Let’s face it. For most of us, camping is all about the food. Sure, there’s the beauty of nature, the epic hikes, the long, lazy days fishing high-alpine lakes, and the starlit nights identifying constellations. But when it comes down to it, meal time brings tremendous joy to the hungry outdoors person. Whether you’re car camping, glamping, or backpacking in the high Sierra, outdoor meals are often the highlight of any trip. To help ensure your meals are as good as your adventure, here’s a few tips on how to prep and bring camping food for each type of adventure.
When In Doubt Keep It Simple
By keeping things simple and doing a little pre-planning at home, you’ll be prepared to elevate your camping experience with tasty gourmet meals on the trail and under the stars. Be it a day or weekend full of adventures or even just relaxing, having everything coordinated before you leave will make your life easier when you’re out in the wild. Here’s a few things to think about:
- Do a little research before heading out and follow the outdoor ethics of the wild lands you’ll be visiting – like investing in a bear-proof canister or leaving your stove at home during wildfire season.
- During the summer months if you plan to camp on forest land, you’ll need to know if fire restrictions are in place. Even in the wettest years, wildfire season normally encompasses not just summer but runs into early winter which mean no open fires, camp stoves, or barbecues.
- Check out Tahoe National Forest for seasonal updates and whether your destination requires a permit or pass.
Car Camping & Glamping
This is the vacation you’ve been dreaming of. Make the most of it! With a day or weekend full of adventures or relaxing time, you’ll want to make your life easier by doing a little prepping at home. Imagine yourself eating a hearty breakfast of Early Bird Farm pancakes and eggs and some strong cowboy coffee under the pines. Or maybe you’re more of an avocado toast or overnight oats fan. Whatever your food preferences, it helps to have a solid plan! Here are some basic tips to get you started.
Create A Menu
Write down what you want for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for your trip and bring it with you so you have a reference at your campsite. We love this guide and inspiration from Fresh Off the Grid.
Make A Checklist
It’s crucial to create a camping food list of all the ingredients and kitchen equipment you’ll need for your trip (including cleanup). It helps to have a camp box of kitchen cooking equipment that is always ready to go.
Consider doubling a favorite recipe (like soup or chili) at home for an easy make-ahead meal plan.
Don’t Forget The Foil
Wrap food like veggies and fish in foil to make grill cooking a breeze.
Meal Prep You Can Do At Home
- Wash fruits and veggies
- Chop veggies, store in zip-top bags or reusable containers
- Cut, marinate and/ or pre-cook meat
- Pre-cook rice or pasta
- Premix any dry ingredients or seasonings; write with a sharpie on the bag to record the amount of wet ingredients that need to be added to things like pancake mix.
Prep and seal individual s’mores packs in reusable zip-top bags so each camper has their own ingredients for s’mores. This will help cut down on mess and trash around the campsite.
Organize Your Cooler
- Foods you are eating last go on bottom, first night’s meal on top
- Keep condiments and bottles together
- Keep smaller well-marked containers with ingredients for sandwiches, taco & burrito fixin’s, etc.
- Store drinks in separate cooler
- Organize dry pantry foods in totes by category (snacks, ingredients for cooking, etc.)
Where To Camp
Inn Town Campground offers campsites for RV and tents with glamping tents just a short walk or bike ride away from Nevada City with gas fire pits that are safe to use even during wildfire season. There’s also a pool and game room for the kids. Check out more camping ideas.
And if camp cooking isn’t your thing, you’re in luck. Our foothill and mountain towns are brimming with restaurants and cafes that will do the cooking for you! Check out our food and drink options here.
Please remember to keep your campsite neat and tidy and keep all food and trash in bear-proof lock boxes.
Day Hikes & Picnics
For day hiking and picnicking, we love tinned fish from Patagonia Provisions. Other fun extras are hard cheeses, salami, smoked salmon, and little packets of Kalamata olives and pickles.
Backpacking meals require a little more planning but going lightweight doesn’t mean you have to be boring!
Pre-packaged meals are easy, packable, and lightweight when spending numerous days on the trail or extended kayak or raft trip. They are ideal for trailside cuisine that satisfies and fuels activities, without the need for bulky and heavy ice chests to keep food fresh. Some meals don’t even require a stove to heat water.
Where To Get Dehydrated Meals
In Grass Valley you’ll find convenient bagged dehydrated meals at Mountain Recreation and BriarPatch Food Co-op. Or when in Truckee, head to New Moon Natural Foods or one of our fine outdoor outfitters for all your provisions.
How To “Spice” It Up
Want to liven up your dehydrated meals with some fresh flavor and texture? Try these plant-based additions that will last several days in your pack without refrigeration and infuse your dehydrated meals with some fresh flavor. By taking a few “bring along” ingredients, you can take your off-grid meals up a notch. Thanks to BriarPatch Food Co-op for these suggestions!
- Walnut halves
- Roasted, salted and shelled pistachios
- Pumpkin seeds
- Flour tortillas (to wrap salads, spread with nut butters or re-hydrated bean dips)
- Avocado (precious cargo, pack carefully)
- Onion or garlic
- Liquid Aminos
- Jicama (small size)
- Apples (hardy variety such as Fuji, Braeburn, Granny Smith)
- Sugar snap or snow peas
- Summer squash (add to pasta or grain dishes)
- Lime and jalapeño (can really add flair to a dehydrated meal – from Miso Soup to Black Beans and Rice)
- Sprouts (for longer trips, consider bringing along a sprouting bag and grow your own fresh veggies on the trail!)
- Corn chips, fresh corn kernels & favorite hot sauce (will take your rehydrated chili from blah to yum!)