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Cooking during a camping trip is a proper art form. There are so many intricate details to take note of. While some people shy away from campfire cooking because of this, I adore it! I love the challenge of cooking in the great outdoors but if it’s your first time and you’re feeling nervous, don’t be.
Here are some of my favorite top camping food hacks to help you get started!
Camping food hacks to know before leaving your home
1. Wash everything beforehand
To start, this is one of the most basic yet important camping food hacks: Wash whatever it is that needs washing before you leave home!
If you’re like me, you’ve probably come across some therapeutic videos of campers cooking in the great outdoors. They wash their ingredients using fresh water from a stream and then cook their food on rustic-looking stoves made of stone.
As much as I’d love to be able to experience that, the reality is you won’t always be able to find a fresh or sanitary water source to wash your ingredients. So if there’s anything that needs to be washed, like vegetables or fruits, then wash them at your home before packing them up for your trip!
The same goes for utensils and cookware.
2. Store cooked food in mason jars
If you want to take the camping food hack above to another level, then rather than just wash your food, you can also cook it and store them in mason jars!
Although this does take a bit of fun away from camping (part of the joy of camping for me is cooking food over a campfire), there are plenty of good reasons to bring pre-cooked food on your camping trip.
For one, it is hassle-free. You don’t have to start a fire or look for a good spot to start cooking. You certainly won’t have to bring any cooking equipment either, which definitely helps lighten the load. Finally, storing cooked food in mason jars also reduces the amount of after-meal clean-up chores!
What’s more, mason jars can also be used to store drinks and pre-mixed cocktails (for those who fancy an occasional sip of alcohol while camping). If you want a quick and easy breakfast during your trip, another camping food hack is simply to prepare overnight oats using your mason jar.
3. Alternatively, prepare your own frozen food
Frozen food often gets a bad rep because it’s processed and packaged in a factory. While it’s true that types of frozen food aren’t exactly healthy because they contain plenty of sodium (that’s salt), the same can’t be said of frozen food prepared at home.
This is probably one of the first camping food hacks you’ll ever learn. Instead of bringing fresh meat that can easily go bad, chop it up into appropriate serving sizes, place them into zip lock bags and freeze them for later use. You can even add in some marinades to turn your frozen meat into BBQ-ready meal packs!
You can also do this for freeze-friendly vegetables, like corn, carrots, and peas, and certain fruits like bananas to keep them fresh for longer. As an added bonus, your frozen meal packs can also double up as makeshift ice packs, and they make for easier cleanup too.
4. Keep your fruits and veggies fresh using a food-saver sheet
For fruits and vegetables that can’t be frozen, simply stuff them in a bag and drop in a food-saver sheet.
Basically, these seemingly-magical sheets are infused with “organic, active botanicals” that work to help extend the life of your fresh produce. They are recyclable and biodegradable.
More importantly, each sheet can be cut into smaller pieces to fit whatever sized container you have. They weigh next to nothing and are an inexpensive way to keep your produce fresher for longer.
5. Wrap root vegetables and spuds in foil
Another way to keep certain vegetables fresh for longer is by wrapping them in foil. However, to turn this common piece of knowledge into a proper camping food hack, I recommend using this hack only for root vegetables and potatoes.
That’s because foil-wrapped potatoes and root vegetables can be immediately dumped onto a grill or a campfire to bake. So instead of unwrapping your ingredients before cooking, you can actually prep them beforehand, wrap them in foil, and then get straight to cooking once you’re feeling peckish. How convenient!
6. Use a bottle to store eggs
When I first went camping, transporting eggs gave me extreme anxiety. No matter how securely you wrap them, there’s always that high probability that one or more of them will break.
To make things easier, many campers will opt to boil their eggs beforehand. A neat trick for sure, but if I had to eat boiled eggs every day, I think I’d go mad!
Instead, you can crack fresh eggs, scramble them, and pour them into a clean bottle. Seal it up you’ve basically got fresh scrambled eggs on the go. When you’re ready to eat them, simply pour them into a pan and cook.
In addition, you can also store seasoned eggs in a ziploc bag and then boil them for easy, mess-free scrambled eggs.
7. Use a piping bag to store pre-mixed pancake batter
In a similar way, you can premix some pancake batter and store them in a bottle or piping bag and bring them along on your camping trip.
When you’re feeling like pancakes, simply pour or pipe the mixture into a hot pan and hey, you get to enjoy fresh pancakes in the great outdoors! What a life!
8. Of course, you’ll need to bring an icebox too
This camping food hack is probably one that most avid campers already know about. An icebox will help keep your food fresh for a longer period of time. This is vital if you’re going on a multi-day camping trip and you need a way to prevent your food from going stale or bad.
One pro tip is to place all the regular items you frequently use at the very top. This minimizes the time you leave the icebox open as you search for whatever you need, helping the icebox stay chilled longer. In addition, I find that big blocks of ice tend to last longer too!
9. Freeze bottled water to make extra ice packs
Now, I get it, if you’re going camping while hiking, carrying a large block of ice in addition to a bulky icebox can be extremely inconvenient. One way to get around this is simply to freeze bottled water and use those as makeshift ice packs!
Not only will they help keep the temperature of your icebox low, but you can also drink the bottled water once the ice inside melts! That way, you’re killing two birds with one stone and saving space in the process.
10. Use stackable pill packs to store herbs and spices
I admit: Sometimes, I fantasize about going on a Bear Grylls-style survival camping trip. For the most part though, I very much prefer having food that is well-seasoned and flavorful, even if it was cooked over an open campfire.
That’s precisely why this is one of my favorite camping food hacks ever! If you’re looking to pack some spices for your camping trip, a neat trick is to measure out the amount of spices (or herbs) you need and store them in stackable pill packs. Not only does this save space, but pill packs are also easier to carry around than a bunch of tiny spice bottles.
Alternatively, you can also use TicTac boxes or pillboxes. If you know precisely which spices or herbs go with which meal, you can premix the spices and separate them into different slots for even easier cooking. Just make sure you label them properly!
11. Or just use straws
If your camping mantra is to pack super light, then another clever way to store spices for your trip is to simply use a straw. Measure out whatever you need and pour the seasonings into your straws.
Use a lighter to heat up the ends of the straw and then seal it up. Voila, a nifty spice packet that barely takes up any space at all! Just remember to label these too!
12. Limit the number of canned food items
I’m guessing this one caught you by surprise. But yes, this is one of those camping food hacks that only an experienced camper would give you. Yes, canned food items are extremely convenient and some of them can be quite tasty too.
However, bringing a bunch of food cans means adding weight to your backpack. That and the fact that some cans need to be opened with a can opener, which represents an additional item you need to pack.
Unless you’re camping in a campervan, I would recommend limiting the number of canned food items you’re packing.
13. Use a portable Moka pot for fresh coffee
First of all, let me just say that I have nothing against canned or premixed coffee. I just very much prefer fresh coffee for my morning cuppa. Obviously, I can’t bring my espresso machine with me to a campsite unless I’m using a campervan. That’s where my trusty Moka pot comes in!
If you’ve never used a Moka pot before, you’ll absolutely love it once you’ve tried it. It’s basically a portable steel pot that uses the pressure of boiling water to make rich coffee. All you need are coffee grounds, fresh water, and a fire. Simply fill the bottom of the Moka pot with water, the filter basket with coffee grounds, and set it on top of the campfire or stove.
And then, just wait for the sweet aroma of fresh coffee to fill the air!
14. Or create your own portable coffee bags!
However, if you don’t want to bring a Moka pot, then this ingenious camping food hack is for you! You’ve heard of tea bags, but did you know you can also make your own coffee bags?
Simply fill a coffee filter with a scoop of your favorite ground coffee and tie it up with dental floss. Needless to say, you’ll want to stay away from those mint-scented dental flosses for this one.
Once you’re at the campsite, simply dump these coffee bags into a cup of hot water and you’ve got a fresh cup of coffee!
15. For snacks, stick to energy-dense snacks
Look, I am all for the healthy-living food trend that’s taking over social media right now. However, when you’re packing for a camping trip, especially if you’re hiking as well, carrot sticks with hummus and avocado on rye bread toast don’t exactly cut it.
Instead, to fully utilize your limited space, pack snacks that are high in protein and energy dense. Examples include boiled eggs, granola bars, mixed nuts, dried fruits, chips, and an emergency stash of sugary candy in case of low blood sugar.
Camping food hacks to know at the campsite
16. A ziploc bag can be used in many ways
Earlier, I mentioned using ziploc bags to store food items and to prepare frozen meal packs. Heck, I even told you how to prepare sous vide scrambled eggs using a ziploc bag!
But once you’re at the campsite, you’ll realize that there are even more useful ways to make use of your ziploc bags! For one, you can use them to store any food scraps of waste if there are no bins or proper disposal sites nearby.
In addition, fresh, clean ziploc bags can be used as makeshift plates or bowls for certain types of food like salads or tacos. Just make sure you’re not pouring piping hot food into them!
17. Reuse chip bags as a bowl for salads or tacos
On a more practical level, you probably wouldn’t bring more ziploc bags than you need on a camping trip. However, you or your camping mates will more than likely bring chips for snacks. Once you’re done with the chips, you can reuse the bags as makeshift bowls as well.
What’s more, since most chip bags are made with laminated aluminium, you can actually use them to store any leftover cooking ingredients to keep them fresh for longer, provided that you’ve washed the bags.
18. Use citrus fruits as candles
Speaking of reusing food scraps, here’s a camping food hack that epitomizes zero-waste. If you’re bringing citrus fruits (like oranges or lemons) on your camping trip, you could actually opt to not bring any candles since they are the perfect substitute!
What you want to do is cut your citrus fruits in half and scoop out the edible portions, being careful to keep the center stem in tack. This will act as the candlewick. Then, add in some vegetable oil and light the wick.
While they don’t look like much, these “citrus candles” can actually burn for around 4-5 hours!
19. Or use them as individual baking trays!
Who’d have known that citrus fruits could be so versatile! In addition to being makeshift candles, citrus fruit peels (oranges especially) can also be used as individual baking trays for muffins.
Simply pour premixed batter into the peels, wrap them in foil, and bake them by the campfire. Not only do the peels act as the perfect cupcake holder, they also add a subtle citrusy fragrance to the cupcakes too!
20. Soak wooden skewers in water before use
There are many reasons to pack wooden skewers for a camping trip as opposed to metal skewers. The biggest reason is because they weigh far less and take up less space.
However, unlike metal skewers, wooden skewers can easily catch fire if not properly prepared beforehand. Before you stick them on the campfire, an important camping food hack to remember is to soak them in water first, preferably for up to six hours or overnight.
This helps to stop the wooden skewers from burning up once they’re on the fire.
21. Wrap crescent dough around a skewer and roast for a quick dessert
Now that your wooden skewers are ready for use, here’s one of the most amusing camping food hacks I’ve come across that actually works.
If you’re camping out in the woods and have a sudden craving for something sweet, just wrap crescent dough (you can buy them beforehand) around a skewer, sprinkle it with some cinnamon sugar, and roast them over the campfire.
If I had to describe the taste, it was like eating a cinnamon roll but on a skewer!
22. Use an ice cream cone to serve s’mores
If you prefer a more traditional camping snack, then here’s a neat way to prepare and serve s’mores: Use an ice cream cone!
These crumbly shells can take on a surprising amount of heat without losing its shape, which makes them the perfect containers to melt your marshmallows and chocolates in.
Just wrap the cones in foil and place them next to the campfire. Plus, once the smores are ready, the cone then becomes an edible bowl or cup!
The best equipment to bring on a camping trip
23. A portable fire starter is your friend
Look, I consider myself a veteran camper. I’ve been on many different camping trips but one thing that has always stumped me was starting a fire. It seems easy, rubbing some sticks together until something starts smoking. But the reality is that it can sometimes take hours just to get a campfire going…unless you have a portable fire starter!
Portable fire starters come in different shapes and sizes, but they all function in pretty much the same way. As the name suggests, they make starting a campfire an absolute breeze. Generally, they contain a flint that you strike to create a spark over dried leaves or twigs to start a fire.
Some fire starters also come with a scrapable piece of flammable wood or magnesium that you can shave off to easily start a fire.
24. Grab a cast iron pan
Whether you’re hiking the Himalayas, camping overnight at Yosemite, or lounging away in a campervan, a cast iron pan is, in my opinion, the very best cookware to bring along for your camping trip.
While it’s fun to toss omeletes on a non-stick pan to pretend I have as much culinary talent as Gordon Ramsay’s left foot, these sorts of pans are delicate pieces of equipment that don’t hold up well to campfires. They also need to be cleaned properly or they lose their non-stick properties.
A cast iron pan, on the other hand, is as durable as they come. These pans work extremely well in any condition and can be used in a variety of ways. You don’t have to worry about damaging a cast iron pan either as they’re virtually scratch-resistant!
25. Get yourself a portable camp oven
A camp oven looks more like a cauldron than an oven. Thankfully, it also doesn’t need any electricity to run, which means it’s a camping tool that you can use even if you’re not staying in a camper van.
A camper oven is usually made of cast iron and can be used to cook a large variety of dishes, from roasts to casseroles and even cakes! I’ve also seen some people use it as a deep-fryer!
While they may be a little bulky, a portable camp oven certainly gives you more options when it comes to the kinds of food you can prepare while camping. A camping oven is one of those camping food hacks that make things easier simply by existing.
26. Use an electric travel kettle for hot water in a campervan
If you’re camping in the woods, the only way to get hot water is to boil it (and hey, portable camper ovens can be used for that too!). However, if you’re travelling in a campervan, there’s a much easier way to get hot water: Just use an electric travel kettle!
As the name suggests, an electric travel kettle boils water in only 10-16 minutes. All you have to do is plug it into a cigarette lighter and it will get the job done even as you drive. You can even use it to prepare instant noodles, soups, and other food items as well!
And there you have it, 26 of the best camping food hacks you wish you knew earlier! Of course, there are more ingenious ways to McGuyver a camping trip but even if you stick to just these, you’re in good hands!
In the mood for more camping tips and tricks? Check out some hacks for tent insulation.