Camping Food

Trail Running


Camping food is problematic, isn’t it?  There’s keeping it cool, then the extra steps you have to go through to prepare it; there’s the extraordinary level of hunger camping produces (even without the hours of running, swimming, cycling and hiking we do), and the storage issue when everything you need for days on end has to fit in your vehicle.


Love the screen tent. Perfect for making shade on hot days, making dry spots on wet days, making the bugs stay away on Canadian days (ahem)

And then there’s the complicating factor that the tiny stores within a reasonable driving distance of the national and provincial parks around here tend to have stocks that consist of: cans of stew, 9 kinds of BBQ sauce, chips, marshmallows, and milk.




And then there’s also the complicating factor that we like whole foods, eat almost no treats (by standard definitions at least), don’t eat a lot of bread, and are largely vegetarian.


The problem is that just about every ‘camp food’ that comes easily to mind is either an orgy of processed joy or is a meat festival.


Rock petroform

We brainstormed foods that would cook easily and freeze well.  We made and froze in Ziploc bags about 5 suppers-worth of dishes.  More meat than usual, but not too bad.  Meatball and barley stew, sweet potato and lentil stew, ground bison for tacos, etc.  We also rinsed and froze a couple of cans of beans and lentils – in bear country all grey water like cooking liquids and dishwater need to be properly disposed of, making the gloopy goo from canned legumes an awkward chore.  But rinsed and frozen they were both convenient and worked as freezer packs for the rest of the food.  We took hemp seed protein powder ( a relatively new discovery for us) to throw in porridge and other dishes.  We also choose a number of vegetables that work well canned: corn, green beans, apple sauce.

We open our cooler as little as possible, and buy ice daily once the pre-frozen foods thaw out.  We also have 2 additional Rubbermaid bins of food: a ‘pantry’ of oatmeal, canned goods, high fibre crackers, granola bars, taco shells, bulgar, couscous, etc; and a bin of fruits and veggies.  While these would optimally be kept cool, they do pretty well for a few days until you eat them like a ravening horde and make the drive to a reasonable grocery store to stock up again.  Choose sturdy veggies like coleslaw mix, celery, carrots, etc.  And buy a box of under-ripe mangos before you leave home while you’re at it.  They’re super yummy as they ripen and taste like the summer sun is in your hand.

As for snacks – for we are a very snacky family, preferring 6 small meals to 3 big ones – we accepted very quickly that the salty snacks available near campsites do not fit into our eating plan.  Rainer and I have each lost 50 pounds and we are not putting them back on even though our definition of happiness includes boardgames and bowls of snacks.




So we brought along salsa and crackers and flavoured rice crackers.  But we ran out of those pretty quickly.  (Ravening horde.)  We made a happy discovery this trip, though: breakfast cereal.  Branflakes, multigrain Cheerios, Cornbran…yum!  Snackable, subtly sweet, and available at all the tiny stores.




We don’t eat bacon…except for at least once while we’re camping. This cool camp griddle/grill is a wonderful addition to a regular camp stove. It makes the tradition of having one lazy morning with pancakes, eggs and bacon that much simpler.

Do you have favourite healthy camping food? Any tips to share?


20 thoughts on “Camping Food

  1. Laura says:

    My family wasn’t much of a camping family, but I’d love to make it a tradition with our kids one day! We’re like you, though — we stay away from processed foods, and I can’t imagine how we’d manage without the usual comforts of home. I’m looking forward to seeing what ideas your readers give…

  2. Karen says:

    Just in case you’ve never done it, when you buy ice, look for block ice if it’s possible to fit it into your cooler. It lasts MUCH longer.

  3. Constance says:

    Our newest favorite camping food is breakfast burritos. Scrambled eggs, bacon (or not), cheese, salsa or hot sauce rolled up and eaten out of hand so no dishes needed and people can sit wherever they want.
    We bring corn chips because we discovered that they flare up with really cool colours if you throw them in the campfire! That should keep you from actually eating them!
    We keep food cold by freezing as much as we can, packing the cooler in order of when we’ll eat it (so we can get food out quickly) and using blocks of ice frozen in milk or juice cartons because they stay frozen longer than cubes.
    Can I ask where you got your screen tent? It looks great and we have kids who swell up horribly with bug bites! Also, what game are they playing with the tiles? It looks interesting!

  4. Wisteria says:

    We love gorp for the ravenous. Made with homemade granola, dried fruit and a few nuts, you control the sugar. If you get really crazy, you can throw in some chocolate. It stores easily without refrigeration.

    You also must have those “baby” carrots. There is nothing to dispose and as an added bonus, they are sturdy.

    We also eat a lot of rice while camping. I know it takes longer to cook (especially if you use brown or wild, but black beans and rice fills your tummy and is oh so yummy.

    Your trip looks terrific! I’m a bit jealous.

  5. Sarah says:

    I have some hemp protein powder sitting in my freezer waiting for me to figure out what to use it in. Glad to get some ideas!

    I’ve got no camping food ideas that haven’t been covered here, but have enjoyed adding new ones from the post and comments.

  6. Malva says:

    I’ve been reading for a while and really like your blog. So that’s my delurking intro. 🙂

    I love planning the food when camping. Some favorites:

    The boxed vegetarian chili is good while camping. I think it may be Casbah brand, it’s with the falafel mix and couscous boxes at the grocery store. Add a can of diced tomatoes, kidney beans, put a bit of fresh cilantro on top and eat with unsalted taco chips.

    Cheese quesedillas with salsa and mashed avocados makes a good lunch, especially if you turn the avocados into guacamole by adding lime juice, cilantro and salt to it.

    Food in foil is also good and the combinations are endless. Fish topped with julienned veggies and a dressing of ginger, garlic, soy sauce and water is always good. Make as many packets as you have people.

    We go camping for Thanksgiving and have a mock traditional dinner this way. Packets have turkey breast, boxed stuffing, potatoes and brussel sprouts. We make packaged gravy and bring a pie.

    At home we’d never buy the convenience stuff but while camping, I don’t feel guilty.

    A few random tips:

    Bring two smaller coolers than one large one. This way, you can pack one of them to have food you won’t be touching until day 3. The other cooler can be the one you’ll be opening right away.

    Menu plan, including breakfast and lunches. At home, I only plan dinners and wing the rest. Decide on the order stuff will be eaten as to know what to leave fresh and what to freeze. I like to do as much prep as possible at home, measuring ingredients, cutting and marinating meat, make a grain or bean salad or two (something that can stand on its own as a meal). It takes less room in a cooler when it’s prepped than in the original packaging.

    I also try to have as little stuff that needs to be kept cold as possible.

    Always have something that doesn’t require cooking for the first night (sandwiches for us usually). We often seem to get to the campground later than expected and everyone is starving.

    Have fun!

  7. Stacey says:

    Were a big fan of the healthy refried black beans and cheese, as well as a couscous and dal (stewed red lentils) both are quick cooking and don’t need to be cooled before hand. Generally we try to use the food in the cooler on the first few days while it’s still cool, things like cheese, yogurt, eggs and bacon. But after that as it is vaguely cool veggies last. We also do a lot of noodle dishes, as they are a favorite here. In general we try to only cook for breakfast and dinner. We have two backpacking stoves so we can do things like oats and coco at the same time.

    When we are packing up we make sure we have protein in each meal and that nothing takes longer than the grain to cook. For snacks we like the crunch granola bars, sardines in tomato or mustard sauce, crackers and carrots.

    I think the best part of cooking during camping is just how much better everything tastes.

  8. Lee-Anne says:

    Very interesting post, Sarah! I spent all morning putting together the food for our upcoming 5-week camping trip (AB to ON). Food is the only real challenge for us as we do eat a vegan, whole food diet consisting of a lot of foods that aren’t readily available in mainstream markets. I also have an auto-immune disease (digestive) that necessitates a diet for me that is completely free of all sugars (simple and complex), wheat and all nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant…).

    I double a lot of recipes in the spring, dehydrate, and package them up for camping. I make up my own prepackaged meals; lentil/rice/quinoa pilafs are popular. We eat oatmeal with homemade hemp milk for breakfast with ground seeds and nuts. I read a lot of backpackers cookbooks for ideas. It is a lot of work in preparation, but it is spread out over a long period of time, and I’ve been working on a system for a few years now. We usually camp for 7-8 weeks/summer and at the beginning of the summer my basement pantry is bursting. The extra work means that it really is a break for me, that we continue to eat the way we know works for us without a fridge or oven, and that I won’t get sick from eating things I can’t tolerate. It is so worth it!

    Here are a few favourites:

    Leah’s “Kraft Dinner”
    1 onion, chop and saute, add remaining ingredients
    1c brown lentils
    1c brown basmati rice
    1 tsp powdered vegetable stock
    1/2 tsp oregano
    1/8 tsp pepper
    1 tsp dill
    1/4 tsp salt
    Stir in 3 1/4 c water, and cover. We cook it in a cast iron Dutch oven over a medium fire for about an hour.

    Arame Salad
    1c arame (cover with boiling water and let sit 15 min. Drain) Add:
    1 Tbsp hemp oil
    1 Tbsp lemon juice
    1/2 tsp Herbamare (salt)
    a handful of any combination of: nuts, seeds (especially sesame)
    It would be good with canned salmon, if you eat fish.

    French Onion Soup
    I cut a brick of tofu in very small cubes and marinade it in Bragg’s soy sauce. Then, I dehydrate it (cut in long sticks these also work as a “jerky” type snack – I usually do a couple of styles at the same time). Then, I blend 1 cup nutritional yeast with 1 cup sesame seeds to make the “cheese”. I pre-package it up into meal-sized ready-to-go baggies with a note to remind me to make sure we have vegetable powder and an onion packed to bring it all together. This is one of those camping foods that everyone loves as a “treat” at home sometimes.

    Asian Rice Rolls
    Rice wraps (water in the frying pan for dunking the wraps)
    rice noodles, cooked, then stirred with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and a titch of salt and pepper
    vegetables grated or chopped very fine (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower…)
    sliced avocado
    whatever you have on hand to put in the wrap.
    save some of the the vinegar/oil for dipping if you want

    -Baked apples
    -Tinfoil wrapped root veg over the fire
    -roasted garlic (to die for!)
    -dried hummus/falafel/black bean soup mix from the health food shop
    -marinated veg salad (keep it in the cooler during the day marinating and have it for dinner – use a good premade vinaigrette)

    Oh, this has gotten out of hand! But I could go on… 🙂

  9. katharine says:

    We’re a canoe camping family. We’ve got three six and under and need to carry everything for 5 to 7 days in a couple of reasonably weighted packs. We are also vegan which makes most of our protein lighter and less perishable than meat or dairy. For snacks, which we also love, we carry dried fruit and nuts and a little dried cereal. It is a particular challenge for us to pack the food, one we look forward to improving with every trip. thankfully the kids have been gracious about our failures (the over salty split pea soup) and joyous about our successes (fresh fruit to day 3!).

    We’re off again in a couple of weeks and already the food planning has begun in earnest. Wish us luck, the kids are offering to cook a little this time.

  10. nicolaknits says:

    We have a lot of the same issues as you, being vegan and wanting to eat healthily. Can’t offer you any advice, but I did discover an interesting book at my local library recently. It gives you lots of recipes for camp food, which you dehydrate before you leave, then rehydrate when you’re camping.
    It’s called
    High trail cookery : all-natural, home-dried, palate-pleasing meals for the backpacker / Linda Frederick Yaffe.
    by Yaffe, Linda Frederick

    Chicago, IL : Chicago Review Press, 1997.
    Outdoor cookery.

    1556523130 (pbk.)

  11. Annie says:

    How about popcorn? Packs well, pops with very little oil in the pan. Birds like it. So do we.
    Your assignment: rewrite this as a Bird-by-Bird style reminicense about camping lunches (a la cafeteria lunch).

  12. SusieM says:

    One of our favorites is a pasta dish which takes one 28 oz canned tomatoes, one 15 oz can black olives, some olive oil, several garlic cloves, and some pasta. Chop the garlic, saute in oil, add the tomatoes, throw in the olives at the end. Toss with pasta. You can add some hot pepper flakes if you like. And add parmesan at the end too. Nothing in this is fragile, so it’s easy to store. Also, we make pasta sauce ahead and freeze in ziplock bags. A favorite is roasted tomato and garlic sauce and another is pesto. That’s the easiest of all, come to think of it. I use little baggies or reuse little plastic containers and freeze it in that.

  13. SusieM says:

    One of our favorites is a pasta dish which takes one 28 oz canned tomatoes, one 15 oz can black olives, some olive oil, several garlic cloves, and some pasta. Chop the garlic, saute in oil, add the tomatoes, throw in the olives at the end. Toss with pasta. You can add some hot pepper flakes if you like. And add parmesan at the end too. Nothing in this is fragile, so it’s easy to store. Also, we make pasta sauce ahead and freeze in ziplock bags. A favorite is roasted tomato and garlic sauce and another is pesto. That’s the easiest of all, come to think of it. I use little baggies or reuse little plastic containers and freeze it in that.
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  14. Elizabeth says:

    We’ve been thinking about this lots in preparation for our 1st camping trip, which won’t be for more than a couple of nights. We aren’t vegetarians, but do eat many meatless dishes. We rarely eat snack/junk food other than the occasional bag of saltless potato chips–so that wouldn’t even be a considertion. We also limit our wheat intake. Then again–there are very few campsites in England that are more than 15 minutes from a grocery store–so freezing food isn’t all that necessary, we should survive with a cool box. So I should be able to do what we do at home on a daily basis.

    We will just bring cereal (I’ve gotten them all to like Mesa Cornflakes without milk for our overnight hotel stays), porridge for them, rice cakes, peanut butter, nuts (unsalted around here–things like Brazil nuts, Almonds, and cashews), eggs, dried puy lentils and dried red lentils, hummus, tortilla wraps for veg fajitas, oat cakes, buckwheat pasta & pesto, cheese, yogurt and plenty of fruit & raw vegetables like carrots and celery. We will bring sausages for the 1st day as he wants a morning fry up the 1st day.
    I won’t need to pack drinks other than water and a few tea bags. We only let the kids have a tiny glass of juice at home for breakfast, they only drink water during the daytime.

    I plan on making some carrot or zucchini muffins as a breakfast treat, and to make my own flapjacks (which we still have to try) for an after dinner treat.

    As I’ve never camped before, or cooked on anything other than our stove–I won’t know what other meals I can do. But as it is cool here most of the time hot food will be needed, though when at home it’s not always neccesry.

  15. catalinakel says:

    What we do for keeping food cold is buy gallon jugs of drinking water and freeze them solild (we open them and pour out a little bit so that it will freeze without getting too bulgy.) These become our ice for the cooler, and we always have nice cool water to drink also. Looks like a nice place to camp, sarah. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Alex says:

    We prefer to eat wholesome foods too at home, but when we are camping we break our rules a bit…even though we definetly pay for it in how we feel afterwards.
    Anyway, we keep our cooler cold for a few days by freezing our water bottles or juice pouches before we leave and using these as ice. It works great, we take a few out to defrost each day, we always have cold drinks and the freezer stays cold.
    We LOVE Blokus!!! great game!

  17. Lisa says:

    FINALLY-another BLOKUS family!! We LOVE that game!!!!

    This was a very helpful post. We’ve wanted to camp each summer and I’ve even rounded up a borrowable tent and other things we don’t own, but then there’s …..F.O.O.D. We eat much like you, but here in the Bible belt bacon IS a gift from God so we do eat too much of it, I’m afraid. Your suggestions are EXCELLENT.

    We day-camped with a camper-owning family [the silly thing had ac and a cable hook-up if you wanted them!] and she always too spaghetti first night–under cooked the pasta, rinsed in cold water. Reheated in the sauce.

    I think our whole wheat pancakes would be fine, albeit with more fat due to the iron skillet. A loaf of pumpkin or zuchini bread w/soft cream cheese would be good too. We have to have lots of fruit and veggies and raisins get old after a while. Ditto hard boiled eggs. Lots of good ideas in the post and comments.

    [FYI–if you chose to “camp” in a motel take your Crock pot and a ready to cook dinner. Leave for the day, come back to dinner! A lot of motels have microwaves, too. Real money saver.]

    Good, good post!!!! I’m now almost looking forward to going camping!!!! lol….

  18. PS~Erin says:

    Wonderful tips and suggestions! We tend to go outside the eating plan on road trips and outings, but a staple of ours is crackers, cheese, ham/turkey meat and avocado. I slice and pass around. We all love it! Oh, and we LOVE Blokus around here.

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