It’s that time in Colorado to dust off your camping gear and fill your calendar with fun weekend adventures.
Maybe you’ll take off in your RV or rig up the raft for a multiday trip. Perhaps you’ll pitch your tent in your favorite primitive camp spot, one yet to be discovered by tourists. No matter how you enjoy the outdoors, planning delicious (and easy) camp meals is essential.
Whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, camp food always tastes better when enjoyed in the fresh air, surrounded by nature and good people. These camping tips and easy camping recipes – suitable for a large group or a small family – will help you enjoy the beauty of the outdoors without spending too much time over the stove or campfire.
Some of these make-ahead, easy recipes are no-cook camp meals, while others require a camp stove or campfire. Be aware if there are fire bans in place in your area. Here a few tips to help you prepare easy camp food and food storage for your camping trip.
Make camp meals ahead of time
Soups, chili, stews, meat, pasta and rice can be made ahead of time. Depending on how long it will be between preparation and eating, you can choose to refrigerate or freeze the meals. Store them in a thick, heat-safe ziplock bag. You can reheat your meal by boiling a large pot of water and dropping the bag inside (seal the bag well). If you’re using this method, be sure non-potable water does not come in contact with your food.
If you freeze your meal ahead of time, make sure to lay the bag flat in your freezer so it will fit nicely in the bottom of your cooler and become an extra ice pack.
Items you plan to cook on your camp stove can also be prepped ahead of time. Scramble eggs at home and keep them in a Nalgene bottle or other reusable bottle (a clean coffee creamer bottle works well). Scrambled eggs will last a few days in a cold cooler. Also, precook sausage or bacon to add to your meal during the last few minutes of cooking.
You can chop veggies at home and store them in an airtight container or bag.
Instead of boiling your meals in the bag, you can reheat them in a skillet (cast iron) on a camp stove. For rice, reheat by steaming it in a saucepan with a lid, add a little drinking water and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally.
Make your own ice blocks for your cooler
If you plan ahead, you don’t need to buy a block or crushed ice for your cooler, which can make a watery mess in your cooler.
Four to five days before your camping trip, freeze drinking water in clean milk, juice or 2-litter soda jugs. Then use them to keep your cooler cold, and they double as drinking water at the end of your trip. These large “blocks” of ice will last longer and don’t get your food soggy.
Are you taking juice boxes for the kids? Freeze those that come in pouches a few days ahead of time and place them in the air gaps in your cooler to keep food cold.
Cut down on packing space
To make more room in your cooler, remove foods from their original packaging and place the food in reusable tubs or bags. After the tub or bag is empty, it can double as storage for leftovers. This method also helps cut down on the trash you’ll pack out after camping.
More cooler and camp food tips
- Place raw meat at the bottom of the cooler. If it leaks, it won’t contaminate the rest of your food.
- Keep your cooler out of direct sunlight. You might need to move it into the shade throughout the day. If you cover your cooler with a wet towel, you’ll be amazed at how long your ice lasts.
- Be careful with glass at the campsite (or just don’t bring it). No one enjoys a campsite littered with broken glass.
- If you have a favorite drink that only comes in a glass bottle, wrap the bottle in a layer of duct tape to help protect it and keep it from shattering into numerous shards. Or even better, put it into something plastic before you leave home.
- To preserve space, carry cooking spices in small Tic Tac mint containers.
- Make coffee pouches ahead of time by using a coffee filter, a few scoops of your favorite coffee and dental floss to tie it into a pouch. Then drop into boiling water.
- Don’t forget the cookies. Make them ahead of time.