If there is one thing that we can all agree on, it is that food at the campsite just tastes better than food at home. When we go camping, there is usually no urgency for food or a rigid schedule that you have to follow, so you have a lot more time to relax, snack, and eat great food. A lot of people that I camp with, especially for the first time will always ask me something like “what should we bring”, or “how much ice do we need”. We wanted to take the time to share some great tips and secrets for what you should actually bring on a weekend camping trip so that you are not stuck having to run to the local mini-mart, or an even further trek to a grocery store.
How much food should I bring for a weekend camping trip? This really depends on what you like to eat as a family, but you should always bring enough food to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you know you are going to be hiking, fishing, or doing any other activity, you should bring enough snacks to have one in between each large meal of the day. The most important thing you need to remember to bring is enough water or other drinks that you or your family might need for the whole trip. Depending on what you like to eat, you can bring things as simple as hot dogs, hamburgers, and chips, or things that take longer to make like Steak, Fish, Chicken, and if you are bringing a camper or RV, you can make spaghetti, or lasagna if you want. The food choices also depend on how much cold storage you need, and how much you can just stick in your tent or food crate that will not spoil while you are camping.
Foods That Need Ice
Any sort of meat like beef, chicken, fish, or pork will have to stay cold the whole time you are camping, so you want to make sure that you have enough room in your refrigerator or cooler to keep those things below the temperature of bacteria growth. Bacteria grow the fastest between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is important that you keep your food covered up with ice. If you know that you are going to a remote place, you might only plan on bringing smaller more compact meats like individually wrapped chicken, or steaks, and a package of hotdogs that are sealed. Make sure that you do not use your ice chest for putting ice in your drinks if you have any meat that is not airtight sealed, or you could be ingesting bacteria. It is also a good idea if you have the room to have a cooler just for drinks, and bottled water, so there is no cross-contamination.
Dry Foods That Won’t Spoil
Dry foods are always your best friend when camping because they do not spoil as fast, and have the slowest bacteria growth. Things like rice, pasta, chips, crackers, and other foods will keep longer, so you do not have to worry about checking them on the final night of camping. They also are the easiest to pack because they normally come in smaller more compact boxes and are easier to tuck away when trying to save room in your car for things like clothing, tents, and gear. Crackers and chips are always a staple snack around our campsite because almost everyone loves them, but be careful with chips. Chips are by far the best dry food snack you can bring other than granola bars, but they are very big and full of air, and can easily be crushed by something. Try to put your bags of chips or boxes of crackers on the top of your gear so they will not get smashed. Since they are extremely light, there should be no concern for them damaging anything they are sitting on in the car.
How Much Food Do I Need?
How much food depends on how many people you have coming with you, and what you are wanting to eat. For the average couple going on a Friday night and leaving Sunday afternoon, you might only need two packs of hotdogs, a 12 pack of eggs, and some items for sandwiches, and of course snacks. If a family of five (like myself), We have to bring multiple packs of hotdogs, and three 12 packs of eggs, and 6 bags of chips, with several cases of soda, bottled water, and of course stuff for s’ mores. For a couple who is going camping, you might only need a singe ice chest, but in my family, we have to bring two large ice chests, and we still almost always have to make a store run. This is normally fine for us because we typically camp somewhere close to a camp store, or food stores like Safeway, or Savemart. Evaluate what you cook for a normal dinner, and build your food list off of that, but be careful, people tend to eat more out camping than they do at home.
Food For Meat Eaters
For people that have to eat meat every night, it would be wise that you buy a small cooler, just for your meat and eggs, so you know that it will be safe and cold. You can bring things like Tri-Tip, Ribeye, New York, and other steaks, or things like marinated chicken breasts, or kabobs, or a whole chicken if you are bringing your own grill or smoker. Ribs are also a very good staple camp food, but they are very big and require a bigger ice chest than other meats, so make sure you have the room before you go buy stuff that might not fit into your ice chest.
Food For Vegetarians
For people that are not big on meat, there are tons of vegetables that will stay fresh in an ice chest. You can bring corn, eggplant, green beans, peas, broccoli, and the list goes on and on. The one thing you will want to make sure of is that you seal your vegetables like salad and any other fruit or vegetables that might soak up water in your ice chest. Nothing is worse than going to get a salad out of your ice chest only to find out it’s completely waterlogged and you cant eat it. Try to set things on top of your ice, or make sure to seal them up so water cannot get in.
What Can I Eat Without Cooking?
There are a ton of foods that can be eaten without cooking, and while some of them are primarily snack foods, there are some that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For snacks, you can have granola bars, chips, crackers, nuts, beef jerky, trail mix, Chex mix, dried fruit, and more. If you are wanting to eat a meal, you can have things like a peanut butter sandwich, toast (or anything with bread), dry cereal, pop tarts, and many other things. If you know you are going on a quick trip and are not going to eat that much, snack items might be better for you, so you do not have to lug around a bbq or big ice chest.
What Other Gear Do I Need To Bring?
While food is your main staple of items to bring, there are some other essential items you will need in order to cook and eat your food. Here is a list of essential items you will want to pack for a weekend trip:
- Ice Chest
- Pots and Pans
- Cooking Utensils
- Cutting Board
- Pot holders
- Napkins or Paper Towels
- Plates and Bowls
- Seasonings like Salt and Pepper
- BBQ or Grill
While we could make a laundry list of items, these are the most essential things we could think of that will get you through all of your meals when out camping.
Do I need To Lock My Food Up?
It is always a good idea to keep your food sealed up and put away while camping, and if you are camping in an area that has a lockbox, you should definitely use it. While you might not think it’s a big deal, there are lots of animals that are out to steal your food. Critters like raccoons, skunks, squirrels, and birds are not very harmful, they love to get on picnic tables and trash bags to rummage for food. Bigger things like deer and bear are also looking for a free meal, and if you come upon them, they could seriously hurt you, so lock your food up to avoid messes. I have even seen bears open cars, or break windows to get into cars to take food, so be careful where you store your stuff.
Knowing how much food to bring with you on a camping trip really depends on what you like to eat, and how many people you are feeding, but there is a ton of alternative foods you can choose that will make packing easier and lighter. If you have the room for multiple ice chests, you can bring what you want, but if you are in a small car, you might have to look at pre-packaged food that will be easy to stow away and not take up a lot of space. If we can give you one piece of advice, bring as much food as you think you can hold, but always save room for an extra bag of ice