camping food couple eating at table

Ultimate Guide To Camping Food (Expert Hacks)

The best part of RVing for our family has always been camping food. According to Allrecipes.com, “there’s something about cooking on the open fire and eating outside that makes camping food recipes irresistible.” (1) We totally agree!

We love to cook, to try out new things, and to share meal time, both prep and eating, with our kids. Along the way we have found a ton of family favorites, and some awesome hacks and tricks to make food time efficient so that we spend more time hiking, biking, exploring and just having fun. We wanted to share some of the knowledge we have gained with those of you who need a little help planning your camping menu.

Prepare Camp Food Before You Leave

Preparation for your camping trip can and will be the difference between an enjoyable camping trip, or a Grizwaldian Nightmare. Taking a little time to plan out your meals and food requirements can make your cooking go smoothly and your meals memorable to everyone. There is a great deal of food prep that can be done before you hit the road. Things like chopping vegetables, mixing ingredients, scrambling eggs or making omelet mixes, making pancake batter, etc can all be completed at home and quickly cooked at the campsite. Borritos, grilled sandwiches, chilli, salads etc, can all be prepared early. Foods that require heating can be heated at camp over the fire, or on the RV stove. 

"The point to all of this, is to make your camping meals suit the kind of camping that you do. If you just want meal time out of the way so that you can move on to other pursuits, utilize some of the pre-made or ready-to-eat options. But you can also make meal time a part of the camping experience. With some creativity (and a few sticks,) your campground meals may become the things that get remembered."

Cooking While Camping

Cooking while camping can be loads of fun for the whole family, or enjoyed quietly with a glass of vino. Cooking over an open fire or grill can be as enjoyable as any other camping past-time so take your time and enjoy. New camping food ideas come to us all of the time due simply to trying out new things. 

Who Will You Be Cooking For?

Any food decisions and plans that you make will depend on who you are cooking for. If you are just one person, or a couple, your foods may be very different than a family of four or a larger group who may be camping together. Consider your campers first before thinking about camp food choices. Your ingredient and prep decisions may change completely. 

family eating camp food

Do Your Camping Meals Need to Be Kid Friendly?

When traveling with the kiddos, you want to make sure they are considered in your plans as well as you adults. While you may be planning to char up some nice blue cheese filets over the open fire, the younger ones might be much more impressed with a hot dog on a stick. After all, it’s their adventure as well, so maybe let them help with the camping food choices you make.  That way you know you are bringing along food they will actually eat!

What Will You Be Cooking On?

Your choice of heat source will also play a part in your planning. Open fire can make meal preparation an event in its self, but tends to be less consistent for making a complete meal. A grill is much more consistent and may lend its self better to the crowd you are feeding or the food you are eating. Don’t shy away from the crock pot or Insta-pot as well. These allow you a lot more time to spend having fun. We LOVE our crock pot and use it all of the time. Nothing better than throwing all of the ingredients in for a pot of chilli, that you can set and forget! 

campfire rice in dutch oven

The Dutch Oven

No discussion about campground cooking would be complete without a look at this camping essential. A dutch oven is a deep cast iron pot which is made to be set right in your fire or coals. You will sometimes see them hanging down from a tripod, which always gives me visions of an old cowboy camp.

According to WhatscookingAmerica.com, the Dutch oven is believed to date back to the early 1700s in Holland. How and when it came to the U.S. is unknown but supposedly Paul Revere created the flanged lid and the final design of the oven. Some reports indicate that George Washington used Dutch ovens to feed his troops during the Revolutionary war (2). Dutch ovens can be used to make just about anything from scrambled eggs, to a lovely cobbler dessert. There is just about nothing else that says “camping” like a dutch oven over an open fire.  Plus it’s really easy to cook with once you figure out what you are doing.

Expert Camping Food Hacks

Campers are an ingenious crowd. If you keep your eyes open, you will learn all kinds of camping food hacks that will make your life easier, and save you time or money. Here are a few standards to get you going. 

  • Eggs In A Bottle– pre-scramble your eggs and put them into an empty water bottle. They transport easily, and are all ready when it’s time to eat. This also works for “Muffins in a Bottle”, “Pancakes in a Bottle,” you get the idea.  Zip lock bags work just as well.  
  •  Paper Bag Breakfast– line the bottom of a paper lunch bag. Crack in a couple of eggs. Then fold the bag and hang it off the end of a stick. Roast over open flame or coals (not too closely). Then cut off the top of the bag, and voila!  
  • Orange Peel Muffins– I always considered this more of a novelty than a hack, but it’s still very popular. Kids love it. You simply halve an orange, scoop out the fruit, and pour muffin batter (from a water bottle) and bake over an open fire or coals. 
  • Foil Packet Meals- consider pre-made meals in a foil packet. Grilled cheese, french toast, fish and vegetables, grilled potatoes- there are so many things that you can wrap in foil and cok on an open fire. Let your imagination wander…
  •  Single Serving Coffee Bags- put one scoop of coffee in a coffee filter and tie into a bag with floss. All you need now is a nice cup of hot water to dip it into. 
  • Crescent Rolls on a Stick– Take crescent roll dough and wrap loosely on the end of a stick. Slowly bake over flame or coal.  The kids go crazy every time we do this!  Camping is supposed to be lots of fun, right?
  • Corn on the Cobb– Leave the shucks on your corn and just toss it onto the fire. The husks will keep the corn from burning and provide a nice steam oven to cook it. Turn it often. 
  • Tic-Tac Spice Jars– This is a brilliant RV cooking hack.  Did you know that Tic Tac boxes make excellent spice containers for camping?. They take up very little room, but can hold a decent amount of spice. 

I like to think of the day I brought home a Dutch oven as the day my kitchen changed forever. That may sound dramatic, but seriously — there really is no better pot around. I now cook with my Dutch oven so much that it has a permanent spot on my stove. Rather than getting tucked away after I am done with it, like all my other pots and pans, it stays put because I am almost certain I’ll be reaching for it again the next night.

Sheela Prakash, thekitchn.com Tweet

What to Eat Camping Without Cooking?

Another great way to save time and stress, is to go for meals that you don’t have to cook at all. No-cook camping food means no fire to build, no grill to set up, and way less dishes to clean. Plus a lot of these no-cook meals can be made well in advance.  Makes for a very neat campsite!

How Do You Eat Healthy While Camping

While you are out there, getting all of that fresh air and exercise, it’s a good idea to think about some healthy camping meals as well. Greatist.com says that packing food to keep campers healthy and energized takes a little planning. (3) Whole grain wraps, veggies, hummus, or tuna make great hiking meals. Forego the bacon and eggs for some yogurt and fruit (this is one of our favorites). For dinner, try some beans, corn and brown rice in a tortilla. Grill up some foil packs with lean meat or fish and veggies, or skewer it all and grill on the open fire. Have fun with your healthier choices. 

"Preparation for your camping trip can and will be the difference between an enjoyable camping trip, or a Grizwaldian Nightmare. Taking a little time to plan out your meals and food requirements can make your cooking go smoothly and your meals memorable to everyone."

Camping Food List

Planning out your meals is essential to being as efficient as possible when camp cooking. Your planned out meals become your shopping list. Consider things that will cover more than one meal so you can have leftover smorgasbords. Tortillas and Pita pockets can be used for any meal. Vegetables can be eaten raw, or cooked in a variety of ways. Grill them up for dinner, then put leftovers in a pan of scrambled egg hash in the morning. A pot of chilli, in colder weather will serve a family for several meals.

Look for opportunities to ease the workload while enhancing the adventure of cooking.  

camp breakfast fried eggs

Breakfast Camp Meals

Camping breakfast meals can be done in so many different ways. There is nothing better then lounging around an open fire in the early morning with a cup of coffee and frying up some bacon and egg-in-a-hole. But if you need to get moving on the trails and do not have the time to lounge, there are any number of quick, or pre-made options as well. Granola and fresh fruit or overnight oats make a really quick breakfast on the go. Pre-made meals like burritos, pancakes, or french toast can be heated up quickly in foil.  

On The Go Lunch Meals

If you are at all active while camping, lunches will normally be eaten on the trails or along the river somewhere. So portability and ease are key. Think tin foil and zip-lock bags. Sandwiches are an obvious choice, but feel free to experiment with some gourmet ingredients to make them pop. Arugula instead of lettuce, different kinds of cheese, focaccia bread with mozzarella, tomato and basil make a nice capprese sandwich, etc. Salads can be put into zip locks and kept cool inside your backpack with a freezer pack. Tuna in just about any form is great. Sliced meats and cheese with crackers are also a good option. 

Dinner Camping Meals

Dinner is really whatever your heart desires. Depending on how you want to cook, what heat source, and your ability to store food and keep it cold, camping dinners can be quick and easy or top notch gourmet. You can go with Insanely Tasty Camping Crock Pot Recipes and let dinner cook while you hike, opt for some Easy No-Cook Meals, or go full gourmet, like a nice Simple Shrimp Scampi. The options are endless so the choices are entirely yours. 

camping kid with mug and sandwich

Camping Meals for Kids

When it comes to camping food for kids, you have a lot of choice. The good old hot dog is still a favorite along with mac and cheese and of course a round of s’mores to finish it off. But you can also get a little creative with the kiddo’s and not spend a whole lot of extra time. For instance, try wrapping some bacon and/or some crescent roll dough around that dog before sticking it on the fire. Delish calls mac and cheese “the ultimate comfort food.”(4) They are right. There isn’t a dish much better after a long day in nature.  

Camping Snacks

When you are putting out a lot of energy, you want to make sure you are stoking the furnace along the way. A few simple snacks while on the trails will keep you energized to get up that next incline, or around that next bend. There are any number of ready made trail mixes available at your favorite store, or you can pick up some of your favorite snacks and create your own, like we do. Nuts, chocolate (M&M’s or Reeces Pieces are great) raisins or other dried fruits all make tasty and effective ingredients. Some cut vegetables along with small containers of hummus are one of our go-tos. Also, granola or fig bars are easy to carry and pack a punch. 

But just because you're restricted to a campfire for all your meals doesn't mean you have to live off hot dogs and cans of baked beans (although your kids would probably love that, to be honest). With a little planning, you can serve some filling and creative meals.

Campground Desserts

Camping desserts are just plain fun. The dutch oven can be your best friend here for some good old fashioned cobbler. Melt some chocolate bars and dip any fresh fruit for a “fireside fondue.” As for s’mores, well, they have come a looooong way since I was a kid. Check out this Ultimate Guide to S’mores to find new and exciting take on this camping staple.

hot dogs and corn over open fire

Just Give It A Try

The point to all of this, is to make your camping food recipes suit the kind of camping that you do. If you just want meal time out of the way so that you can move on to other pursuits, utilize some of the pre-made or ready-to-eat options. But you can also make meal time a part of the camping experience. With some creativity (and a few sticks,) your campground meals may become the things that get remembered by everyone. 

(1)  Vicki McDonald , Take It Outside With 13 Top-Rated Camping Recipes,  http://dish.allrecipes.com/best-campfire-dinners/?internalSource=streams&referringId=1529&referringContentType=Recipe%20Hub&clickId=st_trending_b

(2)  Eileen Troemel, How To Use a Dutch Oven, https://whatscookingamerica.net/Information/DutchOven/DutchOvenCooking.htm

(3) Angelina Gennis, How to Eat Health While Camping in the Woods, https://greatist.com/health/how-to-eat-healthy-camping-hiking-trail#1

(4) Makenzie Gore, Campfire Mac and Cheese,  https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a28207374/campfire-mac-and-cheese-recipe/