Best Backpacking Recipes & Camp Cooking Guide

Cooking in the wild isn't just about survival; if you're roughing it, you're doing it wrong - Ray Mears

Backpacker meals need not be limited to eating instant noodles three times a day. Getting organised and making a few preparations before you set off will ensure your campsite cooking experience is stress-free, fun and most importantly, delicious.

We’re big foodies here at =ZIP=, and firmly believe spending some time planning your backpacking meals will be well worth the effort. Just wait until you see some of the mouth-watering recipes below!

This article covers the basics of campsite cooking, including what you need to prepare before you get on the road; the best equipment to use; and a few hacks to make any budding backpacking chef’s life that little bit easier.

Oh, and we’ve included our best backpacking recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well. Happy cooking!

Related Post: 13 Amazing Camping Tips For Beginners

9 Mouthwatering Camping Recipes (For Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner)

​Camp Cooking 101

​Campsite Cooking Equipment

If you’re planning on cooking over an open fire, be sure to bring a raised portable grill to rest your pots and pans on. Or failing that, make sure you’re well-versed on different techniques such as cooking with tin foil, or building your own tripod. Of course, portable stoves come in all shapes and sizes as well, depending on your cooking needs and preference.

Secondly, get a medium-to-large cooking pot, a pan of similar size, and a range of utensils and cutlery…a few plates and bowls will ensure you’re not taking turns eating from the pot!

Pick utensils and cutlery specifically made for the outdoors. There’s a big range of camping forks, spoons, sporks and knives to choose from nowadays, ranging from basic to hi-tech multitool-esque inventions for the more flashier backpackers.

best backpacking recipes

Home Prep

Sounds obvious, but the more prep you do at home the easier your campsite cooking will be. Pre-chop any veggies or meats you plan to use within the first couple of days, and use Tupperware or sandwich bags to separate all your perishables for transporting in a cooler. Place ingredients you plan to use first at the top for easy access.

Definitely “go gourmet” on your first day or two, that way your dry foods like noodles or pasta will still be appetising later on in the trip.

Eat Well, Travel Light

Packing right is the key to traveling light. Be strict on yourself and avoid bringing unnecessary items when out backpacking and hiking – you’ll thank yourself later.

For longer trips, consider only packing cups and spoons for cutlery; it’s surprising how many meals you can enjoy this way. If you arbitrarily throw food and equipment into a backpack, the chances are you’ll be putting more strain on your shoulders than necessary.

Light and long-lasting foods are the way to go. Peanut butter fan? Pre-smear your sandwiches and leave the jar at home. Likewise, lose any tinned foods and go for alternative, lighter packaging such as tin foil.

But remember, packing light doesn’t have to mean tasteless food. One way to ensure your backpacking meals still pack a punch is to empty a bunch of your favourite spices into one lightweight container, that way you won’t have to lug around multiple glass shakers.

Best Backpacking Foods

Keeping our lightweight mantra in mind, dry foods like pasta, oatmeal, noodles, rice, quinoa, pancake mix, and tortillas are versatile backpacker favourites.

Granola bars, energy bars, protein bars and homemade trail mix all make good snacks for when you’re on the move.

Jerky and sausage are useful meats to get your protein fix. And precooked bacon will last a few days and can be used for all sorts of (delicious!) meals or a simple sandwich.

For vegetables, carrots, bell peppers, onions and potatoes will give you a good mix of flavours and nutrition for most meals.

Cooking Methods

There are different methods of preparing meals in camp. For example, there are tons of quick and easy one pot meals that are perfect for hassle free backpacking.

Another option is to use the freezer bag method, which is a really ingenious way of simply reheating home cooked meals.

Not much of a cook? Don’t worry, these days there’s plenty of ready-made meal options carefully crafted for backpackers. Check out Good To-Go for some pretty cool backpacker meals designed with health and taste in mind. Their Mexican Quinoa Bowl comes highly recommended.

Breakfast Recipes

1. Campfire French Toast

Campfire french toast

This surprisingly simple recipe will have your friends and family asking you to cook more often! File under campsite cooking rather than lightweight backpacking…

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf of bread of your choice
  • A 500g container of strawberries
  • ¼ cup of sliced almonds
  • Syrup
  • Icing sugar
  • 1 carton French toast egg mix

Method:

  • Wash the strawberries, dice half of them and slice the others
  • Loosely wrap the loaf in a parchment paper and foil to leave the slices of bread slightly open
  • Sprinkle the diced strawberries then the sliced almonds, ensuring some of them fall between the bread slices.
  • Tighten the foil and parchment then pour the French toast egg mix evenly over the bread then wrapping the top with foil.
  • Cook for 35 to 40 minutes over the campfire or grill and ensure you regularly turn it around for it to be evenly cooked. Cook for longer if the bread is still soggy.
  • Remove it, let it cool for 10 minutes, then serve it with the icing sugar, syrup, and slices of strawberries.

Read more about this recipe here on This Lil Piglet.

2. Basic Oatmeal

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup of cooking oats
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of full cream milk powder

Method:

  • At home, mix the ingredients in a zip lock bag
  • When in camp, boil ½ cup of water, pour it into the mixture, and let it stay covered for 1 minute
  • Add any extra flavours according to your preference, such as peanut butter, honey, cherries or dark chocolate

Find out more on this recipe at Trail Recipes.

3. Scrambled Eggs

backpacking breakfast recipe scrambled eggs

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of OvaEasy eggs (or similar)
  • Sun dried peppers
  • Spinach
  • Garlic powder
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • Olive oil

Method:

  • At home, mix the OvaEasy and seasonings to taste. Place with the spinach and peppers in a small container or sandwich bag.
  • In camp, add water and thoroughly mix the eggs and vegetables.
  • Heat some oil in a pan, add the mixture and scramble the eggs with a fork or spoon as it cooks.

Check out Fresh Off The Grid for this recipe and tons more amazing backpacking meals.

Lunch Recipes

4. Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup dry beef mince
  • ¼ dehydrated beef bouillon cube
  • ¼ cup porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoon milk powder
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • Salt

Method:

  • At home, prepare these ingredients and store them in a cooler
  • On the trail, place the stroganoff and beef into a pot, add ½ cup of water and stir. The heat on the fire should be low and the mixture should be heated for 5 minutes.
  • Cover after completion to allow it rehydrate. Serve with pasta, rice, or mashed potatoes.

A more detailed recipe can be found at Capture Outdoors.

5. Taco Soup

Backpacking taco soup recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans of stewed tomatoes
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 2 cups of canned or homemade beans
  • 1 cup of corn

Method:

  • At home, mix the ingredients and cook. Afterward, freeze and pack it in the cooler.
  • At the camp, throw the ingredients in a pot and let them simmer.
  • Serve with a bag of Doritos for extra crunch.

Read more about this clever dish at Happy Money Saver

6. Campfire Cinnamon Roll-ups

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • 1 pack of crescent rolls
  • Wooden skewers

Method:

  • Mix the sugar and the cinnamon in a bowl
  • After separating the crescent rolls, wrap them around the wooden skewer then roll it in the mixture of cinnamon and sugar
  • Cook the over the fire, ensuring that you rotate it regularly
  • Serve it as preferred

This recipe is courtesy of Almost Supermom.

Dinner Recipes

​7. Creamy Clam Chowder

Backpacking taco soup recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 32 ounces milk powder
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 medium to large onion
  • 6 ounces dehydrated potato flakes
  • Pepper to taste
  • 6.5 ounces canned tuna, salmon or clams

Method:

  • When packing, place these ingredients in separate bags
  • Let the chopped onion sauté in butter and after it turns translucent, add flour to make a paste
  • Add the rehydrated milk in the paste while stirring it then add the potatoes and clams
  • After simmering for 10 to 15 minutes, the potatoes will have rehydrated
  • Sprinkle pepper to taste and serve it with a preferred bread

Read more on this recipe at Backpacker magazine.

8. Chicken Enchilada Nacho Bowls

Nacho bowl backpacking dinner recipe

Ingredients:

  • Chicken
  • Onion
  • Enchilada sauce
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Oregano
  • Black beans
  • Brown sugar
  • Chipotles

Method:

  • Cook the chicken with all the ingredients mentioned above
  • Pack it in a container or re-sealable plastic bag and refrigerate it
  • On the trail, all you will need to do is reheat the meal for a few minutes until piping hot
  • Serve with tortilla chips and finish the chicken bowl with a few spices

With thanks to Sunset for this recipe.

9. Red Lentil Sweet Potato Dal

Ingredients:

  • Sweet potato
  • Olive oil
  • Mustard seed
  • Turmeric, garlic, coriander
  • Red chili flakes
  • Kale or spinach
  • Chopped tomatoes

Method:

  • Methodically add the ingredients in a medium pot
  • After the dal has cooled a bit, spread it on a parchment-lined dehydrator tray
  • Dehydrate the dal for about 8 hours at 135 degrees
  • Package it in a container or a re-sealable plastic paper and chill it
  • At camp, rehydrate the dal and wait for it to heat for five minutes. Serve it with flatbread or rice.

The recipe has been extensively explained at Dirty Gormet.


Trail End

So there you have it. Our quick-start-guide to all your campsite cooking needs. Of course, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the weird and wonderful world of outdoor cooking. What are your best backpacking recipes? =ZIP=


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