My husband’s family has always loved to camp; he likes to tell stories about how the whole family would pack up and go out for days. When we got married he decided it was time for me to sample the experience for myself. However, I certainly wasn’t going to be eating the same camping food that he’d grown accustomed to.
Of course I had been camping before, but it was always short trips; we would bring snacks and drinks, spend a few hours at a campsite and go back home after one night. Pre made meals for camping didn’t feature in our plans.
My husband’s idea of camping is different; he likes to be out in nature for days at a time, and that means that we have to think carefully about what we’ll eat. I tried lugging a stove to our campsite a few times, but it wasn’t a very rewarding experience. Not only did we have to bring along fuel, something would always go wrong. We would often find ourselves eating processed, packaged snacks.
The other reason I gave up on cooking meals while camping is that I would inevitably do it alone; while the rest of the family was having fun I would be stuck trying to put meals together, not to mention many of the fresh ingredients would go bad in a day or two.
After one particularly bad experience, when our stove got soaked in a summer shower, I decided to take a different approach; I would take along ready-to-eat ingredients that we would combine to create meals.
Over the years I have found excellent pre made meals for camping, and I’m going to share them with you. With these you don’t need refrigeration or a stove, and they make camping super-easy.
- Pop tarts
These pastries come with many different fillings and they have a long life shelf. They are ready to eat right out of the packaging and don’t require refrigeration or a stove.
Next time you go camping and you don’t have a stove, bring along several boxes of your favourite cereal and some dehydrated milk. It makes for an excellent breakfast and you can also eat it as a snack during the day. I usually take home-made granola full of healthy, organic ingredients.
Sandwiches can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or supper. You will need to bring bread that doesn’t go stale quickly. Homemade white bread can last for up to seven days (baked without milk, eggs or sugar). Wheat bread has a shelf life of about a week, as does sourdough bread. Baguettes are a good option as they travel well and can keep for a few days so long as you buy them fresh and pack them properly.
Make sure you store your bread properly so it doesn’t get soggy and limp. Bread becomes soggy when exposed to air, so use airtight Ziploc bags. In each, pack a portion that you can finish once you open. Store your bread in a cool place.
Sandwich fillings can be jam, nut butters like Nutella and peanut butter, Vegemite, hard cheeses, and other spreads that can keep.
- Dehydrated meat
Dehydrated meat is an excellent camping food as it has a long shelf life. The most common is beef jerky, but if you can find dehydrated white meat it’s great for adding to salads.
For salads you will have to choose the ingredients carefully. You don’t want to bring vegetables that will go limp within a few hours. Select the firmest produce that you can find. I like to bring onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and avocado as it’s hard to go wrong with these. As much as I like leafy salads, they just don’t stay fresh long enough. Give them a good wash, especially if you’re likely to be in a muddy camp site. To keep the salad crunchy, make sure that you bring a salad spinner (it’ll double as a serving bowl, too!).
Fruits can include apples, honeydew melons (choose small so that you can eat it all at one go), oranges, peaches and plums and berries.
Select the firmest produce available. Choose different degrees of readiness so that they can ripen gradually in the coming days.
Don’t wash produce before you pack it as water hastens spoilage, and pack them with enough space for them to breath. When you get to your campsite be sure to store somewhere cool and away from direct sun.
Hard cheese is an excellent camping food because it doesn’t spoil. Soft cheeses will turn oily and go bad. I like cheddar, parmesan, Gouda and Gruyere, but there are other hard cheeses that can withstand the pressures of camping. They are excellent when eaten with dehydrated white meat and some bread.
- Energy bars
Whatever your favourite brands of energy bars, you should pack a bagful and bring them on your camping trip. They are one of the most convenient no cook backpacking meals and their sugar content quickly restores energy levels.
These are just as convenient as energy bars as a camping food and the best thing about them is that they are filling. You can mix a selection of nuts and pack in small Ziploc bags. Avoid packing in one large bag or container as they lose their crunch when exposed to air.
- Dried fruit
I love dried fruit and whenever we go camping I usually include them in my list of no cook backpacking meals. You can include whatever dried fruit appeals to you. I usually bring banana chips, mango slices, raisings and dehydrated pineapple.
Packaged properly, muffins can stay for up to 5 days before they go stale. You can add chocolate chips for extra sweetness. Pack them in airtight plastic bags in portions that you can eat in one go to avoid exposing them to air.
I never go camping without chocolate. Keeping it from melting can be a challenge, but I often find that if I choose a cool, dry spot it lasts the trip.
- Dehydrated meals
Dehydrated meals are another great camping food because they are loaded with calories (one meal will have enough calories to keep the average person going for hours). Some brands of dehydrated meals require hot water but there are many that only need a little bit of cold water and they are ready to eat (called MRE’s). The package contains a flameless heater that warms up the food when it comes in contact with water.
Some companies, like Tent Meals UK, have a selection of dehydrated foods that include breakfast, lunch and dinner, and they have healthy ingredients that taste good.
Camping food ideas simple tips
I have been camping with my family many times over the years and the best tip I can give you is this: make sure prepare ahead of time, and have a checklist so that you don’t forget anything.
There is nothing like being miles from home only to realize that you forgot to pack the salt or you brought the wrong type of cheese. If you don’t prepare properly you will inevitably forget something and you may find yourself having to cut your camping trip short. Here are other tips for easy camping food ideas, no cooking:
- Spending time outdoors tends to leave one feeling hungrier than usual so make sure you bring enough food for everyone.
- When choosing cheeses to take on your camping trip make sure you stick with the hard types that don’t require refrigeration. They include Parmesan, Gouda, Pecorino and cheddar.
- Have a fork, knife and spoon for each member of the group. Some people like plastic; I don’t, as it becomes easier to litter. I bring proper silverware that we can rinse after every meal. Make sure you have a small sharp, knife for cutting fruits and vegetables.
- Bring a few plastic cups. I choose not to buy disposable. Plastic cups are light and stack into each other, and you don’t have to throw them away afterward.
- Make sure that you bring enough water for everyone to stay hydrated at all times, and also to rinse out your utensils.
- Bring along some Zip-lock bags; you will need them for one thing or another.
- If it’s very hot you should bring along some salts to restore electrolytes that you lose through sweat.
- Bring ice in a large cooler. Sure, it will melt on the first day but it will keep your food fresh for longer.
- Are there restaurants near where you will be camping? If you will be gone for more than a day or two there’s no harm in eating out a few times.
How about cooking over a campfire?
I love campfires, and they are a good option if you want to cook while camping but don’t have a stove. The only thing you have to remember about cooking over a campfire is that you need wood, so you should plan to camp in an area where there’s plenty of it around. Campfires are especially good if you are going fishing as you can cook your catch of the day.
Pre made meals for camping are easy to do but you have to prepare in advance if you want your trip to go without any hitches. Here, I have given you a few of the meal ideas that my family enjoys when we spend time outdoors, but there are many more that you can try.