A camping food list is a good brainstorming tool for novice campers to find ideas for interesting food to take camping. A good list can also help with camping-meal planning.
Family tent campers can choose to make their meals as simple or elaborate as they please.
Novice campers with limited experience and minimal cooking gear will prefer ease of preparation. Experienced camping chefs may prefer fairly elaborate outdoor meals.
The foods in this list are divided by difficulty of preparation at the campsite, so families can choose from an assortment of camping food that suits their camping style.
Tent campers usually have limited counter space and cooking equipment and should plan their meals accordingly. A camp kitchen or a gear trailer can greatly improve camp cooking.
Other spirits, if allowed at the campground
Drinking water, if unavailable at campsite
Powdered or condensed milk
Instant flavored coffee packs
Single brew coffee cups
Cold-brewed coffee jugs
Since tent campers do not have access to refrigeration, canned drinks should be chilled before they are put in a cooler to be taken to a campsite. The ice in the cooler will last much longer.
Canned drinks like soda pop are usually kept in a separate cooler, because the beverage cooler is accessed a lot, and also, if canned drinks get warm, they generally do not spoil.
These are foods or snacks that can be eaten by hand from the package. Many of these foods do not need to be chilled in a cooler.
Fresh, ready-to-eat fruits, veggies, etc.
Instant pudding packs
Tent campers looking for some interesting camping treats should visit a local specialty foods store.
Nacho chips and hummus are an interesting combination.
Many of these are foods that campers would bring to a picnic.
Dishes are prepared at home and brought to the campsite to be served. Some of them will need to be chilled in a cooler.
Sandwiches & spreads
Flour or corn tortillas
Jelly or jam
Sliced beef, turkey, ham
Other deli meats
Canned tuna, salmon, herring, sardines
Salads & sides
Other cold dishes and desserts
Vegetables and dips
Whole watermelon or pineapple
Cold breakfast cereals & milk
Tortillas and pita bread are very suited to camping meals. They…
Pitas generally do not have as many preservatives as most commercial breads, so they should be kept cool.
Granola mixed with flavored or plain yoghurt makes a very nice camping breakfast.
Sardines and salsa are an interesting combo on bread for an easy-to-prepare outdoor sandwich.
These are pre-cooked or dehydrated foods that need to be heated or added to boiling water to be prepared. They mostly do not need refrigeration in a cooler.
These foods are handy for putting together a quick, hot meal at the campsite. They cook the same way at a campsite as they do at home.
Pre-cooked and dehydrated foods
Pre-cooked hot dogs and sausages
Dry instant soups in packages
Other instant noodles
Other canned foods
Other canned meats
Pre-packaged mac & cheese
Other heat & serve meals
Cream of Wheat
Boxed frozen waffles
Freeze-dried camping meals
Freeze-dried camping meals are available at camping stores and in the sporting or outdoor section of some department stores. These meals come in pouches and are usually prepared by emptying the contents of the pouch into a bowl, adding boiling water, and waiting for the dish to reconstitute itself.
Some of these freeze-dried camping meals are fairly posh--Beef Stroganoff and Chicken Teriyaki are available.
Equipment needed, depending on cooking style
These are meals that offer a unique camping experience. Tent campers will need campfire coals in order to prepare them.
Cooking time varies from about 2 minutes for a roasted marshmallow to 10 minutes for a roasted hot dog to an hour or more for some dutch-oven dishes.
Basic campfire meals
Roasted hot dogs or hamburgers
Buns or bread
Roasted fish and shrimp
Aluminum foil or hobo meals
Sliced or chopped vegetables
Other campfire meals
Pie iron sandwiches (pudgie pies) or treats
Pastries with fruit or fruit preserves
Dutch oven meals
Deep dish pizza
Breads and rolls
Reflector-oven baked foods
Foil meal recipes are often chopped vegetables, hamburger and seasonings. The flavors run together and make a tasty, casserole-like dish.
Other meats can be cooked in foil--it's usually best to cut steak or chicken into strips, so that it cooks more quickly and evenly.
Vegetables can be cooked in a separate foil packet, if campers prefer to separate the meat and vegetable flavors. Oil helps prevent sticking.
Foil-wrapped whole potatoes can also be cooked on coals. Since they are not cubed, they will take substantially longer to cook.
An ear of sweet corn can also be wrapped in foil and cooked on coals. First, pull the husks away from the tip and remove the silk. Then lay the husk back on the ear and wrap in foil.
Campers can try cooking half a small squash in foil on coals.
These are handy for grilling cubed meats and veggies over a fire or charcoal.
The metal skewer cooks the center of the meat more thoroughly, which is important for outdoor cooking.
A grilling basket is handy for roasting hamburger, strips of meat, meat strips, fish, shrimp or vegetables over campfire coals.
The wire grates clamp around the food and make it easy to flip and roast the other side.
For food that falls apart easily, such as cooked fish, it helps to apply oil to the raw food before clamping it in the basket. First try to remove any excess water from the raw fish with a paper towel.
A grilling basket is also handy for roasting chestnuts.
Pie irons and a campfire offer campers a hot sandwich melt with minimal preparation.
The crust is usually trimmed from the two bread slices before placing them in the pie iron halves.
Any hot sandwich a tent camper might prepare at home with a skillet can be prepared at a campsite with a pie iron. Try a pie iron Rueben Sandwich.
Pizza toppings between 2 slices of bread become a pie iron calzone.
Canned pie filling between 2 slices of bread becomes a pastry.
Pie irons can not safely cook raw meats or eggs between bread slices. Any filling between the bread slices must be edible without cooking.
The pie iron will heat the filling--a lot!--but cannot safely cook raw foods, without burning the bread slices.
A dutch oven allows campers to prepare any dishes they would bake in an oven at home.
The oven also bakes roasts, potatoes, squash, breads, rolls and desserts.
A dutch oven only uses charcoal briquettes for heat.
It looks like a cast iron kettle with short legs that sits on charcoal and has a lid to hold charcoal briquettes.
Heat from top and bottom cooks the food inside the dutch oven.
A small grate with legs that stands over coals is handy for kebobs, grilling baskets, hamburgers and steaks.
A flat grate without legs can instead sit on rocks over coals.
These foods offer tent campers a feast at the campsite. They take more time to prepare, because they need not only to be heated, but cooked, in order to serve. They also require preparation time.
Lunch & dinner
Raw meats or fish
Chicken or other fowl
Fish, shrimp or other seafood
Fresh caught and cleaned fish
Hamburgers and buns/bread
Corn on the cob
Other raw vegetables
Pasta with tomato or pesto sauce
Macaroni and cheese.
Fresh raw vegetables
Pancakes from mix
Waffles from mix
Bake & serve, oven-ready rolls, breads and pastries
Biscuits from mix
Fried flat breads from scratch
Other mixed spices
It's recommended that campers press a hole in the center of a raw hamburger patty before placing it on a grill or in a frying pan. This helps ensure that the hamburger cooks evenly and is not undercooked in the center.
Ground meat that has been transported in a cooler needs to be thoroughly cooked.
Fish batter can be easily created in a bowl by stirring:
Lay the fillet in the batter and fry in a pan.
Fish fries quickly. When it flakes apart easily with a fork, it's ready to eat.
Bacon is a handy staple for camping.
It can flavor many dishes that would otherwise be a bit bland. It's sliced and ready to heat or fry.
If it isn't pre-cooked, it's best to fry it separately and then add it to a dish.
Since it is cured by salt and smoked, it keeps better than raw meat.
Canned meats, such as corned beef or spam, are usually pre-cooked and ready to eat. However, most campers prefer to prepare them first.
These meats can be sliced and fried, like bacon.
They can also be chopped and added to scrambled eggs, pastas, foil meals, dehydrated meals or other dishes to add flavor.
They can be mixed with potatoes and fried to make hash.
They keep well and are easy to work with at a campsite.
Campers who would like to add meat to their meals, but do not want to fuss with raw meats, often bring canned meats to the campsite.
They do contain plenty of salt, so it will usually not be necessary to add any more.
Sourdough muffins, pitas, tortillas or bagels make good mini-pizza crusts.
If using ready-to-eat toppings, such as pepperoni or canadian bacon, campers will only need to warm the pizzas instead of having to cook or bake them.
If using a fry pan, it may still be useful to warm the toppings separately, add them to the crusts, heat the crusts and serve.
If using a fry pan to prepare a pizza with raw meat, dough, veggies or other toppings that needs cooking, campers will need to first thoroughly cook the raw foods separately, then cook one side of of the crust, flip, add the toppings and cook the other side of the crust.
If the crust is already baked, then it is probably only necessary to heat one side.
A pizza can be baked from scratch on a grill with indirect heat or in a dutch oven. The flame on a grill is much closer to the food than the flame in an oven, so campers should bake accordingly. Put the pizza on one side of the grill and run the opposite burner; turn the pizza more frequently; bake half a pizza at a time; etc. The pizza and the toppings should finish cooking at roughly the same time.
Ready-made bread or pastry dough can be baked in a dutch oven, on a grill with indirect heat, in a pie iron or even wrapped around a stick and held over a campfire.
Some items that are normally baked can be prepared in a fry pan with low-to-moderate heat. This includes flatbreads, biscuits, rolls--even cookies. Campers may need to flip them to ensure proper baking.
Canned tomatoes are versatile and can be used to flavor scrambled eggs, omelets, pastas, foil meals, casseroles, etc.
Tomato paste will thicken sauces or can be used as catsup.
Canned tomatoes need little to no refrigeration for outdoor use.
Salsas can be used on eggs, hamburger, steaks, potatoes, and other dishes. These may need to be stored in a cooler, especially after opening and in very warm weather.
Dried soup packets
Dried soups in packages, even if they cook 'too thin' to make a suitable meal, are often very effective at flavoring and seasoning other dishes, stews, casseroles, foil meals, etc.
For example, french onion soup powder can be mixed with raw hamburger to flavor it. It can also flavor an aluminum foil dish.
Canned condensed or evaporated milk is useful to add flavor and body to hot camping dishes.
Canned milks keep very well, and offer tent campers in the wilderness the availability of milk for cooking.
Canned condensed milk is sweetened, while evaporated milk is not, so campers should use them accordingly in their dishes or foods. Either is fine for a coffee creamer.
Buttermilk is handy for breads and pancakes. It flavors and, when mixed with baking soda, leavens.
It does need to be chilled in a cooler, but keeps fairly well.
Powdered milk is an easy way to add flavor and body to camp dishes, without needing to be kept cool.
For a posh camping breakfast, jam or pie filling along with pancakes, french toast or waffles makes a camping crepe. Whipped cream adds a finishing touch.
Leftovers can be recycled into sandwiches, pie-iron sandwiches, stews, foil dinners, burritos, omelets, pasta sauce, snacks, etc.
Keep them cool and try to incorporate them into the next meal, so they do not sit too long. Be sure to cook them well.
Drinks and chilled snacks should be in a separate cooler that can be frequently accessed. Divide food to be chilled into perishable and non-perishable and put each in a separate cooler.
Keep coolers in the shade out of direct sunlight.
Frozen containers of water in a cooler will chill foods and can be drunk as they thaw.
This also keeps water from pooling at the bottom of the cooler and saturating foods.
Quart plastic milk containers are handy for keeping ice in a cooler. They pack well and are small enough to easily handle.
Use resealable bags to bag all food items not already in a plastic container in the cooler. This keeps melt water from saturating food items, which can make them unappealing to eat.
This will also keep any melt water from being contaminated by foods and keep the inside of the cooler clean.
Consider wrapping individual perishable food items in wax paper instead of plastic wrap when practical. Wax paper will also seal foods against quick spoilage.
Wax paper wrapping burns well and can be used for fire starter, as long as the it isn't saturated.
Several wax-paper-wrapped items can then be placed in a resealable plastic bag to protect against melt water in the food cooler.
Raw meats should be frozen when packed.
When packing a cooler, double bag raw meats in 2 resealable plastic bags. This keeps any juices from contaminating other foods in the cooler.
Coolers with perishable contents should be opened as seldom as possible, usually only to retrieve food for cooking or a meal.
Coolers with perishable foods should not be allowed to run out of ice, especially if they contain raw meat or dairy.
Tent campers need to take extra food safety precautions, when handling raw meat and dairy products.
Camping foods may not stay quite as cold in a cooler as in a refrigerator or certainly a freezer. Foods are prepared outdoors, where the temperature is warmer than in a climate-controlled building.
Bacteria have a warmer environment to multiply. People who have never had an issue with food poisoning at home may become victims at a campsite.
Cook raw meats and dairy as quickly as reasonably possible after removing from a cooler. Don't let meats thaw in warm outdoor temperatures. Let them thaw or marinate in a chilled cooler instead.
Try not to transfer bacteria from raw meat to cooked meat. Keep cooked meats away from any surfaces, dishes or utensils that have touched raw meats. Use a separate plate and utensils for raw foods.
Wash and sanitize any hands, surfaces, dishes or utensils that have touched raw meat. Anti bacterial dishwashing liquid is helpful.
Wrap or bag raw meats in serving size portions, when possible. Use the wrapper to transfer thawed foods from a plate to a grill or pan. Throw the wrapper away immediately. Take care that it does not drip.
Use a meat thermometer to test that all meats and dishes are fully cooked before serving.
Leftovers should be chilled in the cooler until they can be eaten, preferably at the next meal.
If spoilage is suspected, any raw or leftover food should be re-wrapped and discarded at the campground trash station.
1 part bleach to 4 parts water also makes a fairly strong disinfecting solution, but should be rinsed off to avoid irritation or corrosion.