Keeping a cooler cold while camping can be a hassle. Sometimes just bringing one is impossible.
But what is the alternative?
There are plenty of delicious foods that you can bring camping that require no refrigeration at all.
We are so used to just reaching into the fridge for our milk, cheese, eggs, meats, and even fruits and veggies.
To get you started, here is a list of food ideas for your next camping trip that won’t require you to chill anything.
Looking for other great campfire cooking tips? Check out our Camp Cooking Guide.
Ingredients That Require No Refrigeration
1. Velveeta or Cheese Whiz
If the term “cheese product” doesn’t bother you, these tasty cheese substitutes are great when a refrigerator isn’t available. Drizzle them on tortilla chips to make some nachos, or melt it over pasta to make an easy campfire mac and cheese.
Both natural and sweet, squirt-bottle honey is an easy option for adding something sweet to tea, coffee, biscuits, and toast.
This floury mixture is how so many delicious breakfast foods start. Pancakes, waffles, biscuits and more. Bring along some baking powder and you’ll have no problem using it without eggs and milk.
4. Dried Herbs and Spices
Your food doesn’t have to lack flavor just because you are camping. And the best part is none of the dried herbs and spices need to be refrigerated. Cumin for your salsa, oregano for your spaghetti, and of course salt for, well… everything.
5. Canned Evaporated Milk
If, like me, you shudder at the idea of being without milk for a few days but keeping your dairy cold is going to be challenging, you really have two options. Evaporated milk in a can has become one of the staples I always have around the house and on a camping trip. While I might not use this to lighten my coffee, it is a really great substitute for any recipe that requires milk. It might not taste exactly the same, but hey, you’re camping, and you might find you like it better.
6. Powdered Milk or Soy
Your second option in the milk department is to buy it powdered. In a pinch it, it serves as a great substitute, especially for coffee. Believe it or not, you can use it for your cereal too. Add some to cold water till you get the taste you like and dump in your Wheaties. Vegan or have a milk allergy? No problem. They also sell powdered soy!
7. Dry Lentils and Beans
Rice and beans – the camper’s go to food. But really, dry beans are a great addition to your camp kitchen that won’t take up a lot of space and don’t need any refrigeration. Remember for both beans and lentils, they can take a while to cook. Soak them in a pot of water overnight and you will have a much easier time getting them soft when you boil them the next day.
Taking its place next to milk as man’s ultimate staple, bread is a good filler when you are packing light and don’t want to take up room in the cooler. Toast, sandwiches, French toast, or a side for dinner.
9. Soy Sauce
Thinking of frying up some veggies and rice on your cook stove? Bring along some soy sauce. This Asian sauce is so salty, a little goes a long way, and it can go right back on the shelf after opening.
Some people don’t know that you actually don’t need to refrigerate butter. We keep ours out on the counter in a covered dish all the time so it is soft and spreadable. But be careful, it will be very soft and easily mushed. And if it gets warm enough you could have a greasy mess. Keep it in a container with a lid that seals.
Such a great seasoning, bouillon comes in beef, vegetable, and chicken flavor. It is a good way to make broths for soup on the go.
You know when you get take-out and they send you home with those little condiment packets? They work perfectly for camping! While their larger cousins, like a tub of mayo, need to be refrigerated immediately after opening (and is a major food poisoning culprit), these little packets are single serve and require no refrigeration. Just toss the package when you are done.
They make French fries. Enough said. But seriously, potatoes are incredibly versatile, easy to cook in a variety of ways and stay good for a really long time.
How does anyone cook without it? You can use it to fry up basically anything, dip bread in it, or grease a pan. Oil is something you should definitely put in your cooking essentials with the added bonus that it doesn’t need any chilling.
Delicious for breakfast and snacks, muffins come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. Add chocolate chips, blueberries or make corn muffins to go with chili. Let them cool completely and put them in a plastic bag. They will stay good for up to 4 or 5 days.
16. Fruit Leather
Try this fruit leather recipe in our post 25 Make Ahead Camping Meals to Feed a Whole Family to make your own fruit leather. You’ll have a yummy snack that is good for you and your kids.
17. Energy Bites
Energy bites are little round, bite-sized snacks that you can easily make at home and pack a great protein and fiber punch. You can keep them in a bag or box. Since most are made from oats and nut butter, there is no need to refrigerate them.
18. Coffee Cake
Make a sheet coffee cake and you have an easy breakfast option that everyone at the campsite will love. Try this recipe from Damn Delicious.
19. Banana Bread
Use up those leftover bananas on the counter before you pack up your camping gear. Banana bread is easy to make camping food that stores well without refrigeration. Cut off a slice and toss it on the fire grate to get it toasty before enjoying. We like this recipe from Chef John at All Recipes.
No Cooking Required
20. Jarred Salsa and Queso
Jarred salsa and queso have come a long way, and while they are no match for the homemade version, they are a great option at the picnic table. Put them out as a dip with tortilla chips or use them to season tacos and quesadillas.
21. Wasabi Peas
This little snack will separate the men from the boys with their super spicy bite. But once you get a taste for these crunchy little treats you won’t be able to stop.
22. Snack and Energy Bars
Cliff Bars, Lara Bars and so many more. These brands have made a killing off of the camping and hiking community. And for good reason. Easy, light, small, and packed with protein, fiber and fat, these little snacks are a great option when you are away from home and aren’t able to prepare a meal. Want to make your own? Check out our Nomadic No-Bake Bars in our post, 15 Delicious & Easy Camping Breakfast Ideas.
23. Pop Tarts
Kids and college students have learned to live on these. They are a breakfast junk food, up there with cocoa puffs. But they are super simple, come in individual wrappers and have a shelf life of a twinkie… well almost. Try the unfrosted ones if you are looking for something a little healthier.
25. Fresh Fruits
Most fresh fruits can be kept on the counter or in a knapsack before being cut open. A few of the ones that travel well are berries, lemons, kiwi, bananas, mangoes, pears, avocado, oranges, and melons. We love to grab peaches and apples from the farm stand on the way to our campsite in the summer and fall. But remember, once cut open, they won’t last long.
26. Fresh Vegetables
Most vegetables hold well without being refrigerated too. Look for the veggies that your grocer keeps in bins rather than the refrigerated section. Some good ones are corn on the cob, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, onions, garlic, eggplant, and green beans. Same as the fruits, many of these veggies, like cucumbers and tomatoes, will need some chilling once you cut into them. Best to just eat them up.
27. Dry Cereal
What is simpler than a bowl of cereal? Some are even great to eat dry, without your powdered milk mixture, like Cheerios, Frosted Mini Wheats, Fruit Loops and Cocoa Puffs.
28. Fruit Cups
We used to open up a tin of fruit cocktail for lunches as a kid. But now these little fruits are available in individually portioned cups. Now most of them are in real fruit juice instead of heavy syrup too.
Sweet, light, and sometimes cinnamony. You can get individual cups of applesauce to take on your next camping trip and they won’t need any refrigeration.
It can easily make or break any camping trip. Be it in a candy bar, a warm cup of cocoa or between a graham and mallow, chocolate is essential. Eat it before it melts!
The varieties and flavors of nuts seem endless. From habanero almonds to honey roasted peanuts. They are a delicious snack, a great source of fats and protein and will never see the inside of a fridge.
32. Dried Fruit
Dried fruits are great in a mix but they are also good just on their own. Sugared pineapples, banana chips, mango slices, yum!
33. Canned Meats and Fish
Canned meats get a bad wrap but you can get your protein and meat fix without having to refrigerate it. Deviled ham makes a great sandwich, as does tuna (break out those individual mayo packets!), canned chili is a great option to add to your campfire nachos, and Vienna sausages are a good replacement in your pork’n’beans campfire dinner.
34. Canned Vegetables and Beans
Canned vegetables and beans are a great alternative when you are looking to avoid the mess and time it takes to prepare fresh veggies and dried beans. All you need is a can opener and a spork.
Jerky is great for any camper, but especially for backpackers who are looking for something to chew on along the way, as well as a way to replenish their salts as they sweat down the trail. Jerky comes in so many flavors these days and if you have a dehydrator you can make it at home for a lot less.
36. Trail Mix
It is the quintessential campers’ and hikers’ snack. It will give you energy and fill up your belly. The best part is you can buy it for a no-fuss option, but you can also make your own custom mix (again with the help of a dehydrator). Add all the things you love from salty to sweet to spicy.
37. Nut Butter
Peanut butter, hazelnut spread, almond butter, the list goes on. They are packed with protein and good fats and are a great way to satiate hunger at the campsite without a lot of fuss. Spread some on crackers, bread or fruit, like apples and bananas. If you don’t want to bring along a whole jar, you can pick up some individual packets.
Hot Snacks and Meals
38. Campfire Cherry Pies
This is the campfire dessert you remember making as a kid and it is still just as yummy, and easy! All you need is white bread, a can of cherry pie filling and a campfire pie iron. Best of all, none of these require refrigeration.
39. Oatmeal or Grits
Overnight oats are all the rage right now, but if you want the warm belly feeling of hot oatmeal in the morning, you’re in luck. All you need for this tasty breakfast is water. The same goes for oatmeal’s southern cousin. Grits are a delicious, lightweight, and easily storable addition to any breakfast.
What’s better than a bag of freshly popped corn over a campfire. If you’ve never tried it, following this recipe from WikiHow to make your own popcorn over an open fire under the stars.
41. Boxed Mac and Cheese
It’s not just for kids. Our tip: stay away from the instant mac and cheese. The idea is clever, but the reality is sub-par. Stick to the regular box and substitute evaporated milk.
But even Bisquick requires eggs and milk, you say? Not so, when you use this genius recipe from Livestrong, which uses only non-perishable items. And don’t forget your maple syrup (which doesn’t need a refrigerator either!)
43. Rice, Couscous and Quinoa
Mix them with anything and you have a meal. These grains are great options for any camper because they are easy to store and carry, and are quick to cook up. Plus they are versatile. Some canned veggies or beans, maybe some olive oil and salt, or just plain butter.
44. Instant Noodles
They are cheap, easy and all you need is water. Plus they are pretty yummy in their multiple flavors. The pasta will give you energy if you’ve been hiking and the broth will help to replenish salts. Best part, you just toss the cup. No need for dishwashing.
45. Canned Soup
Similar to instant noodles, canned soups are a great option when you are trying to cut down on the number of things you bring camping. Creamy, hearty or alphabet filled, there is a canned soup for you. Pour, heat and enjoy.
46. Pasta and Sauce
It seems basic but add a little parmesan cheese or some canned vegetables and you have an (almost) gourmet meal. It’s quick to cook up over a fire or on a stove and can feed a lot of people. If you want to try going a little fancier, try a pasta sauce dry packet and substitute evaporated milk.
47. Dehydrated Meals and MREs
A lot of backpackers carry around at least a few of these. They are hearty, calorie heavy, and actually taste pretty good. Dehydrated meals require you to add hot water, while MREs are standalone meals. An MRE (or Meal, Ready to Eat) is a military ration meal packaged to withstand combat conditions and is heated with a flameless heater that is provided within the MRE. Keep in mind, both of these types of meals are for folks who are using up a lot of calories. Most MREs contain the full daily value a human needs and about 1200-1500 calories.
Personally, I love Mountain Houses dehydrated (just add water) meals. They are the right amount of calories for me and they taste great.
There are plenty of camping foods that require no refrigeration and are just as yummy as the stuff you drag along in your cooler. From healthy fresh fruits and veggies to super easy nut butters and canned meats, there are so many non-perishable foods to reduce the hassle of camp cooking.