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One of the hardest things about preparing to camp is organizing the camping food. Not only do you need to pre-think about all the meals you will be making, you also need to think about the small details.
What kind of food is best for camping?
The best kind of food to take camping is the food you like to eat the most. You don’t want to get to your camp site and have a cooler full of food you don’t like.
The next best kind of food for camping is food that doesn’t go bad quickly.
Do you need mustard to go with that? A specific spice or seasoning? Once the Mayo has been opened will you be able to keep it cool long enough that it won’t go bad?
This is a list of all the camping food you might need to take that does not need refrigeration. So you forgot to put something in the cooler? No big deal if it is on this list.
It is a big deal if you forget to put the hamburgers and hotdogs in the cooler. Don’t do that!
Condiments and Spices
Condiments and spices are one of those things that you can do without. But why would you? They are meant to add that extra something to a meal. A kick. An added flavor. Or a disguise if you really don’t like the taste of the meal. Just saying. Ketchup anyone?!
1. Condiment Packets
Have you ever watched that cooking show Struggle Meals by Tastemade? He shows you how to make a meal for pennies. One of the ways to reduce the cost is to save condiment packets.
He keeps them in a drawer. You don’t need to refrigerate them.
If you found a plastic container with dividers to keep the different packets in, this would be a great camping hack!
Skip the food poisoning possibility and use single serve packets.
2. Dried Herbs and Spices
These are light weight but pack a flavorful punch. Plus they are dried. No chance of spoiling unless you accidentally get them wet.
You should at least pack your favorites. Pepper, salt, and garlic would be our top 3. We really like the McCormack Steak Seasoning too. Can’t go wrong with that one.
Just like the condiments, you could get small packets of the salt and pepper to carry camping. You could also buy a smaller container to carry herbs and spices in.
This is my favorite sweetener. Use it in your tea (or even your coffee). Great on toast, biscuits, or cornbread. I even like to eat it plain.
Because it is basically a pure sugar it works as a great pick me up. Plus you can get this one in packet form too! Or even straws. Bonus.
Be sure and buy squeezable plastic bottles of honey if you are backpacking. You don’t want glass that will break in your bag. And glass adds extra weight.
4. Soy Sauce
I’m seeing a theme here. Soy sauce is also available in packets. A little goes a long way if you want something salty. And it is a great way to dress up most dishes. Not just stir-fried veggies or noodles.
One of my favorite camping meals, when we go day camping in the winter, is a beef bouillon with chunks of meat. Just boil it on the fire or a backpacking stove and then sip away. The broth is the best part of soup in my opinion.
The beauty of bouillon is that you can get it in powder form and just pack what you need. You can also get it in little individually wrapped squares. We actually carry a few in our survival gear. You never know when you might need a cup of hot broth!
It doesn’t matter which type you like the best when it comes to cooking or dipping. It is shelf-stable and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. And you basically need to cook most things. If you don’t want to take the whole bottle of oil you can transfer some to a smaller portable bottle. These squeeze ones work great and are less messy than a regular open mouth container.
Can you take butter camping?
Yes. Butter. It does not need to be refrigerated. Ours is always in the cupboard in an old fashioned butter dish. Usually, we use it quickly enough that it doesn’t have time to go bad. It takes WEEKS to go rancid. In the right conditions, butter has been known to still be good after 100’s of years (this delicacy is referred to as “bog butter”…you’re welcome!).
If you plan to carry butter as a camping food or backpacking food you will want to carry it in a stiff container with a lid. At warmer temperatures, the butter will turn into a greasy blobby mess!
Jars of salsa can be left unrefrigerated for a few days. If they last that long without being eaten. They are a great addition to most meals. Eat it with chips and cheese and you have a complete meal. Nachos are a meal right?
9. Canned or Jarred Queso
Here’s the cheese. If you can call processed cheese food a cheese. Who doesn’t love some squeeze cheese on crackers now and then? Or the jars of cheese mixed with salsa on chips. Remember the potatoes earlier. Spoon some of this on your spuds. Your taste buds will LOVE you (even if your gut won’t).
Pantry Items for Camping
Pantry items or staples are a must for camping food. Just like the make up the backbone of the menus you cook at home, these foods are going to make up the majority of what you cook outdoors.
These are foods that you need to either make a camping meal or that you can eat on their own.
Potatoes are a staple as a camping food (or regular food for that matter). What can’t you dress up with a potato? Steaks, chicken, casseroles, eggs. They all taste better with a potato.
And you can also eat potatoes as the main food item and just dress it up. Baked potatoes with bacon, cheese and broccoli. Yes please! Or a baked potato with chili, onions and cheese.
Not only can you haul around raw potatoes FOREVER and not have them go bad, you can also pack dried instant potatoes. Or canned potatoes that are already cooked.
They are a versatile food. I’ll spare you the Hobbit quotes!
11. Velveeta Cheese
This one can work in a few ways (again if you are okay with a processed cheese food and not an authentic “natural” cheese). It can be eaten on crackers. Melted over your meal. Mixed to make a sauce.
And it is heavily processed. So it won’t be going bad any time soon. They sell it on the shelf. Not in the refrigerated section. You can carry it around unopened for YEARS!
12. Peanut Butter
I don’t know about you, but I like to just have a peanut butter pop now and then for a snack (peanut butter on a spoon). This is another staple that will last forever even after it is opened. And who doesn’t love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Especially after a morning of playing outside.
Peanut butter is also delicious on French toast, pancakes or waffles. Adds a little protein and fat to all those carbs. It will keep you going until lunch. Which is important when you are out adventuring.
Jelly in a jar will need to be refrigerated. But you can purchase the individual packets of jelly and not have to worry about a messy jar after a few uses.
It doesn’t need to be stored in the cooler. You don’t have to refrigerate it after opening. Bread is a main staple and a camping food that will enable you to make multiple meals.
Grilled Velveeta cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Oh. Or peanut butter and honey sandwiches! Toast. French toast. All the bready goodness. Tuna sandwiches (mixed with packets of mayo and relish).
You can make your own bread while out in the woods or at your campsite with this quick and easy bannock recipe. It is historically one of the main types of bread that was used in the past. Quick. Easy and delicious.
This premixed flour concoction is perfect for pancakes, biscuits, pancakes and more. Add a little extra baking powder and you don’t need eggs and milk. If you really want to use milk you can mix up some powdered milk. Or evaporated milk.
16. Powdered Milk
You can pack a box of this camping food or you can just put some in a smaller container to take with. Add to water and you can use it to cook, eat it on cereal (you might have nasty childhood flashbacks if you do this) or bake with it.
They also make powdered soy milk if you are vegan or have a milk allergy.
17. Evaporated Milk
Canned milk is another great way to take milk camping without having to refrigerate it. It is a little heavier. If you are car camping then the weight won’t matter. Not having to take up space in the cooler is worth it.
Evaporated milk is also great for baking, coffee creamer, and any other recipe that you need milk for.
18. Beans and Lentils
Beans are a go to camping food. Not only do they pack well if you are hiking, they are usually included in most dehydrated backpacking meals.
If you don’t take a pre-cooked or dehydrated variety you will need to soak them longer. Remember to take this into account when you are planning your meal prep time.
Beans make a great base for a lot of different meals. Mix them with rice and a topping and they are a meal in themselves.
19. Rice and Cereal Grains
Add rice to your beans with a sauce and you have a full meal. Cook up some couscous with a can off veggies and toss in some canned tuna and you have a stir-fry.
Oatmeal is perfect as a breakfast food. Grits can be sweet or savory. Eat them in the morning or at night. Cream of wheat can be a great warm breakfast in the morning. Stir in some fruit or peanut butter. It will make your belly smile.
Cook up some barley and make a camp stew with bouillon broth, canned veggies, and a protein of your choice.
20. Chips and Crackers
Most meals when you are camping need one or the other. Chips for sandwiches, quick nachos, or with a classic burger and hotdog meal.
Crackers work with the cheese foods for a snack. They are also absolutely necessary for smores on the campfire.
And if you like the Chicken in a Biskit type of crackers or even Triscuits they can be a snack all on their own.
Camping food snacks can be just that. A meal in themselves. Something quick and easy while you are taking a break from your camping activities. Or they can be an ingredient in a larger meal that you prepare. The work double duty.
21. Snack Bars or Energy Bars
These are probably the number one snack item for most campers and outdoor adventurers. Snack bars and energy bars are easy to grab. Don’t take up much space. And they can float around in your bag or picnic container forever.
Kids love them. Especially if you grab something with chocolate chips. And you can find some great varieties that are organic, vegan, and even Keto.
Snack bars really work great for in-between meals. When you are hungry but there won’t be a meal for a few hours. Or on those days that you don’t feel like eating a full meal but need something more substantial than a handful of trail mix. This is an ideal camping food.
22. Pop Tarts
This one wouldn’t really make my grocery list. Due to the sugar factor. But the kids love them and they are okay for a treat once in awhile. I like to buy the organic kind. They have a little less sugar and don’t get you buzzing like the super sugary name brand tarts do.
When I do buy them, we usually treat them like a dessert. Eat them in place of smores or cookies for a less sugary treat after dinner. Warmed up in tin foil on the fire makes them even more delicious.
You cannot prep your camping food and go outside to play without chocolate. It is a survival food after all. Right?!
Chocolate bars for smores. Chocolate chips for the pancakes. Or just a quick handful of chocolate chips for a pick me up between meals. Eat it with a few nuts and some dried fruit and you have your own version of a trail mix.
And don’t forget about Nutella. It mixes well with nut butters, you can eat it on bread or crackers, and it makes a delicious smore!
24. Dried Fruit and Raisins
Raisins are packed with fibers, vitamins and minerals. There is a reason they are included in trail mix (or GORP if you were a child of the 80’s). Buy them covered in chocolate or yogurt for a decadent treat.
Dried fruit such as mango, apricot, banana chips or even blueberries can be purchased in bulk. And then repacked into smaller portions. Especially if you have a seal-a-meal machine.
We buy dried fruits and pre-made trail mix and then seal it into individual portions. Toss that in the freezer until you are ready to go outside and play. It lasts way longer than if it were just sitting on the self.
Make your own dried fruit to eat as a camping snack or add it to your own trail mix. If you have a dehydrator you can make your own dried fruit as well as dried meats and veggies.
25. Nuts and Seeds
There are so many different types of nuts that you can throw in a bag or container to take for camping food. Not only do they work for snacking you can also make them part of a meal.
Eat a handful of nuts instead of chips when you have a sandwich. Toss a few varieties in your trail mix. Add some sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds to your pancake mix.
Almonds, pecans, walnuts, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are a staple in our household. And they are always in someone’s pack. In some form when we go out adventuring.
26. Trail Mix – A Must Have
It is a combination of all the foods we just discussed. A mixture of dried fruit, nuts and chocolate. You can buy it pre-mixed. Pre-packaged in individual serving sizes. Or you can make your own.
We have been known to get excited about a day out on our dirt bikes and forget to pack food. But we all had a few energy bars and trail mix in our backpacks. No problem. We played all day and no one really worried about their bellies. Because we had enough trail mix to make it through until dinner.
This is the ultimate travel food. It is what our ancestors hauled around for food when they were surviving. Not just camping. Jerky is a classic example of food preparation to make it safe and to make it last without refrigeration.
Making your own with a dehydrator is a great option. Then you can have any variety of meat that you would like to throw into your pack. Venison, elk, grouse (not sure about dehydrating birds…but it can’t be much different).
You can also reconstitute dehydrated meats in stews and soups. Eating it dry isn’t the only option.
28. Canned Fish and Meats
Tuna would be the first thing you might think about in this food category. Tuna pouches are another great option for less weight and to take up less space. You could also go with canned or pouched salmon.
Then you have other canned meats like diced ham for sandwiches or campfire casseroles. Vienna sausages can be eaten cold or warmed up.
Spam is in a category all its own. With a bazillion flavor options.
There are also options like chili con carne that have meat and beans together. Or canned stews.
29. Canned Vegetables and Beans
If you have the space and you are not worried about weight, then canned vegetables and beans are a great camping food option. Precooked and packed at their prime they are full of vitamins and minerals.
Canned vegetables are a great way to add some variety to a stir fry, soup, a casserole, or to serve on the side. Just because you are camping does not mean that you can’t eat a chicken dinner with mashed potatoes, gravy, and veggies.
Canned beans mean less prep time when you are cooking. Not to mention the variety that you can grab. Pinto beans to garbanzo beans (outdoor hummus anyone) they are all ready to go and make a great addition to your camping meals.
Some people have even been known to open up a can of pork and beans and just eat them cold. With a spork. (Mr. T)
30. Dry Cereal
Even when our kids were little we would have a bag of dried cereal available for snacks. Some cereals work better for this than others. Cheerios are our number one choice. After that, Honey Combs. If you are feeling like to you need a sweet treat then eating Cap’n Crunch dry will hit the spot.
Dry cereals are light weight, you can use the box for fire started, and if you are die hard enough to mix up some powdered milk then you don’t even have to eat them dry.
31. Fresh Fruit
A number of fruits are great for camping and will keep for a very long time. Apples, mangos, peaches, cherries, plums, bananas, strawberries, oranges, and melons just to mention a few.
Fresh fruits are great with all your meals. Or as a snack in between meals. They also go well with chocolate for dessert.
32. Fresh Vegetables
Look for vegetables that are not already in a cooler. Carrots, green beans, peas, onions, leeks, peppers, summer squash and corn are all great options. They also make great campfire meals when cooked together over the coals in a pan or tinfoil.
Cucumbers and larger tomatoes will need to be chilled after you cut into them if you are not eating the whole thing at once. Most of the time you can eat all of it at one meal. Or at least by the next meal. Small baby tomatoes would be a great alternative.
33. Fruit Cups
Individually packaged fruit cups make a great camping food. This is a snack that kids can grab on their own. Most are packaged in their own fruit juice (which you can save and use for cocktails with a little spritzer).
You can also get applesauce in individual cups. Great for breakfasts along with a handful of trail mix. Or on top of your pancakes and French toast!
34. Jiffy Pre-Mixed Baked Goods
I don’t know about you but I LOVE the blueberry muffin mix. I learned how to make these muffins when I was about 10 years old.
They make a great quick breakfast. Especially with a smear of butter. And a cup of coffee. Heaven. Eating them outside in nature makes them taste even better.
There are a number of pre-mixed options in the Jiffy section. and just like the name implies…they are quick to make.
I haven’t tried them in a campfire yet, but you can get aluminum muffin tins. I would imagine you could cover the tray with tinfoil and “bake” your muffins. You could also just put the mixture into the bottom of your dutch oven and make a bannock style muffin bread. It will still taste delicious!
Make-a-Head Food Ideas
These are great camping foods that you can make in advance. Cook them up at home and then put them in a container or bag and take them out into nature.
If you don’t want to make muffins on the campfire or you prefer a loaf bread baked at home then these are great options.
Make them ahead of time. You can even make them weeks before and freeze them. Then just grab the bag or container, toss it in the supply pile, and go.
You don’t even have to bake your own. Grab one of the flats of muffins at Costco, Sam’s Club or your local bakery.
They will keep for days. Warm them up in some tinfoil on the fire and enjoy them with your hot morning beverage.
36. Banana Bread, Nut Bread, or Zucchini Bread for Camping
Just like muffins, any of these cake style breads work great as a camping food. Bake them up, let them cool, pre-slice them if you want and then bag them up.
My kids love to eat banana bread with a smear of butter or peanut butter. It makes a quick and easy breakfast. Around mid to late summer zucchini bread is a great way to use up all the zucchini from your garden (or the neighbors).
37. Coffee Cake
Coffee cake is another great option for breakfast or dessert. They can also be baked in advance and frozen.
Make them in disposable pie tins and you won’t have to worry about washing dishes (and the kids can use the pie tin for a make-shift frisbee or other fun camping game).
38. Energy Bites
This is one of my favorite things to make at home (I do really love the seed ones that are grain free from Costco too).
Mix up some nut butter, coconut oil, seeds, and maybe even some Cheerios and you have a great snack ball. They work for a quick meal or an energy boost.
There are loads of recipes for these online. You can definitely find a recipe that works for you and fits your dietary needs. They even make Keto ones that would make a great camping food.
39. Fruit Leather
If you have a ton of fruit and no idea what to do with it, you can make your own fruit leather to take camping, hiking or backpacking.
Otherwise, there are a number of very yummy fruit leathers that you can get to take with you.
Kids love this for a snack option. Heck. Even adults love this as a snack option. It keeps really well for a long time, but you won’t need to worry about that because it will be devoured in no time.
Hot Meals for Camping
There are so many variations of hot meals and snacks that you can take camping. This list will be for snacks and meals that make a good camping food because you don’t need to keep it cool or refrigerated.
Be sure to check out other posts we have on the site for the best camping breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts. And don’t forget camping snacks. All that playing makes everyone ravenous. Or is it the fresh air?!
Sometime popcorn can turn into a meal in itself. Especially if you add some parmesan cheese (which if you get the really dry kind you don’t need to refrigerate) or some nutritional yeast (otherwise known as hippy dust).
Another of our favorite ways to eat popcorn is with some pretzels and Doritos mixed in. We usually keep our popcorn in the savory to spicy arena. Jazz up your popcorn with some chocolate chips or even butterscotch chips. Or bring along a box of milk duds to make a version of caramel corn.
Follow this recipe to make campfire popcorn.
41. Mac and Cheese (or Other Boxed Pasta)
Mac and Cheese with a canned meat (or even hot dogs). Add some ketchup from a packet and you have a meal. I feel like I am back in high school writing that statement.
Any of the boxed pasta mixes would make a great side. Turn them into a casserole by adding a meat and some veggies.
42. Cup of Noodles or Ramen
Same idea as the mac and cheese. The added bonus of these noodles besides their quick cooking time is the salty broth that they come with. If you have been hiking, sweating or expending massive amounts of energy, these are full of salts. Your body needs to resupply on those!
And they also work great in casseroles or instant style stir-fry dishes. Just drain off the broth (into a cup to sip on).
43. Canned Soups and Stews
When Mr. T and I first started dating he took me camping. The menu was Dinty Moore stew, string cheese, and rolls.
The kids now think this is the best camp food out there. They request it at least two or three times a year.
Canned soups and stews are great for camping. And a quick bowl of soup for lunch with some bread and cheese is great when you want to be done with food in a hurry so you can get back to playing.
Boxed soups are another great way to carry soups. Plus they reseal so if you don’t use it all, there is no need to worry about how to take care of leftovers. Pour just enough for everyone to have a serving in their favorite camp cup. Heat more as needed.
44. Dehydrated Camping Meals
Pre-made camping food used to suck. Especially in MRE form. Just nasty.
They have really improved the process and the quality over the years. There are a number of dehydrated meals that I actually look forward to eating when we go out backpacking or hiking.
Dehydrated meals usually have 2 servings in the package. After a hard day of hiking or playing you might want to eat the whole pack. I usually end up feeding part of mine to Mr. T or H.T. (growing teenage boy and all that jazz).
MRE packages have a TON of calories. They are meant to keep a fast-paced stressed military person fed and sustain their energy. Take that into consideration when you are packing your meals.
Be sure and read the instruction on your dehydrated meals as well. Most are meant to be cooked with boiling water that you add to the package. But not the egg scrambles. Oops. Those require a pan. Ask me how I know.
A Pretty Basic Guide
There you have it. A basic list of all the camping food that you can take that doesn’t require refrigeration.
There are probably many more items or variations that could be added to the list. Hopefully, this list has started your gears turning and you can come up with unique ways to mix and match your food items.
The idea is to make the process enjoyable, as stress-free as possible, and to keep you nourished while you expend all that energy outside enjoying the wilds!