Cook

How to Hack Your Camping Food

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I used to have a problem. Every time I decided to go on a spontaneous weekend camping trip, it would look something like this: I would get all my gear ready the night before and then say to myself, “all I’ll have to do tomorrow is to make a quick trip to the grocery store and pack a cooler! I’ll be ready to leave by 10am at the latest!”

Fast forward to the next day and it’s early afternoon and I’m still not out the door yet. My inefficiency with food prep and packing was cutting into my precious weekend outdoors time. Who wants to be stuck at home hemming and hawing over what to eat for trail snacks when you could on your way to hike to an alpine lake?

I finally decided enough is enough. I now spend significantly less time gathering and planning food for camping trips, thanks to these simple tips and tricks – and you can, too.

Identify Your Go-To Recipes

Sometimes the hardest part is choosing what to eat. That’s why identifying your go-to recipes is so important. If you have a list at the ready, the “what to eat” question will already be answered the next time you’re getting ready to take to the woods.

Sit down with a pen and a piece of paper and make a list of one to three ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Having a few options for each meal is great so you can rotate and ensure that you don’t get sick of anything.

Your list might look something like this:

Breakfast:

  • Oatmeal
  • Grits w/ bacon bits

Lunch:

  • Salami + cheese w/ tortillas
  • Apple + carrot w/ peanut butter

Dinner:

  • Noodle bowls
  • Rice + beans
  • Mac + cheese

Snacks:

  • Energy bars
  • Trail mix
  • Dried fruit
  • Jerky

Once you’ve written your list, you don’t have to stick to it completely. However, it will give you a great base for figuring out your camping food. You might tweak it depending on trip type and location, but chances are several things will stay the same. Now you don’t have to brainstorm what to eat from scratch every time you want to go on a trip.

Stock Up on Dry Goods

Once you know what you’re going to eat, you can stock up on dry goods. You might buy a bunch of oatmeal, energy bars, trail mix, and dry meals like mac and cheese. When you plan ahead and buy extra, you’ll be one step ahead of the game for future trips.

Instead of spending a ton of time at the grocery store before each trip, you might be able to find most of what you need in your pantry, thanks to the time you spent planning ahead. Consider getting a sealed tub or box that you can store common camping staples and other dry goods so the next time you want to go on a trip, the food is literally at your fingertips.

Shop Efficiently

Shopping efficiently is a skill to be mastered, especially when you’re buying food for a specific purpose like an outdoor trip. There are a few rules to follow that can make your food buy go quickly and easily.

The first rule is to always have a list. There’s no use going to the store if you don’t know what you need or can’t remember that final ingredient. Make a thorough list of everything you need so you don’t forget anything.

Next, you should organize your list by grocery department so you can get through the store easily. Separate your list into sections like produce, dairy, meat, frozen, and dry goods. If you’re going on a trip with friends, you can even share the task and have each person responsible for one department.

Finally, consider buying what you can in bulk. This mainly applies to dry goods. It will be cheaper, come with less packaging, and be easier to fill up on so you have extras to store at home.

Planning and preparing your food for a camping trip doesn’t have to be a chore. With a little forward thinking and planning, you’ll be done in no time. If you identify your go-to recipes, stock up on dry goods, and shop efficiently, you’ll spend less time getting ready to go and have more time to spend enjoying the outdoors. Bon appetit!


Lettie Stratton is a writer and urban farmer in Boise, ID. A Vermont native, she is a lover of travel, tea, bicycles, plants, cooperative board games, women’s basketball, and the outdoors. She’s still waiting for a letter from Hogwarts.


Take the stress out of meal planning for your next camping trip. Spend significantly less time gathering and planning food for camping trips, thanks to these simple tips and tricks. Here's how to hack your camp cooking.