Nothing quite matches the fun of camping with friends and family. When you camp with a group, you are able to hike through lush forests, sing campfire songs under the stars and roast endless amounts of s’mores with the people you love.
However, vacationing with a crowd also requires more planning than a small group trip. Coordinating schedules, figuring out traveling logistics and planning a delicious group menu can quickly get complicated.
At first, the thought of coordinating food for a large camping group can be overwhelming. What meals are fast, simple and tasty for the whole group — and can also be made using a campfire or more rustic cooking equipment?
Fortunately, cooking for a group camping trip doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some tips and tricks to provide some inspiration and help get you started.
Cooking for a crowd is different than cooking for a handful of people. Set yourself up for success by carefully planning, prepping and asking questions. Take a look at these tips to help you create a menu of camping meals that are easy and enjoyable:
1. Prep Beforehand
To help your trip go as smoothly as possible, prep as many meals beforehand as you can.
Many of the best camping meals can be prepped before you even leave your home. For example, if you want to enjoy pancakes for breakfast one morning, you could make the batter a few days before. Pack the batter in a cooler and bring it to the campsite — all you need is to heat a pan and spoon out the batter, and your group will flock to the campfire.
2. Ask About Food Allergies
Before you plan out your menu, check with the members of your group about any food allergies or dietary preferences — the last thing you want is to pull out your pre-made dinner and discover that someone in your group can’t eat the food.
To be safe, try to plan meals without common allergens like peanuts or soybeans. Also, consider bringing food alternatives, like gluten-free bread along with regular loaves. This way, if one of the group forgot to tell you about their allergy, you will have safe options for them to eat on-hand.
3. Plan Daily Menus
While you’re camping, the last thing you want to do is have to come up with a meal in the moment. Camping with a group is often a restorative, restful experience, but it can also mean juggling multiple opinions and inputs.
To simplify the trip, plan out daily menus ahead of time — know what food you are eating on what days. This will help streamline the meal prep and cooking, and when several people come up to you asking what’s for dinner, you’ll have an answer ready for them.
4. Communicate About Who Is Bringing What
As you plan out the menu for your trip, try divvying up tasks to different people in the group.
Ask other people in the group to bring certain foods or prepare meals. This will reduce your own workload, and it will help create a collaborative environment for the trip. A day or two before you leave, check in with people who are contributing and make sure they are on track — clear communication is crucial to avoid any mishaps.
5. Remember the Silverware
It’s an easy and classic mistake — everyone arrives at the campsite, sets up the tents and begins making dinner, only to realize that no one remembered to bring plates or silverware.
Make sure you pack enough utensils for the entire group, along with enough napkins, cups and plates. Overestimate how many you think you will need — between various snacks and meals, people tend to go through multiple items over the course of a day.
When you’re camping, breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day — most people need a good meal to give them enough energy to enjoy a day in the outdoors.
However, breakfast can be a hassle for cooks who aren’t morning people. Here are seven quick and easy breakfast ideas to energize your group without requiring hours over the campfire:
If you’re searching for a breakfast everyone will enjoy, look no further than pancakes.
Simple to make and quick to cook, pancakes are a delicious start to a morning, and you can prepare the batter in advance for maximum convenience — mix up a batch of pancake mix before you leave for the trip, and you won’t have to bring extra ingredients into the outdoors with you. If you prefer to prepare fresh batter, try No Mess, No Fuss pancakes — all you need is pancake mix, milk or water, eggs, a large zip-lock baggie and a hot pan.
Feel free to have fun with your recipe, too. Bring fruit, jam or honey for a light, fresh taste, or incorporate classic camping flavors like chocolate and marshmallows for Nutella S’mores pancakes. Another tasty variation is banana nut pancakes, which are perfect for crisp autumn mornings. For a festive atmosphere, try making some gingerbread pancakes — they are sure to be a hit with everyone in your group, especially kids.
2. Scrambled Eggs
Scrambled eggs are a fast and filling breakfast staple. They are also easily customizable, which makes them a great choice for a group camping trip. Bring along extras like salsa, ketchup or cheese to add to the breakfast — everyone can design a meal that suits them.
Bringing eggs on a camping trip can be tricky, though — if you break the carton, you’ve created both a mess and a lost meal. One camping food hack to keep your eggs safe is to crack them ahead of time and store them in a water bottle. You can even add cheese, milk or seasonings for an extra touch.
Crispy bacon is a crowd favorite — a breakfast of freshly fried bacon is sure to be an instant success with the whole group.
The aroma of cooking bacon will help your friends and family wake up in a cheerful mood, and you can even re-use the bacon grease in a variety of other breakfast dishes. Once you’ve fried some bacon, use the same pan and grease to cook a skillet of hearty eggs or toss some hashbrowns into the pan to give them an extra savory flavor.
4. Breakfast Sausages
If your group is not a bacon-loving crowd, try cooking some breakfast sausages in the morning instead.
Sausage is savory and delicious, and it is a filling addition to a camping breakfast menu. You could use sausage links or make your own patties, and make sure to reuse any leftover sausage in another dish like a breakfast casserole or pot of chili.
Sausage is also a perfect complement to other breakfast staples like pancakes, waffles or eggs. If you aren’t packing a skillet, you can roast sausage links on sticks over a campfire for added smokiness.
5. Skillet Cinnamon Rolls
Pack some cans of cinnamon rolls for a sweet and delicious breakfast that will make your whole group happy.
Lay out the cinnamon rolls on a skillet and cook them until they are brown and crispy, spreading frosting over the top. For a fun and more rustic method, try wrapping the dough of a cinnamon roll around the end of a stick and roasting it over the fire. Turn it slowly for an even bake, and once it is cooked through, pull off the spiral and dip it in frosting.
You can also try making cinnamon rolls, or even muffins, in an orange.
A big pot of oatmeal is a perfect breakfast for a group camping trip. It’s warm, filling and nutritious, and it is easily customizable. It can also be made in large quantities.
Dry oatmeal is a lightweight food, so it won’t add many pounds to your packing. To let every member of the group customize their breakfast, try preparing a pot of plain oatmeal and spreading out other ingredients nearby like brown sugar, berries, honey or peanut butter.
7. Campfire French Toast
Campfire french toast is another crowd-pleasing breakfast that is delicious and easy to prepare.
All you need is bread, milk and eggs for a simple and delicious skillet of french toast. Add extra ingredients like vanilla, chopped nuts or fresh fruit for additional flavor. Feel free to experiment with other bread options such as English muffins — you might find a new favorite recipe.
Pair one of these easy group breakfasts with a pot of hot coffee and a beautiful sunrise to start your camping trip off right.
A good camping lunch needs to be easily constructed, accessible and filling — it needs to give everyone enough energy to enjoy the afternoon without weighing them down.
For a quick mid-day meal, try one of these easy camping lunches for groups:
1. Subs and Sandwiches
When you are trying to feed a large group of campers, subs and sandwiches are one of the easiest and tastiest options.
To make sure no one gets tired of sandwich flavors, pack enough ingredients for a few different types of sandwiches, like deli meat, peanut butter, jelly, honey, bananas, lettuce and tomatoes. You can even bring a few different types of bread for more variation.
Let each member of the group make their own sandwiches, and you can add some chips or fresh vegetables for handy sides.
2. Pasta Salad
For a simultaneously light and filling lunch, try making a creamy pasta salad.
If you are only camping for a couple of days, you can make pasta salad beforehand and bring it with you. When you make it in advance, you don’t have to carry all the different spices and ingredients along on your excursion. Make the pasta at home and toss it with cheese and extra veggies. Then, add the dressing when it’s ready to serve at the campsite. Keep the salad in a cooler, and set it out for one of the first lunches of the trip.
The best part of this dish is that it doesn’t need to be heated, which makes it perfect for a lunch meal. To appeal to a wide range of tastes, experiment with different variations of pasta salad. Add some tuna to make a protein-packed pasta salad, or throw in some grape tomatoes and black olives for a delicious Mediterranean pasta salad.
3. Green Salad
Classic camping food — like s’mores, hotdogs and burgers — is delicious and classic, it isn’t known for its nutritional value.
To balance out big breakfasts and dinners, try laying out a salad spread for lunch. Put out containers of lettuce, spinach or a combination of other greens along with other crispy veggies and toppings. If you want to carry as little into nature as possible, toss a few big salads in advance and bring them in large containers. Try a few different kinds of salads, like one with a tangy honey mustard dressing or a fun cabbage salad with almonds, sunflower seeds and ramen noodles.
If your group will be away from the campsite during lunch, you could pre-make a big salad and divvy it into small, individual bags for the day. This works especially well in cooler months — if you are camping in a hot climate, you will most likely want to keep any salad in a cooler or camping refrigerator until serving.
4. Skillet Stir-Fry
Another healthy lunch option is to make a large batch of skillet stir-fried vegetables.
With loads of fresh veggies and a delicious sauce, you can make stir-fry the main meal, a side dish or even a topping for sandwiches or burgers. To make it a full lunch, try adding rice or noodles for a filling starch base — cook the starch before you leave for the trip, and simply mix it into the skillet to warm it up before serving.
After a day spent in the great outdoors, your group will probably work up quite an appetite. Satisfy every craving with one of these delicious camping dinners:
1. Burgers or Hotdogs
Fast to cook and affordable in large quantities, juicy burgers and hotdogs are camping staples for good reason.
Some campsites and campers come with rustic grills, so you can assign the best griller in the group dinner duty. If your crew won’t have access to a grill, you can still enjoy hearty hamburgers or hotdogs — all you need is some foil.
Wrap the meat in a piece of foil and add any vegetables you want, such as yellow squash, sliced onion or fresh carrots. Sprinkle extra seasonings like salt and pepper, add a little butter or margarine, roll up the foil and cook in the campfire coals until done. Don’t forget to bring condiments like ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise!
If your group loves nights around the campfire, a skewer dinner is a perfect way to end the day.
Using skewers, everyone can make and cook their own meal. Offer a variety of ingredients to the group, such as chicken, vegetables and even fruit. You could even let people make their own marinades — combine peppers, chicken, barbecue sauce and garlic to make spicy chicken skewers. If your group includes children, try dusting potatoes with parmesan cheese, garlic powder and other seasonings for a kid-favorite parmesan potato skewer.
After dinner, you can use the skewers to make a delicious and fresh-tasting dessert — honey and lemon grilled fruit kabobs.
A pot of chili is warm, comforting and savory, making it a great choice for a group dinner.
Chili is easy to make ahead of time, which makes it a go-to meal for many campers. However, it is also uncomplicated to make on-site — you can make a quick chili using a saucepan and canned ingredients.
If you have leftover hamburger, toss it into the chili for an extra hearty meal. Then, save any leftover chili and use it to top burgers or hotdogs the next day.
A spaghetti dinner is a delicious, filling and deceptively simple meal.
For a basic spaghetti recipe, all you need are noodles, sauce, cheese and a pot of water for an easy camping meal — just boil the water, cook the noodles and pour a jar of sauce over the top.
If you have extra space, you could pack some additional ingredients to add more flavors to the spaghetti. Experiment with adding ground beef, onion, garlic and oregano to the recipe, but still keep it a one-pot meal for maximum convenience.
5. Hobo Packs
Hobo packs are another great dinner that lets everyone in the group make their own meal.
Take a large sheet of aluminum foil and fill it with a variety of ingredients like potatoes, peppers, carrots, squash, spices and meat. Wrap the foil tightly and add a second layer, and then stick the “hobo pack” into the coals of the fire. Although it takes a few hours for the packs to fully cook, you could begin them in the afternoon so they will be ready for dinner.
Remember to have everyone write their name on their pack before they stick them in the fire!
During a camping trip, having enough snacks is vital for energy and morale.
For a group camping vacation, you’ll want to pack snacks that are filling, portable and available in large quantities. The options are endless, but here are a couple of ideas to get you started:
1. Homemade Trail Mix
Trail mix is portable and delicious, so it’s no wonder why it is a camping staple. Before you leave for a walk or hike, have everyone in the group prep individual trail mix bags.
Instead of buying pre-made trail mix from the store, play around with different recipes. Use cheerios and dried fruit for a tropical blend or toss together small bits of graham crackers, yogurt-covered raisins, candied pecans and pumpkin spice seasoning for a fall-themed trail mix. You could even experiment with trail mix recipes that are almost desserts — combine dark chocolate, toasted almonds and dried cherries for a deluxe, chocolate-cherry-almond mix.
2. Granola Bars or Energy Balls
Granola bars can be packed and eaten easily, so they are another fantastic option for a group camping trip.
Granola is a camping favorite — transform your best recipe into bar-form a few days before your trip to make an easy snack. Many stores also sell granola bars in bulk, which makes them a perfect choice for a large group.
Energy balls or bites are another quick snack option. Use nut butter or pureed dates as a base, and then add in extra ingredients like quinoa flakes, shredded coconut, crushed nuts, quick oats and vanilla. Roll the finished dough-like mixture into small balls and pack in a baggie for a simple and healthy on-the-go snack.
With a little planning, cooking for a group camping trip can be fun and delicious. On your next trip, try out your group cooking skills at a Kampgrounds of America campground.
With almost 500 locations scattered across North America, you can find a KOA convenient to wherever your group is headed. KOA is committed to providing high-quality campgrounds with a wide range of group camping options including RV Sites, level Tent Sites, cozy Camping Cabins and Deluxe Cabins. Your group will also have access to laundry facilities, fire features, clean bathrooms, playgrounds and a KOA store at every campground, so you can get the most out of your vacation.
Now that you are confident in your group camping menu, take your pot of chili or homemade granola bars into the great outdoors — search for a KOA today.