket and not take up too much space.
The problem is that dried food is typically great for replenishing your carbohydrates, but not so good for keeping your protein levels topped up. Dried food like nuts and seeds can also sometimes taste a bit like cardboard, and so you will need some variety and flavour to mix it up a bit.
Q. What about Dried Fruit? A. It’s one of the Best Camping Foods!
Dried fruits like raisins and currants are excellent for adding variety into your diet while you’re out on the trail. They work especially well with protein snacks such as nuts and seed. Taken together like this, you’re getting a great boost of energy and protein.
You may not realize it, but dried fruits only last around 2 weeks after opening so be sure to bear this in mind. Be sure to check the expiration date on all your foods before taking them camping. If you don’t want to risk it, pack the items that are newly bought and throw away the rest – that way you’ll be able to enjoy your trip without worrying about food degrading and causing upset stomachs – it’s the last thing you want!
Alternatively, bring it all but try and eat the food in order of expiry date – use the earliest expiry date food first.
Granola or Cereal Bars
These are some of the best snacks to bring camping because they’re easy to store and last a long time. They are great for breakfast or as a quick energy boost while you’re hiking on the trail.
Trail Mix or ‘Scroggin‘ is another great food to bring camping because it’s versatile – there are many different variations that will appeal to everyone in your group, plus they last for weeks! It’s basically a random mixture of all the above dried nuts and raisins, with a healthy dose of chocolate thrown in too!
Just be sure to check that nobody in your squad has a peanut allergy!
Canned Food – It’s Old School But It Works!
If you’re looking for a quick, convenient option that will keep food items fresh, canned goods are a great choice!
Canned foods can last a long time in storage – some cans were opened after 109 years in storage and found to be edible!
We like some of the tinned curries and chilli-con-carnes which are quick to heat up and don’t taste too bad.
Canned soup is also a great option for a warming winter meal – just empty into a pan and warm up on your trusty camping burner. Especially nice to slurp with crusty bread – you can even just dip the break in for that ‘back to nature’ caveman feel.
Cans are easy to store too – just arrange them in a cardboard box and you can whack a week’s worth quite comfortably into the car boot and just leave them there until you need em.
Best Camping Food for Keeping The Weight Down
Whilst tinned food is excellent for car camping, it’s not so great for rucksack camping as the weight becomes prohibitive. If you’re going solo with only legs for transport then you need to maximize the energy density in your food.
What this means is that you need to carry food which has the highest amount of calories packed into the lightest possible weight.
Again, nuts and seeds are great for this but you cannot live on a diet of these alone. Rice and beans is what they always eat in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here when the going gets tough, and there’s a reason for this. It will keep you alive, and also has the benefit of being a very high energy density meal.
Bring along spices such as chilli or curry powder if you want to give your bland lightweight food a kick. Alternatively, you can fork out on freeze-dried bags of food which just need water added to them and heating up in a pan of boiling water. These can be delicious and very lightweight to carry – unfortunately they’re not cheap! The same technology has been extensively used by Nasa astronauts during space missions.
Expand Your Horizons – Use an Electric Cool Box or Camping Fridge for Chillin’
In our view, one of the most important items to take camping is an electric cool box. These are perfect for keeping perishable food cold, which means it will stay fresh longer.
The size of electric cooler you need depends on what size of vehicle you have access to for camping, and how many people you need to store food for. A family of 6 will need around a 50 litre box, but a couple could get by with 15-20 litres.
Large coolers can hold more supplies but they become more heavy and cumbersome to shift around when fully laden. Look for a decent carry handle which can handle the weight when choosing your cool box.
There are many different types of electric cool box technologies on the market, so it is important to find one that suits your needs and budget best.
- Thermoelectric cooling systems are great value and offer decent cooling if mains or battery power is available. Perfect for family camping, but really need a car to transport.
- A simple insulated cool box can suffice if you have access to frozen cool packs or ice at the campsite. The problem comes at night time when the ice is likely to melt. We recommend the electric cool boxes to avoid this problem.
See our round up of the best electric cool boxes on the UK market currently.
Pre-Preparing Your Meals
It might take you back to your desperate student days when your mum would hand you a bundle of tupperware tubs containing your next week’s worth of meals, but pre-preparing food can be a godsend when camping. Don’t be afraid to cook some great grub the night before you leave, and dish it into some safe and secure re-sealable plastic containers. You can then just whack them in the electric cool box overnight so that you can just grab and go in the morning when you set off on the journey.
Meals then simply become a case of heating up the pre-cooked meal over the stove, and perhaps cooking some dried rice or pasta in a separate pan of boiling water. Massively cuts down on the hassle of preparing food in less than ideal conditions in the tent.
Cooking Ideas for Camping
Cooking at the campsite is an important skill to have for any camper. Practice safe cooking by keeping your camping stove well away from tents or other flammable material. Remember that burning gas or wood can produce carbon monoxide, so keep the stove in an open space with good ventilation.
Definitely buy your charcoal and lighter fluid before travelling – they always charge way more at the camp site! Trust us on this!
You can use a camping grill to cook food such as sausages or steak that you brought with you from home and are not using for breakfast.
Alternatively, a simple gas stove, some oil and a pan can make everything from Chinese stir fry to Chilli Con Carne or Spaghetti Bolognese. The world is your oyster Rodney!
Use the Local Amenities
Overall when camping you may not quite have the same range of food as you do at home, but there is always the option of eating out at a local pub or cafe if you run out of ideas. We do this probably every other night on a camping holiday!