Camping is one thing, camping with kids is another. We’ll spare you the suspense and tell you this: Something unexpected will happen. There will be cuts and scrapes and bug bites and sunburns, and someone, at some point, will get hungry.
That’s where we come in. To help you make the most of your next outdoor adventure, we rounded up our favourite fuss-free camping meals, ranging in effort from easy to easiest. Use these non-recipes to plan out your days and find the right balance for you and your family. As for those bumps and bruises? Someday they’ll make a great story.
It pays to prep. Take the extra time to plan out your meals, cut up veggies, think through cookware and pour coffee grounds into a resealable bag (if you’re using a French press). Freeze water jugs and pack those in your cooler instead of ice – they’ll stay frozen longer, and you can drink them after they’ve thawed.
Start a Fire
Building a fire is step one for many camping meals. While different people have different methods (log cabin or tepee?), one way to get the flames going is to use a fire starter. Pro tip: You can make one at home by filling a Charmin toilet paper tube with dryer lint.
Put Together a Camping Box
We highly recommend assembling a camping box. Just grab a large, durable, re-sealable plastic container and throw all of your non-perishables in there, like metal skewers, paper plates, Bounty paper towels, some Pampers Sensitive wipes (great for post-dessert sticky fingers), Dawn Pure Essentials dish soap and a sponge. Let your kids decorate the outside of the camping box with permanent markers, because why not?
Now, on to the meals …
You’re up with the sunrise, and breakfast is the first thing on your mind. Whether you need a quick bite before you hit the trail or want to take your time making something special, these yummy meals can be cooked up quickly to satisfy hungry bellies.
- Breakfast burritos: Go the traditional route and roll scrambled eggs, avocado, salsa, cheese and cilantro into a burrito, or satisfy your hungry teen with a version that includes hash browns, cheesy eggs and sriracha
- Cinnamon rolls: Make them without an oven by wrapping store-bought rolls around a skewer, cooking them over the fire and then drizzling icing on top when finished. Yum!
- French press coffee. It might sound fussy, but it’s actually easier than using paper filters!
- Farmer’s – er, camper’s – breakfast:
- Scrambled eggs: Avoid crying over spilled eggs by scrambling them beforehand and pouring them into a water bottle
- Toast or bagels and cream cheese
- Pancakes: Use the same trick as you did with the eggs by pouring batter into a cleaned-out ketchup bottle
- Instant coffee
- Cereal and milk. Seriously!
- Instant oatmeal
- Cold bottled coffee
Tip: If you don’t want to pack creamer, take a few extra creamer packs from work or a diner.
Lunch and Snacks
These on-the-go bites pair well with hiking, biking or whatever the day has in store.
- All the sandwiches and wraps: meat and cheese (throw in some avocado, lettuce and tomato to make it feel extra special), peanut butter and jelly, or peanut butter and banana. Tip: Nobody likes a soggy sandwich. Keep your rye dry during canoe trips and rainy days by lining your backpack with a garbage bag.
- Tuna packs (we like the ones that come with a built-in spoon). Cut an avocado in half, slice it up and throw it in
- Fruit (apples, clementines, bananas, etc.). Remember to leave no trace and pack out peels, cores and rinds!
- Chips or pretzels (it’s OK – you’re burning them off!)
- Trail mix with nuts for sustained energy
- Protein bars or granola bars
- Hard cheeses that will keep, like cheddar
- Sports drinks, juice boxes and soda
It’s a universal truth: Food tastes better when you’re hungry. Serve up the hot meal you and your kids will be craving after a long day of trailblazing.
- Cast iron pizza: Spread pizza dough over an oiled cast iron skillet. Grill for 5 minutes, turn over and top with more oil, sauce and toppings. Cover with foil and grill for another 10 minutes
- Sausage and shrimp bake: Combine sausage and shrimp, corn on the cob halves, diced potatoes and spices in a foil packet. Cook over the fire or hot coals until just cooked through and potatoes are tender, flipping as needed
Campfire mac and cheese: You have a couple of options here. Make boxed mac and cheese at the campsite in a pot of boiling water. Or make homemade beforehand, and spoon it into mini foil pie tins covered in cooking spray. Top with shredded cheese and cover with sprayed foil. Transport in the cooler in a resealable plastic bag to keep water from getting in. Place on a grill grate and heat for 8 to 10 minutes over hot coals or 30 minutes over a campfire, rotating as needed
- Tacos: You know what to do here
- Loaded fries: Spread frozen fries on a square of aluminum foil and top with cheese, green onions and bacon bits. Fold the edges of the foil over the fries and toppings to make a packet. Crisp over the fire, about 15 to 25 minutes
- Loaded nachos: Same concept as the fries, except layers are key. Mix in things like cheese, taco seasoning and canned tomatoes and black beans. Make them in a cast iron skillet or foil packets
- Couscous with summer sausage and cooked veggies. Cook the couscous in a pot of boiling water. The sausage is already cooked, but you can char it in the same skillet you use for the veggies
- Hot dogs and hamburgers – gotta love the classics
- Campfire chilli. Just heat and eat!
- Freeze-dried meal kits
Dessert and After Dinner
The stars are out and you’re ready to settle in and get cozy. Finish off the day with a sweet treat and a fun activity, like card games, a guitar sing-a-long, shadow puppet theater or watching a movie downloaded to your phone.
- Campfire cones: Fill waffle cones with a combination of chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, bananas, strawberries, candy and pretzels. Wrap in foil and place near the campfire until everything gets ooey gooey
- S’more dip: Layer chocolate chips and marshmallows in a cast iron skillet and heat over the campfire
- Banana boats: Slice a banana in half, fill it with chocolate chips, marshmallows and crumbled graham crackers, and cook over the campfire or hot coals
- S’mores, of course
- Hot cocoa and marshmallows
Happy trails! We hope you have an amazing trip, even if there are a few bumps in the road (or stains on your clothes. Oh, hey there, Tide Ultra OXI …)