On any backcountry excursion, nutrition is king. Taste on the other hand? Not so much. But as many outdoorsy folks know, after a long day of grueling physical exertion, the last thing you want when you sit down for dinner is well… more gruel. We’ll teach you how to make tasty camping meals with these tips!
The Best Spices To Make Tasty Camping Meals
Here is a handy list of five great spices that you can bring on any outdoor adventure. Each item on this list is sure to make bland and boring foods such as oatmeal, bread, or rice into a meal you will actually enjoy! There are far more spices than this out there, however, and I recommend trying new flavors with each trip you take!
The first and most classic spice to bring with you camping is good-ole salt. Salt makes everything taste better and it is the main culprit for why we continue eating that bag of potato chips until it’s empty.
A small salt shaker stored safely in your bag can add a new dimension to any camping snack. Another bonus to salt is the addition of more sodium to your diet, which is a crucial electrolyte lost in the sweating that accompanies many outdoor activities.
If you’re a lover of spice, you may be a bit disappointed by the weight and volume that tag along with a bottle of hot sauce or sriracha. Luckily, a lighter and more efficient way to add some heat to your meals exists in hot sauce powder or sriracha seasoning.
These dehydrated products will provide the same kick and flavor you love without the size and weight that accompany a large bottle of fluid.
The taste of ginger is not for everyone, but it is powerful enough to make a big difference in your camping food. If you aren’t particularly averse to the taste, ginger is a great spice to help make your camping food legitimately enjoyable.
Furthermore, ginger is widely known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which could help you with the aches and pains that come with backcountry excursions.
You’re right, it isn’t a spice, but it is too essential to outdoor eating to leave off this list. Having peanut butter on hand will spice up your oatmeal, bread, or tortillas in a matter of seconds. It is calorically dense, cheap, and easy to pack. Overall, peanut butter is an outdoor superfood that makes everything taste better!
DIY Homemade Spice Mixture
Another great option for camping spices is to make your own spice mixture. There are countless recipes out there for at-home spice creations using various ingredients such as garlic powder, oregano, allspice, and cinnamon.
Pick and choose the mixture you like best or maybe find a recipe online that excites you! Here are some great examples of backpacking spice mixes to get you started in the right direction.
How To Pack Spices For Tasty Camping Meals
When packing your spices for camping, there are a few essential requirements. First, to keep your spices fresh you will want a reliable, waterproof bag. Furthermore, to keep your spices accessible you will need an easy-to-use dispensing device.
Without these two parameters met, you could find yourself in a situation where it is difficult to apply your spices come mealtime. Or in the worst case, where you are unable to do so at all due to contamination.
Keeping Spices Fresh
When packing your spices, you can secure them from your surrounding gear using a Tupperware, plastic bag, or spice rack. A good option for sealing off spices from any unwanted outside particles is Smelly Proof containers.
These bags get great reviews because they just work. As a final protective layer for your spices, an extra-small Smelly Proof plastic bag is a great option.
Keeping Spices Accessible
If you simply dump all of your spices into a generic container, it will be incredibly difficult to portion them out later. Luckily, you can avoid the sad feeling of spilling too much spice on your meals by buying a spice dispenser.
These dispensers are available from a variety of vendors, here is a great example of one I use on a regular basis. After storing your spices in a solid dispensing device, I still highly recommend putting that device within a water-proof plastic bag for added security.
Innovative Ideas For Tasty Camping Meals
For almost any camping meal hot water is a necessity. For most of the innovative ideas that follow, you will need a camping stove or Jetboil available to boil water.
These devices are relatively cheap and will last a lifetime, so they are worth the investment! Read on to get some ideas on how to eat like a king while in the woods.
Dehydrated Eggs and/or Milk
Many breakfast staples (i.e. eggs, milk with cereal, etc.) are all but impossible to recreate while in the backcountry due to their perishable nature… or so you thought! Luckily, eggs and milk come in powdered and dehydrated forms.
With some scientific magic, one only needs to add cold or hot water to enjoy a classic, comforting breakfast. Some brands of dehydrated milk, cream, or eggs will taste better than others, but here is my favorite dehydrated milk, by Milkman.
By thinking ahead and buying powdered eggs or milk, you will be able to walk out of your tent in the morning to a breakfast that reminds you of home. Warm eggs cooked on a camping stove, or a nice hearty bowl of cereal with milk can be the perfect start to a day out in the woods!
The Art of the Tortilla
A tortilla is a game-changing ingredient! A well-placed tortilla is capable of taking any strange mix of unrelated ingredients and making them a true meal. Throwing eggs, rice, beans, or whatever you have on hand into a tortilla shell can make all the difference in the world.
For an afternoon delight, spread some peanut butter into a tortilla shell and place dehydrated banana slices in before rolling it into a burrito. If you give the bananas a little time to soften in the peanut butter, the result is the perfect pick-me-up on a long hike.
A tortilla can wrap up just about any food item you are planning on eating while outdoors, and make mealtime a little more enjoyable!
Create your Own “Boil-in-Bag” Meals
There is a variety of high quality, “boil-in-bag”, premade camping meals you can buy online or in stores. What you might not realize, however, is that these meals can be made relatively easily in your own home!
By choosing appropriate ingredients, anyone can make their own “boil-in-bag” camping meals and save some money doing so!
One idea is to start with a strong, sealable plastic bag. Then fill it with dehydrated ingredients, fast cooking carbs, and veggies to create a lovely mixture of quick-cooking food. There are plenty of resources online to figure out what ingredients work best for your own palette and price point.
Here is a great article that goes over some of the basics in creating your own “boil in bag” camping meals!
Smelly-Proof Containers For Packing Tasty Camping Meals
If the bag storing your food rips while outdoors, you could lose all your precious calories in a matter of seconds. If it isn’t smell-proof, you may end up with raccoons perusing through your bag at night.
Or if it isn’t the right size, your pack may not fit the way you’d like. This is where Smelly-Proof bags come in They deliver strong, scent proof bags in a variety of sizes to store your food the right way when outdoors.
Benefits of Smelly Proof Bags
The first benefit of Smelly Proof bags is obvious: hey are smell proof! Whether you need to store dirty socks from a day of hiking, overly ripe bananas, or your bottle of toothpaste, neither you or the wildlife around you will smell it in your pack. Smelly Proof bags can keep your pack smelling fresh even after days harboring sweaty gear.
On top of this, Smelly Proof bags will keep food fresh for longer periods of time. Smelly Proof’s unique closure system locks out air, debris, and just about anything you don’t want to get mixed into your food.
In order to keep food at its freshest while outdoors, Smelly Proof recommends squeezing out as much excess air as possible before closing off your bags.
Finally, Smelly Proof bags are tough. Unlike Ziploc or generic plastic bags which easily rip inside a backpack or when in contact with a sharp object, Smelly Proof bags maintain their integrity.
Using a thicker layer of plastic than their competitors, Smelly Proof makes bags that are ideal for the outdoorsman who needs to keep their goods secure. An extra bonus to durability is also the ability to reuse these bags, as they maintain their structure far longer than conventional plastic bags.
Smelly Proof Bag Sizes
Smelly Proof bags come in almost any size imaginable. If you’re storing some extra spices there is a convenient extra small size that will take up minimal space in your pack.
On the other end of the spectrum, larger-sized stand up bags could be useful for storing bulk food items like granola, oatmeal, or rice. Whether it’s food, clothing, or outdoor gear you want to be stored, there will be a size that fits your needs.
Five Quality Brands For Tasty Camping Meals
These brands offer a variety of flavors, prices, and styles for any palette and price point. Ordering meals from these companies can help alleviate a lot of the stress around nutrition while camping, and help you focus on enjoying your time spent in nature instead!
If the task of preparing your own backcountry meals sounds daunting, or just not worth the effort, meals from Patagonia Provisions are a great bet. Patagonia Provisions crafts creative, high-end, and sustainable outdoor food, perfect for your next camping trip. With creations like Roasted Garlic Mackerel, Organic Tsampa Soup, and Creamy Banana Breakfast Grains it’ll be hard to decide which looks best!
Another great option for your outdoor cuisine is to check out the dehydrated meals from Trail Fork. Trail Fork crafts unique “boil in bag” meals that come in an eco-friendly container. You’ll be sure to finish up your day’s mileage faster with Trail Fork’s “unwrapped burritos” or “Apricot Almond Couscous” waiting for you at the campsite.
Offering a plethora of hardy, delicious options for your next outdoor adventure is backpacker’s pantry. These pouches come with two servings apiece, and their ingredients are never cooked until your boiling water hits the bag, leading to ultimate freshness.
Furthermore, they cater their meals to vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diets. No matter how you eat, there will be a backpacker’s pantry meal that works for you.
For those looking for paleo camping meals, Wild Zora is your best bet. Available on Amazon, Wild Zora offers paleo backcountry meals that are grain, dairy, and gluten-free. Although our paleolithic ancestors would not have had access to pre-made Wild Zora products, they certainly would have used the same ingredients!
Offering a large variety of classic camping fare like beef stew, breakfast hash, and turkey dinner is Mountain House. Mountain House camping meals won’t break your bank and provide a solid two servings per pouch. Almost all of their products are available at a reasonable price.
Sample More Outdoor Fare!
The snacks and foods you eat while adventuring outdoors can make or break your trip. It is no wonder why so many of the monthly subscription boxes I see nowadays are including food items, cooking gear, etc. as part of their gear.
The nourishment you bring is just as important to the success of a backcountry excursion as a tent, knife, or lantern. Feel free to comment below with the flavors and storage strategies you love to use for enjoying good food while camping and being outdoors!
About The Author
My name is Zeke McDermott and I love being outdoors, reading, and writing in my free time. I currently reside in Charlottesville, Virginia where I am an avid runner, climber, and fly-fisherman.
I would like to try backpacking outdoors someday. I have been on normal camping trips multiple times before where we bring a large cooler containing everything we would like to cook and those were quite fun. I actually liked those trips partly because of the food. I was able to have a nice steak one time! But from my understanding of backpacking, there are no coolers to be carried, so it definitely looks scarier. When I was in middle school, we were going to go backpacking but it got canceled. I did learn about making dehydrated foods and those tasted okay. I am wondering, however, why did you leave out normal black pepper on this list?
Hey Kevin! Black pepper is definitely a great spice to include, but it just didn’t make our top list! Where would you most be interested in backpacking?
Zeke congratulations on such a great post. From the time I can remember back as a little kid my family went camping. Then when I got older, it was just ingrained in me and I camped almost all of my adult life.
There is just something about being outdoors. The fresh air and also who doesn’t love cooking when they are camping.
Everything seems to always taste so much better when it is cooked outside.
Salt was always as must have in my trailer, but I wasn’t that adventurous until I checked out your post. I think I am going to be upping my game now. I love the Sriracha seasoning idea, and I think even adding some Ginger will be a great idea.
Is there one meal that you like to but the Sriracha on?
Hi Coralie! Sriracha goes great on almost anything!
Although less as I get older, I do a lot of overnight back packing. Your suggestions for spices is really helpful. I have simply taken the off-the-shelf fajita spice packet for my spices along with salt and pepper. I have used the powdered eggs which are okay. Also, the tortilla’s make a lot more sense than bread although i also carry flour and sugar which allows me to make bannock. The one heavy think I carry as a staple is Spam… it goes with everything. Thanks for the article.
Love that off-the-shelf fajita seasoning Anastazja! It’s hard to beat an all-in-one solution like that!
I love, love, love your website! I love being out of doors and I love cooking and eating good food! It seems to me you are very very thorough in thinking of things necessary for good backpacking food preparation. And yes, when you’re out of doors and hungry as a hippo, it’s wonderful to dip into food that is tasty. And I agree that outdoors as well as in all cooking, spices make the difference–otherwise, everything tastes the same!
Thank you so much Carolyn!
Loved it, I’m a keen camper and I bookmarked the post. Quality work.
I disagree with you on peanut butter. I use it as a spice from time to time in my version of chopped vegetable and mince stew. Ginger, turmeric, and a little garlic is a combo I like.
Do you do much hiking? If so, where. A tale like that would be good. Did you take that first photo? Well done if you did. Hiking from water source to water source in dry country is my favorite kind of adventure.
The packing and accessibility of spices were well thought of and sound pieces of advice. What about a small funnel for the spice rocket?
Hey GarryJam! I love the funnel idea for the spice rocket. I’ve definitely had my share of spice spills out on the trail. And to answer your other questions, no I did not take that first photo and yes, I do quite a bit of hiking, which is the inspiration for this blog. My buddy and I are actually about to hike the Trans-Catalina Trail in about a week, so stay tuned for a story on that!