If you need easy camping food ideas with minimal planning you are in the right place! Read on for a list of canned and non-perishable foods that make great camping meals and snacks. If you plan to be off the grid for long periods, you will also need nonperishable foods with a long shelf life. I promise this won’t be a list of every canned food in your pantry. These are some of the best camping foods – eaten as is or cooked with only water. In addition to camping, these foods are a great way to prepare for emergency situations. You will need a camp stove (or heat source) with a pot and/or pan for cooking some of these foods.
If you find this list useful, I include a free printable version at the bottom of the list.
Expert tip – don’t forget the can opener! Permanently add one to your camping kitchen supplies or put it on your camping food list to make sure you don’t forget it.
Grocery Store Camping Foods
All of these foods can be found at your local grocery store. We cover freeze-dried meals and dehydrated foods in another article. Everything here should last a long time – usually at least a week without a cooler or refrigerator. This simplifies food storage and allows you to shop in advance. This list works well for most types of camping including car camping, canoe and kayak trips, festivals, and primitive tent camping. Some will work for backpacking, but many canned and precooked foods are too heavy for anything other than a short trip.
Prepping for Emergencies
During a natural disaster or power outage, it’s vital to have food available which will keep without refrigeration. FEMA recommends everyone store 2 weeks of ready-to-eat food as emergency food supplies for everyone. Keeping a collection of the food listed here in your pantry. You will have them available for camping trips and any future emergency situation. Your emergency supplies reduce your stress during difficult situations and might be lifesaving. If you are worried about using up canned goods, plan meals with a mix of fresh foods and work them into your normal diet. Prepping with canned foods is the best option for working on a budget as well (freeze dried foods are expensive).
Canned vs Pouch Foods
Metal cans are a traditional package that preserves food. Canned food still provides the best shelf life for many foods at the grocery store. However, foods packaged in plastic pouches are a great option to increase your choices. They also offer single serving sizes and different flavor varieties.
Soups and Stews
1. Canned soups and stews – These make camp cooking easy – just pour them into a pot and warm up over a camp stove or campfire. It doesn’t get any easier for a hearty meal. Does a can of chicken noodle soup come to mind when you think of canned soup? Visit your grocery store to see the varieties available. Campbell’s Chunky soups are hearty soups that include over 40 varieties (shown on their website). My husband loves the Jambalaya with Chicken, Sausage, and Ham. I’m a fan of the Chicken Corn Chowder. I’m sure you can find a variety you like.
Dinty Moore also makes a classic beef stew which some campers swear by. Progresso offers a variety of traditional classics as well. If you need vegetarian or a more healthy option, try Amy’s brand.
2. Ramen Noodles – Don’t laugh at this one! A package of ramen noodles plus a pouch of chicken makes an easy and satisfying meal. There are also many recipes online to enhance ramen noodles soup. If you are willing to shop online, you can find healthier brands. Here is a combination for inspiration: creamy chicken ramen noodles, a pouch of chicken, diced sun dried tomatoes and shredded cheddar cheese.
Canned meats are good options when you don’t have fresh meat available. Look for canned versions of most meats you normally cook with. Check out some of these ideas.
Chicken and Fish
3. Chicken and Tuna Pouches – I mention these pouches because they are available in a variety of flavors you won’t find in cans. Lemon pepper, buffalo, smoked, and fajita are some flavors for chicken. With tuna, look for sweet and spicy, ranch, smoked, lemon pepper, Thai chili, sun-dried tomato and basil, and jalapeno. Meat pouches are a good choice when cooking for only yourself. Try them on crackers, or pita bread. You can also add them to soups and pasta mixes for extra protein.
4. Chicken, Tuna, and Ham Salad – These are available in cans and pouches of different sizes. Bumble Bee brand and Tyson package a chicken salad kits with some crackers for a snack or light lunch. These salads are perfect for quick lunches because they don’t require any cooking. Want more flavor and variety? Add some goodies like dried cranberries, nuts, finely chopped shallots, chopped green onion, mustard or hot spices.
5. Canned Salmon (or single-serve pouches) – Salmon is mainly available plain or smoked. I haven’t found many other flavors. I add salmon to creamy Alfredo pasta with some dill for a wonderful meal. Check out my recipe for Sweet and Spicy Canned Salmon Dip as well and enjoy it with crackers.
canned Beef and Pork
6. Pulled port in BBQ sauce – I’ve seen this pork option in both pouches and cans. I’m planning to try adding this to mac and cheese next time I go camping.
7. Canned Chili (with or without beans) – You can’t go wrong here if you like chili. Add additional spices or some diced shallots for extra flavor.
8. Summer Sausage – This versatile sausage is shelf-stable before opening and tastes wonderful without any cooking. Serve the traditional way with crackers and cheese or cut it up to add to rice and pasta dishes. You can also make sandwiches with it.
9. Canned ham or SPAM – Slice canned ham for sandwiches, or fry some slices and serve with hash browns (made from dried shredded potatoes).
10. Vienna Sausages – These little cans of sausage are great for one person. You can skewer them and heat them over a fire like mini hot dogs. If you heat them in water, be sure to keep the water from boiling or the sausages will split. Enjoy with some BBQ sauce and some beans or rice.
Dried and Cured Meats
11. Pre-cooked Bacon – Pre-cooked bacon is pure camping joy! While this bacon is often sold in the refrigerated case with other bacon, it does NOT require refrigeration until it’s opened. It’s typically packaged in a cardboard box and says fully cooked on the package. Look for the smallest packages (usually 12-15 slices) unless you are cooking for a big group. I typically cut it up and add it to pasta and hearty soups for extra flavor. I also heat it up on the griddle when making pancakes or breakfast tacos. Add it last and watch it closely to prevent burning – it’s already cooked.
12. Jerky – Beef, turkey, and even bacon jerky are available in spicy and sweet flavors. Jerky is a popular easy snack for good reason. You can also cut it up to add to other meals.
Boxed Meals and Sides
13. Cajun and Creole Boxed dinners – Boxed meal mixes like Jambalaya, Gumbo, and Red Beans and Rice are available from several brands. Zatarain, Bayou Magic, and Tony Chachere are some brands to try (Bayou Magic is a favorite at our house). Some only require you to add water and meat, while others require canned ingredients such as diced tomatoes or cream of celery soup. Try canned chicken and or summer sausage for easy shelf stable add-ins.
14. Flavored rice mixes – Knorr brand and others make flavored rice (and pasta) side dishes that make a simple meal starter. Just add your choice of meat or vegetables to turn these into simple meals.
15. Instant rice – While white rice is plain on its own, season it up and serve it as a side dish with other foods. Or add it to soups for more calories. You can combine it with seasoned diced tomatoes, a meat of choice, and spices to make a quick meal.
16. Boxed Mac and Cheese – This is always a favorite among kids, and you can turn it into a main dish for adults by adding meat or other vegetables. A BBQ restaurant combines mac and cheese with meat and BBQ sauce to make amazing quesadillas, so get creative with it! Be sure to pick mixes that include a packet of cheese sauce. Boxes with dried cheese mixes usually require milk and butter so check the instructions before you buy one.
17. Chicken or Tuna Helper – These boxed meals are meant for fresh meats, but they work with canned meats as well.
18. Pre-cooked pasta pouches – I found this by chance at Walmart recently: Pesty Portobello Ravioli. It’s a pouch of fully cooked pasta intended to be heated in the microwave. I carefully heated it in a pot of boiling water instead (you will need to support the vented top) and it turned out perfectly. They also make other flavors and quinoa pouches. You can often adapt dishes meant for the microwave like this Devour brand pasta. I cooked it in a saucepan instead of the plastic bowl.
19. Canned Pasta – Did anyone else love SpaghettiOs as a kid? What about canned ravioli? These days I prefer the more grown-up pasta pouches, but these old-fashioned favorites are still around. Your kids may thank you for including them on your next adventure.
Fruits and Vegetables
While you may not want to open a can of green beans and eat it plain, there are some options that make good meal starters or snacks. I won’t list all the canned vegetables available, but these are versatile ingredients in many easy recipes like 7 Can Taco Soup.
Canned Fruits and Vegetables
20. Canned beans – Beans canned in the sauce make solid meals by themselves. Try ranch-style beans or baked beans as good examples. My husband loves ranch-style beans with jalapenos.
21. Nut Butters – Peanut, almond, or cashew butter are popular main ingredients for campers or backpackers. Make sandwiches and tortilla rolls, serve with crackers, or add some chocolate chips and mini marshmallows for an easy treat. Expect to see some “creative” backpacking meals featuring peanut butter around the web.
22. Pasta Sauces – spaghetti sauce, marinara sauce, Vodka Sauce – and let’s include alfredo sauce to keep the sauces together. Heat and serve over pasta and you have a simple meal. Add some protein or vegetables like canned mushrooms, and serve with grated cheese to increase the flavor. Tip: Turn alfredo sauce into a spicy cream sauce with by adding a little chipotle chili powder.
23. Fruit cups – Fruit makes a great snack or side served with other foods. Various fruit cups are sold for packing lunches, including applesauce, mandarin oranges, fruit cocktail, and peaches. Canned fruits work better for multiple servings or making other recipes.
24. Hummus Cups – Like fruit cups, these packets are single serving cups (typically 2 oz) that you can enjoy anywhere. They make great snacks or provide protein for a no-cook lunch. Enjoy these with pita chips or pretzels.
Fresh and Dried Fruits and Vegetables
25. Fresh Fruits – While some fruit won’t stay fresh long without refrigeration, many will be fine for a week-long camping trip. Apples, pears, and oranges are great single-serving and healthy choices.
26. Dried or Freeze Dried Fruit – Dried fruits like cranberries or raisins can be snacks by themselves or mixed with nuts. Fruit leathers or roll-ups are other forms of dried fruit that are fun for children as well. Many stores also carry dried pineapple and other fruits in health or bulk sections. Depending on your grocery store, you may be able to find single-serving packets of freeze-dried apples and strawberries.
27. Instant Potatoes – Look for instant pouches of mashed potatoes for a quick and easy meal starter. Add some protein and spices and you have a delicious and easy meal. With a bit more work, you can fry up some hash browns from a carton of dehydrated shredded potatoes. These and other potato meal ideas are sold in the same section of the grocery store.
28. Mixed Nuts – Salty, spicy, or sweet – there are so many varieties to choose from! Bring your individual favorites or combine them for more variety.
29. Trail Mix – I always take trail mix when camping and hiking. I make my own mix of nuts and dried fruit, but there are many varieties and brands available. Your grocery store will have several varieties, but you can find many more online.
Bars and Breakfast Foods
30. Granola and Cereal bars – Check in the breakfast food aisle of your grocery store for these delicious snacks. Granola bars often feature numerous flavors with nuts and chocolate. These snacks are often high in sugar – if you want healthier options, keep reading.
31. Protein, Nut and Energy Bars – While some stores combine all the bars, many stock the protein and energy bars in a health food section (while granola bars are near breakfast cereal). The energy bars in this area include classic Cliff bars, nut bars like Kind brand, and Laura bars which feature simple clean ingredients. Go shopping for even more options.
32. Oatmeal – Instant oatmeal packets dress up this traditional favorite with a variety of easy flavors. This product on Amazon shows you some of the varieties available (https://www.amazon.com/Quaker-Instant-Oatmeal-Variety-Breakfast). Bananas, cranberries, strawberries, cinnamon, and more – they have it.
33. Instant pancake mix – Instant pancake mixes have gotten SO good in the last few years. These just add water mixes taste amazing and I use them if I don’t have time to make my own. There are high protein options and a variety of flavors as well. I’ve you haven’t tried instant mixes in the last few years, check out the newer options available.
34. Breakfast cereals – I enjoy snacking on dry breakfast cereals like Honey Nut Cheerios. Have them as a snack or well… eat them for breakfast.
35. Bread or Tortillas – Sandwich bread, buns, pita bread, tortillas, and other baked bread with a spread or meat make quick no cook meals. Make sandwiches, and wraps, or toast them as a side. The fresh-baked bread and tortillas in the bakery usually taste better than those in the main bread aisle, but they will only be good for a few days. Packaged goods with preservatives will last longer (often a week) when needed.
36. Crackers and chips – Crackers and chips (potato or vegetable) are popular snacks in American diets and camping is no exception. Healthy versions to fit most diets are available.
37. Pretzels – While pretzels are basically a type of cracker, I want to point them out separately. When hiking and backpacking, pretzels hold up better than crackers. In my experience, they break and crush less easily.
38. Baked desserts – This is a wide category, but I’ll keep it simple and just mention a few. From cookies to snack cakes, these sweets are calorie dense – good for backpacking, but probably not so healthy otherwise. Enjoy these
39. Hard cheese – Hard cheese like cheddar, swiss, and parmesan don’t require refrigeration. They may get oily, but they are safe to eat when stored at room temperature. Keep them in a block until you are ready to eat, and then slice or grate as needed.
40. Cheese Whiz or Dip – Canned cheese may not be the health food of choice, but it’s fun and easy for snacks.
41. Cheese Crisps – While these little treats look like crackers, they are made entirely out of baked cheese. They make a great healthy snack, especially if you want to manage carbs. Several brands and varieties are available, from simple Parmesan crisps to ranch and everything bagel flavors.