Camping Food Ideas: Equipment, Tips, and Recipes
I love camping, but staying organized and prepared around mealtimes is not always easy. Here I’ll share what equipment I’ve added to my campfire cooking kit, some tips for camping kitchen organization, and some suggestions for easy camping meals for family dinners (and my favorite breakfast!).
Our family went camping this weekend, and it’s one of my favorite things to do with the kids. They are happiest when they’re outside, wearing nothing but their underpants, bodies covered in dirt, and so camping really is the perfect activity for them.
I didn’t grow up camping, but having gone to college in California, it’s pretty much a requirement. I remember buying my first sleeping bag at REI my freshman year, and it has been used many, many times since that day 22 years ago! (Seriously, where does the time go?)
I’ve handed down that same sleeping bag to my kids, who, unlike my husband and me, will have so many family camping memories.
In this post, I’m sharing my favorite camping cooking equipment, tips for staying organized and transporting food to the campsite, and some suggestions for easy camping meals.
Equipment I’ve Added to My Campfire Cooking Kit
This year, my kids’ appetites have grown collectively large enough that we could no longer use our backpacking equipment to cook meals that could feed all five of us, so I started to buy some cooking-while-camping equipment. Here are my favorites.
First, this table. It basically allows you to create an organized kitchen / prep & cook station outdoors, and I don’t know how I ever lived without it. It even has a bungee cord to put a roll of paper towels through. I seriously love it so much, and it folds up so compactly that I can keep it in our cleaning closet at home.
I also bought this 2-burner portable camping stove. I am all for idyllic campfire cooking, but I live in California, where so many campgrounds don’t allow campfires because of wildfires. Plus, I also have 3 children, who after a few hours of playing with dirt and sticks resemble feral animals and need to eat ASAP. This stove can fit some big pots and pans, ignites easily, and most importantly, cooks things quickly!
I haven’t bought any additional pots and pans because right now we’re just car camping, and I can easily use what I use at home.
Tips for Camping Cooking Organization
Anyone who has gone on a car camping trip knows that roughing it in nature somehow still requires a lot of packing and stuff (please tell me it’s not just me!). Unless you plan on foraging, you will have to bring in your own food and of course, the equipment to cook that food. However, there are a few tricks I’ve discovered for staying organized and saving space.
1. Use stackable plastic bins
I love packing all the nonperishable ingredients up in stackable plastic bins. You can even organize it by meal to make finding everything easier once you get to the campsite. I have found that the sweater box from the Container Store is the perfect size for our meals (and s’mores provisions!).
2. Pre-crack eggs
Another trick I’ve been using to minimize space is pre-cracking all of my eggs into a plastic takeout container. We do breakfast tacos every camping trip, so eggs are always on my list of things to bring, and transporting them pre-cracked is so much easier.
3. Portion out condiments
My last little trick involves using these containers, which are also my go-to for packing school lunches. Instead of packing containers of peanut butter, the jelly, the ketchup, the mustard, or whatever your family’s essential condiments are, I just scoop or squirt what we’ll need for the trip into these snack containers.
Recipes for Easy Camping Meals
Just because you’re out in nature doesn’t mean you have to be stuck eating baked beans from the can. While there’s nothing wrong with simply heating up a boxed soup or preparing a simple spaghetti with jarred marinara, if you want some meals that are a little more flavorful and filling after a day of hiking or playing in the woods, here are a few of my favorite options.
If you do the meal prep before you leave home, you’ll minimize ingredients and equipment you need to bring along on your trip, and make these easy camping meals even easier.
1. Tex-Mex Pasta with Spiced Lentils
We do a lot of pasta while camping, and I especially love doing a bean-based sauce. This one is almost like a chili and really hits the spot after a day of hiking. Measure out your spices before you go so you have fewer things to pack!
As I mentioned above, breakfast tacos are always on our camping meal plan. The recipe below is super straightforward, and you can easily pack the sour cream and hot sauce in the containers I mentioned earlier. You can, of course, do chorizo instead of soyrizo, or just use black beans, which is often what I do instead.
3. Foil Packet Hawaiian BBQ Sausage
These sweet and savory packets of sausage and veggies are an ideal camping meal. They’re light on ingredients but pack big flavor. Chop the veggies in advance and bring them along on your trip for easy assembly (make sure to store them in an airtight container to prevent leakage!). If you’d rather not deal with trying to cook rice on a camping stove, swap it out for couscous or fine bulgur (also known as quick-cooking bulgur), both of which just require soaking in boiling water, similar to the process for making tea.
4. Foil Packet Italian Sausage and Peppers
Another easy foil packet option is these packets of Italian sausage, potatoes, peppers, zucchini, and onions drizzled with basil pesto. Given the very different flavor profile from the meal above, you won’t feel like you’re eating the same thing two days in a row, but get to take advantage of the simple cooking method a second time. Be sure to make the pesto in advance or buy pre-made pesto.
Here’s to exploring the great outdoors and not stressing about the food!
If these camping food ideas and tips are useful to you, stay tuned for more infographics and how-to articles by signing up for our weekly email below. Or sign up for a free 14-day trial of our meal plan service for a variety of delicious, fresh, and healthy dinner ideas!