Summer calls for sleeping under the stars. Whether you prefer upscale glamping, heading to a campsite with your family or pitching a tent in the backwoods, food is a big part of the camping experience. Here’s your guide to camp-friendly cooking, with recipes that offer make-ahead tips so you’ll have more time to relax and enjoy the outdoors. With these easy meal ideas, everyone on your trip will be a happy camper.
For the Backwoods Camper
If you enjoy roughing it in the bush, you understand the struggle of fitting all your necessities into a backpack. Even though you’ll be relying on dry foods for most of your meals to save space, you don’t have to skimp on taste. Spices can go a long way toward boosting the flavour of ready-to-go options. Tuck in small resealable bags of black pepper, garlic powder, onion flakes, crushed red pepper and cinnamon to perk things up. Here are delicious (and lightweight) foods to make and tote on your trip.
• Breakfast: Pack the dry mix for Quinoa Porridge, and sub water for the soy beverage if you don’t want to bring it along. Sprinkled with nuts and seeds, it makes a hearty breakfast. Enjoy topped with a sliced apple.
• On the trail: There’s nothing tastier – or more deserved – on a long hike than chocolate. Before you leave, whip up a batch of Chocolate & Cherry Granola Bars, packed with pecans, almonds, dried cherries and oats, for a yummy, chocolatey treat. Seal the squares tightly in plastic wrap to keep them fresh.
• Snack time: Sweet & Spicy Nuts take up so little room but are so filling. The salty-sweet combo will satisfy your cravings any time of day.
Packing tip: It's important to safeguard your food in the wild so furry friends don't get into it. Before you go, head over to Parks Canada for some excellent advice on the right containers and strategies for animal-proofing your provisions.
For the Family Camper
Tried-and-true camping-friendly meals, like pancakes and hot dogs cooked over the fire, have seen you through many trips, but it's time to try something new! We’re going to help you shake things up while keeping prep and cooking simple. Here are creative takes on old favourites that will make your whole family happy.
• Breakfast: Corn & Ham Pancakes combine a bunch of breakfast favourites in one simple dish. There are two convenient ways to get this recipe prepped before you hit the road. Option #1: Make the batter at home and store it for up to 24 hours in your cooler. Option #2: Chop and grate the fresh ingredients and keep them in resealable containers in your cooler, and then whisk together the dry ingredients and seal them in an airtight container. Just mix everything together when you're ready to cook. Don't forget to pack a large cast-iron skillet for this recipe, and preheat it before you drop in the batter for the tastiest results.
• Dinner: Make kid-pleasing, nostalgia-inducing Maple Bacon Baked Beans ahead of time and reheat them right over your campfire. Pair them with your favourite sausages for a tasty update on the classic camp-out dinner. Pack the beans (and any other liquidy items) in leak-proof containers, and then seal them in plastic bags to keep everything tidy. This is a fantastic dish to make a week or two ahead and freeze — it does double duty as an ice pack in your cooler and will take a couple of days to thaw. Perfect for a mid-trip meal!
• Dessert: S'mores! It's not a camping trip without this classic dessert. Want an updated take? Try the S’mores Skillet Cookie or another of our fun s’mores options.
Food safety tip: Pack fridge items directly into your cooler in reverse order. For example, place ingredients for your last meal at the bottom and work backward, placing the ones for your first meal on top. Surround with frozen ice packs and close tightly. When you get to your campsite, keep your cooler in the shade. Consider using two separate coolers for food and drinks — the one that contains food won’t be opened as often.
For the Backyard or RV Camper
Being able to take your kitchen with you gives you increased flexibility when planning meals. Delicious recipes that are easy to prepare will leave you more time to hike, swim or play games with your family.
• Breakfast: Since you have a stove handy, whip up a batch of Easy Breakfast Tacos. With so few ingredients, it's ready in 20 minutes — and you can get your day full of fun started faster.
• Lunch or dinner: Slow Cooker Smokey Applewood Pulled Pork Sandwiches make a laid-back (and tasty) meal. Prepare the chopped onions and mix the sauce ingredients ahead, and store them in the fridge until cooking time. Toss ready-made coleslaw mix with dressing and serve alongside.
• Snack time: Popcorn, Fruit & Nut Trail Mix is a fun take on the classic treat that you can toss together before you leave home. Packed with chewy dried fruit, crunchy nuts and seeds, chocolate, popcorn and shredded wheat squares, it's a scrumptious snack for the young (and the young at heart).
For the Glamper
Glamour plus camping equals glamping. Glampers get to experience nature without forgoing the amenities and comforts of home — and without having to fuss with pitching a tent or blowing up an air mattress. Instead, they sleep in a fully furnished tent, yurt (a family-sized domed tent with comfy mattresses) or tree house on a real bed! While some experiences are more resort-like and come with food service, others include cooking amenities (like a mini fridge, stovetop or hot plate, grill and firepit). If you’re taking a glamping trip where you’re doing the cooking, these conveniences mean menu planning can be more elaborate.
• Breakfast: Lazy mornings are the best. Stir up some PB & J Overnight Oatmeal in the evening and let it soak in the fridge or your cooler as you sleep. You’ll wake up to a satisfying breakfast and a relaxed start to your day.
• Dinner: Spice-Crusted Steak with Herbed & Garlic Potatoes is definitely a glammed-up campsite dinner, but it's still easy to prepare. You can make the spice mixture up to two weeks in advance and keep it in an airtight container. The day before you leave, parboil the potatoes and prep the garlic and herbs. Toss them straight from the fridge into your cooler when you're packing up, and they will stay fresh for up to 24 hours. Enjoy the steak and potatoes with a glass of lighter-bodied red wine (see Tip, below).
• Dessert: Let sweet summer peaches, pears and plums take centre stage in super simple Grilled Fruit & Pound Cake. If you can’t find peaches, substitute ripe nectarines. Serve with your favourite sparkling wine.
Food safety tip for all campers: Always pack an instant-read thermometer when you're getting ready for a camping trip. Whether you're in the backwoods or closer to civilization, you'll need it to ensure your food (especially meat and poultry) is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
Tips: Drinks to Enjoy
• Consider the heat. You may be tempted to pair a heavy red with grilled steak, but warm weather calls for lighter wine. Give a local Pinot Noir or a refreshing rosé a try.
• Choose the right containers. Most conservation areas and provincial parks, and some RV sites, discourage the use of glass bottles. Keep things simple by choosing beer in recyclable cans and boxes of wine. They're easier and less fragile to transport, too.
• Stay cool. Store wine and beer in a cooler in the shade until you’re ready to enjoy it.
• Open with care. If you are able to bring bottles with you, it won’t be a party if you can't open them. Don’t forget a corkscrew or bottle opener.