Food for camping???

Glassboro, NJ(Zone 7a)

Planning on taking our boys camping this year. In the past we either eat out a lot or haul lots of stuff -- one is expensive and the other takes a lot of work for dad to do all of the hauling -- is their any easy answer to providing good food while camping out for a few days ??? Thanks!

Ken & Sue in Glassboro, NJ

Walkerton, VA(Zone 7a)

MREs are pretty good and easy to tote - but they aren't cheap. Google MRE and you'll find lots of sources.

Seward, AK(Zone 3b)

Ken & Sue:

When camping, my menu changes from "car camping" to backpacking in several miles.
What kind are you planning ?
..................................................Dennis/ aka "ol' tomcat"

Glassboro, NJ(Zone 7a)

We'll be car camping -- state park not too far from home -- last year it took forever to get everything loaded into our van, not a pleasure for dad. It's hard to haul refrigerated stuff and keep it going for several days. We looked at the MRE's but they are expensive -- maybe a good tradeoff, however, to having to prepare and cook a bunch of stuff. We're looking to go lighter and keep expenses in line, too. Thanks!

Ken & Sue

Seward, AK(Zone 3b)

Ken & Sue:

Sorry to take so long getting back, been busy.
Car camping food.... What I do is cook up a couple of good meals at home and freeze them in zip-freezer bags, then you can use the frozen meals to keep the beer and sodas cold.
Freezing steaks, hotdogs etc... will keep pre-made salads crisp and ready to eat. We also use alot of canned goods, canned bacon, chicken, and others.
We eat pretty good while camping. Here in Alaska it's a ways to hook up with a store or cafe when you set up camp.
Havn't been to the golden arches in a couple of decades, can't handle fast foods, would rather eat cold spam out of the can than a big mac.
.......................................Dennis / aka ol'tom cat

Chandler, AZ(Zone 9b)

dennis has some great tips. we do the same thing. we also like to freeze our meats with some marinade and seasonings and then they will be all ready to throw on the grill by the time they thaw out. canned food and pastas (mac and cheese for the kids) are good too. you can also portion down some of your foods so you don't have to bring a whole big container of something if you don't think you will eat it all.

it's not gourmet eating, but we just like to make things as easy as possible when we are camping. i would rather spend more time at home getting foods prepared then spending that time preparing it and cleaning up afterwards in the woods. that way, we can really do what we want to do and that is spend time enjoying the outdoors.

have fun on your trip!

Olympia, WA(Zone 7b)

We eat pretty well camping, too, by preparing a lot of stuff in advance (fajitas are a favorite of ours, as well as marinated steaks), and freezing is a great idea! That would cut down a lot on messing with the ice. Spaghetti and sauce is easy since it's not perishable, as well as canned soups. We also take fruit and granola bars or something of the sort for breakfasts. Things that just take hot water are also nice sometimes, such as Cup-O-Noodles or Top Ramen, which are way, way cheaper than MREs (which I've never even had). And thank goodness smores ingredients are easy to pack! :)

To cut down on packing time in general, we keep a couple big rubbermaid type storage containers packed with old pots and pans, cooking utensils, paper towels, picnic tableware, matches, etc. in the garage for quick grabbing. That way we can put our time into packing the food and it doesn't become too overwhelming or cumbersome.

I hope you have a great time!

North Palm Beach, FL

Hi. I just joined this site and found your question. Hope you haven't taken your trip yet! Just wanted to give you a tip that we started using for camping and in our backyard when we make a fire. We bought some pencil thick wooden dowels (cheap) at Lowes or Home Depot, or wherever...and sharpened them in a pencil sharpener, to use as sticks to roast hot dogs on! The kids can do the sharpening, and they are easy to clean up and keep reusing. We just started camping as well, and I have found many helpful ideas and recipes by Googling "camp recipes". Hope you have a load of fun!

Newark, OH(Zone 5b)

We really like those vacuum-sealed pouches of tuna, chicken and salmon. One of our favorite things to have while camping is wraps made up with one of those plus a little cheese. Put the wrap on your griddle for a few minutes to crisp up the outside and they're so good.

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

I keep the menu simple!
I like to take homemade chili that's frozen, same with other stews and hardy soups (think one dish meals) leaves me with one pot to wash. We also take frozen marinated meats and chicken. I normally am not to crazy about canned veggies but we just open the can so that the lid is total removable, but leave it sitting on top of the veggies while cooking them over the fire (no pot to clean, take the label off or it will burn). I like to use those envelopes of rice or pasta for a side dish (one pot to clean). For dessert we warm up a can of fruit and put a tablespoon of liqueur in it. Do not put cans directly over fire, they will boil over, and make sure you take tongs that can pick up a can and have long handle (not all tongs are equal) There is just two of us, so I buy the Caesar salad in a bag (comes with dressing in envelope) so I don't have to drag large bottle of dressing and salad fixing.

Happy Camping, where you thinking of heading to?

Fairview, KS


Lobelville, TN(Zone 7a)

When camping we prepare most meals and freeze them in seal tite containers. We have placed them in individual containers and labeled for each day... We start fresh the first day and towards the end of the trip all the frozen meals are thawed and edible.

We also take plenty of dry snacks, nuts, dried fruit, etc.

Kalispell, MT(Zone 4b)

Most of my camping is freeze dried. Except when I go kayaking on the Barkley Sound on Vancouver Island. There I eat clams, oysters, blue mussels, ling cod, dungeness crab, greenlings, salmon, and a few huckelberries. Yes I have back up freezedried but never need it. I always think about the Voyagers and others who had to depend on Pemican and what ever they could shoot and cook. I suppose the hunters went ahead of the rest to kill and cook before they arrived. How do you keep frozen food unthawed that long. My cooler would never do that out here in Montana.

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

My technique is like chickenfarmer's. We would buy a bag of ice each day and put in cooler, Our best cooler is an old one without any latches or catches. so we used duct tape to keep the lid closed tight. We now have a cooler with a latch, but I don't think it holds the cold as well as our old one.So we tend to still use the old cooler for our trips. It lookes pretty pathetic, but hey it works.
Whatever is the most thawed is what we would have for dinner that day!

Chandler, AZ(Zone 9b)

dry ice works good to keep the frozen items frozen. we buy it and place it around the perishables that we want really cold. although, watch out that you do not place soda cans, milk, or your beer to close to it, because they will freeze and we have had sodas explode. also, the dry ice will disapear in a day or two for us here in arizona.

we have also noticed that if we buy a chunk of block ice this will keep for days and we can fill in the other spaces with cubed ice. then we place the most perishable items around the block ice.

Satsuma, AL(Zone 8b)

The MacScouter page is an excellent resource for many things outdoors (and you don't even have to be a scout!).

Here is their cooking page; plenty of recipes:


Kalispell, MT(Zone 4b)

Kazooie you and I travel differently. If I had a cooler as big as you are describing my canoe would sink. LOL I like the occasional freeze dried surprise you get in army rations. Each one (of the same kind) tastes different.

Chandler, AZ(Zone 9b)

soferdig, do you get your army rations from an army supply store or online? i have not tried the army rations, but we do take mountain house freeze dried meals backpacking for our dinners. they actually have some good meals to choose from (sweet and sour pork and the mexican rice and beans w/ chicken are my favorite). i just hope you are not finding any human body parts, small fury mammals, or six legged critters as your "freeze dried surprise" in your army rations. :)

david, thanks for the link! DH and i were recently discussing backpacking meals for the kids for when they start to go with us. not sure they would like the many of the freeze dried meals we like, and all we could think of was top ramen. so this site will give us some ideas.

Kalispell, MT(Zone 4b)

All army rations are a surprise. You know you get M&M's, coffee, tea, sugar, napkin, heater kit, and utensils. But what is on the lable of the food (which I think is good) is not always correct. And they have a desert bar that is like a brick that is the best sugar high you can get. I get mine at the surplus store. Here in Montana every "mountain topper" buys and lives on these Gulf war rations. Lots of variety and turn over. Mountain house is my favorite also. I don't think I have had one that I don't like. Anyway I am diabetic and often need a quick dinner and freeze dried is my best bet.

Lombard, IL(Zone 5b)

Ok, I'll admit I am a backpacker, not a car camper, so many of my food suggestions use a dehydrator or oven to save on weight and help shelf life.

My favorite and own creation:


Make tacos at home like you would. Then take the taco meat and dry it. If you use an oven I suggest putting the meat in colanders to facilitate drying. Oven should be at lowest setting and prop door open with something like spoon (12-16+ hrs in oven depending on a lot of things). Then all you have to do is quickly rehydrate by simmering in a tiny bit of water which helps make a sauce then bring tortillas, cheddar(blocks last a while even in the heat), and taco bell sauce packs. Still tops with all my buddies and wife. I can give a taco recipe if you don't like your own creations.

Don't forget Asian dishes as they are probably the best adapted to drying and backpacking.


Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

You will all likely think I am dumb but I am going to ask this question anyway. I collect Louis L'Amour westerns and I have read many times in them about pemican. What is it exactly?

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

Found this defination at :
pem·mi·can also pem·i·can

1. A food prepared by Native Americans from lean dried strips of meat pounded into paste, mixed with fat and berries, and pressed into small cakes.
2. A food made chiefly from beef, dried fruit, and suet, used as emergency rations.

doesn't sound very yummy;(

Kalispell, MT(Zone 4b)

You have to remember that they ate only what they could kill and Pemican was a way to carry it in a preserved form to eat without cooking. It was hard to travel many miles a day and stop and kill and cook and preserve and get anything done. There were problems with cooking and have the entire native people wanting to get rid of you etc.
The mix was protein in the form of meat and fat and lastly sugar, in the form of berries. They didn't have trail mix. I often use the modern form in many canoeing, kayaking, and hiking adventures in my life. Who cares what it tastes like as long as you don't get killed by starting a fire. LOL

Chesterland, OH(Zone 5b)

Yes, I understand it was a different way of life without refrigeration & Microwaves!!

Chandler, AZ(Zone 9b)

hmmm...sounds like an early version of Spam...

Savannah, MO(Zone 5b)

Enjoyed some excellent canoeing and meals recently in southern Missouri on the North Fork of the White River. No freeze dried foods on this trip for us just simple snack foods, dried fruits, and lots of water to drink. Those freeze dried foods have come along way on convience and taste. I have used them in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area before and when your hungry they taste pretty good. Growing up we ate Spam(fried of cours) occasionally. My kids did'nt know what it was until recently!!!


Greeley, CO(Zone 5a)

There are hundreds of things you can make and take along that are very good. Two books by Dorcas S. Miller has loads of information on backbacking meals that are tasty and easy to make. Backcountry Cooking and More Backcountry Cooking are the titles. I'm sure you can find these on the internet or any good sporting goods or book store. Dale

Crossville, TN

Just saw this thread...and one thing we do when car camping is use frozen bottles of water instead of crushed ice in our the bottles thaw we have good drinking water....the bigger the container...the longer it takes to a frozen gallon jug of water will act like a block of ice....and blocks stay frozen much longer than the crushed ice in bags.

Also, Omlettes in a baggie makes a nice meal....I'll have to find the recipe and link it here. Jo

edited to add link

This message was edited Jan 12, 2007 6:54 AM

Beaverton, OR

Glad the topic title was here.

I need to replenish my camping groceries in the next two weeks.

It was cold this winter, so I remembered to take the cans and stuff into a warmer indoor area.

Nipomo, CA(Zone 8a)

We do as much prep at home as we can. I will marinade the steaks, and freeze them. I do any dicing or cutting at home put it into little snack baggies. I save condiments throughout the year and bring those instead of a big bottle. One thing we have been doing for a couple years, is corned beef hash one morning, I prep it all at home, it is in one large ziplock.

I also freeze jugs of water. I like to buy Crystal Geyser gallons because they are square and don't waste any space. I freeze Orange Juice, I drink Ice Tea not soda so that is frozen. On short day trips I will make large ice cubes from muffin tins, they are bigger so they don't melt as fast.

If you google camp cooking or even go to a boy scout site, I know you will find lots of good stufff.


Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)


Great tips. I have never seen the square gallons.

Libby, MT(Zone 4b)

We store our food such as potato salad, macaroni salad ect. in gallon ziplock bags. No containers. You can fit more in the cooler, plus you throw it away when empty. No bringing back a bunch of empty containers. We also bake potatoes at home and leave skins on until ready to eat. I usually cube them up for breakfast. Since they are already baked, they cook up fast. Bring tinfoil to bake your fresh caught fish in.

Crossville, TN

Dig....what great idesa! Thaniks. Jo

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