When you go camping, usually you have very limited cooler space, and often buying ice isn’t realistic because the closest grocery store or gas station is probably miles away. It’s pretty common to see other campers lugging around a huge cooler or two, but sometimes it is too much of a hassle and not even realistic. Other times, you may not want to cook anything because of the heat and the time it takes to cook. Other times, even fires and even camp stoves are prohibited due to fire danger so you can’t cook anyway.
There are many foods that require no refrigeration, that you can take with you camping. It’s always a good idea to bring shelf-stable foods with you camping because they last a long time without a camping fridge. Many of these foods can be basic ingredients for camping meals and a lot of them can be combined to make no-cook meals.
If you are looking for delicious camping meals to create at your campsite with ingredients that don’t require refrigeration like the ones listed below, I highly recommend that you check out the MontYBoca website or Chef Corso’s two cookbooks. Most of the recipes have basic staples, less than 10 ingredients, and are a much better option than freeze-dried meals. It’s amazing how some of these ingredients can easily make a yummy and simple meal. And, even though these are considered “convenient” foods, there are some healthy options. Sometimes convenience is necessary for camping, but I have tried to minimize the number of convenient foods on this list.
So for your next camping trip, use this list for camping food ideas, to create a basic pantry box and menu planning. The best part is that no fridge is needed, and you can still have tasty meals and food. This list includes some favorite ingredients and some foods that require just adding hot water or cold water or heating up. Many of these foods are a great idea for taking with you on backpacking trips.
1. Fresh Fruit
Fruit is always a good a good option to bring with you camping. Many fruits like apples, bananas, avocados, oranges and watermelon don’t require a cooler, just keep them out of the sun. Besides eating them for a snack, use fruit to make a fruit salad that can be a delicious side or even a meal.
2. Nut Butter
Nut or peanut butter makes a great snack, or you can put it on sandwiches, pancakes, or even put in oatmeal. Some common kinds of nut butter are almond butter, peanut butter, hazelnut butter, and sunflower seed butter.
3. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit is a camping and backpacking staple. I personally prefer dried apples and dates, but you can find almost any dried fruit at your grocery store. Try apricots, peaches, or pears.
4. Dry Cereal
5. Hot Cereal
Hot cereals for breakfast don’t need to be just oatmeal. Eating oatmeal every morning can get very old very quickly. Try cream-of-what, malt-o-meal, farina, or cornmeal mush. Bob’s Red Mill has a 10-grain hot cereal that is amazing. Try maple syrup or honey as a sweetener and add milk if needed.
Oatmeal is a staple for any camping or backpacking trip. For a bit of variety, do overnight oats or add dried fruit or nut butter to your hot oatmeal.
7. Olive Oil
Olive oil is better for you, but it can also be used to add flavor. I always add it to salad dressing. The best salad dressing for camping is olive oil, lemon, and salt and pepper. You can also buy single-serve packets that are perfect for backpacking.
8. Powdered or Evaporated Milk
If you need milk for cereal or as an ingredient, powdered or evaporated milk makes an easy alternative. Powdered milk is also a great staple for backpacking. Powdered milk makes a great substitute for coffee creamer.
Regular butter can be kept without refrigeration as long as you keep it at room temperature. Powdered butter is also a good alternative.
Did you know that beef jerky isn’t just a snack? It can be an ingredient too, like in beef jerky stew. Jerky comes in many varieties like bison, elk, chicken, pork, and even salmon. Try some exotic flavors too like alligator or ostrich.
11. Worcestshire, Soy, and Hot Sauce
Even after opening, you don’t need to keep these in the fridge. If you don’t want to take a whole bottle with you, try saving your hot sauce and soy sauce packets from takeout. These are always good to have around.
Don’t forget your condiments. Most condiments should be kept in the cooler after opening, but you can get individual packets of mustard, ketchup, relish and mayo at most gas stations or your local deli and keep them in your camping box until you need them.
13. Pancake Mix
Pancake mix isn’t just for pancakes. It can be used for biscuits, as a crust, and even as a base for cakes. It’s one of the things I use the most when I am camping.
14. Granola Bars
Granola bars are an easy and delicious snack. They are convenient and can be stuffed in your pockets if you go hiking or fishing. Granola bars aren’t necessarily healthy because of added sugar and preservatives, so make sure you check the label. Our favorites are Made Good and Rx Bars.
Nuts are a good, healthy snack that stores for a very long time. Mixed nuts, peanuts, and almonds are always good choices and high in protein.
16. Trail Mix
Trail mix is easy to make yourself or you can find it in any grocery store. Want an easy recipe to make your own? Just add together 2 cups of mixed nuts, 1 cup craisins, 1 cup M and M’s, and 1 cup of other dried fruit of your choice.
17. Ramen Noodles
One of the easiest camping and backpacking meals is ramen noodles. Just boil some water and you have an easy meal ready to go. I often add dehydrated or canned veggies to mix it up.
18. Macaroni and Cheese
I think everyone has boxed macaroni and cheese in their cupboards. It also makes a quick camping meal. You can always add more cheese or sliced hotdogs, caramelized onions, bacon, or Spam to kick up the flavor.
19. Dehydrated Meals or MREs
I usually have other meals planned, but I do keep several dehydrated or freeze-dried meals in my camping box and for backpacking. Just add hot water for a hot meal.
If you are looking for a quick dessert and sugary breakfast, take a package of donuts. Grab a dozen on your way to the campsite. Or instead, just get the packaged kind.
Yummy cake! Cake doesn’t require refrigeration but if it’s really hot and frosted, you might want to keep it in the cooler. If you bring a cake that’s frosted, the frosting will probably melt.
22. Fresh Vegetables
Fresh vegetables are always a must for us when we go camping. As long as you keep them cool, they will last several days. I wouldn’t take lettuce or spinach with me if I don’t have a cooler. But some other vegetables that I will take are carrots, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes. Add some garlic and onions to your camping box too.
23. Dry Pasta
Dry pasta is a great addition to any camping pantry. Spaghetti or macaroni are good options to have. In addition to dry pasta, you can also find ready-made packaged pasta meals that can be a good choice for backpacking or easy camping meals.
Fresh eggs can last a few days without a cooler as long as they are kept at room temperature, especially farm-fresh eggs. If you decide to keep them in the cooler, try the camping hack of cracking the eggs into a jar or using a plastic egg container. You can also use dehydrated eggs, just add water.
Popcorn is one of the easiest and healthiest snacks for camping. It can be made on any camp stove or even over the fire. They even make special popcorn poppers for camping. If you want to flavor your popcorn, just get some popcorn salt and keep it in your camping box.
26. Pasta Sauce
Ready-made canned or jarred pasta sauce can easily be added to pasta for any meal. It can be found on any grocery shelf. All you need to do is heat it up and add cooked pasta or even rice.
27. Canned Chicken
Canned chicken or chicken in a pouch is a good source of protein. I especially love to use it as an ingredient in chicken artichoke and garlic mashed potatoes, a delicious camping recipe.
28. Canned Tuna
A pouch or can of tuna, can be made into tuna salad or added to a sandwich. You can even by tuna salad in a pouch that is already made. Eat it with crackers, celery or bread.
29. Cured Meats
Summer sausage, sausage sticks, salami, and pepperoni are all cured meats that you can take with you camping that don’t need refrigeration. Take it a step further and make it meals, by adding cheeses and olives and creating a camping meat and cheese board.
Flour tortillas are really versatile. You can use them to make wraps and burritos. My husband thinks that anything in a wrap is tasty.
31. Seaweed Snacks
I love seaweed snacks. These make a great snack if you are on keto, or if you want something that is salty and healthy. It makes an healthier alternative to potato chips.
Chicken-in-a-biscuit, Ritz, and Cheezits are some of our favorite camping snacks. If you have a cooler, try eating the chicken-in-a-biscuit with cottage cheese for a light meal.
Don’t forget the potato chips and tortilla chips. These are great snack items. Tortilla chips are awesome of added to a bowl of canned chili with some cheese. Fritos make an awesome taco-in-a-bag or check out this awesome recipe for Frito Pie.
I love salsa. Chips and salsa go together like salt and pepper. I make my own jarred salsa every year, just so I can take it camping. Besides, who says you can’t eat chips for dinner?
Most dips need refrigeration after opening, but you can keep them in your camping box until you are ready to eat them. Bean dip and queso are good choices. I love putting queso dip on my hotdogs. You can always take dry dip packets and make some at the campsite or you dip packets for flavoring.
36. Instant Couscous and Quinoa
If you are looking for a variety for backpacking meals, how about some couscous or quinoa instead? I get a little sick of rice and noodles sometimes.
37. Pearled (Israeli) Couscous
I don’t know why more people don’t use Israeli couscous as an ingredient for camping and backpacking meals. You can get instant flavored packages or add other things to them. Eat it cold and add chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, lemon, salt, and pepper for a faux pasta salad.
37. Canned or Packaged Soup
Canned and packaged soup can last for quite a while in your camping box. One of the things that I do, is I always buy a few on sale and keep them for camping. Just make sure to rotate them because I sometimes forget that they are in the camping box if I don’t use them.
You’ve got to have sugar. It’s one of the basic camping staples that you should never forget unless you like your coffee black. I like to add brown sugar to my oatmeal.
What’s a morning camping without coffee? Whether you prefer the instant, ground, or bagged coffee, this is not something you want to forget.
I drink more tea in the summer than coffee. Sun tea also makes a refreshing drink. I like flavored teas like Chai or mint. Caffeinated tea also makes a great alternative to coffee and can be a bit easier on the tummy. It can be easier to make than coffee while camping.
41. Seasonings and Spices
The different between good food and great food, is how it is seasoned. High quality seasoning and spices really can make or break a camping meal.
Pudding cups or even instant pudding made with powdered milk makes a nice desert. I love pudding cups.
43. Cheesecake in a Box
My awesome sister introduced me to this a few years ago when we were backpacking. The no-bake cheesecake makes a fun dessert for camping and even backpacking. It is my go-to for birthdays if we are camping. Powdered milk works great instead of regular milk.
44. Bacon Bits
I love bacon. But if you don’t have a fridge or want some crunch to your salad, then don’t forget the bacon bits. I will add them to my eggs and hash browns.
45. Dried and Canned Beans
Beans have always been a camping staple. Dry beans can take a little while to cook, but there are always beans in a can. Baked beans and pork-and-beans are yummy for any camping trip.
46. Refried Beans
I always have at least 3-4 cans in my camping box. You can use refried beans in tacos, burritos or in a dip.
47. Cheeze Whiz and Velveeta
My kids would be devastated if I didn’t brink some Cheese Whiz along. I personaly prefer real cheese, but Cheese Whiz with Ritz crackers makes a really easy quick snack, especially if you have kids. For an easy dip, heat together 1 cup velveeta and 1 can of Rotel.
48. Bread, Bagels or Rolls
Bread or rolls can easily be made into sandwiches or dipped into soup. You can also buy bread in a can! Apparently, bread in a can was a big thing on the East coast during the depression and is a good choice for camping.
49. Fruit Bread
Raisin bread, banana bread, and cranberry orange bread are great options for any camping trip. Eat it as a snack, a light breakfast, or make it into French toast. You can also find raisin bread in a can and it’s really good.
Honey can last a really long time, even decades. If it crystallizes, just warm it up. We still have honey in storage that my grandpa processed fifty years ago and it is still good.
51. Potatoes, Hash Browns and Instant Mashed Potatoes
I think baked potatoes are the easiest thing to make while camping. And if you haven’t discovered them yet, dehydrated potatoes are the best thing ever. I small container will feed four and you don’t have to store it in your already limited cooler. Instant mashed potatoes are a great addition to steak.
52. Pita Bread or Flat Bread
Pita bread and flat bread or great ways to eat sandwiches. You also don’t have to worry about your bread getting smashed if you try these instead.
53. Rice Cakes
I love rice cakes. These store well in any camping box. I like to spread peanut butter or jam on mine for a nice snack.
54. Protein Bars
If you want a quick and light meal, then you might want to consider some protein bars. There are so many different flavors, so you can have a wide variety of protein bars.
55. Jelly and Jam
Jam and jelly can be used for sandwiches. But you can also add it to your hot cereal or oatmeal. If you are backpacking, jam packets make a nice sweet treat.
Even those you can get snack-size cups or pouches of olives, you can easily find so many different types of olives in cans or jars. These are a great snack, especially with beer.
I don’t know why pickles usually aren’t on the list of camping foods. They have always been one of my favorite camping snacks. These are something you can get in a single-serve size but I like the big jars. And when you think of pickles, think of dill pickles, sweet pickles, pickled vegetables, pickled beats, and even pickled peppers like jalapenos or pepperoncinis.
58. Wasabi Peas
We once had a contest of who could find the hottest wasabi peas. Since then, I have also brought along at least one package when backpacking.
58. Canned Fruit and Fruit Cups
Fruit cocktail and other canned fruit makes for an easy snack. I like canned peaches. You can also use canned fruit in making a dump cake in a Dutch oven.
59. Fruit Leather and Fruit Snacks
60. Rice Krispy Treats
This is a must-have for my husband. We always take a few rice crispy treats. I usually buy them in a package, but you can always make them at home a head of time.
61. Corn Nuts
Again, this is one of those foods that I don’t normally see on camping food lists. I love corn nuts and they make a nice, convenient snack.
62. Pop Tarts
Pop tarts make an easy breakfast or a sugary snack. Plus, two come in a package so you have enough to share.
63. Canned Chili
Canned chili is almost as common as hot dogs for camping. I also find cans in the trash can at any camping site. If you don’t cook, then chili is a good thing to have while camping. Eat it as it or make chili dogs.
64. Soup Broth
Soup broth or even bullion can add flavor to many dishes, including ramen or soup mixes. It also makes a nice hot drink for cold evenings.
65. Canned Vegetables
If you don’t want to take fresh veggies with you, any canned veggies will work for camping. I often take canned corn or beans and add it to my Ramen.
My kids love muffins. Where I live, you can usually get the really big ones on sale or easily find them at Costco or Sam’s Club. Muffins make an easy and filling breakfast with no cooking required.
Applesauce or mixed fruit pouches are a nice snack. They can last for quite some time, and make a nice on-the-go snack.
68. Hard Cheeses
Hard cheeses do not require refrigeration, even though some of the “softer” hard cheeses should be kept cool. Parmesan, gouda and cheddar are great for camping. If you don’t want to take a brick of cheese, try cheese crisps instead.
Pretzels are a good snack for camping, especially fro beer drinking nights around the fire. There lots of different flavors, especially if you get Snyders.
If you want S’mores, don’t forget the marshmallows. Just don’t leave them out in the sun or they will melt.
71. Breakfast Shakes
Instant breakfast shakes are also something that makes an easy breakfast. Just add water.
72. Sunflower Seeds
What’s camping without sunflower seeds? I don’t know why this is not a more popular camping or backpacking snack. I think sunflower seeds are a good snack, especially when you are sitting around the fire.
73. Chocolate and Candy Bars
Unless you have a cooler, try to keep your candy cars cool or they will melt. M and Ms usually don’t melt as quickly as other chocolate candy. I think it’s the coating.
74. Maple Syrup
For pancakes, french toast and as a sweetener, maple syrup is perfect for any camping pantry. I also like to use it as a sweetener in my Chai tea.
Either you love it or hate it, but I can’t imagine my camping breakfast burritos without Spam. It’s also low-carb and can be added to eggs, hash browns, and even fried rice. Dehydrated meats like MeatShredz are also a good option.
76. Cake Mix
Instant rice is a lifesaver when you are camping. It can be added to so many meals. Regular rice is good too, but instant is nice especially when you want to save time.
78. Anchovies and Sardines
This is my husband’s favorite snack for backpacking. This and a pack of crackers make the perfect snack.
I hope you have found some great foods for camping that you don’t need a fridge for. Camping should be easy and I know sometimes it can be challenging, especially if you don’t have a cooler. I hope you have found this post helpful. If you have any favorite camping foods that do not need to be stored in a cooler, be sure to leave a comment below that will also help others. Don’t let not having a cooler ruin your camping trip. Be outside without limits.