Camping trips are a great way to vacation. They’re inexpensive, and you get to experience amazing natural settings with scenery, trails, and lots of wildlife. You needn’t sacrifice your nutrition or quality of food just because you’re camping, though. Sure, box macaroni and cheese makes a quick meal, but you should feel confident to cook delicious, nutritious meals for you and your family while camping. I grew up camping, and I looked forward to certain food traditions we had just as much as those from home. Here are some guidelines and tips for tasty meals around camp. If you have a favorite camping meal or some more advice, please post in the comments!
Pack a mini kitchen in a milk crate or plastic tub. Keep food in a separate tub. Besides the usual camp stove and cookware (one pot and one pan can be sufficient), here are some ideas for things to pack:
- Aluminum foil
- Wooden spoon
- Sturdy plastic bowls
- Eating utensils
- Small container of dish soap
- Thermal mugs
- Dish towels (can double as pot holders)
- Clothesline and clothespins
- Food prep knife
- Small salt shaker
- Small pepper grinder (you can get a jar of peppercorns with a grinder right on top in the spice aisle)
- 2 frequently used spices of your choice (we chose ancho chile and curry powder)
- Cooking oil
- Pureed garlic in a tube (at your specialty grocery)
- Garbage, sandwich, and freezer bags, rubber-banded together
- Paper grocery bags
- Plastic cutting board
- Colander (doubles as salad bowl)
Store your “kitchen” as well as all of your food inside the car when you’re not using it, especially if you’re camping in bear country. Chipmunks can chew through pretty much anything, and they can smell a lot better than we can.
Hot Water Means Breakfast
For a simple breakfast, just boil a pot of water. You can then make oatmeal, grits, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, hard-boiled eggs, Ramen noodles, etc. Cut up some fresh fruit as a simple side or cereal topper.
If you’re like me, it’s hard to function in the morning without a nice cup of coffee. Camp mornings can be tough, and a gnarly cup of dried-out canned coffee is the last thing you need. You don’t need one of those specialized camping coffee percolators, just bring your French press from home. Pre-grind some of your favorite beans, and remember you’re on vacation, so treat yourself to the nice stuff!
Keep your coffee inside a zip-top bag inside a plastic food container to keep as much air away from the grinds as possible, and it will stay fresh your whole trip. If you like your coffee sweet, there’s no need to pack an extra container of sugar, just plop a marshmallow in your thermal mug (or nab sugar packets from the rest stop on your way).
Durable, Compact, and Easy to Cook
These should be your guidelines when considering what food to bring on your trip. Potatoes, corn on the cob, pasta with jarred or dehydrated sauce, and sturdy green veggies like green beans, brussels sprouts, and asparagus can ensure success in the camping kitchen. Avoid recipes with long cooking times, too many ingredients, or high splatter potential and stick to the basics: good quality ingredients prepared simply with oil, salt, and pepper. I like to bring along vacuum-packed faux meats, as they are easy to prepare, compact, and the package is watertight. There’s also little risk of spoilage if the cooler gets too warm. Bring pasta in bags, not boxes. That way the package will get smaller as you use it, whereas a box takes up the same amount of space even when almost empty.