Managing provisions can be a little complicated on a camping trip, especially if you’re new to this fabulous, lifelong activity. And that’s especially true when it comes to dealing with food perishability.
Sure, you may have access to a fridge when camping if you’ve got an RV or campervan. But what about if you don’t? If you’re car camping, there’s a good chance you’ve got a cooler along. But depending on weather conditions—and how far off the beaten path you’re going—it can be challenging keeping that cooler stocked with ice or freezer packs. And you’re liable to have limited space in there, regardless.
All things considered, it’s obviously a good idea to keep that on-the-go pantry of yours stocked with no-refrigeration-needed camping foods. In this article, we’ll offer up some ideas for camping ingredients and meals that don’t require a fridge or cooler, as well as some general tips on food management.
(Now, bear in mind this is aimed primarily at car campers, though it goes without saying that backpackers deal with the same issue and become adept at selecting lightweight, nutritious, and non-perishable eats. We’ve got plenty of resources on backpacking meal planning on our blog. (Like the Best Backpacking Recipes or Hiking Meal Plan articles, for example!)
You already know it’s the most important meal of the day. That becomes all the more true while out camping, when you’re burning up all that energy hiking, biking, and paddling, and also doing your darndest to avoid potentially trip-wrecking flareups of “hanger.”
Here are some go-to ideas for no-fridge breakfast camping eats:
Campfire Oatmeal With Dried Fruits & Nuts: A camping breakfast doesn’t get much easier—or more nutritious—than instant oatmeal gussied up with some dried fruits and/or nuts.
Energy-Boosting Granola Bars: No-fuss, no-muss granola bars are another staple item for a camping breakfast, one that requires zero cooking whatsoever. A fine choice for hitting the trail early: aiming to get up and down the summit before afternoon thunderstorms, say, or rushing off to that killer iconic sunrise vantage in the national park.
Instant Pancake Mix: Pancakes are, for many folks, one of those really soul-nourishing breakfast items, and they taste even better at the campsite! Instant mixes make camp flapjacks—cooked on a stove or a fireplace grill—easy-peasy, and there are any number of non-perishable accouterments, such as banana slices or chopped nuts, you can incorporate.
Breakfast Burritos With Non-Perishable Ingredients: From powdered eggs (and even fresh eggs, which can last awhile without refrigeration) to potatoes, peppers, hard cheese, and avocado—and, of course, those long-lasting tortillas—the sky’s the limit when it comes to a camping-style breakfast burrito. Few things taste so darn good on a fireside morning…
Bagels & Other Pastries: Bagels, rolls, and loaves don’t need refrigeration, and there are many spreads and toppings—including butter—that don’t either, at least not for a while. And besides the cookstove, that campfire awaits for toasting purposes…
Mountain House Breakfast Options: Our just-add-hot-water Mountain House pouches—campers’ best friends for many decades—include plenty of powerhouse breakfast options, from Classic Biscuits & Gravy and Scrambled Eggs With Bacon to the Veggie Chorizo Breakfast Scramble. Check out the full selection!
Lunch & Snack Ideas
Camping, even if it’s of the more laidback variety, tends to inspire rather wolfish appetites: No sooner than breakfast has been done and dusted, many campers’ thoughts start drifting toward lunch or at least a midmorning snack. Best to be prepared!
No-Fuss Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches: While technically it’s recommended to keep opened jars of peanut butter, jams, and jellies in the fridge or cooler, they often do just fine unrefrigerated if kept in a cool and dry place, and so long as you keep an eye out for mold. But prepacked pouches of butter and jelly, or squeeze-bottle options, also make the good ol’ PB&J very much a possibility for no-fridge camping.
Trail Mix Variations: From that time-tested staple of GORP to granola, sunflower seeds, almonds, and chocolate chips, trail mix hits the spot not only for a hiking snack but—let’s be real—a full-on lunch, at least sometimes.
Canned Soups & Stews: Thanks to canned soups and stews, you don’t need a fridge—or to invest a bunch of prep- and cook-time—to savor a hearty, warming, soul-satisfying lunch.
Wraps & Sandwiches: Tortillas, pitas, and buns are versatile best friends when it comes to the camp larder, and that includes on the lunch front: From summer sausage and hard cheese to fresh vegetables and hummus, wraps and sammies are quick, easy, and crowd-pleasing meals.
Mountain House to the Rescue: From freeze-dried meats such as Grilled Sliced Chicken or Ground Beef for your lunch wrap to our utterly irresistible and practical Adventure Meals™, we’ve got you covered here at Mountain House—as always!
After a long day sightseeing, hiking, boating—or, heck, just hardcore hanging at the campground—nothing keeps the spirits up on a camping trip like the prospect of dinner.
Campfire Foil Packet Meals: Few campsite meals are quite so satisfying as the foil-pack campfire variety: from cheesy potatoes and asparagus to a slice of “pizza bread” loaded up with kitchen-sink ingredients.
One-Pot Pasta Dishes: Pasta’s just as lifesaving at the campsite as in the home kitchen when you’re out of ideas or strapped for time. Dried noodles or shells can be tossed with olive oil, dried herbs, spices, and cheese or butter to make as swoony—and as simple—a dinner as you could ask for.
Grains With Veggies, Herbs, & Spices: Also easy to whip up in style at the campground, grains—rice, quinoa, couscous, and the like—can be combined with dehydrated or fresh vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts, cheeses, and other non-perishable ingredients to make quiet little gustatory masterpieces.
Mountain House Entrées: The perfect dinner is mere minutes away with just-add-water convenience thanks to our celebrated lineup of entrées here at Mountain House, including surefire winners such as Beef Stroganoff, Chicken Teriyaki & Rice, Chili Mac With Beef, and Buffalo Style Chicken Mac & Cheese.
End the day on the perfect delectable note with a camp dessert, fridge most definitely not required!
Campfire S’mores: Do we really have to say anything more? As iconic as campsite desserts come, and as much fun to make as to eat.
Dutch Oven Bakes: As generations of shepherds and cowhands will attest, a Dutch oven has major utility at the campsite, not least for dessert bakes. Fresh fruit or berries, sugar, cake mixes, powdered milk, and/or butter give you everything you need to concoct something magical.
Popcorn: Another stone-cold campfire classic, right? Spices give you all kinds of options for indulgent versions, from garlic powder to cinnamon and sugar.
Ice Cream???: Heck yeah, when you’ve got Mountain House freeze-dried ice cream sandwiches at the ready…
From instant coffee or tea pouches to kick off your day to fruit-infused water and electrolyte mixes, there are plenty of ways to stay hydrated and energized via liquid nourishment on your camping trip.
Essential Camping Food Tips
Looking for more information in terms of camping food safety, storage tips, and meal planning? Check out these resources:
Fuel Your Adventures With Mountain House
Here at Mountain House, we’re proud to have offered high-quality, incredibly convenient freeze-dried meals to campers, backpackers, hunters, climbers, river-runners, and other outdoor users for more than a half-century.
It’s hard to beat our Mountain House meals when it comes to camping food, given the speed and ease with which they can be prepared and our exceptional shelf-life and taste guarantee.
Get a sweeping overview of our campsite-ready freeze-dried Mountain House meals. If you’re curious about how the freeze-drying process at the heart of the Mountain House promise works, check it out for yourself:
What Is Freeze-Drying? from Mountain House on Vimeo.
And if you’d like a quick tutorial on the couldn’t-be-simpler, ready-in-10-minutes cooking process for Mountain House meals, say less:
Let's Eat Out! from Mountain House on Vimeo.
Elevate Your Camping Meals Today
Long story short, you certainly don’t need access to a fridge or even a cooler to make a whole lot of great camping food to stay fueled up in the great outdoors. And there are loads of other camp-ready recipes stockpiled right here at the Mountain House blog.
Explore the entire camping and backpacking Mountain House meal collection, and get ready for great eating on your next adventure!