One of the most important things that needs to be planned when going on a camping adventure is food and water, specially if wild camping. On this post I’ll share my tips for camping food when solo hiking as when this is the case you have to be even more careful with the amount of weight you’re carrying while still having options for tasty and easy camping meals.
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Having wild camped in many places around the world, there’s one thing that I have learned for sure, you cannot stick to just the same recipe all the time as the ingredients you like may not be available or weather conditions may not allow to carry for a few days the same sort of ingredients, etc. So being flexible on this is important and adapting to local ingredients is key.
As with any topic regarding food, you should always look into your own dietary requirements. Do not take the ideas below as professional nutritional advise.
I’m always looking for practicality when it comes to packing light for a trip and this also applies when planning what to eat for a few days of hiking as I try to have varied meals but using as few ingredients as possible to avoid carrying too much weight.
I also try to avoid food that takes too long to cook as the last thing you want is to run out of gas before the end of your trip or far from villages to re-supply.
The amount and type of food that we all need is obviously different so in addition of looking for camping food ideas take some time to think into how many meals you need per day. I personally like to have breakfast and just push all day with snacks every two hours (energy bars, snickers, cookies, salted nuts, etc) and then at the end of the day I make a “big” dinner, many people likes to make a long lunch stop and properly prepare something, that’s up to you to decide on your preference, I avoid having a big lunch just to not feel full when I still have a few hours of hiking ahead.
First things first, to be able to prepare some easy camping meals you must have some basic equipment. This food prep camping checklist contains everything I took in 2022 to do the West Highland Way in Scotland.
Equipment and accessories needed to prepare camping food:
- Stove, lots of models out there, I like to go for something lightweight whilst still being stable on windy conditions. I use the Primus Essential stove.
- Cooking pot(s), big enough for a big portion without being too bulky. When packing, I always put things inside the pots such as the stove, the spork, a lighter, etc. to save on space and keep everything together.
- Spork, all the cutlery you need in one simple tool.
- Plate/bowl, this is optional for me, I normally just eat directly from the cooking pot to avoid washing more things
- Knife, you should always carry a knife when camping and while the recipes below are not really needing to cut or chop anything it’s a tool that you will need at some point.
- Mug, essential for that morning coffee or tea! get a metal one instead of plastic as they will last forever!
- Gas canister, large enough for the amount of days you will be camping, if you know there are villages on your way where you can buy new ones then opt for a small version.
- Lighter, even if your stove has an ignition system, it’s always good to have a backup as these can fail and a lighter will not really add weight on your rucksack.
- Cloth, I always take a small cloth for some “light cleaning of the cooking pot in case I’m not camping near water.
- Lamp/headlamp, many times night will come upon us when hiking and camping out there before we prepared dinner so this one is an essential one to have too!
- Plastic bags, this is extremely important! I carry always a few with me to out on my rubbish. Please never, ever, leave any rubbish behind. When camping you always have to practice the Leave No Trace principles. If you’re discarding biodegradable leftovers (fruit peels, expired vegetable, etc.) throw them away from the trails.
For different parts of the world you will need more equipment, for example, in Asia I was always using a gas canister adapter as they were different than the ones I normally use in Europe.
Having sorted your basic equipment let’s get into the camping food ideas!
As mentioned at the beginning, I avoid carrying things that take too long to cook, luckily there are plenty of tasty alternatives that are not difficult to find in many countries. As a base I tend to go for cous-cous packs. The pre-seasoned packs that can be found in many supermarkets are tastier and not really that much expensive compared to plain cous-cous. If you have never “cooked” cous-cous, fear not! this is the simplest thing you will ever cook in your life as you just add boiling water and that’s it! in a couple of minutes it’s cooked!
I have also found pre-cooked pouches of grains (beans, chickpeas, rice, many times all mixed up) to be a fantastic option when it comes to easy camping meals as in 2-3 minutes you have a hot and nutritious dinner.
The pic above shows all the food I carried for my 5 days hiking the West Highland Way in Scotland.
Easy camping dinner ideas:
Pre-cooked pouches x5 (cooked chickpeas, rice, lentils, bulgur, quinoa, etc)
Couscous individual pouches x3
Pad-thai pack x1 (includes noodles, sauce and peanuts)
Bag of mixed nuts (spicy)
Bag of mixed seeds
I’d normally use two packs of grains per meal (totalling 500g) or a pack of cooked grains with a pack of cous-cous (350-450 total for the two packs). For all the dinners I only had to add a little bit of water to my cooking pot and then cook for 2-3 minutes. I added a good bunch of nuts and seeds as they top-up considerably on the nutrition aspect as well as adding extra flavour, dried meats can also add some protein and flavour! All those packs are normally sold in England at around £0.70-£2.00 so these are definitely really affordable camping food ideas.
Easy camping breakfast:
Pack of 8 tortillas (to make wraps), make sure the expiry date is long enough as I normally find some tortillas that last for a couple of days and others that last for a good couple of weeks.
Block of cheddar cheese
Large pack of cured meat (serrano, prosciutto, black forest ham, chorizo, all those can stay out of the fridge for a few days if it’s not a super hot environment)
I’d normally have 1 or 2 wraps that I put on top of the stove to toast them a little bit on very low fire.
During the day:
Energy bars/snacks (3 per day)
Instant coffee for the morning and herbal infusions for the night.
Other ingredients that are easy to carry when camping because they don’t need refrigeration and are nutritionally good:
Cherry tomatoes (washed), hard cheeses, boiled eggs, dried mushrooms, seaweed, porridge, bananas, apples, clementines, cereal, dried fruits (they last better in cooler weather)
You may have seen that I didn’t mention any canned foods and I have nothing against them, in fact you can carry lots of great canned foods, I just avoid them as I consider them messier when it comes to carrying your rubbish back as they tend to be oily, greasy, etc. I also avoid instant noodles as they’re nutritionally very poor (tasty for sure, but when hiking we need proper fuel for our bodies!)
There are also lots of dehydrated camping meals being sold online if you feel like you’d like even more variety.
If you prefer not to carry cooking equipment and don’t mind spending a little bit more money then I can also recommend self-heating food pouches, I have used these in the past and they’re delicious and also balanced for a nutritious meal. They tend to cost around £4-7 in the UK.
-When planning your camping food, make sure to plan how many meals you will need and add one or two more just in case, you never want to run out of food or water!
-Be ready to try new things when camping in different countries as you may not find exactly the ingredients you are looking for.
-If you pass by villages don’t miss the opportunity to try local specialities, it’s part of the adventure and contribute at the same time to the local economies.
-Never, ever, leave any rubbish in natural areas and if possible, bring the rubbish back home as in remote villages there may not be recycling capabilities.
Have you got any easy camping food recipes to share? or a favourite snack that helps you power-through your hikes? drop a comment below and share it! 🙂