You guys, I did it. I backpacked for 22 miles which we did over 3 days. I spent 2 nights outside in the good ol’ wilderness. I set up and broke down my own tent in which I slept alone. You see, I haven’t camped in over 30 years, and back then I had only done it 2-3 times, so this was all new to me. Lucky for me, the other adult with whom I chaperoned is a very seasoned backpacker. In fact, in her former days, she used to take groups out for hire and spends many weekends out in the backcountry for pleasure. I knew I was in good hands and I learned a ton, including lots of great easy camping food ideas which I want to share with you today.
Important factors to consider in planning your camping food:
- Weight. Now if you are car camping, this isn’t as big of a factor. But if you are carrying your luggage (basically) on your back, you don’t exactly want to be stuffing in big bottles of salad dressing to cart around. I’m a small gal, and the goal weight of <25 lbs. was plenty heavy for me! I definitely didn’t want to go heavier, so everything had to be well thought through.
- Perishability. Tanya, the teacher who I chaperoned (along with six 13 year-olds) was so insightful in this area. She brought homemade hummus and told me that it would last for 3 days. She also had other thoughts, such as cheese – but don’t take the shredded kind, as it will perish quicker. I initially assumed that I could not bring any “real” fruits or veggies, which was completely untrue – thank goodness! They say that fresh foods can last 1-2 days on the trail, and carrots an extra day or two.
- Nutrition. Hiking, walking to get water, setting up and breaking camp, etc. requires calories and you need to ensure that you are refueling adequately. While there are many sugary protein and energy bars on the market along with ramen noodles and other prepackaged goods, there are better options available that I’ll suggest below.
Easy camping food ideas for Breakfast:
Fueling up before hitting the trail is essential. Make sure to drink water and include some protein and fiber in your meal to fill you up and keep you going.
- Oatmeal. I love oatmeal for the filling fiber that it includes, and the ease of carrying and packing, too. It doesn’t get much lighter than this! This is by far my favorite oatmeal. I love that it has pumpkin, hemp and chia seeds in it and contains no sweeteners. Please, please, please don’t succumb to the “normal” oatmeal packets which contain anywhere from 9-12 grams of sugar, and sometimes even artificial food dyes. I added some almond butter to my oatmeal and ate a small organic apple along with it. The little packets came in super handy and are also much lighter than packing a whole jar.
- Dry cereal. Yes, this isn’t too terribly exciting, but one of the girls opted for some plain muesli paired with an orange and some water. You can also spice this up by mixing in some dried blueberries, almonds or other seeds.
- Homemade granola. Another great one to bring along. Recipe coming soon, but there are so many good ones out there. If you decide to purchase one, make sure to check sugar levels as they can get very high.
- Coffee. I slept horribly the first night. I was in the tent alone, and we had 35 mile-per-hour winds. I drink a 1/2 a cup a coffee a few times a week, but the next morning, I definitely needed a little boost. These little coffee packs are organic and instant; simply boil some water and mix one in.
- Tea. For those who prefer this beverage, teabags are wonderfully light and can be added in easily.
Easy camping food ideas for lunch:
While we did stop for a picnic lunch, sometimes this meal is had on-the-go. You can also scroll down for dinner ideas and make these for lunch if you have the time and desire.
- Tortillas with nut butter. Tanya brought sunbutter along, and I brought these little almond butter packets, which I added to gluten-free tortillas. I rounded out the meal with carrots + hummus.
- Cheese, dried salami and crackers. As mentioned, I learned that cheese blocks will keep for a few days (note: not if the weather is on the very hot side!). Some of the group brought cheese blocks, dried salami and assorted crackers. I’d of course add in a vegetable or fruit.
- Meat bars/jerky with fresh or dried fruit. There are lots of decent meat bars out there; here is one that my husband likes (since I don’t eat meat).
Easy camping food ideas for snacks:
Even if you are not typically a snacker, you’ll find that you are exerting a lot of energy and thus using a good number of calories, which will leave you hungry. You’ll also want to stave off headaches along with hunger pangs. Here are a few ideas of real food snacks that can be had on the trails.
- RX Bars are one of my absolute favorite bars. It’s not easy to get a good, clean bar that isn’t full of sugar but also packs a powerful protein punch, but this bar checks all of the boxes. My personal favorite flavors are Chocolate Sea Salt, Coconut Chocolate, Coffee Chocolate (are you seeing a trend??);) and Maple Sea Salt.
- Barnana. As the brand says, bananas are Mother Nature’s original energy bar. But Barnana has taken them to a new level by using imperfect bananas, and making them into chewy little banana bites. Again – weight is a big issue when backpacking, so these are a key way to get a fruit in the most compact yet real way without lugging around whole bananas (and fearing that they will get brown and smushy in your backpack – yuck!)
- Hummus and veggies. I mentioned that Tanya brought along some homemade hummus and said that she typically keeps it for 3 days (no refrigeration), but I love these packs which are much lighter and require no water. There are a few packs that you simply stir together and voila! You have fresh, organic hummus. Of course if you have a dehydrator, you can always make hummus and then dehydrate it and add water back when out on the trail to remix it.
- Vegetables or fruit. I mentioned veggies above; I brought a little baggie of carrots and a cucumber, too. Yes, it add a little weight, but I was happy to get some color into my diet while out in the backwoods. I highly suggest bringing carrots, a cuke, pepper or something of the sort. I also brought 4 little apples.
- Jerky. Beef, chicken or even salmon jerky are great protein alternatives that can be easily eaten while hiking.
- Homemade Clif Bars. If you read my last post, you know I was prepping these for our outing! I brought these and shared them; we all enjoyed them. I highly suggest them!
- Trail mix. Of course, right?! I made my own prior to going with sunflower and sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, raisins and unsweetened dried coconut. This was great to pull out when I needed a quick pick-me-up.
- Unsweetened dried mango. This is another one of my favorite snacks, and I love how Made in Nature’s product only contains organic dried mangos – there’s no added sweeteners or any other unnecessary ingredients.
Easy camping food ideas for Dinner:
After a long day of hiking and doing, dinner is like a reward meal, and one that you absolutely want to make sure to refuel with in a smart way.
- Brown rice and lentils. While it won’t necessarily be the quickest meal to prepare, you can certainly take dried lentils with you and boil them in water until they are soft. Add a little bit of salt and put them atop of brown rice for a meal starter. For those who don’t want to wait, you can get prepared brown rice and lentils, though each back is 8.8 ounces.
- Cheesy tuna mac. Tanya (again, who I traveled with) cooked noodles, added some butter, salt and cheese, and then mixed in some tuna.
- Tuna rice with marinara. One thing I learned – you definitely get unconventional in your food while out in the woods! And I was fine with it. I brought some parboiled (read: cooks much quicker) brown rice that I purchased from Trader Joe’s along and first cooked that. Then I mixed in some wild caught tuna. One of the boys had some marinara, so I added that for some flavor. And I’ve gotta say – it was REALLY good!! That or I was just really hungry. The next night, I made something similar using lentil pasta for a little pop of protein.
- Chicken fajitas. The three girls that we took on the trip had meal-planned and food prepped, and their dinner on our first night was chicken fajitas that they had cooked and sealed in a vacuum sealer, which helped it stay fresh. Since we left on that same day, it was fine until we had dinner that evening.
- Whole grain tortillas with rice and salmon. I’m sure you’re seeing a trend here. Bring whole grain tortillas, brown rice (prepared or not) and a pouch of salmon to go in it. If you are fond of cheese, bring some along and add it to it.
Cooking tools to bring camping with you:
- Cooking pot. Unless you aren’t planning on cooking anything at all, this will be essential. There are a number of choices out there, but here is a decent option for a 1-2 person pot. One thing that I learned is that if you are cooking just for yourself, just eat right out of the pot to avoid one more thing to clean up.
- Utensils. These bamboo utensils in a carrying case were another essential that I’d actually had forever (I sent them to school with my kids in the past); they came in very handy on this trip.
- Unscented soap. You don’t want any scents for fear of critters being attracted to you. This soap by Dr. Bronner’s is a great option; you can pick up a super small bottle at Target, too.
- Small sponge. Self explanatory; you need to clean up after cooking:).
So there you have it. While I am by no means a backpacking expert, I certainly learned A LOT last week and hope that you will be inspired to give backpacking (or even camping) a try if you haven’t already!! I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below. Happy trails!