Multi-day treks or campouts are a wonderful way to connect with nature and with the people out there with you. They also let you disconnect from the stress of work and everyday life, relax and take it easy (or go hard and push for summits), and generally have a great time away from it all. But one thing multi-day wilderness adventures aren’t known for is great food.
Whether you select pre-made meals you can order online or you prep your own meals from scratch, camp cooking can yield meals that are delicious and nutritious with a bit of planning and the right ingredients.
Are you a frequent camper tired of choking down bars, jerky, and rehydrated meals approximating mac n’ cheese? Or maybe you’re a newcomer to the wilderness world who’s worried you won’t be able to stomach the decidedly less-than-desirable contents usually found in those tear-open packages — and with no idea what to cook from scratch while far afield. Fret not; we’re here to help.
Below, you’ll find the ingredient list and step-by-step instructions for a few great camping meals to make yourself, as well as a few options for shelf-stable, readily-transported camping food that we tried ourselves and legitimately enjoyed. All you need to worry about is what liquor you’ll keep in the camping flask because we’ve got your chow covered. Oh, and bears. Also worry about bears.
Best Store-Bought Camp Food
Tired of those bags of foods labeled “beef stroganoff” or “chili mac and cheese” but that are really little more than indistinct calorie goo? So are we. That’s why we put our money where our mouths are and tried these meals. We recommend you take a bite.
A Dozen Cousins Seasoned Beans
This company makes shelf-stable beans so tasty that you can eat them as-is out of the bag. Or, wrap them in a tortilla; serve them between bread, over rice, or over noodles; or stir them into a soup — really, eat them any way you want with zero prep needed. They are about the best no-prep, on-the-go, protein-heavy, vegetarian option we have yet to come across.
Each of these 500-calorie pouches of ramen can be cooked with nothing more than 2 cups of boiling water and three minutes of time. Most varieties deliver well over half a day’s protein and just 25% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for sodium, which is impressive for ramen. You can add in whatever ingredients sound great, but these are complete meals on their own, too.
Right on Trek
When you sign up for a Right on Trek meal plan, you don’t get the foodstuffs you need for a quick campsite breakfast or dinner. Rather, you get the food you need for an entire adventure. They curate three meals a day and snacks to boot, so you can focus on where you’re placing each step of your boots instead of worrying about eats. You select how many days of rations you need, customize the plan to suit your preferences (hold off on the spice, go vegetarian, etc.), then receive all the food you need to fuel you through your outing.
Peak Refuel Beef Pasta Marinara
This is the only “traditional” camping food on the list. The meal cooks with nothing more than hot water poured into the pouch and rehydrates into a dish that actually tastes (and feels) like food, delivering a huge dose of calories and protein. In fact, each pouch contains two servings, but after a long day of bagging peaks, you may just eat it all yourself.
Delicious Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Campsite Meals
Here are four meals for which the necessary ingredients require no cooling or special handling and that can be cooked up in mere minutes. All you need for any of these meals is hot water and the proper vessels for prep and serving, which can be one and the same when you’re cooking for yourself. When prepping for multiple folks, just double, triple, or quadruple the ingredients as needed.
Almond Apple Oatmeal Bowl
Eating oatmeal for breakfast at your campsite — sounds boring, does it? Even passé, perhaps. Well, this meal can deliver you more than 600 calories and will require about three minutes of active preparation at your campsite. Add in an ounce or two of bacon bits or pumpkin seeds to give yourself more calories and plenty of protein to burn. You can even use real bacon, provided you bought the factory-sealed, room-temperature-stable variety, or you can always fry it yourself out there.
Ingredients (per person):
- 1 cup of oatmeal (quick-cooking, of course)
- 1/4 cup of diced dried apple
- 1/2 cup of chopped almonds
- Cook the oatmeal as dictated by the instructions and/or basic common sense, then toss the apple and almonds on top and let everything sit as the oatmeal absorbs the water and softens.
- Stir and enjoy.
The Camper’s Lunch Wrap
The key to smart camp dining is to reduce the water weight in your foods as much as possible and to choose foods that occupy minimal physical space. We use wraps (or tortillas) instead of bread, vegetables consumed whole (onions come with many layers that must be discarded, for example, so we pass on these), and dried foods when their use won’t sacrifice flavor.
This meal provides protein, carbs, vitamins, and iron. You can flavor the wrap with a packet of mustard or soy sauce, add other ingredients, or use chickpeas (or beans, as above!) instead of tuna.
Ingredients (per person):
- 1 big ol’ wrap
- 1 package or can of tuna
- 1 handful of kale chips
- 1 handful of cherry tomatoes or 1 standard tomato
- Chop the tomato(es) and mix the moist bits around with the kale, rehydrating it a bit.
- Mix in the tuna.
- Wrap it all up and eat it.
Chicken with Peas and Couscous
At the end of a long day of trekking, climbing, or pounding beers around the campfire, the last thing you want is a laborious cooking process. Fortunately for you, couscous exists. Couscous (the standard tiny little grains, not the larger pearl stuff) is arguably the ideal campsite food. It cooks fantastically quickly, it soaks up any flavor you add to it, and it’s easy to measure out portions. The ratio of couscous to water is a glorious one-to-one. In other words, you can fill a cup with couscous, then measure out the same cupful of water, and that’s the amount of liquid you need.
Ingredients (per person):
- 1/2 cup couscous per person (dry)
- 1 can or packet of pre-cooked chicken
- 1 handful of dried peas
- Ideally, you can cook the couscous in a sizable pot. As soon as you have grains and boiling water mixed, toss the peas on top and stir them in, followed by chunks of chicken, which can be left sitting atop the veggies and grains.
- Add a bit of sauce of your choice if you brought it (soy, Worcestershire, lemon juice, etc.), and consider adding one more splash of water if you skip the sauce.
Angel Hair Pasta Carbonara
This meal can bring you the taste of the old country with minimal effort and without adding much gear weight. As angel hair pasta cooks in about four minutes, it makes a great meal for the end of a long day when you’re hungry and tired in equal parts. Quick pro tip: Break the pasta noodles into halves or even quarters to help prevent them from sticking to the pot and to make transport easier.
Ingredients (per person):
- 1/4 pound angel hair pasta
- 1/4 cup chopped salami (we use Olli Salumeria’s Genoa mild salami because it comes pre-sliced and stored in shelf-stable packages)
- 1 tablespoon dried parmesan
- 1 egg white, ideally, or a bit of oil (optional)
- Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water, making sure not to overdo it.
- Quickly drain the pasta, reserving a few tablespoons of the water, and toss it with all other ingredients.
- Bring the mixture back to high heat briefly if you added egg.
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