The long weekend is here, and you’re planning a 3 day camping trip, leaving Friday and coming back Monday. What food should you take? How will you stay healthy? How do you store that food? We have the answers right here!
For most people when they go camping, they will want a good carb-heavy breakfast, a portable lunch and a nice warm stodgy dinner. Porridge, sandwiches, and a one-pot stew are good simple choices for a 3 day camping trip.
Nip over to Pinterest and type in “camping food”. Spend a few minutes scrolling through and one thing becomes really obvious: there’s SO MUCH CHOICE! Essentially, as long as you can pack it, you can take it. Whether or not it will stay fresh or at it’s best is another problem entirely. The same goes for food requiring reheating, sure you can take it with you, but you may not have access to a microwave which may mean reheating food is more tricky.
We have done all sorts of camping, from ultralight camping using public transport, to full-on luxury car camping with a gazebo and full kitchen. We’ve had gas stoves of all sizes, barbecues of every type, and even campfires to cook our food on. There really are limitless possibilities, but narrowing down the type of camping you’d like to do will make the task easier.
Car or backpack food?
The first question to ask yourself: will I be car camping or backpacking? This will allow you to decide what sort of food and cooking equipment you’ll be taking.
With car camping, you have a lot more space, so you may want to take a cool box or fridge which will expand your options greatly. If you’re going via public transport and will be backpacking away from civilisation for a few days, it will definitely limit your options on food. Are you backpacking via public transport, but staying on a site with a shop on-site or nearby? Suddenly your options have just opened up again!
It’s not just the food that you need to give some thought to, it’s the method of cooking too. If you’ve planned a menu that takes 6 pots, 4 hobs, an oven and a microwave, you may wish to revisit your idea!
In our post comparing camping stoves, we mentioned the stability of some stoves. A one-pot dinner is perfect for camping, but it’s definitely worth considering how big of a pot you’ll need versus your size of stove.
If you’re taking a portable gas stove the same size as a domestic hob, you’ll be fine with most standard size camping pots. If you’re only taking an ultralight stove or methylated spirits tiny stove, you’ll need to reconsider that 10 person pot you were thinking of packing!
What food should I cook if I’m hiking or being active?
If you’re going to be hiking or very active, you must consider the calorific value of the food you’re packing. In our normal lives, women need roughly 1500 calories a day and men around 2000. When we are being highly active (hiking along a trail for example) this could rise to around 4500-5000 calories per day!
Before you jump for joy and pack 5 bars of Dairy Milk though, this really only counts if you are planning to do a LOT of activity. Long walks (12 miles and above) or outdoor activities such as kayaking or rock climbing will need a higher calorie count, and it must be balanced food (around 50% carbs, 35% fats, and 15% protein is a recommended ratio). Slow energy release food like boiled eggs and protein bars are a good choice. Not quite as exciting as that gateaux you had planned!
Whilst the above sounds rather complicated, it’s safe to say that for a 3 day camping trip, most of you will be fine packing a relatively normal diet of food. Good news, Dairy Milk is back on the menu folks!
What healthy food can I take camping?
Dairy Milk, not your thing? There are plenty of healthy options for camping. It’s all in the planning. Plenty of healthy foods will keep you perfectly well on a 3 day camping trip, meaning you don’t have to succumb to that naughty pub lunch!
Some ideas for healthy camping food:
- Hardy fruits like apples and pears
- Oatmeal, Porridge or muesli
- Grilled meat and veg kebabs
- Foil baked fish and shellfish if you have a fire
- Barbecued fish if you have a stove or barbecue
- Salads of all kinds
- Carbs such as quinoa and couscous
- Barbequed or campfire sweetcorn
How do I store food on a 3 day camping trip?
We have some great tips for storing food, but it all depends on how you’re camping. If you are camping in a car you’ll have a lot more space to play with, in that case, a cool box is invaluable. If you’re just backpacking there are a few options but in that case, it’s better to invest in dried products of food that doesn’t need to be kept cold.
There are two types of cool boxes, broadly speaking, passive cool boxes, and powered (active) cool boxes. Passive coolboxes are ok, but they are only as good as the price you pay I’m afraid, this is one of the few things we’d suggest really paying some money for. The Coleman 100QT Xtreme is a really excellent choice and will last you for years.
If you have an electric hook-up at your campsite, or you are taking along a leisure battery, the powered cool boxes could be a great idea. The motor runs a fan that circulates the air inside the box to allow it to stay cooler for longer.
However, as with passive non-powered cool boxes, you’ll need to pack your cool box with ice blocks or frozen things to ensure it’s cold, to begin with. It’s also worth keeping cool boxes in the shade as much as possible.
Ice blocks & frozen food
For a 3 day camping trip, we would pack frozen meat and milk to take with us. These will slowly defrost in a cool box during an even temperature weekend, meaning that by Monday you’ll have chilled but probably not curdled milk. If it’s really hot though, expect your milk to go off quicker.
Water bucket and a damp towel
The theory behind this one is solid and does actually work on a cool camping trip. If you know you’re going to be camping in the cold, you may be able to save some space by filling a bucket with water and putting your milk and perishables in the water. This really doesn’t work for warm and hot weekends though.
The easiest type of food to store is actually dried food. We now take dried milk because it’s easier than hoping our milk won’t be spoiled by Monday (and it saves Fee having to put up with a coffee-free Niki!). Dried milk isn’t as tasty as real milk, but it certainly lasts longer (although, not forever as we discovered on our most recent trip!).
Other dried foods like pasta, lentils, porridge, rice, etc can make excellent staples. Go into any Aldi, Lidl, or any supermarket and there’s a whole host of dried or packet foods that can really be pretty decent for camping. Official camping shops will also have dried meals on their shelves, or you can make your own if you’re feeling adventurous with a dehydrator!
Tins and packets
We affectionately call this type of dinner “tinned joy”. It’s the food that you wouldn’t want to live on long-term, but for a 3 day camping trip or even a week or so, its fine. Simple things like packet sauces, noodle meals, or ready cook rice are really useful for camping. The tinned versions of curry or chicken in white sauce aren’t actually too bad either. The obvious downside here is that they are heavy to carry
But what about my 3 day camping trip? What food should I take?
Letts make a few assumptions: You’ll be car camping and taking a standard portable gas stove or two. You don’t have any particular dietary requirements and you’re taking a cool box. You’re also not planning any particularly gruelling excursions. I’m also assuming that you’ll be arriving at your campsite on Friday evening, probably after work, and leaving on Monday morning.
Here’s a sample or inspiration menu for your 3 day camping trip:
|Breakfast||Breakfast Burritos: Tortillas filled with scrambled eggs, fried potato, and cooked sausages.||English Breakfast: Bacon, beans, sausages, eggs, mushrooms, onions, black pudding, etc.||Pancakes with lemon and sugar or a spread|
|Lunch||Potato salad: Boiled potatoes with bacon and mayonnaise.||Ham salad wraps||Sandwiches with a spread|
|Dinner||Instant Noodles: Either a homemade option or a shop-bought version.||Cowboy Stew: Sausages, tinned tomatoes, root veg, potatoes, baked beans.||Chilli and nachos or rice|
- Pork pies
- Sausage rolls
- Shortbread biscuits
- Nakd bars
If you follow the above meal plan, we’d suggest taking frozen bacon, sausages and possibly mince as well as dried milk. You may need to purchase mince for the chilli (or buy tinned joy!) if the weather is due to be really hot.
The reason I’ve put pancakes on Monday is that you’re likely to be out of bacon and sausages by Monday morning! For the spread options, you could go for peanut or another nut butter, jams, pickles, or even a chocolate spread. You can get these in individual packets, but we prefer to pack our own in small plastic pots because we find the packet variety to be a waste of single-use plastic.
Did you find this helpful? Pin it to help others. Have a better menu plan? Let us know in the comments!