Meal Planning For Backpacking and Camping

Now that it is close to summer, it is time to pack up and hit the outdoors. You have already checked all of your gear, planned where you are going and are ready to go, except for packing your food. Meal planning and prepping is not just for at home. It’s a great way to save money and to make sure that everyone is well fed. From personal experience, you do not want to end up with no food in the wilderness with two days left and the closest store is a five mile hike and a two hour car trip one way.

You do not want to overcompensate either. Nobody wants to waste food or have to pack out extra weight. It is important to plan for your outdoor adventures the same way that you would plan for your daily meals. Here are a few tips to eliminate food waste and not get hungry during your next camping, backpacking or outdoor adventures. These tips can also be helpful for long road trips too, and RV camping. **Please note, this post may contain affiliate links, at no cost to you and by clicking on them, we might earn a small commission.

Head Count– Plan ahead of time for number of people you will be feeding. We are a family of five, so I plan for three meals per day and two snacks. It sounds like alot, but it really isn’t when you take into account how many meals you eat at home.

Cooking Source– Now that you know how many people you are making meals for, it is time to figure out how you are going to cook or make your food. This will depend on if you are using a gas stove, campfire or backpacking stove. We like to cook over the fire a lot. Usually in August, with fire restrictions, we can no longer cook over a fire or use briquettes, and we can only use gas stoves. If we’re backpacking, it is usually meals that you just add water to, so a small stove is all we use. If using a gas stove, make sure you pack enough canisters. For car camping we use a Coleman and for backpacking we use a Jetboil.

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Weight– If you are backpacking,cycling or kayaking, weight really does matter too. There are lots of easy and lightweight meals you can purchase or make yourself. Water is also extremely heavy, so that needs to be a consideration too. If water is accessible, you don’t need to pack water, you can use a filter instead to eliminate that extra weight you would have to carry to make food. We use Lifestraw Water Bottles, and carry two water filters for both backpacking and camping. Also remember that water tales longer to boil at high altitudes so you’re using more gas. Sometimes dry meals are better.

Budget– I like to plan out all of my meals the Tuesday before we head out because that’s the day the new store ads come out starting Wednesday. I like to see what is or will be on sale. For example, brats this week are three packs for $5.00 but last week they were $5.00 a pack. Because we do use lots of brats, I bought multiple packages to freeze for other trips. Your meals for camping should not cost more than when you cook at home in your kitchen.

Perishables or Dry Goods– If you plan on taking a cooler or a small fridge, space is limited. Food can go bad quickly in the summer heat too. I usually plan to use perishables within 24 hours, even if we take the camper, because usually we dry dock so if the generator fails or the battery dies, I don’t have to worry that all of the food will go bad. We never take more than one cooler. I also keep several types of canned and dried goods in our camping box, like soup, instant potatoes, and chili.

Recipes– Having a plan of what you are going to cook is a great idea. That way, you know exactly what you need to buy. There are some great recipe books out there like The New Camp Cookbook and Feast by Firelight. If there is something I want to try, I will checks the ads and make those recipes if the ingredients are on sale and affordable. Another great resource is online, at MONTyBOCA, a recipe collective for outdoor adventures.

Snacks– Fruit and sandwiches make great snacks. I like granola bars too, but only buy them when they are on sale. I can easily stock up on peanut butter, jelly and tuna when they are on sale for future use..

Seasoning and Flavor– Don’t forget the condiments and seasonings. However, you do not need to take the whole soice rack with you. I usually pack salt, pepper, hot sauce, garlic, ketsup, mustard and seasoning salt. Camping meals should be basic, but not bland. I like to use Alpine Touch, because it’s just a great general use seasoning salt and made local.

Dessert– Everyone has a sweet tooth. You can go basic with S’mores or go all out with Dutch oven desserts. It is up to you. Desserts aren’t necessary, but they sure are yummy.

I hope these tips help for your next trip or outdoors adventure. Remember, pack it, packit out. Leave no trace, so try to reduce food waste and plastic when planning meals too. What is your favorite meal? Don’t let hunger keep you from having fun. Be outside with no limits. Love, Pauline


  • Suzan

    5 years agoReply

    So much planning goes into these adventures. Thanks for the suggestions!!

  • Robin

    5 years agoReply

    Good plan! We do this a lot and it is truly an art lol

  • jen

    5 years agoReply

    Great post! I actually have that Coleman stove and LOVE it!!

  • Karla

    5 years agoReply

    I have not been backpacking in so long. I’d really like to try again!

  • Ramae Hamrin

    5 years agoReply

    I have a great backpacking stove similar to the one in your post that I’ve used so many times when camping. The Lifestraw water bottles are really a great idea, and I don’t have one of those yet!

  • Stacey

    5 years agoReply

    Great tips! It’s important to plan your food. We don’t camp often, but we have learned to be prepared if you lose power. We’ve had to take shelter from a few storms only to return to a camper with no electricity!

  • Charlene

    5 years agoReply

    Great tips! We had a large family camping trip once and we spent a lot of time planning, shopping, and prepping the food in advance. It was a lot of prep work – but once we got there, it was all planned out and so nice!

  • Lina

    5 years agoReply

    Great tips! Meal planning for camp is such a great idea. Lots of work but will make it easier during the camp.

  • Kyndall Bennett

    5 years agoReply

    I have never heard of a backpacking stove before! I wouldn’t mind going camping again, but I am extremely terrified of snakes. I would have to go either in the autumn or winter most likely…

  • Laura

    5 years agoReply

    I’m the camp-certified adult for our GS troop, but I’m not really a camper. LOL It was a great experience to go on the training and learn diff types of outdoor cooking. Box oven, anyone? 🙂 Great article!!

    • admin

      5 years agoReply

      I have not used a box oven, but that would be fun to try.

  • Junell DuBois

    5 years agoReply

    I have not been camping in a very long time but there is nothing like a campfire smore!

  • Tiffany

    5 years agoReply

    Perfect! I needed this – otherwise we just end up with PBJ and hot dogs!

  • Cindy

    5 years agoReply

    I love cooking over a fire. Since my last camping trip Ive gone plant based so I need to revamp my recipes. I’m sure it’s doable!

  • Jane

    5 years agoReply

    Couldn’t agree more! We don’t camp but we do a lot of roadtrip a& hiking during summer. What to bring and how heavy it is, is very important! Since we live in bear country we always carry bear spray with us at all times!

  • Lisa

    5 years agoReply

    I always wondered about these straws… thank you for posting this!

  • Carolina

    5 years agoReply

    One of my boys favorite things about camping is camping food!! I love to try new non-complicated recipes.

  • Angela Greven | Mean Green Chef

    5 years agoReply

    Great tips for a fun trip, I’ve always loved cooking over an open campfire! Planning makes it so much easier and successful, thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  • Chris

    5 years agoReply

    Great tips! I especially liked the part about buying bulk non-perishables when they are on sale. I never though of that.

  • Annette

    5 years agoReply

    Love your post with great tips!! We will be doing some camping this summer, but not a tent. However, your tips are quite relevant to the RV camper. Great post!!

    • admin

      5 years agoReply

      We actually just got a camper (I prefer tent camping).

  • T.M. Brown

    5 years agoReply

    You have got this DOWN, girl!!! This is such an awesome resource for anyone to use when going camping or backpacking. You even have a great list of the tools you need to take into consideration when going on an adventure like this.

  • Shanna

    5 years agoReply

    yes! I love all the camping packing tips and menu plans I can get!

  • Amanda

    5 years agoReply

    Having appetizing food while backpacking is a MUST! Although I do believe after doing the kind of physical work you do backpacking, anything tastes good! haha! These are great tips! Thanks 🙂

  • Eileen

    5 years agoReply

    One of my favorite parts about camping is making the food! Every Labor Day weekend we go camping with my husbands whole family, about 60-70 people! And we basically sit around the fire the whole weekend and cook! And it is such a fun time!

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