How To Pack Food For Camping Trip

Whether you are a seasoned camper or preparing for your first camping trip, this guide will help to remind you of how to pack food correctly. The type of food you take camping will depend on the meals you’re planning to cook and the cooking equipment you’ll carry.

This guide will give you an overview of correctly packing food items for camping or backpacking, including the things to pack, store, and take them home.

The Best Food To Pack For Camping

It is the first thing to determine the kind of food you’re planning to take with you and how much of it you will need. This will help you decide which size cooler you will need or if you require one.

Begin by jotting down precisely the ingredients you’ll use for each meal while camping. Create a complete dish for the meal you’ll be eating, taking note of everything, including the condiments and spices you’ll need.

The majority of camping meals include five kinds of food:

  • Fresh foods – vegetables and meats such as chicken or steaks, sandwiches, meats, and cooked food items like soups and stews.
  • Dry food items – sugar coffee, sugar milk powder, sugar, pasta, beans, etc. Instant and dehydrated meals are also part of this category.
  • Snacks: S’mores, nuts bars, chocolate snacks, energy snacks popcorn, chips, popcorn, etc.
  • Drinks
  • Condiments: hot sauce and ketchup, salt pepper, hot sauce, etc.

We have written a guide on the essential food to take with you – it’s worth a read for any beginners needing guidance.

Of course, it is not necessary to carry everything on this list. For instance, you could choose not to take fresh food items and cook only dry food items. This could be necessary if you don’t have a refrigerator or cooler.

When you are coming up with ideas for cooking, keep them simple. Your ultra-modern (ha-ha) outdoor kitchen will have only a few tools and appliances, I suggest reading our guide on how to cook food without a campfire.

Make sure to stick with simple and quick recipes that require only a few ingredients.

This is why sandwiches and burgers are among the top camping meals. They’re filling and delicious and can be enjoyed anytime during the day.

Frying food is simple when you have a stove and pan. You can cook dishes like steak, pan-fried bacon, chicken breast, and sausages and stir fry your vegetables.

Boiling is also simple, and dishes like potatoes and rice are easy to prepare. It is also possible to make soups and stews.

If you own an outdoor grill that you can carry around (or an accessory grill for your stove) that allows you to cook grilled meals.

Which Healthy Foods Are Easiest For Camping?

Most people think that an excursion to the camping area is an opportunity to indulge more than usual in terms of food. We tend to make a little less healthy food choices while camping.

If you’re looking to be healthy and eat well during your camping trip, prepare your meals with plenty of legumes, vegetables such as nuts, dairy, and healthy meats that are lean.

Here are some helpful tips for packing healthy food items to take camping:

  • When it comes to principal meals, concentrate on lean proteins from items such as fish, chicken eggs, turkey, and lamb.
  • Lean meats work well with almost any type of vegetable. Take a mixture of frozen and fresh vegetables and store them in your car or cooler fridge.
  • Make sure to finish your meal or lunch by eating a small amount of rice, potatoes, or other starch. It is possible to make it yourself at home, and put it in a bag, or prepare it on the camping site.
  • If you’re vegetarian, there are many healthy protein options that you can choose from, like beans, quinoa, tofu lentils, peas, nuts and nut butter, and other items.
  • If you like sandwiches, burgers, or wraps, you should choose wholemeal bread and cakes instead of white ones. They are rich in fiber and will keep you fuller for longer.
  • A popular breakfast nutritious option is oatmeal. It is essential to purchasing instant oatmeal since they are much easier and faster to cook. Healthy breakfast alternatives include fruits or yogurt as well as nuts.
  • Alternate your usual snack by snacking on dried fruits and nuts, low-sugar bar granola, and even fruits such as apples and carrots. They will not only provide you with energy but can also boost your energy levels for swimming, hiking, and many other sports.
  • Instead of energy drinks laced with caffeine and sugar. Try tea protein shakes and juices with greens and water. Include electrolytes in your water to keep you well-hydrated, as advises for long hiking trips.

How To Pack Fresh Food For Camping 

It is vital to ensure that food items are in good condition when camping. One of the worst things you can get when camping is food poisoning.

It is necessary to find an option to keep food cool or frozen.

For most campers, the most straightforward method to get there is to use the cooler. Find a quality, well-insulated cooler that can store the freshest food you can find, plus the ice that will keep it cool.

  • When packing your cooler, place the sides and bottom with ice cubes (in freezer bags to prevent the cooler from being soiled by soaking it in liquids) and ice cubes.
  • Place food items that are frozen or that must stay coldest on the bottom. These include frozen meats, vegetables, as well as dairy.
  • Place food items that need to remain cooler on top. This includes fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, and sandwiches.
  • Use cooler organizer inserts and baskets to store all the various foods.
  • Use a foam pad or additional ice packs on the top of the food items to keep everything as chilled as is possible.

You may find our guide on how to keep food cold while camping useful, especially if this is your first camping adventure – I highly recommend reading it if you are a beginner camper or haven’t camped longer than 3 nights.

If you’re camping with your truck or car, Another option is a freezer or fridge that operates on 12V. It plugs into the 12V port of your vehicle, and it functions similar to a refrigerator in the kitchen.

For short camping trips, it is possible to use a thermoelectric cooler. It’s less expensive and lighter than traditional coolers and doesn’t require the use of ice.

On the other hand, it doesn’t provide the same cooling power as a conventional cooler with ice. It’s best to keep chilled and frozen food items cool for a few days.

Another low-cost option for camping at night can be a cooler bag, often referred to as a thermal backpack. It’s not as insulated or has the same amount of insulation as a cooler box; however, it’s an excellent option for backpacking or if you do not want to carry the bulky cooler box.

How To Pack Dry Food To Take Camping

Dry food items don’t have to be stored cold so that you can put them in a bag or container. We strongly recommend a waterproof bag or container to safeguard your food items.

Many packing options include lidded buckets or baskets, a dry bag, and even a backpack.

Be sure to pack those foods that you’ll use the most or on the bottom and those you will require access to the most frequently at the top.

Tip: If you are camping in bear territory, pack dry food in bear canisters rather than bags. Please read our guide on what to do if you see a bear if you know they have been spotted recently.

How To Pack Drinks For Camping

Whatever drink (other than water) you intend to bring to camp, don’t carry these drinks into the same cooler where you have your food items.

This is because you’ll probably have to go for a drink regularly, and opening the cooler regularly can make food warmer and more likely to spoil.

Make sure you have a separate cooler for drinks that require to remain chilled, such as beers and sodas.

This isn’t the case if you are using a 12-volt refrigerator. It can be organized to hold both food items and beverages.

If you are planning to bring drinks that are alcoholic, such as wines, cocktails, and spirits, make sure you choose drinks that can be served chilled or warm.

For ease of use, buy cans or boxes of wine. If you prefer wine in bottles, try looking for bottles with screw caps since they are more convenient to open and seal.

If you’re looking to mix drinks, prepare the drinks at home and then store the drinks in a resealable bottle such as an ice cube.

How To Pack Food For Backpacking

Since you cannot enjoy the luxury of carrying a large cooler packed with food while traveling, choose food items that require less space yet packs lots of calories. Also, it can be bulky when cooked.

  • Dehydrated food items are ideal for backpacking. You can purchase dehydrated meals in various stores, including meats, vegetables, and fruits.
  • Fast food items like oatmeal, soups powder for milk, and noodles are great because they are quick and easy to cook.   
  • It is also possible to carry fresh food, but be sure that it’s preserved or canned. This way, you don’t have to store it in the form of a cooler or thermal bag.
  • You can buy canned versions of almost any food item, including fish, chicken, mushrooms, vegetables, and fruit. We recommend purchasing small cans that you can use within a couple of meals.

While you’ll pack food items into your backpack with other things, separating them into a sack for stuffing is an excellent idea.

It makes it much easier to find the food, and it also shields your other belongings if something spills. Make sure you hang the bag high in the tree to keep away animals.

Before heading out, you should grab whatever snacks you’ll require for the hike each morning. Store the snacks in external pockets, so they’re easy to access.

Written by Norah Clark, verified, and edited by David Myer.

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Norah Clark

Norah Clark

Hi, I'm Norah! I have been an author at Dens Camp Guide since 2017 and a full-time nomad since 2012. I love outdoor walking trails, finding new places to adventure, and cooking on camp trips with my boyfriend.