We reached out to top outdoors camping, hunting, kayaking and canoeing experts to share their top 3 easy camping meal recommendations when heading for a short camping trip. The responses I received (both in breadth and length) have surpassed my expectation.
Most, if not all, experts carry freeze dried ready-to-eat meals, as they are easy to make and nutritious, with the following being the most popular picks:
In additional to some freeze-dried meal packs (which you should always carry just in case), it's always fun to be creative and cook actual meals on your rest stops.
For more specific recipes and food suggestions to add to your trips, check out the below camping meal ideas. I know I will be using quite a few of these recipes on my next camping trip.
Crista Lash | peacelovequinoa.com
I received a very kind email from Crista on how much she enjoyed reading this post and the ideas it gave her for her next camping trip. As soon as I realized she is a foodie and outdoorsy, I knew I had to ask her to send over her own favorite recipes.
Besides these three delicious treats she has a ton more recipes (including desserts) on her own site, so definitely check them out!
My favorite camping recipes:
- Breakfast - Cast Iron Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal: Over an open fire, sauté a chopped apple in the cast iron skillet until it begins to soften. Add a few packets of apple cinnamon instant oatmeal and water to the skillet and allow it to cook. Serve the oatmeal with cinnamon and a sweetener of choice.
- Lunch - A combination of some or all of the following (depends how hungry I am and what I’m doing): sugar snap peas, grapes, trail mix, energy bars, hummus, chips, crackers, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.
- Dinner - Stuffed Bell Peppers: Pack pre-cooked rice or my favorite quinoa. At the camp site, cut the tops off of your bell peppers and stuff them with the rice or quinoa, and veggies you’ve brought along, and some cheese. If you have room to pack marinara sauce, do that too because it’s yummy. Wrap the stuffed bell peppers in foil and place them in the camp fire, neat the hot wood. Allow them to cook until the peppers are tender.
Paul Osborn | theoutdooradventure.net
Here are three of the easiest meals I personally recommend:
- Instant Oatmeal - It isn't spectacular, but it can be eaten cold or hot, and loads you with sugars and carbs. It's also no-fuss. I've only met one person whose managed to burn it.
- Snickers bars - Seriously. When out hiking or canoeing I tend to skip lunch in exchange for regular snacks. Snickers bars are cheaper and have more calories than most energy bars. You can even add hot water and turn them into a warm beverage when the need calls
- Smoked Sausage, Cheese and crackers - If you want something really low fuss, tasty, salty and high in calories then this is it. No cooking, no plates and extremely satisfying.
Bramley Johnson | modernhikercom
Bram is an ultralight backpacker. When it comes to his outdoor meals he likes to pack it light in weight but not in flavor. Read his full reply here for additional details on each of his options below:
Arthur Holtman | crossbowcritic.com
We like to keep it simple when we go crossbow hunting. But if all else fails, we always catch a fish incase we come back empty handed.
- Bacon & Eggs - Not just any bacon, venison bacon. Fry up the bacon and once they are ready, use the fat oil to fry the eggs.
- Venison Kabobs - Just like it sounds. Dice up some venison and vegetable (onion, bell peppers, mushrooms) and slide them through skewers sticks. Put them on the campfire and you are good to go.
- Wild Game Stew - Hunting can take time. Which is why the crock pot is your best friend and resident Chef. Add wild game meat, garlic, onions, potatoes, canned tomatoe saunce and beans to your cockpot. Leave it for sever hours. When you come back from hunting... dinner is served!
Mark Herzfeldt | anglersandarrows.com
- Wild game or venison and potatoes over the fire is one of my favorites. Simple seasoning and oil over an open fire.
- Burgers are always a quick meal with the potatoes over the open fire.
- I will usually try to catch fish for the last meal. The experience of catching your meal as part of an camping experience is something I really love doing and sharing with my family. (If the fish are not biting....eggs and potatoes is a also great over the fire. Simple yet tastes awesome outdoors!)
Heather Balogh | justacoloradogal.com
I'm not the fanciest, but here are some backpacking meals that I love:
- Quinoa/Couscous with salmon. We just pack in the dried quinoa that is easy to cook with water and then bring along some pre-packaged salmon. Reheat, stir together and voila! Lots of protein and carbs to keep you full!
- Quesadillas. Again, not the fanciest but we love these for dinner after a long day on the trail! It's super easy to pack in cheese and tortillas, and the warm, gooey cheese is phenomenal after a day in the cold. We like to pack in the packaged chicken and add that into the mix.
- I know this is lame, but we love to buy the Bear Creek Soups to take in for dinner. They're super cheap (like less than $4) and can feed an army! We just ate the Cheddar Broccoli flavor on this past weekend's backcountry ski trip and it was so tasty!
Clint Carlson (Camping Strategist) | 50campfires.com
Here are three delicious recipes that are pretty easy to prepare:
Alannah Gamblin | thecampsiteblog.com
I tend to pre bake, pre-package food in multiple ziplock and lay flat! I usually do all my food from scratch - for me, I love this part of prepping for trips!
- Breakfast - Pumpkin Seed Honey Granola with dried berries and yogurt
- Lunch - Greek Salad, fully mixed with dressing. I keep fresh spinach in a separate ziplock and add it as I eat it. I will sometimes add in cooked chicken chunks. If it needs to stay cooled I pack small ice pack within the ziplock system!
- Dinner - Mashed potatoes with gravy (all dried - add water types). Steak chunks & veggies (pre-cut and stored in seasoning with olive oil and dried gravy) pre-stored in tinfoil
I boil water on campfire to make mashed potatoes and the gravy. I cook the tinfoil package with the meat and veggies in it over the fire. Then I toss the cooked packet over the mashed potatoes and top with gravy!
Dessert - Chocolate fondue!!
Taran Tyla | goseakayakblog.com
Well, it would depend on the length of the trip:
- For a weekend I would just take a couple of tins of veggie chilli or curry as this is easy & cheap!
- For a week I would take wet meals like the Wayfayrers, no different to tinned food really, just packaged in sachets.
- For a longer trip I prefer the dehydrated meals, I used to use adventure foods but just checked their website & they no longer do vegan meals :'(
As for accompaniments, always cous cous, easy to cook, uses little water & easy to carry! Breakfast is always Porridge oats, not just on trips 😉
Ginni Callahan | kayaktravel.blogspot.com
Outdoor meals are often inspired by what's available for ingredients, and most of my camping has been in Mexico. Here are 3 favorites that would be good north or south of the border.
- Breakfast. Quick & Versatile: Your favorite granola plus dried fruit, nuts, and rolled oats. For lump-free powdered milk, pre-stir the milk powder in with the granola before adding water. Mexico has a great whole milk powder called Nido.
- Lunch. Pre-cut cheese & sausage with crackers are handy for eating on the go for long crossings, but for the luxury lunch, you can't beat catching a trigger fish and turning it into a Tasty Ceviche. Besides luck and a fish hook, you'll need 15-20 limes, onion, tomatoes, jalepeno, and tostadas. Optional additions include cucumber, cilantro, and hot sauce. Dice up the fish into 1/2cm cubes and soak in lime juice while you cut up the rest. Stir fish in lime until it turns mostly white, then add salt & pepper, hot sauce, and other ingredients. Spiff it up with guacamole on the side. Your average trigger fish will feed 2-3 people this way. A small cabrilla or bass would substitute.
- Dinner. Sweet Potato & Black Bean Burrito: Mashed sweet potatoes hold this tasty wrap together. Boil & mash up sweet potatoes. Saute onions, garlic, and black beans. Season with cumin and oregano. Build on with optional cheese, other veggies, and/or salsa. Wrap it up in a warm tortilla and devour. Rice on the side bulks up the meal a bit if you're really hungry.
Flex Maslan | kayakfari.com
I've actually written a story on kayak camp cooking: Tasty & Quick Cooking
When thinking of weekend kayak camping trip meals, I'm thinking of the of nutrition for the whole trip, and I'll summarize below.
I like to keep things very simple so I bring plenty of fresh fruit to snack on. At a minimum some bananas, apples or pears, oranges, and sometimes mangoes.With the fruit I usually eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or energy bar.
For dinner in camp I'll bring out some fresh vegetables like zucchini, squash, eggplant, maybe potatoes, brussels sprout, cauliflower or broccoli florets, peppers, plus onions and garlic. Almost any combination of at least three of these plus the onions or garlic is usually enough. Nuts like cashews can be added as well! I mix in some canned seafood like octopus, mussels, or squid. The veggies are cooked in the oil from the seafood can(s) for extra flavor. It's a satisfying meal!
Note: If you are into kayaking more than just its recreational purposes, and are actually interested in fitness and adventures, definitly check out Flex's KayakFari!
Walter Mayo | paddlenc.com
The reply I received from Walter was beyond my expectations. Because of that, I have decided to submit his response in full as its own separate article, complete with precise ingredients to use, where to get them, and why it is so important to eat well in the great outdoors.
The following is the tail end of his reply, so please check out the complete response here.
So a typical menu for me might look like this the first full day out:
- Breakfast – Scrambled eggs with cheese and herbs (the eggs are usually beaten at home and frozen, kept in a plastic egg container.
- Lunch - Deli style sandwiches, made at the break spot or made at breakfast time and eaten on the water, with chips.
- Dinner – Premade and frozen chickpea curry with naan bread (it doesn’t squish easily) and rice, and rosemary lamb steaks cooked over a fire.
Ingeborg Swart | purecottongrass.com
All of these meal ideas are based on a situation where you have no fridge at hand and may have to take the food with you for the entire weekend. So no perishable or vulnerable goods are involved in these outdoor meals.
- My first favourite is couscous. You will only need a small pan a bowl and a heating source. Boil water in the pan, measure some couscous and pour the boiling water over the couscous (in a 1:2 volume ratio, couscous:water). While that is welling for about five minutes, you can use the small pan to prepare a quick curry or sauce. Some canned tomatoes are a perfect base, and you can add for instance chickpeas, spinach, or any other vegetable really.
- If you don't have access to any heating source, you could make a delicious salad. After a long day of kayaking, you will probably need a hearty meal and don't immediately think of a light salad. But those can be rather filling too! By making a salad out of beans, adding canned fish or garnishing with chopped nuts, you can easily make your salad as calorie-rich as you would like.
- As a third I think some real comfort food is in place. How about wraps? No cooking involved whatsoever. Just set up your tents, open the package of wraps, set out different things to fill them with and you are good to go. You could try to fill them with mais, beans and spicy sauce. Or if you would like to try something more unconventional, why not go for a filling of beetroot, grated apple and walnuts?
My own favourite when it comes to wrap fillings is to spread peanut butter on a wrap, cover half of it with slices banana, swirl some cinnamon and honey on top and then fold it closed. But that is more of a lunch recipe I guess.
Lawrence | simplyhill.com
- Nachos with cheese
- Campfire bacon
- Campfire burritos
Andrew Elizaga | Dash Point Pirate
I like to pack light because I usually paddle in a low volume kayak and don't go out for longer than a week, so I try to keep meals simple.
- Breakfast for me is usually oatmeal. It's is something like a half cut quick oats plus walnuts, raisins, dried apples, apricots, and cinnamon in a Ziplok freezer bag.
I don't add any extra sugar but you might want to add a little.
Add boiling water to the bag and let it sit insulated under your coat for several minutes, kneading occasionally.
Then eat it with a long spoon. It warms you up as you wait for it to cook.
- Another easy recipe: Indian Spiced Couscous with Chickpeas
1 cup couscous
1-2 tablespoons vegetable bouillon
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon allspice
salt and pepper to taste.
1 16 ounce can of chickpeas, drained, rinsed and drained again.
At home, combine the couscous, bouillon, onion flakes and spices in a zip-lok plastic bag, Put the chickpeas in a second bag.
At camp, bring 2 cups water to boil. Add the couscous and spices.
Stir then cover, remove from heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Remove cover and stir the chickpeas. Serve.
- Lastly, I usually keep around at least one extra instant meal for emergencies. I like the Tasty Bite brand of instant meals for camping. They come in both vegetarian and vegan varieties.
I hope this helps!
Barry Kalpinski & Timothy Bauer | milespaddled.com
In general, we like to split meals on longer trips for ease, practicality and the fun of cooking together. It makes the meal experience easier since each person only has to bring one course and cook one thing. And since we all carry single burner stoves, this is a more practical way of cooking everything at one time. This is especially ideal for breakfast situations. One person brings shelf-stable bacon, another brings farm fresh eggs (which keep longer) and another brings pancake batter in a mini-jug.
- Despite this being about “easy meals,” the first night should never be easy - it should be the best meal of the journey. Make it fun, bring fresh foods and feast like you mean it because meal options are generally downhill from there. Go big with steak, fresh fish, chicken, etc.
All should keep well even on a hot day if your cooler is stocked with ice. If you’re short on space because you’ve overloaded on beer, freeze the meat beforehand. By the time dinner rolls around, it should be adequately thawed.
- My favorite as far as ease is a bagel sandwich. It’s simple and satisfying. Get some hard salami, a nice hard cheese (it keeps longer) and put it on your favorite bagel (do yourself a favor and grab some from your favorite bagel place prior to departure). It's definitely not cuisine but it doesn’t get easier.
- My tried-and-true standby for three (or more) days in is pouched chicken (it’s kind of like canned chicken but in a pouch so it’s lighter and takes up less room) and instant Stove Top (tastes good, light and even if it gets crushed, it tastes the same).
Visit the canned meat aisle of your grocery store and try some of the packaged meat options. Plenty of them are terrible but I’ve found a couple chicken brands that are decent. Season accordingly. If all else fails, Stove Top is decent on its own.
Fiona Russell | fionaoutdoors.co.uk
- For wild camping, couscous and tuna because it's fairy lightweight to carry, can cope with the rigours of backpacking and is easy to make with one stove and a pot of water.
- Porridge. Again it's light to carry and very easy to make.
- If we're lucky enough to be camping near the coast and it's more of a luxury, stay-in-one place camping trip we might treat ourselves to a whole fish cooked with lemon and wrapped in foil. Pop it over an open fire or a barbecue. Add salad and couscous.
Mike Jackson | mhjpaddling.blogspot.com
- On a quick weekend trip, I usually take the packaged Indian food bags that can be easily heated up in a MSR reactor stove and then some quick cook rice. Something lie these ones, but whatever I can get locally.
- For breakfasts, I usually take instant porridge packets (2 per breakfast. Again these are quick and easy.
- For lunches I usually have crackers or bread and the various flavoured tuna cans.
Kim Dinan | so-many-places.com
I can answer your questions but I'm afraid I'm the worst backcountry cook of all time. So my answers are:
- And pasta with pesto!
I just camped for 7 months and I ate those simple camping meals twice a week each.
Jonny Duncan | backpackingman.com
- I tend to just stay on small packs of instant noodles 3 times a day, with energy bars in-between. Can’t get any easier than that!
- Otherwise you could go for some instant mash with some tinned corned beef mixed in and some pepper.
- You could always cheat in the beginning and just grab a nice tasty meat pie to bring in with you.
I always eat any meat element at the end of the day as the protein is better used to help the body after exercise.
Candice Walsh | candicedoestheworld.com
- When I was a Girl Guides leader, the girls and I LOVED putting together a sloppy food combo inside tinfoil and tossing it on the fire to roast. Typically: chopped up sausage, potato, corn, and anything else you desire.
- I'm also a sucker for the old sausage/salami and cheese combo for a snack. Prosciutto is great as well.
- And, of course, mac and cheese over a skillet. Not the healthiest choices, but if you're hiking or being active all day, who cares? 😉
Tom Holtley | topkayaker.net
Tom was kind enough to include detailed explanation and instructions for each meal he recommended. Read the full article here.
- Breakfast: Instant coffee & oatmeal
- Lunch: Bread (bagels, pita, tortillas) with PB&J or canned meat, such as tuna or chicken.
- Dinner: Canned chicken & stuffing
Simon Willis | seakayakpodcasts.com
Forget easy camp meals, Simon goes all out with his food strategies for camping. You can read the whole story here (Its well worth the read as Simon is a superb writer as well as an expert sea kayaker!). But in a nut shell, these are his recommendations:
- Get someone else to do the food
- Home dry your food
- Freeze in tubes
John Williams | packpaddle.com
Here's some suggestions:
- Going light: Try drying your own food. We like all types of pastas with ground meat (vs. thicker meats). Think things like Chili mac. These rehydrate well and taste great.
- High output trips: If your trip requires lots of effort and miles, we suggest going with a three course meal: Start with a pack of Idahoan potatoes when you get to camp for an appetizer. Then boil some pasta, add cheese and a pack of tuna for your main meal. We like Tony Chachere seasoning on this. Then finish it off with a package of instant pudding. This will fill you up even on these tougher trips with high calorie burn.
- If you can bring a cooler: One of the most requested recipes from the trips we lead is Becky's Black Bean Salsa with Hummus in a wrap. Add in ham or other meat if you like. Here's a link to the recipe.
Valerie Leroyer | kayakcanoeblogger.com
For canoe-camping (or kayak-camping) with my son, I try to be as light as possible:
- Pancakes for breakfast is a must for us! We simply love it.
- Spaghetti is a classic too, for supper, followed by marshmallows on the fire camp
- Cold, raw vegetables, with ham and/or cold sausages with chips for a lunch is something my son loves.
Greg Stamer | kayakvagabond.com
Except for trips where I fish or collect shellfish, and apart from various special situations, my answer is:
- Freeze dry
- Freeze dry
- Freeze dry
I'm a minimalist, so don't generally prepare fancy meals in the backcountry. The experience for me is in getting there, and being there.
That said, if I'm paddling with Michael Gray and he offers me a four-course meal, complete with wine, I won't refuse it!
Zach Davis | appalachiantrials.com
Here are a few of my favorite trail meals:
- The Upgraded Trail Breakfast Burrito
1 large tortilla
2-3 tbsp peanut butter (or almond butter)
1 tbsp honey
1 small banana cut into small slices
1 fistful of trail mix
Spread nutbutter heavily across tortilla, add banana, honey, and trailmix. Roll. Enjoy.
- Pad Thai Ramen
2 Packets of Ramen
3 tbsp peanut butter
2 mini packets of teriyaki or soy sauce (personal preference)
1/4 tsp of favorite hot sauce
(Optional) Half package of pepperoni
Cook ramen in camp stove. Mix in all other ingredients once ramen is fully cooked.
- Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes
1 Packet of Instant Mashed Potatoes
3-4 oz of White Cheddar Cheese
1 tsp of garlic powder
3 oz of summer sausage diced into half inch cubes.
Prepare instant mashed potatoes per instructions, add cheese and sausage. Once cooked, add garlic powder.
Frank Galusha | myoutdoorbuddy.com
Being a bass fishing expert, Frank not only shared his favorite meals for camping but gave detailed instructions on how to cook up these recipes next time you come back from a successful kayak fishing or hunting trip. My mouth was watering after reading the details of each meal. So be sure to read the full article here.
- Fried freshly caught whole trout
- Duck breast Stew
- Smoked sweet and savory salmon