Coolers can be great for camping trips. They can also create unnecessary work. Depending on the length of your trip, even the best coolers need to refilled with ice, sometimes more than once. And eventually, ice or not, food kept in a cooler can lose its freshness or worse, get soggy. If you want to keep your camping meals simple, consider cooking with these 22 tasty camping food ideas with no refrigeration required.
Rice—and other grains like farro and barley—are great staples to bring on a camping trip. They don’t require refrigeration and all you need to cook them is some water. Plus they’re a great base for many dinner entrees from burrito bowls to curries. Swapping instant rice for traditional rice will considerably speed up your dinner prep.
Whether you bring a canister of old-fashioned oats or instant oatmeal packets, this breakfast food is easy to store and will fill you up for the day’s adventures.
Like rice, couscous can be a hearty base or side dish for many dinner entrees like kebabs or gyros. Saute some canned chicken with garlic and spices, and serve it on top of the couscous for a quick, cooler-free meal.
For easier packing and clean-up, buy tuna in foil packets instead of cans. Plus, if you forget to pack a can opener, you’ll still be able to eat!
Muffins are a great breakfast food for camping. (But make sure you pack them properly so they don’t turn into crumbs.) Bake a batch of muffins before you leave home or just pick some up from the bakery section of the grocery store.
6. Cured Meat
Not all cured meats (like summer sausage and salami) can be kept at room temperature, but some can. A safe bet is to buy cured meat that’s in the non-refrigerated section of the grocery store. If you don’t eat it all during your camp lunch or dinner, you may have to refrigerate the leftovers.
Potatoes are among the easiest foods to bring camping. Unlike other produce, they don’t bruise or break, and they have a long shelf-life. Plus, you can use them for a baked potato bar at dinner or cook them in a skillet for breakfast.
This classic and versatile mix can be used to make dinner and breakfast. Use it to make pancakes, biscuits, strawberry shortcake, or cobbler. Find even more Bisquick recipes here.
9. PB&J Sandwiches
There’s a reason this sandwich has always been a lunchbox staple. But instead of making sandwiches in advance (and letting the peanut butter and jelly soak into the bread), pack all the ingredients separately.
10. Breakfast Cookies
If you can eat coffee cake for breakfast, why not cookies? Bake a batch of these healthy breakfast cookies or try one of these six breakfast cookie flavors. Then store the cookies in sealed container or plastic sandwich bag for a ready-made breakfast.
11. 7-Can Soup
This recipe from Ree Drummond from The Pioneer Woman is exactly what the name suggests: a soup you make by mixing together the contents of seven different cans. Pack all the canned goods, then make a fresh batch of soup at your campsite.
Spaghetti is one of the world’s easiest dinners—at home or when you’re camping. Bring along the dried pasta and a can (or jar) or pasta sauce. Or you can swap in store-bought pesto for the pasta sauce. (Or try make cacio e pepe.)
13. Fresh Produce
Unless you’re camping in extremely hot weather, fresh produce is a great (and healthy) addition to your camping menu. Most fruits and vegetables (especially those with tougher skins or rinds) don’t require refrigeration if you plan to eat them within a few days. Apples, pears, and citrus are good fruit options and most vegetables will hold up well too.
14. Mac & Cheese
Boxed macaroni and cheese isn’t just for kids and college students, it can also be a great camping meal when you want a hot dinner that’s easy to prep. If you’re not bringing a cooler on your trip, make sure to choose a brand that comes with ready-made cheese sauce rather than a powder. (Powdered versions will require milk and butter.) Add sauteed mushrooms, broccoli, or red peppers to make it a more well-rounded meal.
Packaged ramen is another dorm-life staple that can also work as a quick camping food. It’s easy to pack and is available in a few flavors.
16. Powdered Coffee Creamer
For many people, coffee is a camping must-have. But if you can’t drink your morning coffee without some cream, pack some powdered coffee creamer. Or use single-serve liquid creamers that don’t require refrigeration.
Cereal is a food that can do double-duty as breakfast or as a snack. Pack single-serving boxes to give your family (or yourself!) options.
18. Powdered Milk
If you’re going to bring cereal, you should probably bring some milk too. Mix some powdered milk with water and breakfast is ready. (You can also use it in coffee or tea.)
It may seem like a no-brainer but bread’s another non-refrigerated staple that’s worth having. Use it to make sandwiches, toast it over the morning fire, or fill it with pie filling to make pudgie pies.
20. Evaporated Milk
Another non-refrigerated dairy option is evaporated milk. Use it as you would regular milk. (But don’t forget to pack the can opener.)
21. Canned Fruit
When fresh fruit isn’t an option, try canned fruit or single-serving fruit cups. Eat them for a snack, for breakfast, or use canned fruit to make campfire cobbler for dessert.
It seems too good to be true, but not all cheeses require refrigeration. The next time you go camping, leave soft cheeses at home (like fresh mozzarella and brie) and choose a harder cheese like Cheddar, Parmesan, Gouda, or Colby. Wrap the cheese in parchment paper or in a paper bag. This will help the cheese stay dry by absorbing oil and allowing the cheese to “breathe.” Don’t forget the crackers and wine!
For the times you do need a cooler, check out our recommendations for the 10 best coolers with wheels.