Camping can be a fun and exciting adventure for families and friends. But where do you begin if this is your first time camping? There are many things to consider, but cooking meals doesn’t need to cause stress!
Read on to find a complete camping food checklist for first-time campers!
Camping Food Checklist: Food Essentials
Before packing for your first camping trip, remember: don’t panic! This is supposed to be fun. Plan what you can and let the rest go. You’re bound to forget something but that doesn’t need to ruin the whole trip.
With this camping food checklist of meal staples, you will have enough ingredients to make any meal that will please a crowd. Spend less time worrying about cooking and more time making memories with your family and friends!
- Pancake mix
- Instant oatmeal
- Tortillas or English muffins (not bread)
- Buns (hot dog and/or burger)
- Dried soup mixes
- Condiments, salsa, syrup, salt and pepper, and other seasonings
- Instant potato mix
- Cheese (sliced for sandwiches or shredded for cooking)
- Butter or oil
- Shelf-stable milk
- Frozen beef patties
- Hot dogs
- Sandwich meat
- Frozen sausages
- baby carrots (for snacks)
- sugar snap peas
- sliced cucumbers
- sliced peppers
- onions, peppers
- carrots (for grilling, soups, or stews)
Boxes, Jars, and Cans
- Canned soups
- Canned beans
- Peanut butter
- Canned tuna
- Rice cakes
- Dried fruit
- Trail mix
- Granola bars
- Chips or pretzels
- Beef jerky
- Ingredients for your favorite desserts
Camping Food Checklist: Recipe Essentials
You’ve got a solid list of food items for your first-time campers’ camping food checklist, but what about recipes?
Don’t stress! There’s no need to plan a gourmet meal while camping. Think simple and think easy! What are your favorite recipes at home that take just a few ingredients and can be made in about thirty minutes?
There are lots of meal options to make while camping, but fussing with pasta or rice can add stress to a first-time camper. There’s no shame in going light and making some traditional camping meals that will please a crowd.
The first meal of the day doesn’t need to be complicated. Try one of these easy meals for quick cleanup.
1. Pancakes and Sausage
Use this Make-Ahead Pancake Mix Recipe and frozen sausage links that just need to be heated in the skillet. Add a little flavor to your pancakes by mixing in some chocolate chips or blueberries to the batter!
2. Back Country Oatmeal Recipe
Instant oatmeal simply needs some boiled water to bring it to life. Mix in your favorites to give them some flavor. This Back Country Oatameal could be breakfast every day with different mix-ins to keep your fellow campers from getting bored.
3. Scrambled Egg Wrap
Again, this simple scrambled egg wrap recipe just requires a little butter added to the skillet and some salt and pepper. Rinse off a can of beans to add to the skillet while the eggs are cooking to give it a big protein boost! Serve with your favorite salsa. Give this idea new life by serving the eggs on an English muffin with a slice of cheese on day 2 of your camping trip.
4. Fresh Fruit Salad With Toasted English Muffins and Jelly
Chop up your favorite fresh fruit and toast some English muffins on the grill grate over the firepit. Switch up the jelly for some peanut butter for some added protein in the morning!
Since this meal will most likely occur in the middle of the day when you’re fellow campers are stopping between activities, making this as easy and quick as possible is key.
Sandwich Wraps With Chips
You can make these with lunchmeat and cheese or go the peanut butter and jelly route. Make it easy by bringing the individual bags of chips for quick clean-up when lunch is over.
Canned or Box Mix Soup With Side Snacks
Just because it’s lunch doesn’t mean you can’t have a hot meal! Heat a quick pot of soup with a handful of snacks like dried fruit or pretzels on the side. You’ll be ready to hit the hiking trail in no time!
Tuna Wrap With Lettuce and Trail Mix or Granola Bar
This is another quick meal that can be consumed in between activities. Save yourself some time by grabbing the individual packets of tuna instead of a whole can that might leave leftovers.
As the day comes to a close, you can take more time cooking your meals. But that doesn’t mean it should be difficult. Here are a few yummy ideas that will leave your bellies full on your first camping trip.
Hot Dogs Served With Campfire Potatoes.
This is a favorite camping meal for a reason! It’s yummy and easy. Round out the meal by whipping up some delicious campfire potatoes!
Grilled Burgers and Baked Beans
Serve your favorite brand of frozen burgers with a can of yummy baked beans and your favorite burger fixings. This meal is quick and will get everyone in the camping mood. Mix things up by trying out this Grilled Portobello Mushroom Burger!
Grilled Vegetable Kabob Skewers With Instant Mashed Potatoes
Follow the instructions for these yummy grilled vegetable kabob skewers for a meal that will please a crowd! Mixing up a pot of fluffy instant potatoes will add the perfect touch to this supper.
Hamburger Tin Foil Meals
These classic hamburger tin foil meals are easy and fun to make! Your kids can choose which vegetables to add to the foil pocket, helping to curb any meal-time frustrations for the parents. Just wrap them up and pop them in the campfire. This makes these fast and mess-free so you can get back to camping!
Canned or Pre-Made Chili With Cornbread
Another traditional but easy meal! Either make your homemade chili at home or bring along your favorite canned variety. Then simply heat it in your pot until ready. Don’t forget to bring along some pre-made cornbread for dipping!
This age-old campfire dessert is a must-have for any camping trip! Gather your chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows, and get toasting! Change things up by substituting the chocolate for peanut butter cups, swapping the crackers for Oreos, or adding sliced fresh fruit to your traditional s’more!
To make campfire cones, use waffle or ice cream cones and fill them with chocolate, marshmallows, and your favorite fruits. Wrap them in aluminum foil and cook them over a grill grate until the chocolate is melted. Mix it up by adding some shredded coconut!
You have to add banana boats to your campfire dessert lineup! Peel a banana (leaving the skin on) and fill the inside with chocolate chips and marshmallows. Wrap the whole thing in aluminum foil (loosely!) and place it in the hot coals of the campfire to heat through. Vary it by adding strawberries and nuts, or replacing the marshmallows with peanut butter!
Camping Food Checklist: Equipment Essentials
Now you’ve got your camping food checklist essentials, but you can’t do any cooking without the right equipment. Here are a few must-haves for your first camping trip.
- Aluminum foil
- Can opener
- Metal utensils for grilling, including tongs
- Skewers for kabobs and s’mores
- Pot holders
- Camping stove or grill grate for the firepit
- Cast iron skillet
- Non-stick heavy-duty pots or Dutch oven
- Quality sharpened knife
- Cutting board
- Firestarter and coals, if you don’t plan to use wood from the campsite for your fire
Other Essential Supplies
You’ll likely discover you’ve forgotten something during your camping trip. Don’t stress. Make a note of what it is for your next adventure and move on.
Knowing exactly what to bring can be a daunting task. Try to pay attention to every item you use while cooking your meals a few weeks in advance of your trip. Make a list of things you may not have thought of so you can be sure to add it to your camping food checklist!
Here are a few extra items that are often overlooked when it comes to packing for a camping trip. Having these on hand will make your experience more relaxing and smooth.
- Dishsoap and scrubbers
- Paper towels
- Plastic baggies for storing leftovers
- Large plastic basin for washing dishes
- Disinfecting and/or baby wipes
- Insect-repellant candles or mosquito net
- Extra trash bags (The Leave No Trace initiative across the U.S. is for every camper to take all of the trash they create along with them when they leave a campground. Be intentional to leave your area looking cleaner than it was when you found it!)
Tips for Planning Your First Camping Trip
Looking for a few more tips to help make your first camping trip go smoothly? Here are a few more suggestions that will lessen the stress so you can increase the fun!
Remember to bring lots of water. Some campsites have clean water accessible but don’t count on having unlimited access. You’ll need water not only for staying hydrated but also for personal hygiene and cooking. Store enough in your vehicle and refill your jugs when you have the chance so you never run out!
Plan your menu. Use our list of 21 easy and cheap meals to make a plan for what you’re going to eat and on what days to help you use leftovers and consume the perishable items before they expire. This will also ensure you don’t leave behind condiments or other essentials for a meal.
Consider collecting mini condiment packets and syrups from local restaurants when you visit them. This will help save space when packing so you don’t need to bring the full mayonnaise jar or ketchup bottle. Investing in individual peanut butter cups will also save room if you don’t plan to use them often during your trip.
Prep at Home
Take the time to prep as much as you can at home. Pre-cut vegetables, pre-measure pancake mix, and separate what you can into plastic baggies for each meal. This will help save time and frustration once you’re at the campsite. And it will assure that you don’t have a ton of stuff to repack when it’s time to come home.
Premade Marinades or Sauces
Interested in adding some flavor to your meals? Bring along bottled marinade for your burgers or kabobs. This way you can save space from bringing loose bottles of seasonings.
Have a backup meal just in case something doesn’t work out for one of the meals you plan. Surprises can rear their head at any time. It could be a picky eater, weather-related, or just a shift in appetite. But having at least one extra meal ready to go can help keep complaining from fellow campers at bay!
Try to plan meals that use fewer perishable foods. You’ll inevitably need to bring some things that will need to remain in the cooler. But planning to serve meals that come from a can or a box will assure your food doesn’t spoil.
Don’t Skimp on Snacks!
When it comes to snacks, bring more than you think you’ll need. It’s easy to get hungry while camping! Especially when hiking and exerting extra energy. Having more snack foods available to grab and go to will make the experience much more enjoyable.
Have Fun Eating While You Camp!
Now that you’ve got a complete camping food checklist, you can focus on planning the rest of your camping trip. Remember the most important part of camping, whether it’s with your family or if you’re camping solo, is to have fun!
Do your best to pack the essentials for your meals and then focus on making memories. Your fellow campers will likely remember the activities they do over what they ate during your first camping trip.
Interested in learning more about camping? Visit our Camping Page to learn about all the essentials you’ll need to know!
- About the Author
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Laura L. Zimmerman is an author of both indie and traditionally published books. She lives in a tiny rural town in south-central Pennsylvania with her husband, daughters, four adorable kitties, and one energetic puppy!
After earning a BMUS with a Certification in Music Therapy, she decided to homeschool her children. Here she discovered a passion for learning and teaching, which led her to make writing a priority. She currently enjoys reading and writing YA sci-fi and fantasy, as well as middle-grade mysteries.
Her hobbies include spending time with her family, hiking, playing outdoors with her dog, and doing yoga. You can find her drinking coffee, singing loudly, or consuming another Jane Austen novel.
Laura can be reached at email@example.com