Camping trips take a lot of preparation and an area that can sometimes be overlooked is food. We often look at our gear, what to wear, and equipment instead. While being warm and comfortable are vital, having enough nourishment and fuel to keep you going is just as important!
But what do you take and how do you store it? It’s not like you can simply take your fridge freezer with you on camping trips! As a result, you have to be selective, think about what foods will last, and choose the best options to keep your stomach full and provide a consistent release of energy.
In this article, we look at what food to take camping. First, we discuss some important considerations concerning things like storage and shelf life. Second, we break down some epic camping food categories like dried foods and tinned items. With this list, you should then be able to prepare easily for your next camping adventure and make sure everyone is fed!
Important Considerations for Camping Food
Camping food is completely different from other holidays and adventures where you are stopping in a hotel or self-catering accommodation.
You must think differently and look at the obstacles that camping presents concerning food. These include storage, shelf life, and nutritional value.
Storage can be a nightmare for camping trips. You don’t want to open your backpack only to find crushed food covering your clothes! If possible, keep your food and drink separate from your clothes and camping equipment. Whether this is in separate compartments, or a separate bag entirely.
Also, think about how you will store the individual items. Plastic containers with sealable lids are invaluable for camping trips. Recyclable and reusable food bags are fantastic too. If you want to use these, I advise looking for options with zip openings to help prevent any spills.
You will, of course, need a range of cutlery and equipment too. I advise planning your food and drink first. Once you have this in mind, you can then think about what cutlery and utensils you need to prepare and eat what you are packing.
The main barrier with what food to take camping is the shelf life and lack of refrigeration. If you have access to a cooler unit or mini fridge – perfect. This means you can take a wider variety of food and some non-perishable items.
If not, you need to stay away from things that have a short shelf life or need refrigeration. Items like fresh vegetables and meat are not a great idea. Without the correct temperatures or storage, these items will quickly spoil and could pose health hazards if you try and eat them.
Even if you are only enjoying a weekend camping trip, without refrigeration, it’s not advised to take anything with a short shelf life.
A drawback with camping is that you simply don’t have access to the foods and cooking utensils you would in your home, or a self-catering accommodation. As a result, you have to consider the nutritional value of what you are taking.
I advise staying away from sugary foods and treats. Things like chocolate bars and sweets are not a great idea. The short bursts of energy are not what you need when camping. Instead, you need foods high in protein and fat so your body has a consistent supply of slow-release energy and goodness.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t have tasty food! You just have to think differently and consider if you have enough “good stuff” to keep your body functioning properly when out in the wild.
What Food to Take Camping – An Essential Guide
You should now have in mind the typical types of foods that are beneficial and suitable for camping. To help further, we have listed four main food categories with heaps of useful examples and explanations as to why these foods are suitable for your outdoor adventures – enjoy!
Dry foods are amazing for camping as they generally last for ages and will not perish. Furthermore, they are usually easy to store and simple to prepare. Some of the best dried foods for camping include:
Cereal is a no-brainer! If you can bring a small tub of cereal and some UHT milk, you have an easy breakfast that will start your day off perfectly. I sometimes eat dry cereal too as a snack or as a late-night supper! You could also consider something like porridge oats which are long-lasting and makes for a hearty breakfast.
Bread is perfect for camping too but just make sure you check the use-by date and try not to squash it in transport! Bread will last for a decent amount of time, and you can usually eat it a few days after its best-before date – just make sure you check for mould! It’s another versatile food for things like sandwiches and beans on toast.
Pasta and rice are non-perishable and will last for your entire camping trip with no problem. Furthermore, they couldn’t be easier to prepare. All you need is a stove and pan to boil some water in. They give you so much potential and you can easily add different sauces and tinned foods to create some tasty campsite meals.
Lastly, things like crackers and wraps are excellent options. They might be a little plain on their own, but you can add things too them and they can be part of a main meal, or as a light snack at lunch or between hiking sessions.
Food to Give You Fuel
The difficulty when looking at what food to take camping is ensuring you have a balanced diet. Staple foods will provide the nutrients and minerals you need, but it’s a good idea to have some “fuel foods” too. These are items that give you protein and slow-release energy to keep you going throughout the day:
- Beef Jerky
Eggs are another essential camping item. Firstly, they don’t need refrigeration provided you keep them at a temperature below 20 degrees Celsius. Secondly, they are incredibly versatile – omelets, boiled eggs and soldiers, scrambled eggs with bacon. So many opportunities for good, hardy meals that will keep you full.
Beef jerky is a superb fuel snack. You can find many varieties at supermarkets including beef, chicken, and some vegetarian options. The jerky is lightweight and easy to store, and it's packed full of protein.
Similarly, bacon can be used in various ways when camping. At its most basic, you can fry it with eggs, toast, beans, and tinned tomatoes to make a hearty breakfast that will fuel you for the day to come. Also, it could be fried, chopped up, and added to a variety of meals.
Essential Tinned Food
Yes, I get that you may think of tinned food as being something past generations used in wartime, but they are essential camping items.
The main benefit of tinned food is that it typically has a much longer shelf life compared to fresh foods. I’ve had tins in my cupboards for years! (Pro Tip – Don’t do this, contrary to popular belief, they do have a use-by-date!).
There is a fantastic variety of tinned foods that can make staple camping meals and give you a burst of energy, taste, and nourishment. Some of the best options include:
Tins of beans can be added to various meals. Beans on toast, with omelets, or as part of a make-shift fry, for example. I prefer Heinz beans & sausage but any beans in tomato sauce are fantastic!
Tinned tuna is another fantastic item to have. Tuna is tasty and like beans, goes with a range of different meals. Once you have opened a tin of tuna, unless you are using it in one go, I advise covering it with some cling film to help preserve it.
Soup is another staple camping food and you can’t go wrong with a few tins. There are so many varieties of soup from minestrone and vegetables to oxtail, and chicken and mushroom, for example. A tin of soup can make a fantastic and quick meal and you can easily make it more filling with some bread.
Also, consider tinned vegetables. You can get tins of sweetcorn and peas, for example. These can be added to your meals easily and require hardly any preparation or cooking.
Lastly, tinned fruit makes for an excellent dessert or to give you a wider variety of nutrients. Needless to say, you need a tin opener! Also, a small camping stove and saucepan are essential for cooking things like soup and beans.
When looking at what food to take camping, don’t overlook your liquids either! As we all know, we can only survive so long without water and it’s essential that you have plenty of drink options when camping.
As a bare minimum, make sure you have a water bottle so you can fill it up from the campsite facilities. Alternatively, if you are wild camping, I advise researching fresh water sources you could fill up at beforehand. The following drinks will also prove invaluable:
- Dilute Juice
Tea & Coffee
There is nothing like slowly sipping a mug of hot tea or coffee first thing in the morning at your campsite as the sun rises. These are essential drinks and can give you an energy boost too.
I advise investing in some small plastic containers to store your coffee grounds and tea bags in. You could also consider a small tub for sugar if you want to sweeten your hot brews.
Water is the most important drink above all else! If you are staying on a camping site, you should have easy access to fresh water. Oftentimes campsites have taps outside and of course, you can fill up your water bottles at the washroom facilities.
Wild camping presents a more difficult approach to water. As mentioned above, it’s a great idea to research the areas you intend to camp at and look for freshwater sources. Also, consider buying some type of water filtration device. This will allow you to filter out any potentially harmful minerals and gunk from streams and rivers.
Fresh milk can be OK, but this depends on the length of your camping trip, and the availability of a fridge or cooler. If you have access to a cooler or mini fridge, a carton of fresh milk could be a viable option.
However, if these things aren’t available, UHT / long-life milk is the way to go. Regardless, I advise keeping a stash of UHT powdered milk with your food essentials. This special milk doesn’t need any refrigeration and keeps for much longer.
You can then use milk for your cereals, in some cooking recipes, and for hot drinks!
I completely understand that drinking only water can be a little boring! Therefore, consider taking a small bottle of dilute juice with you so you can add flavour to your water.
Today, you can get bottles of quadruple-strength juice from supermarkets. This is incredibly cost-effective and the concentrate lasts far longer.
Aside from food for your staple three meals, it’s great to have some additional fuel and snacks for those in-between times.
There is a temptation to bring traditional snacks like biscuits, chocolates, and sweets, but I advise against these. Things like chocolates do give a fantastic burst of energy, but it is short-lived. Ultimately, you may experience a comedown afterward or continued cravings for more sugary treats.
This can do more harm than good and having a massive energy crash when out camping in the wild can be potentially dangerous. As a result, I recommend the following snacks:
- Granola Bars
- Cereal Bars
Nuts are a brilliant food type to eat in general (unless you are allergic obviously!). They are a fantastic source of protein and fats, and can give you a slow-release energy boost that you can keep topping up as the day progresses. Carrying a pack of nuts on your hiking trips can also be a fantastic idea. To make things easier, you could pre-pack bags of nuts before you head off on your adventures.
Forget about typical snack bars like Cadbury’s Brunch Bars – opt for a healthier and more nutritional granola bar instead. Granola bars last forever so you don’t have to worry about their shelf life. Additionally, despite their small size, they are quite filling and give you a brilliant boost of protein and healthy fats to keep you going during the day.
There are plenty of other cereal bars that could make a great addition to your camping pack list. Things like Kellogg’s Rice Crispy Bars, Belvita, and the Nature Valley brand are all excellent options if you aren’t too keen on granola. When selecting cereal bars, just consider the content. Ideally, you want bars with minimum chocolate, and more healthy ingredients like oats, nuts, and fruit.
Be Prepared for Your Next Camping Trip With the Right Foods!
No one wants to camp on an empty stomach! If you don’t have the proper food, camping trips can be unenjoyable. Also, in worse-case scenarios, you can put yourself at risk – especially if weather conditions are poor.
This is why being prepared is important and packing food essentials makes a huge difference. Things like dry foods that don’t perish, tinned items, and plenty of tea and coffee can keep your stomach full and give you the energy you need to get out and explore!