How to Pack Camping Food

How to Pack Camping FoodSome hikers may prefer to just throw in a bunch of packaged food with the rest of their gear, but if you want to prevent a headache and possible food contamination, follow a few simple tips. How you pack your individual food items as well as where you place it in your pack is important. The way you pack your food can have a large impact on how smoothly your meals go, not to mention your whole trip.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Nylon zippered duffel(s)
  • Sturdy clear plastic bags
Step 1
Pack in a nylon duffel all the rations you will need for breakfast and dinner when you will will take out your stove and cook a meal. Examples of these items would be plastic bags of oatmeal, pasta, powdered milk, powdered potatoes or lentils. Your spice kit will be packed in this duffel as well. Package your spices in small plastic screw-top containers that come in 1- to 6-ounce sizes.
Step 2
Pack snacks that you will eat throughout the day on the trail in more accessible places like a pouch in the top lid of your pack. Bags of trail mix, dried fruit or granola bars with the wrappers pre-removed are some examples.
Step 3
Save as much space as possible by eliminating gaps in your pack and in your food duffel. If you have a bowl that you eat your meals in, don't leave it empty. Stuff it with a bag of flour, nuts or oatmeal (whatever fits). No space goes unused if possible. This will keep the volume of your pack nice and slim.
Step 4
Pack your food without the wrappers. For example, remove wrappers from granola bars and put the bars in a plastic bag. Eliminating as much trash as possible before you go out into the backcountry makes it that much easier to "leave no trace" and travel without a bag full of accumulated trash.
Step 5
Pack loose food such as flour, powdered milk, dehydrated potatoes and sunflower seeds in heavy-duty clear plastic bags. Tie them with a twisted overhand knot (not too tight to undo) and mark every single bag with a permanent marker with what it contains (even if you think it might be obvious) and its weight, volume or quantity. This helps tremendously when planning meals with several people.

Tips & Warnings

Do not store your food duffel on top of any items that could possibly contaminate it, such as stove fuel. Do not ever pack your food on the bottom of your pack under the fuel. If you are way out in the backcountry and your food gets fuel on it, you are out of luck unless you don't mind eating (non-poisonous) roots and leaves.

Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

Keep Me Informed

Weekly newsletters, announcements and offers from to your inbox.

Sign me up!

We HATE spam and promise to keep your email addresses safe and secure.