Outforia Quicktake: Key Takeaways
- Camping food should have a long shelf life and not be too delicate, while also being easy to cook with basic camp kitchen equipment.
- Make sure to consider the weight and fragility of foods when packing, especially for hiking trips.
- Choose foods high in calories and nutrients, since outdoor activities require more energy.
- Versatile foods that can be used in multiple meals help save space and add variety to your camping menu.
- Foods that do not require refrigeration or have a risk of spoilage are ideal choices for camping adventures.
Some foods are ideal for camping while others are not!
You want foods that don’t need refrigeration, don’t get squashed, full of nutrients, and, most of all, tasty! If you’re hiking, you need to think about weight and how you will cook the food, too.
Over many years of trial and error, I have learned what foods are best to take camping and which are not! Also, how important it is to take a can opener, if you don’t want to be bashing your cans open on a rock!
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What Makes A Good Camping Food?
Camping food needs to have a long shelf life, not be too delicate, and be easy to cook with a basic kit. It needs to be tasty, most importantly! It also needs to give you enough energy.
So, ask yourself, when you’re choosing your camping or hiking food, does it tick these boxes:
- Easy and quick-to-cook with the kit you are bringing
- High in calories, but only if you are on an expedition
- Tasty and appetizing
- Versatile – can you use it for several different meals?
Read on to discover which foods are the best camping foods, and why!
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The 25 Best Foods for Camping
Below are some of the best foods for camping.
Hiking is a bit different as you need to think more about weight and whether fragile foods like eggs will survive the journey. So, I have also added if the food is suitable for camping, hiking, or both.
1. Oat Cakes
Dry oat cakes have been my go-to carbohydrates for both camping and hiking. They’re lightweight, non-perishable, and go with virtually any spread or topping.
Try making these on your trip:
- Oatcakes with tuna mayo and grated radish
- Oatcakes dipped in soup
- Oatcakes crumbled to make porridge
- Oatcakes dipped in hummus with cucumber on top
There’s a reason why Scottish people have a tradition of making oatcakes! With their high calorie content, they are perfect for hiking up cold hillsides.
They’re also pretty nutritious – 18.8g (0.663 oz) of fat, 56.9g (2.01 oz) of carbohydrates, and 10.3g (0.363 oz) of protein per 100g (3.53 oz).
Cheese is a great staple for camping. It doesn’t really need to be refrigerated in the same way as milk or yogurt does. If you’re going to take dairy camping, cheese is your best option.
It’s filling and full of fat that you’ll need in colder climates. It also goes with most other foods and makes dried foods taste a lot better!
Try cooking these up on your next trip:
- Toasted cheese sandwiches
- Leaf-wrapped cheese
- Melted cheese on jacket potatoes
- Grilled courgettes
Cheese will sweat in a plastic wrapper, and may smell, but it’s a good short term camping option. Try to keep it in the shade in a sealed box.
Hiking is a bit different, as cheese is heavy! You need to weigh up how much you want to eat the cheese against its actual weight!
3. Canned Fish
Tuna, mackerel, salmon, and sardines are all conveniently canned and small in size. They also taste great with oatcakes. They are high in protein and omega oils.
I like to take canned mackerel on hikes as the cans are small and fit easily in a rucksack. I combine them with wild greens I forage on the way, adding carbs such as packet rice or oat cakes.
Check out more canned fish recipes here.
4. 2-Minute Packet Rice
Packet rice is precooked and takes about two minutes to heat up. This saves on time and gas out on long hikes and camping trips.
It comes in lots of different flavors – from lemon and coriander to spicy! It can be teamed up with virtually anything.
Try it as a cold rice salad with a can of mixed beans. Toss canned mackerel into it and add coriander.
Packet rice is more suitable for warmer climate trips as it doesn’t have the calorie or carbohydrate content of pasta or potato. It’s easy to digest though!
5. Quick Cook Pasta Packets
Quick cook pasta comes with dried sauce. You can get cheese, ham and leek, tomato and more. It takes about five minutes to cook.
You can add sausage, vegetables, wild greens, or anything else that you have and it will generally taste good! Sometimes you need to add milk or butter. Check the label.
There’s also freeze dried and dehydrated pasta meals especially made for hiking and expeditions. These are expensive and only worth it if you are doing these things!
Pasta is a good source of carbohydrates, which give you energy. Ideal for cold climates and long hikes. It’s lightweight, too. Bear in mind that it needs water to rehydrate, however!
I love taking sausages camping, as even raw sausages take a reasonable amount of time to expire! They can also be cooked in a frying pan, on a stick, on a hot rock, or boiled and made into a stew!
Sausages contain a lot of fat, plus a decent amount of protein. This is great when you need more energy or if you’re in cold climates.
A more long term option is a vacuum-sealed Polish-type sausage. These are often in a “U” shape.
There’s also dried sausages like chorizo that can be rehydrated in a stew. A good option for a long term stay in the backcountry!
7. Coffee or Tea
Okay, so coffee and tea aren’t food, but for many of us they’re an essential we can’t live without. When I lived in a city I started drinking peppermint tea instead, but as soon as I started living off grid in the winter, I rapidly rediscovered a love of coffee in the mornings!
Technically coffee is a diuretic and not that “healthy” but it sure hits the spot. It gives you that extra kick when you need it early in the day, plus the sugar it contains is important if you are somewhere cold. In colder climates, you need to keep your calorie intake high.
Coffee and tea bags are light and easy to carry in a damp proof plastic container or durable ZipLoc bag.
8. Hot Chocolate
If you have any children with you, hot chocolate will be one of the first things on their minds! And if you don’t, it will still likely be high on the list! There’s nothing quite like hot chocolate round the fire pit on a cold night.
Arctic expedition teams take hot chocolate with them as it contains lots of calories and no caffeine. It’s easy to get dehydrated in extreme cold, as every time you breathe out you lose water to the freezing air. Powdered hot chocolate is also light.
Get one with powdered milk added for extra fat. Powdered milk is a very good option in extreme cold, where liquid milk will freeze.
9. Baked Beans
Baked beans are a classic of camping foods. These are more appropriate for camping rather than hiking, as they weigh a lot. A few cans can really add to the weight of your pack!
They are very easy to cook as long as you have a few minutes and one saucepan.
Calorie-wise, they give you a fair amount of carbohydrates – 27 g (0.95 oz) per half cup. They also contain a lot of minerals such as zinc, copper, selenium, and thiamine. They aren’t loaded with fat though.
You can cook them in the can, too – just open the lid halfway then shove a greenwood stick through the ring pull. Place on top of a hot rock or on a stable place on the fire embers. Leave until you can see the beans bubbling. Lift the can off using the stick.
10. Citrus Fruit
Citrus fruits like tangerines, clementines, oranges, and limes are tougher than most fruits. They don’t perish as easily either.
Limes were taken by sailors on long sea voyages to ward off scurvy, as they didn’t spoil for a long time. They’re small, and popular with most people as they are very sweet.
On a long hike, you may want to keep the weight down by taking freeze-dried citrus fruit. This still retains much of its Vitamin C. Citrus is a great source of Vitamin C, minerals, flavonoids, and fiber.
Nuts can be eaten straight out of the bag. They’re reasonably light, too. As long as you keep them in a sealed place away from animals, they will last a long time too!
Cashews, peanuts, walnuts, and pretty much any kind of nut can be added to soups and used to dress fish. Add them to rice, pasta and noodles for an extra hit of protein and fat!
Nuts provide a high level of fat and a good amount of protein, plus good amounts of minerals, depending on the type of nut.
12. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a camping comfort food essential. Especially, if you are a vegan!
It’s high in calories and can be spread on breads and biscuits, made into a dip with chili, or stirred in to make curry or stew. You can even mix it with vegetables to make veggie burgers! Or make peanut butter cookies or balls!
Choose peanut butter in a plastic tub rather than glass. You’ll be amazed how glass objects break so easily when you are fumbling around a fire pit in the dark.
Just 2 tbsp of peanut butter contains 21% of an average adult’s daily fat intake. It’s a good choice for cold winter nights and long walks.
13. Dark Chocolate
Chocolate is a great camping short term survival food.
The reason I’m recommending dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate is that milk chocolate has a tendency to melt more easily. It’s very irritating when your chocolate supply has melted all over your other kit!
Keep chocolate in a sealed plastic container. Once a squirrel got into my boyfriend’s pack and ate so much chocolate that it became hyperactive. It completely tore up our tent!
Chocolate is full of calories and fat. It’s easily stored in a bag and easily eaten whilst on the go! It also contains a small amount of caffeine, though not nearly as much as coffee or tea.
14. Fruit Leather
You can buy fruit leather sweets or make your own out of fruit.
Fruit leather doesn’t go bad for about a year if kept in an airtight container! It’s a great hiking and camping food when you need a hit of energy in a natural and healthy way.
You can eat it on-the-go wherever you are with no preparation.
There are many brands of prepackaged fruit leather out there to choose from. They’re easily stored in whatever space you have handy in their plastic wrappers, or in a plastic tub.
A 28 g (0.99 oz) portion of fruit leather contains 8% of your daily carbohydrates.
Eggs are a camping rather than a hiking food! They are so useful and rich in nutrients that they are worth bringing despite the risk of them getting broken! Remember to put them at the top of your food box or bag.
It’s a good idea to hard boil some eggs at home beforehand if you need a quick meal that’s more resilient to knocks!
You can make omelet, frittata, French toast, scrambled egg, egg fried noodles, or a straight fried breakfast. You can even bake them on a stick in the fire! Eggs are so versatile that they are a must on a campsite.
Eggs are rich in fats, Vitamin D, and iron.
16. Cereal Bars
Cereal bars give you all the benefits of cereal but none of the mess. Plus, you don’t need to use bowls or wash them up afterwards! They’re also ideal for hiking as they are lightweight. You can also buy high protein cereal bars.
They also release energy slowly throughout the day. As opposed to chocolate, that gives you a quick boost then your energy levels fall again! They come with freeze dried fruits, yogurt, nuts, or chocolate. Or you can make your own!
Cereal bars contain lots of fiber, carbohydrates, and sugars.
Yogurt doesn’t go bad for quite a few days, even when out of the fridge. This is because it already contains good bacteria that keep the other harmful bacteria out!
Yogurt is perfect with granola cereal or oats. Pair it with fruit and honey for an easy, healthy dessert. If you have plain yogurt, drop it onto a curry or make cucumber raita to go with spicy grilled BBQ kebabs!
One cup of plain dairy yogurt contains 296 mg of calcium and 233 mg of phosphorus.
Vegan options usually have calcium added, but check the label to be sure. Yogurt is also a great source of protein. The live bacteria have a probiotic effect, helping you digest that BBQ meat!
If you are a vegan, tofu in a block is the way to go while camping! Tofu is fermented soy bean curd. It doesn’t taste like much, so make sure you bring seasonings and sauces.
Choose a block rather than pre-cut cubes as these will go bad quicker! Store it in a sealed hard plastic container. You can even add a marinade at home so when you use it, the tofu will be extra yummy!
Tofu contains 52% of your daily calcium, 51% of your manganese, and 42% of your daily copper plus selenium, Vitamin A, phosphorus and more.
19. Salt and Pepper
It’s amazing how often I forget the salt and pepper when going camping! They make so much difference to meals that now I make sure I have travel salt and pepper packed away ready for a trip.
You can get small plastic salt and pepper cellars, which cuts out the risk and weight of carting large glass versions around.
A Turkish man I met showed me how tasty it is to sprinkle a pinch of salt on large tomatoes cut in half. It’s delicious and so simple!
For an extra delicious seasoning, try making flavored salts like herb salt! Your fellow campers will thank you for it!
20. Frankfurters or Hot Dogs
Frankfurter hot dogs are a camping classic. As they are cured and in brine, they keep well. They can be eaten hot or cold, which is great for impatient children – or impatient adults!
Choose hot dogs in a pack rather than glass if you are worried about it breaking.
You can boil or fry hot dogs and stick them in some rolls with fried onion and salad. Or you can chop them and add them to a pot of rice or pasta dish. They take just a few minutes to cook, which is even better!
They contain a lot of fat, which is great in cold climates.
Pesto is a rich, hearty sauce made with olive oil, herbs, nuts, and cheese. You can get vegan versions that use cashew nuts which are quite nice.
Pesto comes in a small glass jar which is easy to squeeze into a pack. You only need one jar and you can flavor a large saucepan of cooked pasta! Combine it with roasted aubergine, or use it as a dip for toasted campfire breads.
You can make your own if you find nettles or other foraged goodies before you go. Just remember to use olive oil and garlic! Store it in an airtight resealable container.
Pesto is high in calories and fat. Most of the fat is unsaturated, which is much healthier for your body.
22. Dried Soup Mix
Make sure to bring along some dried soup mix in packets. Not only can you make warm broth but you can also use them to flavor other meals like risotto or stew.
Dried soup comes in many different flavors. There’s dried vegetables or mushrooms, a cream, tomato or cheese base, and much more.
Avoid soup mix with dried pulses, unless you have a lot of time to soak and cook them!
Dried soup is lightweight and doesn’t go bad. Unless rain gets into the packet! It contains useful amounts of minerals, fiber, Vitamin A, and Vitamin K.
23. Cooking Oil
It may seem like a no brainer, but I have forgotten cooking oil numerous times when camping!
As it isn’t a food on its own, it’s easy to overlook, until you get the frying pan out in the woods.
Olive oil is great for cold salads and dips. Bring an oil with a high smoke point for cooking. Groundnut oil or sunflower oil is good for this. The smoke point means the temperature at which the oil starts to burn and smoke in the pan. Sesame oil is best for stir fry.
Oil doesn’t go bad or melt like butter does. It’s a great option for hotter climate camping. It contains a lot of energy in the form of fat, and also contains some vitamins such as Vitamin E.
If you do forget oil, remember that you can use butter if you have any!
Bread is a camping essential. Which bread is best for camping though?
Freshly baked bread goes bad quickly within a few days, even if wrapped. Eat the fresh bread in the first few days. After that, switch to long life sliced bread or vacuum packed rye bread.
It’s a bit of a tall order to make your own bread with a camp kitchen, unless you have a Dutch Oven.
However, it’s fun and delicious to make your own damper bread on a stick over the campfire! You can also bake bread in the embers of a well established fire!
If you want to try this, pack self-raising flour in a plastic container. Bring plain flour if you want to make pancakes!
Honey is tastier and healthier than sugar. You can’t beat honey for those morning camp pancakes! Or stir it into yogurt and fruit for breakfast or a dessert. If you find some lavender, you could even make Scotch griddled honey cakes!
Honey doesn’t go bad either. Just be sure to keep the lid screwed on and the jar clean, or you will attract wasps into your tent, which is not fun!
Honey has a lot of energy and calories in it, so it’s great for an active day out or if the weather is cold. Just hide the jar if there are feral children nearby!
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Tasty Snack Options
Let’s face it, when we go camping, we like to eat snacks. Why spend ages in the camp kitchen when you have so much to explore! Here’s some tried and true camping snacks to take with you.
- Fruit leather
- Rice cakes
- Hummus stored in a cool box!
- Crisps with dip
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Camping Food List FAQs
What’s the best breakfast for camping?
On a cold day, meals made with eggs, sausages and beans are hard to beat as a camping breakfast.
In temperate climates most mornings are chilly, and when camping you tend to use more calories than you would in a centrally heated house!
For a light breakfast, cereal with yogurt is good. That’s only until the yogurt goes bad, though it lasts a lot longer than milk. Otherwise you can use UHT milk or powdered milk. Don’t forget to add some fruit!
What is the most common camping food?
Barbeques are popular while camping, so expect sausages, grilled fish, or meat chops. Bread or rolls are very common as these are easy to put BBQ’d meats in!
Cereal and cereal bars are the easiest breakfast, but pancakes are also popular as a more luxury option! Lunch is often uncooked sandwiches.
How can I eat cheap while camping?
Staples such as bread, eggs, and canned fish can be bought at the nearest supermarket. Avoid specialist hiking meals – these have a massive markup in price.
Go for one-ingredient foods such as porridge oats and canned beans. Use a cool box so you don’t have to buy more food once it’s gone bad. Use as much food as possible that has a long shelf life.
What vegetables should I take?
Choose tough vegetables with a small surface area! This means avoid vegetables that’s already been chopped up or vegetables that are thin like lettuce.
Instead, go for whole cucumbers, celery, and peppers. Carrots are alright but keep them in a cool place with air flow. Onions are also great. Green salad leaves go bad very quickly – eat them on the first day.
What foods should you not bring camping?
Unless you have a cool box, avoid seafood and ice cream. If you do bring these, eat them on the first day!
Chopped frozen vegetables and frozen mince or veggie mince also goes bad very quickly due to the large surface area. There are more places for bacteria to get to! This is why cooked rice can be dangerous.
Foods that take a long time to cook and require pre-soaking, like dried pulses, are also one to avoid.