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Camping Food List: Essential Ingredients and Cooking Ideas

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If your last camping trip could best be described as “beautiful view, too bad about the food,” then you need to up your ingredients and cooking game.

Give some thought to what you are going to take in your backpack or camper van before you hit the great outdoors. Gear choices are big hurdles to overcome, OuterOptics has great reviews that’ll make it easy for you, but don’t forget the subtle and often overlooked things like food. It can be the difference between nibbling on trail mix at the end of a hard day’s hike or having a hearty meal.

Here’s the ultimate camping food list to suit every outdoor activity.

Best Ingredients to Take in Your Backpack When Hiking and Camping

If you are a marathon hiker who has traversed the Appalachian Trail more times than you can remember, then you are a hardcore hiking enthusiast and don’t need to keep reading! For those of you who need a few hints on what to pack for a weekend walking in the woods, here are the essential ingredients to take with you.

First, check if your hiking trail has a water source in the areas where you plan to set up camp in the evenings. This is especially important if you are going to be in an arid climate. Next, you should decide whether everyone in the group is going to be responsible for carrying and cooking what they eat individually, or whether you want to carry, cook, and eat everything together.

Keeping in mind that anything that contains liquid is going to weigh your backpack down, many of the essential ingredients for backpacking and hiking are desiccated and dehydrated in expectation of being reconstituted when you reach a water source. So it’s milk powder, and not milk carton when hiking.

If you hit the trail on a Friday afternoon and plan to return on Sunday evening, you will need to pack ingredients for 2 x suppers, 2 x breakfasts, and 2 x lunches. If your hike is going to be a taxing one, be sure to include some snacks for in between meals as well. If you want to avoid unhealthy junk food items, then you’re not alone as there are quite a few options for healthy snacks.

This essential ingredient list works well for 1 – 2 night trips. But if you plan on being on the trail for any longer, you should look into more specialized menu items.

Pack every loose ingredient into portion-controlled clear plastic Ziploc bags. Remember to take the bags back home with you, as they can be washed, dried out, and reused for your next trip. You can decant cooking oil into miniature single-serving bottles and carry spice and seasoning condiments in tightly wrapped and folded foil or paper bindles held in a small plastic container.

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List of Essential Ingredients for 2-Day Hiking and Camping Trip

  • 1 sachet instant oats
  • 1 packet 6 x tortilla wraps
  • 1 sachet granola
  • 2 x sachets raisins
  • 2 x sachets craisins (dried cranberries)
  • 6 x single-serving nuts
  • 2 x bindles peanut butter
  • 2 x bindles Nutella
  • 1 single-serving dehydrated tomato powder
  • 1 sachet grated high-quality parmesan cheese
  • 1 x sachet chicken
  • 1 x packet chicken flavor noodles
  • 1 single serving pouch of tuna and mayo
  • 1 packet sausages
  • 1 sachet instant mash potatoes
  • 1 packet of dried milk powder
  • Sugar as needed
  • Dried fruit such as banana chips, apples, and apricots

Meal Plan

Friday Supper

Hiking with a packet of sausages in your backpack might seem like a bad idea in high summer, so if you plan on traveling and hiking for more than 2 hours after you have left the store to buy them, rather go with the canned variety (which also work if you don’t plan on cooking over a fire). You can add some of the parmesan cheese to the mash if you like.

Saturday Breakfast

Open the instant oatmeal sachet (pack 2 if you have a larger appetite) after boiling some water and add sugar and milk powder before pouring in the boiling water. You can throw in some craisins too if you like. Leave some craisins for a mid-morning snack if you have a long hike planned for the day.

Saturday Breakfast

Saturday Lunch

Depending on how hungry you are, you can have 2 – 3 tortilla wraps as sweet or savory options. For a sweet tortilla wrap, squeeze a bindle of peanut butter or Nutella onto the tortilla and sprinkle on some dried fruit. For a savory tortilla, reconstitute some dried tomato powder and spread it on the wrap. Then sprinkle it with parmesan cheese powder. Add spices or seasoning according to taste. This is also nice when it’s grilled on top of a fire first.

Saturday Supper

Nothing comes close to the hunger someone has after spending the day outdoors. This is not the time to start cooking something that will take hours before it’s ready to eat. Fry up your sachet of chicken in some of the oil from the miniature bottle and add seasoning to taste (or you can use the packet of seasoning that comes with the noodles). When it’s heated through, pour some boiling water over your chicken flavor noodles, wait for them to soften, and stir the noodles into the chicken. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can pack some dried vegetable mix and add these to the mix after heating them in boiling water.

Saturday Supper

Sunday Breakfast

Your body might be feeling a little sore if you walked for a long distance on Saturday. If you have decided to take it easy on Sunday, and want to spend the day chilling around the campsite, a hearty mid-morning Sunday breakfast would be the perfect way to start the day.

Make some milk from your milk powder stash or save some from your morning coffee fix to pour over a big bowl of granola. Add some nuts, raisins, and dried fruit, and also some sugar if you like. This is the ideal breakfast to start your Sunday camping outdoors.

Keep your servings of nuts and raisins out of your backpack to snack on throughout the day.

Sunday Lunch

If your group has decided to keep food prep and consumption each individuals’ responsibility, then you can go ahead and eat your remaining tortilla wraps with the sachet of tuna and mayo spread onto them. If you have made cooking a group responsibility, then Sunday lunch is the best time to pool together the food you have all brought with you and have a blowout brunch. If the campsite has a store within easy driving distance, head on over to it and get some burgers and buns for a campfire feast.

Sunday Lunch

Camping Meal Suggestions

There’s nothing like a hot cup of coffee to kick things into gear in the morning, especially when cold weather is pinching at your toes and nose. This makes coffee one of the most essential ingredients to take on your camping trip. Make the coffee aficionado of your group responsible for packing a French press or stainless steel percolator.

There are even some lightweight, collapsible drip cone filters that make a fairly decent single or double serving of java. If one person in the group is an early riser, they can be made responsible for stoking the fire and starting the first brew of the day. It will bring new meaning to the words, “Wake up, and smell the coffee.”

When you set up camp and have a trial run of the recipes provided here, you will be able to tweak and adapt them according to your food preferences and likes for your next camping break. As long as the food fills you up, and isn’t an endless supply of instant noodles, these essential ingredients for camping should provide you with a variety of tastes and textures, while still being light enough to carry around in your backpack on a long hike.

Camping Meal Suggestions

A few Smokey the Bear quotes about campfire safety before you set out:

  • Check your site allows campfires before leaving
  • If you have a gas stove or lit fire, make sure someone is in charge of it the entire time it’s in use
  • Make sure there isn’t a H4 wind
  • Check the ground and surrounding bushes for flammable brush
  • Build your fire on bare earth and circle it with stones
  • Remember the stones around the campfire are just as hot as the fire itself
  • When the fire needs to be put out, do it with water, then cover the ground with soil and wet it thoroughly with water again

Stick to these campfire rules and your camping trip will be one to remember.

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