The Essential Camping Food List
Preparing camping food doesn’t have to feel like a chore - with the right ingredients and equipment it can become one of the easiest parts of planning a camping trip. In this guide, we’re going to show you the best food to take camping from dry essentials to seasonings and more.
If you’re looking for recipe inspiration, make sure to visit our camping recipes hub, where you can find a range of expertly crafted, camp-friendly meals that don’t compromise on flavour.
What foods should you pack for camping?
Whether you’re looking for something that’s quick and easy to rustle up at base or planning some camping snacks for out on the trails, versatility is key. Maximising space with versatile ingredients enables you to create a camping menu full of nourishment and flavour, without weighing yourself down.
There are a number of essential, versatile camping foods that you should consider taking on your trip, grouped into the following categories:
- Dry foods
- Tinned foods
- Fresh camping ingredients
- Spices and seasonings
- Camping snacks
Planning your menu around these essentials will ensure that you can cook a wide variety of nutritious meals at camp with ease. Before we outline the full list, let's start with the most important meal of the day: breakfast.
Starting your day with the right ingredients ensures that you’re getting enough fuel for a day of exploring. However, campsite breakfasts can be difficult to perfect without the right balance of flavour, nourishment and variety. We’re here to help with some of the best camping food essentials to make sure you’re starting your day off right:
Eggs are the ultimate campsite ingredient thanks to their incredible versatility and high protein levels. Even with a limited camp kitchen set up, there are plenty of ways to cook eggs - whether that’s frying them over the stove, scrambling them, using them in loaded omelettes or simply boiling them.
A breakfast staple, bacon is a go-to camping food for many. Perfect for a flavoursome campsite breakfast, bacon is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a number of dishes at any time of day. We recommend a high-quality non-stick frying pan to help make cooking bacon easier and reduce clean-up.
Non-perishable, nutritious and lightweight, cereal is one of the most fundamental camping foods. A simple serving needs nothing more than milk to unlock a nutritious and filling start to your day. For more flavour combine with yoghurt, dried fruits, jams or honey for a tasty pre-trail breakfast.
Whether homemade or store-bought, pancake mix is a great lightweight accompaniment to delicious campsite breakfasts. Easy to cook in a single frying pan, pancakes can be packed with flavour by adding dried fruits, spreads, honey and other toppings. Long day ahead on the trails? Simply add protein powder to your mix for an added boost of energy.
Dry foods will always rank at the top of any essential camping food list, and for good reason. Often light, easy to store and non-perishable, dry ingredients are great for sensible, space-saving packing. Incredibly versatile to boot, these dry foods will often serve as your base ingredients giving your meal some structure and fuel to keep you going.
When selecting dry food for a camping trip make sure you consider these must-haves:
A home cupboard favourite, bread is just as important when it comes to camping. Perfect for creating filling, balanced meals at any time of day, bread can be toasted at breakfast with your camp frying pan, used for sandwiches, or as extra fuel for meals like soups. Bread is a must-have for your camping food checklist.
Non-perishable, quick, and easy to cook, pasta is a versatile camp cooking ingredient. Whether you’re making bolognese, mac and cheese, or simply pasta and sauce, this carb-heavy staple is sure to keep you full of energy. Perfect eaten hot or cold, you can double up on evening portions for a quick, hassle and mess-free meal the following day.
Rice is another highly versatile ingredient. A filling foundation to many camp-friendly meals, rice is easy to store and cook making it great for one-pot recipes such as paella, chilli con Carne and curries or for simply adding bulk to sauces.
Crackers are great camping foods thanks to their size and versatility. With no cooking needed but plenty of toppings available, crackers make the ultimate campsite snack when paired with cheese, cream spreads, salad vegetables and pates.
Packing and preserving fresh milk for camping trips can be difficult. Powdered milk is a great camp-friendly alternative to powdered milk for a variety of uses from sauces to teas, coffees and even hot chocolates.
When choosing food to take camping, tinned foods are great as they’re easy to cook and generally have a long shelf life. However, it’s important to remember that they’re bulkier and heavier than other camping food staples. Planning your meals ahead of the trip will help you cut down on unnecessary weight, especially if you’re out hiking on foot.
Beans are one of the best camping foods available. They’re packed with protein and easy to cook, making them perfect for rustling up quick campsite meals. Whether you take baked beans, kidney beans, chickpeas or pulses, beans are a great way of adding some extra fuel and nutrition to your meal.
Soup is the perfect camp comfort food, especially in colder months. An instant warmer that’s easy to cook and packed with nutrients, soup is the ultimate hearty feel good meal. Create a balanced, filling meal with the addition of bread, crackers or croutons.
Tinned tomatoes are another campsite superfood with a variety of uses from breakfasts to one-pot stews, casseroles and pasta. One of the best campsite staples due to their versatility, stocking up on tinned tomatoes can help you utilise your space and weight effectively while creating a range of exciting, nourishing dishes at camp.
Keeping veg fresh while camping can be difficult, so using non-perishable tinned vegetables is an ideal alternative. From carrots, peas and potatoes to runner beans, sweetcorn and mushrooms, tinned veg is the perfect way to pack some extra nutrition into your camping meals. They’re also ideal for adding to stews and casserole dishes, saving on prep time – simply pour them straight in from the tin.
Tinned fruit is another camp kitchen must-have, and a great alternative to perishable fresh fruits. You can get everything from pineapples and pears to peaches, prunes, mango, and more. Use them as a healthy breakfast accompaniment, as a dessert or as a simple camping snack.
Fresh camping ingredients
If you’re bringing fresh ingredients with you on your camping trip, you’ll need to consider how you’re going to keep them fresh. When preserving food for camping a cool box is a must – making sure you replace the ice at regular intervals or use long-lasting ice packs to keep ingredients cool. If you’re at a campsite with an electrical hookup, you could also invest in a portable camping refrigerator.
You’ll also want to make sure your ingredients are properly stored, especially if you’re bringing meat, to avoid any cross-contamination. Store any raw ingredients in airtight containers or quality zip-lock bags, and double-wrap meat to avoid where possible to avoid leaking. Preparing raw ingredients ahead of your trip is another great way of avoiding cross-contamination and saving time while at the campsite.
Beef is a staple ingredient in many classic one-pot camp dishes, such as casserole and stew. You can also use ground beef to make burger patties, add protein to spaghetti and chilli dishes, or use it as filling in tacos.
Chicken is a versatile meat that you can cube, chop and shred to use in many camp recipes, such as skewers, curries, fajitas, and more. You can also make chicken soup for a hearty campfire meal, or use it in sandwiches whilst out on the trail. This lean protein will give you the energy you need on your next adventure.
Fruit and Vegetables
Whilst the tinned fruit and vegetables mentioned in the tinned foods section are great for camping due to their extended shelf life, you may also want to bring along some fresh alternatives. Fresh fruit makes a great snack whilst out on the trail, for example, oranges and pears. Depending on the recipes you have planned, fresh vegetables may be more suitable – they’re also great for chopping up into crudites for a healthy snack.
Milk is another camping food essential for those morning coffees, or to pour over cereal. We mentioned the powdered version previously, but of course, fresh milk is an option if keeping your gear lightweight isn’t an issue!
Greek yoghurt isn’t something that instantly comes to mind when thinking about camping food, but it’s actually a highly versatile ingredient that can be used in multiple recipes. Use it as a healthier alternative to sour cream in tacos and jacket potato recipes, or add it to granola or fruit at breakfast.
Another versatile camp food essential, butter can be used as a spread on toast or sandwiches, but also as a multi-purpose, space-saving substitute for oil when frying to stop your ingredients from sticking to the pan.
Hard cheese is great for melting on top of dishes such as pasta, jacket potatoes, and chilli con Carne for an added protein kick. It also makes an ideal snack whilst out hiking – simply store it in an airtight container or wrap it in wax paper.
A simple collection of seasonings and spices can really elevate your camp cuisine whilst adding variety to your meals – especially when you’re cooking with the same core ingredients. You’ll also be saving on space, which is particularly handy if you’re out on the trail and need to be conscious of the weight of your gear.
Every camper will want to make sure to bring basic seasonings like salt and pepper on their trip, as they’re needed in many basic recipes. When choosing your food to take camping, we’d also recommend the following versatile spices, which can be used in various combinations to add great flavour to stews, roasts, grilled meat, veg, and more:
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
Optional extra spices:
- Chilli powder
- Curry powder
Consider your meals and mix up the spices accordingly into airtight jars before you go to save even more prep time and space.
Tea and Coffee
The perfect beverages to accompany camp breakfast or to flask up and drink on the go, tea and coffee are absolute camping must-haves. Make sure you’ve got a suitably insulated mug to keep your coffee warm. Go one step above instant coffee by grinding your own coffee beans and filtering through a coffee dripper, for a barista-style beverage at base.
This might sound obvious, but you need to consider whether there will be drinking water available nearby. If not, make sure you have a good-quality water container at base for both drinking and cooking. You may also want to consider investing in a pack tap for easy camp cooking and washing.
Dilutable juices are an easily storable and lightweight alternative to water, perfect for family-friendly camping. Available in small, concentrated volumes they are small and light which is great if you have to be conscious about the weight of your gear.
UHT/Long Life Milk
Another alternative to fresh milk, UHT/long-life milk is a great camping ingredient as it doesn’t require constant refrigeration like fresh milk and is ready to go whenever you need it. Perfect for teas, coffees, and hot chocolates as well as for use in sauces and other meals.
Hot chocolate is the ultimate campfire warmer, a staple of campsite culture and the very picture of an evening by the campfire. Lightweight and non-perishable hot chocolate sachets are great for camping trips as a sweet treat.
Depending on space, you can either pack sachets or bottles of sauce such as tomato ketchup, mayo, mustard, barbecue sauce, and soy sauce to add some extra flavour to your meals.
Peanut butter is full of protein making it the perfect camp condiment. Enjoy on toast, as a sandwich filler, on crackers, or even as a dip for crudites whilst out on the trail. You can even have it with chocolate for a tasty camp dessert.
Another great breakfast option, Jam is also ideal for stirring into oats or yoghurt, on sandwiches, or with dessert.
Sugar is a camp must-have! Use it to add flavour to cereal and fruit, or for sweetening up your tea, coffee, and hot chocolate. It’ll also come in handy if you’re making any tomato-based recipes - you’ll often need a pinch of sugar to cut the acidity of the sauce.
If your camping itinerary involves hikes, climbs, and other outdoor activities, you’ll need foods to keep your energy levels topped up whilst keeping your gear lightweight. In addition to the camping foods mentioned above, such as fruit and cheese, here are some additional energy-packed camping snacks:
Nuts are good sources of fats as well as calories – which you’ll be needing if you’re out hiking on your trip! You also don’t need many per portion. Pre-pack them at home into snack-sized portions and simply take them with you as you need.
You can either purchase these or pre-bake them at home ahead of your trip. Small but filling, granola bars are a great option to keep you satisfied until your next meal at base. Look for options containing plenty of nuts and seeds for an added boost of healthy fats and protein.
Kendal Mint Cake
You’ll find Kendal Mint Cake in any experienced mountaineer’s arsenal! Famously used as fuel food by both Edmund Hillary and Chris Bonington on their Everest climbs, the minty treat has been used on many expeditions around the world as a source of energy.
Jerky is a great lightweight snack that’s packed with protein. Great for giving you an energy boost whilst quickly satisfying hunger, you can find beef, chicken, and even vegetarian jerky options in most supermarkets.
Preparing food for camping
Preparing food ahead of time can save time, energy and mess when camping, particularly when using fresh ingredients. When cooking with meats and other raw ingredients, cross-contamination can sometimes spoil the food you’re depending on for the whole trip. However, cooking your food before you head to camp allows you to safely store it and save time when cooking nourishing and exciting meals.
Prepping veg ahead of your trip helps you pack all the same nutrients into your meals whilst also packing light. Simply chop, dice and slice your veg at home and store it in airtight containers, lightweight bags or whatever you prefer. Prepping your ingredients means they’re ready when you are, making light work of tasty campsite meals.
If you prefer to prep your food as and when you need it, you’ll need a quality camp kitchen set up. The right tools mean you can take the kitchen with you, without compromising on weight or space in your backpack. Our lightweight camp kitchen range features everything you need from collapsible kitchenware to cutlery, utensils and tools.
Setting up your Camp Kitchen
Even with the best camping foods in tow, no camping setup is complete without a practical camp kitchen. Our camp cooking equipment range has everything you need, from quality pots and pans, cutlery, and insulated mugs to collapsible lightweight plates, bowls and even kettles.
If you’re feeling inspired and ready to start planning your next adventure, our experts are here to help, and we would love to hear any questions, so please get in touch with us on Facebook or Instagram. You can also share your adventures with us using the hashtag #SeatoSummitUK.