Food is an important part of any camping trip, and all campers want to enjoy the best possible meals while hanging out in the wilderness. But the term “best” can mean different things to different campers.
Some campers will consider the most convenient foods to be the best, while others will consider the most delicious foods the best. Still others prefer those foods that can be harvested from the land during a camping trip.
Accordingly, we’ve broken down the best foods for camping into several distinct categories:
- The tastiest camping foods
- The most convenient camping foods
- The best naturally occurring camping foods
Below, we’ll examine each category and provide a few recommendations and ideas.
The Tastiest Camping Foods
Some campers like to bring and prepare the most delicious food possible during camping trips. Such campers are often willing to carry more food and gear than their more practically oriented counterparts, but they usually enjoy exquisite meals for their efforts.
Because many of the most decadent camp foods require you to use foods that will spoil, it is often wise to plan to eat these types of meals on the first night or morning of your trip.
Bacon is the ultimate in campsite luxury, and few things will pull your companions from their tents in the morning as quickly as the scent of frying bacon will. There’s nothing complicated about making bacon at a campsite, just toss a few strips in a medium-hot frying pan and sizzle them up to the desired level of crispness.
The hardest part of making bacon in camp is that you will usually be forced to use a rather small frying pan to cook it. This means that you’ll only be able to cook a few slices at a time.
It is important to handle the resulting bacon fat carefully after you’ve cooked the bacon. Ideally, you’d pour the grease into a sealable container and pack it out with you, but if this is impossible, try to bury the fat as deep as possible. Be sure to use caution when cooking bacon in bear country, as bears seem to find bacon just as delicious as humans do.
You can make eggs just about any way you like while camping, and it is pretty easy to do so. You’ll simply need a protective case in which to carry the eggs safely and a frying pan or pot. You may also want a little bit of fat (such as a pat of butter or drizzle of olive oil) to help prevent the eggs from sticking to the bottom (it is also helpful to ensure that the frying pan is hot before adding the eggs to it).
If you are interested in making eggs the easiest way possible, just cook them sunny side up. But, you can also scramble them if you prefer. You can even hard boil or poach the eggs if you like, you’ll just need to use a pot rather than a pan and fill it with water.
Be sure to dispose of the shells properly to avoid attracting animals. You can simply burn the shells if you like, or you can put them in a sealed garbage bag.
Pizza is a pretty elaborate, but entirely possible, dish you can make while camping. You’ll have to create a makeshift oven to do so, but this is fairly easy to do. Simply create a rock-lined pit (use the flattest rocks possible) with coals at one end, and then build a “roof” with aluminum foil to contain the heat. You can put additional rocks or soil on top of the foil to retain even more heat.
To make the pizza, you’ll need a premade crust, a small amount of pizza sauce, a bit of cheese and whatever toppings you like. Assemble the pizza and place it in the oven, directly on the rocks. Watch the pizza closely and be sure to turn it frequently so that it cooks evenly. Once the cheese starts bubbling and browning, the pizza is done.
It is usually preferable to make several small pizzas, rather than one large pizza. This will allow the pizzas to cook more quickly, and it will alleviate the need to cut the pizza – a tough task to pull off at a campsite.
The Most Convenient Camping Foods
Some campers – especially those camping in challenging locations or trying to cover vast distances during their trip – prioritize convenience above all else. Such campers will generally prefer foods that require minimal preparation or can be eaten as-is.
Three of the most convenient camping foods available include the following three:
Trail mix or gorp, as it is often called by old-timers, is one of the staples of any camping trip. There are a variety of commercially produced trail mixes that you can purchase, or you can make your own trail mix, comprised of exactly the ingredients you’d like.
Be sure to select a trail mix with plenty of high-calorie items, such as nuts, seeds and granola, so you’ll have enough energy to keep hiking. It is also wise to mix in a little candy to give you some quick energy, keep your taste buds happy and your morale high.
Some people like to incorporate berries or small pieces of dehydrated fruit in their trail mix, which will also increase the sugar content of the mix.
An anacronym for Meals Ready to Eat, MREs are military-issue meals that are easy to carry, store and prepare. Most MREs contain an entry and one or two side items, as well as a cookie or similar dessert. They usually include several different types of condiments too. MREs can be prepared directly in the pouch in which they are packaged, which means you won’t even need pots or pans to make your dinner.
MREs come in a number of different recipes and flavors, so be sure to select a variety of different versions to keep things interesting. It is also wise to vary your meals to ensure you obtain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, which can keep you feeling your best while enduring the trials and tribulations of life on the trail.
There are a number of commercially produced dehydrated meals designed specifically for campers, and they represent some of the tastiest and most convenient options available. These meals can usually be prepared in a single pot, and some can even be prepared in the bag they are packaged in by adding boiling water.
Like MREs, dehydrated meals come in a number of different flavors and recipes, so it pays to bring a variety of different options on your next trip. The biggest drawback to these types of meals is their cost, as they are frequently rather expensive. However, there are few easier ways to keep yourself nourished during a camping trip than by eating dehydrated meals.
The Best Naturally Occurring Camping Foods
Some campers like to lighten their load a bit by relying on naturally occurring food sources to keep themselves nourished during a trip. While this can be a risky strategy (you may go hungry if your foraging skills aren’t sufficient), it can be a very rewarding way to supplement the food you bring and test your skills and resolve.
Some of the most enjoyable and abundant natural foods that can be enjoyed during a camping trip include:
If you have the requisite angling skills to do so, there is nothing more delicious and rewarding to eat while camping than fresh trout. Most mountain streams and lakes in wilderness areas (except some of those located in the deep south) will harbor trout populations, and they are among the tastiest fish you can catch.
You can cook trout in several different ways, but grilling is the simplest method in most cases. However, you can also poach trout or fry it up in a little bit of oil if you like. In a pinch, you can even chuck a whole trout on the coals, and simply eat it like a caveman. In fact, you could even eat trout raw if you like, if you are a fan of sushi.
Of course, trout aren’t the only edible fish that can be caught during camping trips. Many wilderness areas will also be home to bass, bluegill, perch or catfish. Any of these species can make for excellent eating during your next camping trip.
Hickory nuts, chestnuts and pecans are common in many wild habitats, and they represent a delicious and calorie-dense food source that is rather easy to collect. Just be sure that you properly identify any nuts that you eat and avoid toxic lookalikes (such as buckeyes).
You can roast many nuts if you like, but most varieties are perfectly palatable when eaten raw. Nuts keep very well, and they are relatively light for the number of calories they provide, so you may even want to collect and pack an extra handful or two, so you’ll have nuts to enjoy for the rest of your trip.
Always be sure that you carefully inspect nuts before you eat them, as worms and other pests routinely infest them. It is not always possible to detect contaminated nuts visually, but it is usually a good idea to discard any that weigh significantly less than the rest. Such extra light nuts are almost always home to insects.
Berries – especially when collected fresh from the vine – are one of nature’s most delicious treats. They can be eaten raw or used in desserts and other dishes. Berries are full of water, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants too, so they’ll help keep you healthy while putting your body through the rigors of a camping trip.
However, it is imperative that you only eat safe, edible berries and that you avoid those that may be poisonous. There is no easy way to distinguish all safe berries from all dangerous berries, so you should only eat wild berries if you are positive that you can identify them correctly. If you have any doubts about a berry’s identification, it is best to avoid eating it.
Because insects and birds often crawl around on berries while they are eating, it is always wise to wash off any wild-collected berries before you eat them. Just be sure that you use purified water when doing so to avoid contaminating the berries with waterborne bacteria.
Assorted Tips for Camp Chow Success
In addition to bringing along the best foods, you’ll also want to embrace a few other camp chow tips to help keep your belly full and taste buds happy during your next outing.
- Always practice good hygiene when preparing food on the trail. This means not only washing your hands before beginning but also washing your plates and dishes thoroughly after each meal. It only takes a handful of bacteria to cause illness and ruin your entire trip.
- Practice good food safety while hiking. While most of the food you’ll bring with you will remain safe at room temperature, it is important to be careful with raw and prepared foods. Just be sure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold and you’ll avoid most common problems.
- Keep your food safe from animals. Nothing is worse than planning an assortment of delicious camp meals, only to find that squirrels, mice or bears have eaten or ruined your food. You can help avoid such problems by hanging your food from a tree branch or bear wire, or by using a protective container, such as a bear canister. Always discard foods that have been nibbled upon by wildlife, as you could become quite sick from doing so.
- Use your cooking fuel efficiently. While you can always make a fire for cooking purposes, it is always easier to use a proper camp stove to cook your meals. Accordingly, you’ll want to bring plenty of fuel and use it efficiently to avoid running out. Although the best cooking temperature varies from food to food, it is often most efficient to cook foods at the highest temperature possible.
- Bring high-calorie condiments and additives. One of the best ways to increase the caloric value of the foods in your pack is by preparing them in conjunction with rich condiments and additives. For example, adding a bit of peanut butter to a few crackers will boost their nutritional value many fold, as will a few slices of cheese. Butter is another high-calorie condiment that can help boost the nutritional value of your other foods.
- Be sure to bring can openers and any other tools you’ll need to prepare your meals. You don’t want to get set up at your campsite, only to realize you don’t have any way to open your baked beans. While you can open most cans with a simple knife, it will be much easier to do so with the proper tools.
- Take the time to repackage foods before your trip. Many foods, such as pasta, crackers and similar items come packaged in cardboard boxes. This type of packaging takes up quite a bit of space, so it is a good idea to take them out of the cardboard box and pack them in plastic bags. Just be sure to cut out any cooking directions you’ll need, and place them in the bag so you will know how to cook your food once you get to camp.
- Never eat wild mushrooms while camping. Although the forests and fields of North America are home to a variety of delicious and edible mushrooms, many safe species closely resemble toxic varieties. Unless you have received special training to distinguish between the two varieties, it is wise to avoid eating wild mushrooms at all. Many of the poisons contained in common varieties can cause serious illness or death within a matter of hours, and antidotes are not available for many.
While camping usually requires you to “rough it,” that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy great food during your trip. Just be sure to plan carefully and bring along everything you’ll need. With a little forethought and preparation, you’ll certainly enjoy beautiful breakfasts and delicious dinners for the duration of your trip.