10 Camping Meals to Make Ahead of TimePublished on 05/01/2023 · 10 min readSave yourself some time on your next camping trip by making some of your meals ahead of time. Check out this list of 10 camping meals to make before you go!
Photo by Reuben Kim
Camping can be a fun and adventurous experience, but let’s be honest…it can also be a bit stressful, especially when it comes to cooking meals. Preparing meals while camping can be a daunting task, especially if you are not used to cooking in the great outdoors or don’t have the right kitchen gear (camp stove, cast iron skillet, etc.). The limited resources and lack of kitchen appliances can make meal preparation a time-consuming and frustrating process. Even if you are an experienced camper, preparing food from scratch can be challenging, taking away valuable time that could be spent exploring the great outdoors. That's why making meals ahead of time can be a great hack for any camping trip.
Though I personally enjoy making dinner on my camp stove, I’ll often make lunch and breakfast meals at home and bring them along to-go. This prevents me from getting my camp kitchen gear setup three times a day. Having a camping breakfast already made allows me to start my day a bit faster than I would if I had to make food in the mornings. Pre-making lunch is also nice because if I am out climbing, hiking, or exploring during the day, I generally don’t like to interrupt that to make a meal. If I know I’m going to have a packed itinerary on a camping trip or want to bring minimal gear, I’ll pre-make dinner as well, or at least do some sort of prep at home so that I have minimal work to cook dinner when I’m in the backcountry.
In this article, I will share 10 delicious meals that can be made ahead of time for your next camping trip. These meals are easy to prepare, pack, and reheat, making them the perfect solution for campers who want to enjoy their trip without worrying about cooking.
1. Breakfast Burritos
Breakfast burritos are a great make-ahead breakfast option for camping. They are easy to assemble, can be customized to individual tastes, and can be heated over a campfire or stove if you wish. To make breakfast burritos, start by cooking your choice of protein (such as scrambled eggs, bacon, or sausage) and your choice of vegetables (such as onions, peppers, and mushrooms). Then, lay out tortillas and assemble the burritos with the cooked ingredients, shredded cheese, and any additional toppings you like (such as avocado, salsa, or sour cream). Wrap the burritos tightly in foil, put them in a plastic bag (to avoid them getting wet if the ice melts in the cooler), and store in a cooler until ready to eat them. To reheat, place the wrapped burritos on a grate over the campfire or on a skillet on a camp stove, and heat for a few minutes on each side. It’s not totally necessary to heat them up, but it makes them taste a bit better!
2. Overnight Oats
Overnight oats are an even simpler premade breakfast option for camping. To make overnight oats, combine rolled oats, milk (or a non-dairy alternative), and any sweeteners or flavors you like (such as honey, maple syrup, cinnamon, or fruit) in a mason jar or other airtight container. Stir well and store in a cooler until you’re ready to eat them. In the morning, the oats will be soft and ready to go. You can also heat these up over a camp stove or fire if you wish (though I usually don’t). I also like to bring some fresh berries and granola to top off my oats in the morning before I eat them.
Muffins are a classic breakfast food that is also incredibly easy to make beforehand. There are about a million different muffin recipes, giving you options and the ability to make them with exactly the ingredients you like. I usually put some nuts, flax seeds, and other protein-packed ingredients in my muffins to give me a healthy, energizing start to my day outdoors! To make muffins, mix together dry ingredients (such as flour, baking powder, and sugar) in a bowl, and wet ingredients (such as eggs, milk, and oil) in a separate bowl. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, and add any additional flavors or mix-ins you like (such as blueberries, chocolate chips, or nuts). Spoon the batter into muffin tins or silicone muffin cups, and bake in the oven at home. Once the muffins are cool, store them in an airtight container or resealable bag and pack them in a cooler. They can be enjoyed cold or warmed up over a campfire or stove. If you want to be extra fancy, bring along some butter, peanut butter, or jam for spreading!
4. Pasta/Quinoa Salad
Pasta and quinoa salads are great make-ahead camping meals because they can be customized to individual tastes and are easy to transport. To make a pasta or quinoa salad, cook your choice of pasta or quinoa according to the package instructions and let it cool. Then, mix in your choice of vegetables (such as cherry tomatoes, cucumber, or bell pepper) and proteins (such as grilled chicken or canned beans). Pack the salad in a sealable container or resealable bag, and store it in a cooler until ready to eat. When you’re ready for lunch, pour your choice of dressing over your salad and eat up! My favorite summer pasta salad is bowtie noodles, arugula, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, and walnuts! Before eating, I’ll drizzle some olive oil and balsamic over my salad. As for quinoa salad, I like to add some mint, apples, feta, and olives to my quinoa, and add some roasted chickpeas in before eating to give it some crunch, along with some lemon juice and olive oil.
Sandwiches are a classic and convenient make-ahead lunch option for camping. To make sandwiches, choose your favorite bread and fillings (such as deli meats, cheese, lettuce, and tomato), and assemble them at home. Wrap the sandwiches tightly in foil or plastic wrap and store them in a cooler until ready to eat. To add some variety to your sandwich options, consider using different types of bread (such as bagels or wraps) or condiments (such as hummus or pesto). If you want to avoid a soggy sandwich, it’s also super easy just plan your sandwiches out, keeping the condiments, bread, and toppings in separate baggies, and assemble them right before eating. I like to use Stasher bags for sandwich prep on backpacking trips. I use one to keep my bread in, and one to keep other toppings in! They’re reusable and don’t add a ton of weight to your pack.
6. Bagged Salad with Protein
This one is so easy that it feels like cheating. If you are looking for something super simple and premade without requiring any work from you, look no further than the produce aisle at your local grocery store. There are tons of options for premade salads at the grocery store that come with some toppings and dressing. From your classic Caesar salad, to more daring options like apple cranberry, they’ve got it all. For camping trips where I’m usually doing a good amount of activity and need more sustained energy, I find that these on their own aren’t quite filling enough. But packing some kind of protein to add is an easy way to get some extra long-lasting calories out of premade bagged salads. Whether it’s rotisserie chicken, fried tofu, or ground turkey, just pack it in a separate container and add it to the salad when you’re ready to eat! Bonus points for this option is that these salads are super easy to mix up and eat out of the bag they come in, so no dirty dishes!
Though not totally premade, you can do all the preparation for skewers at home so that all you need to do before dinner is toss the skewers on the grill or over the fire. Skewers are also really customizable, and if you are using wooden skewers, you can just toss them in the fire when you’re done - again no clean up! To make skewers, chop your choice of meat (such as chicken or beef, or even tofu if you’re a vegetarian) and vegetables (such as bell peppers, onions, and zucchini) into bite-sized pieces and thread them onto skewers. Pack the skewers in a sealable container or resealable bag with some sort of marinade (the longer they sit in the marinade, the more flavorful they’ll be),, and store them in a cooler until ready to cook. When you're ready to cook, place the skewers on a grill or over a campfire until the meat is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.
Chili is a hearty and flavorful make-ahead dinner option for camping. To make chili, cook ground beef or turkey in a pot and add canned beans, diced tomatoes, and chili seasoning. Let the chili simmer for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together. Pack the chili in a sealable container or resealable bag, and store it in a cooler until ready to heat up. To heat up the chili, place the container in a pot of boiling water or on a camp stove until heated through. Bring some cheese, tortilla chips, green onions, or whatever other toppings you like on your chili to add on right before eating.
9. Fried Rice
Fried rice is one of my favorite camping meals and it’s equally delicious whether you decide to make it ahead of time or over the campfire. To make fried rice, cook rice according to the package instructions and let it cool. Then, sauté your choice of vegetables (such as peas, carrots, and onions) and protein (such as scrambled eggs or diced ham) in a pan. Add the cooked rice and stir until everything is heated through. Pack the fried rice in a sealable container or resealable bag, and store it in a cooler until ready to heat up. To heat up the fried rice, place the rice in a pan on a camp stove, add soy sauce, and fry again until thoroughly heated up!
Follow whatever recipe sounds good to you, and when cooked, pack the soup in a sealable container or resealable bag, and store it in a cooler until ready to heat up. To heat up the soup, place it in a pot over your camp stove or a campfire and heat until it’s sufficiently warmed up. Depending on the soup, it’s nice to bring a side of bread or some toppings!
A Few Bonus Ideas
I always find that I snack more on camping trips than at home, and end up eating way more snacks! Here are a few snack options that I like to make at home before a trip and bring along.
- Trail Mix: Nuts, granola, and M&M’s. Put it in a baggie, and toss it in your backpack for an easy, protein filled snack on the trail.
- Fruit Salad: Chop up some fruit at home, mix it together, and put it in a Tupperware. Store it in a cooler for a refreshing mid-day snack, or a delicious side dish for lunch or dinner.
- Energy Balls: Toss some oats, nut butter, seeds, and dates in a blender. Roll them up, put some oats on the outside, and store in a baggie until ready to eat. Protein packed and delicious!
- S’mores Kit: Maybe it’s not technically a snack, but it’s a great dessert! Assemble a s’mores kit by putting graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows in a baggie. All you’ll need to do at camp is find a stick and roast your marshmallow! This is especially fun to premake for kids on backpacking trips!
Preparing meals ahead of time for your camping trip can save you time, effort, and ensure that you have delicious and satisfying meals during your outdoor adventures! Whether you're looking for breakfast, lunch, or dinner ideas, there are plenty of easy and tasty options to choose from. Just remember to store your meals properly and pack any necessary condiments or toppings. If you have any questions or would like more camping meal ideas, feel free to reach out to a Hiking and Camping Expert here on Curated!