Hot dogs, mac and cheese, instant oatmeal and marshmallows appeal to many and are easy to prepare, so it's no surprise that these humble foods are popular offerings at many camping trips. But for those who enjoy excursions of 10 days or more, variety is essential.
When camping for an extended period of time, you can rely on refrigerated foods such as meats, eggs, cheese and milk. Regularly adding ice to the cooler can be annoying, time consuming or even impossible in remote areas. Plan on eating your refrigerated food within the first few days, and then rely on non-refrigerated foods to get through the rest of the trip.
Bacon and eggs are great but will not stay fresh for long. Yogurt and fresh fruit might keep slightly longer, but for a 10-day trip, you'll need to expand your menu. Pancakes can be satisfying on cooler mornings when you want a hot meal. Boxed mixes are easy to store and quick to prepare. Cook on a skillet using oil instead of butter, and add chocolate chips for a sweet start to your day.
Dice potatoes with some onions, and fry them in a little oil and water until brown. Ketchup and hot sauce packets don't need refrigeration and let you customize your breakfast.
Cereal is one of the easiest breakfasts around. Avoid bland selections such as Corn Flakes and Crispy Rice in favor of cereals with stronger flavors, such as granola or Fruit Loops. These will overcome the unfamiliar taste of instant milk, which should be made using the coldest water available.
Breakfast bars or energy bars can be a great alternative if weight and space are an issue, such as in the backcountry. Pair them with dried fruit and nuts for variety.
Lunch and Snacks
Lunch is often an on-the-go meal when camping. Foods that are quick and easy let you spend more time exploring. Camping experts at REI recommend grazing or eating snacks throughout the day, rather than sitting down to lunch.
Trail mix is good anytime. Buy pre-mixed varieties if you're in a hurry, or buy your ingredients separately and mix a custom blend. Nuts, M&M's and raisins serve as a base, and sesame sticks, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds and cheese crackers are other options.
Tortillas are extremely versatile. Early in your trip, pair them with lunch meats, cheese and tomatoes for a new twist on a traditional sandwich. Later, spread peanut butter and honey on them for a sweet snack or tear them up and add them to prepared instant Spanish rice.
Jerky or smoked sausages keep much longer than raw meat. Baked crackers are healthier and less bulky than chips, and cookies are a satisfying treat after a strenuous hike.
Dinner is the best time to be creative and even a little extravagant. After the brats and burgers run out, try burrito bowls. Start with a tortilla in a bowl, add canned beans, canned corn and instant rice to form the base of this meal, and supplement with canned chili, salsa, hot sauce and grilled or canned onions, peppers and mushrooms. Shredded cheese is a good addition while there is still ice in your cooler.
Pasta is quick and easy. Bring along canned sauces and canned vegetables, or add tuna for a little variety. Complement it with garlic toast by adding a little oil and garlic salt to a pan, and frying slices of regular wheat bread until golden-brown.
Pizza isn't a traditional camp food, but a little planning makes it possible. Many prepared crusts don't require refrigeration. Hard, aged cheeses will also be fine as long as they are kept out of the sun; buy in blocks and don't shred until you're ready to cook. Warm up the sauce and toppings first, layer them onto the crust, and add cheese. Put the pizza on a pan and cover. Cook over low heat until the cheese melts.
Instant pudding is a great dessert; use instant milk and cold water, and top with crumbled graham crackers.