Camping food is more than just a dinner—it's the whole day's meal. So what do you take with you when you pack your bags for camping trips? Food is probably the most important thing. Choosing your food might seem easy, but making the wrong decision could affect your appetite. I've got a food packing list for camping that will get you started.
Food means more than what's on the plate for most people. There are opportunities to make memories among nature's beauty and fresh air—that's why food packing lists for camping should be your number one priority before going out there.
Camping Food List
A camping pantry is one of the most important parts of packing for a camping trip. It doesn't matter if you're heading out for an overnight or a weeklong adventure; having the right foods on hand will make your experience much more enjoyable.
This ingredient list is a starting point and can be adjusted based on what you and your friends or family eat. Here is a packing list of some food to add to your camping pantry:
- Pita bread. Pita bread is easy to make sandwiches that can be eaten cold or warmed up over the fire.
- Tea bags. Tea bags are perfect for camping because they're lightweight and easy to pack into your bag without taking up much space at all! You can also make yourself a cup of tea while camping using water boiled over the campfire, which helps keep things simple on off days when you don't feel like going out into town just for coffee or lunch!
- Pasta sauces: Bolognese sauce is a classic, but other varieties are available. Just ensure they're not too heavy or thick so they won't spoil quickly in the heat.
- Dehydrated foods: Dehydrated fruits are easy to carry and can be rehydrated by adding water. Dehydrated veggies take longer to cook but are just as tasty.
- Canned Goods: You can also buy canned beans and tuna packed in water instead of oil.
- Sandwich meat: turkey or ham will work well on sandwiches, salads, and casseroles.
- Cream cheese. Cream cheese is another good item in your pantry; it makes for a tasty snack and adds protein to your diet. You can spread cream cheese onto crackers or pita bread or even use it as an ingredient in dips and sauces!
- Large container of water: This will come in handy when cooking meals over a campfire and drinking on hot days. Make sure you carry enough for everyone in your group!
- Instant coffee: You don't need to take your fancy coffee machine with you — instant coffee will do just fine! But do remember to bring some filters and sugar if required (you'll probably want it). And don't forget to bring along some cups with lids so you can drink without spilling everywhere!
- Fresh milk is always a good idea if you have space in your cooler; however, canned milk works too! Both are good sources of calcium and vitamin D which help build strong bones and teeth.
- Bottled water. This is a must. If you're camping with kids, ensure you bring enough for everyone and keep track of how much you have left. If you're taking a more extended trip, consider getting a portable water filter or water purification tablet.
- Juice boxes: These are great for kids and adults alike! You can freeze them in advance to ensure they stay cold during your trip. Consider packing extra juice boxes so everyone can have one when they're thirsty.
Condiments, Sauce, and Seasonings
Keeping your condiments, sauces, and seasonings easily available gives you some flexibility when whipping up your meals. If you're a regualar camper,
- Freeze-dried camping meals: They're lightweight, compact, and can be eaten cold or heated up on the camp stove.
- Tomato sauce: makes pasta and pizza taste delicious. It's also great as a base for soups and stews. Use it as a sauce for pasta dishes or as a dip for veggies or chips; mix with olive oil and add it as a dressing on salads or sandwiches; use it as an ingredient in soups and stews; use it as a topping for pizza; add it to omelets or frittatas; use it to make bruschetta;
- Soy sauce. This is not just for stir-fries! Use it to season your food and add flavor when cooking meat and fish over the fire.
- Olive oil: Use this versatile oil in sauces and marinades, or simply drizzle it over pasta for flavor (but don't use it for frying because it has a low smoke point).
- Snack or trail mix is great for snacking or adding protein to meals like breakfast burritos or breakfast scrambles (eggs with veggies). Make your own snack mix at home by combining nuts (almonds, walnuts), seeds (sunflower seeds), dried fruit (raisins), and spices like cinnamon.
- Fresh fruits and veggies are easy to pack and provide vitamins A, C, and D that fight colds, improve eyesight and help your body absorb nutrients from other foods in your diet. Bonus: They don't take up much space in your cooler compared to dried fruits and veggies that need rehydration before eating.
- Trail mix: This is the ultimate camping food and can be eaten anytime. It's easy to make yourself, but it's available at most grocery stores or online. Keep it simple with nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and chocolate chips. Or get creative with M&Ms, candy corn, and whatever else you like.
- Granola bars. These are great for breakfast on the trail but also a good snack to pack in your backpack later. If you're staying somewhere with running water and electricity, then you can bring some fresh fruit or veggies to add to them.
Camp Kitchen Basics
You'll need a good sharp knife, tongs, and spatula. A whisk helps with pancakes, eggs, and other dishes. Here is an a packing list of camp kitchen basics.
- Catch iron skillet: This heavy cast-iron pan is perfect for frying up bacon or sausages over the fire in the morning — be sure to take it off the heat before it gets too hot!
- Dutch oven: This cast-iron pot cooks your food over a campfire and goes from the fire to the table. It's a staple of camp cooking, and you can use it for everything from stews to bread.
- Pie iron: These two-piece contraptions are great for breakfast sandwiches or camping pizzas. All you need is some bread or tortillas.
- A good sharp knife is essential for setting up camp and preparing meals. You'll need at least one knife with a serrated edge for cutting bread or slicing tomatoes; bring at least one more if there are three or more people in your group.
- Kitchen tongs come in handy when flipping pancakes over the fire or removing hot dogs from the grill grate without burning yourself — both common scenarios when camping!
Dishes & Serving
Here are a few items to have in your stash for serving and eating food while outdoors
- A few reusable water bottles will save money and reduce waste at campgrounds that charge for bottled water.
- Keep your water cold by freezing ice packs in them overnight before you leave home.
- Reusable camp cups or plates: Melamine or lightweight plates and silverware:
- Waterproof tablecloth and clamps
Cooking & Storage
- Cooler: Store perishables in an insulated cooler and drinks and other non-perishables, so they're handy whenever you want them. Use one for food and a separate cooler for drinks — keep food out of reach of animals; they love coolers!
- Camp stoves are designed to burn small amounts of fuel efficiently. They're ideal for cooking meals for a single person or two people. If you plan on feeding more than that, you'll need to invest in a bigger stove.
- Either white gas or propane generally fuels camp stoves. White gas is highly flammable, so it's best used when there's plenty of ventilation and you're not using your stove inside. Propane is less flammable but can be more expensive than white gas. Either one will work well for camping, though.
- Foil packs. If you don't have a camp stove, use foil packs for cooking. You can also wrap foods in foil to keep them warm or cold.
- Ice pack: Just about any ice pack will work. You can also make your own by filling it with water and freezing it yourself.
- Aluminum foil: Aluminum foil is great for cooking meat and fish on a grill, but it can also be used to wrap up leftovers or keep food warm while you're out exploring. It's a must-have item for camping trips!
- Resealable bags: You probably already use resealable bags at home, so they're a no-brainer when packing your camping supplies! Use these to store snacks or keep dirty clothes separate from clean ones. You can also use them for dirty dishes instead of washing them by hand (just remember to bring extra trash bags!).
Car Camp Cooking
Whether camping in a tent or a camper, cooking your meals outside is an easy way to connect with nature. But if you don't know what you're doing—or if you don't have the right gear—your experience could be less than pleasant.
Here are some tips for packing and cooking your camp food:
- Pack a camp stove, fuel, and kitchenware for preparation and cleanup.
- Choose lightweight utensils like sporks and collapsible cups over traditional cookware like pots and pans.
- Bring food that doesn't need refrigeration, like canned beans and pasta salads. This will help keep weight down in your pack while giving you plenty of meal options!
- Start with simple recipes to make sure everything comes together before trying anything complicated or new while out in the wild
Camp Cooking in a Tent
If you're cooking in a tent, you'll want to know the risks involved. You should never use flammable liquids for cooking inside the tent—you can use them outside the tent, but not inside. And if there's any chance that your food could catch fire, keep it away from your tent, and be sure to have a fire extinguisher handy.
Camp Cooking Safety
To keep camp cooking safe and stress-free, follow these simple steps:
- Set up your portable camp kitchen away from your tent and sleeping area so no one can accidentally get burned or hurt by something hot.
- Don't leave anything on the stove unattended—it's just like going food on your stove at home! This will help prevent fires and spills.
- Keep all cleaning supplies out of reach of children and pets. They could mistake them for candy or drinks!
- Keep flammable liquids stored away from heat sources like stoves or grills before they're needed for cooking; this includes gasoline and alcohols like vodka or rum.
Camping Food Checklist
extensive resources are helpful, but sometimes it's important to have a checklist when packing what you need for a trip. With this in mind, I prepared an extensive camping checklist and sample meal plans you can use to plan your camping pantry and kick off your trip with peace of mind.
This easy campfire breakfast burrito is made with all the ingredients you'd take camping anyway, plus some extras. We like to use peppers and onions, eggs, burrito wraps, and cheese. Just wrap it all up in aluminum foil and throw it on a grill to cook over the fire.
- Three medium bell peppers (red, yellow, or orange), sliced
- One medium onion, sliced
- Ten bratwurst sausages
- 5-10 flour tortillas, 8" diameter
- ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
- One dozen eggs (hard-boiled or scrambled)
- Add peppers and onions in a cast iron skillet over the campfire.
- Cover them with foil to help them cook faster. When they are soft and cooked through (about 10 minutes), remove from heat and set aside.
- Add two tablespoons of neutral oil to the same pan and brown sausage over medium-high heat until fully cooked, which should take about 5 minutes.
- Remove the brats from the pan and set them aside with peppers and onions.
- Wipe out the pan with paper towels so there's no residual grease.
- Place one tortilla flat on a countertop and spoon ¼ cup of scrambled egg onto the center of the tortilla.
- Top with ½ ounce of sausage and pepper mixture (about ¼ cup total).
- Sprinkle with cheese if desired, then roll up the burrito tightly in aluminum and serve!