How to Pack Your Food for an Overnight Camping Trip
With the warm weather months quickly approaching, it's time to start making some summer plans. And this year may finally be your year to go camping.
Yes, now really is the ideal time to dust off that old tent, pull out your sleeping bag, hiking boots, and fire starter kit so you can go experience the peace and solitude of the great outdoors. But, before you go, make sure to pack enough food for your overnight trip as there’s nothing quite as bad as waking up in the middle of nowhere on an empty stomach.
But, be warned: Packing food for an overnight jaunt in Mother Nature takes a little bit of planning. Here’s what you need to know about packing your food for an overnight camping trip so your food stays fresh and safe from uninvited woodland creatures.
Make a Meal Plan
The first step in your overnight camping planning is to take the time to write out a meal plan. And here, it’s best to get specific. Think about how long you’re going, who you’re going with, and exactly how many meals, snacks, and desserts you want to bring along for the journey. Because nobody—nobody—wants to get stuck out in the woods without the right amount of s’more supplies.
Get the Right Food Storage System
After planning your meals, the next step on your camping to-do list is to ensure you have the right place to store it. For an overnight trip you may want to consider plunking down a few dollars on a YETI Tundra series cooler ($250; amazon.com). The cooler system comes in multiple sizes so you can choose the right one for the size of your camping crew, and each one comes with up to three inches of PermaFrost Insulation to keep your items cold and fresh for as long as possible. The system is also portable and latches closed to keep animals from being able to get into it.
For inside your cooler, you may also want to think about purchasing a glass food container set. This particular system is BPA-free and comes with multiple sizes and snap-on lids to prevent spillage.
Dry Foods Are Your Best Friend
For an overnight camping trip, there may be no better food than cereal. That’s because the food doesn’t need to stay cold, will stay fresh for an extended period, and, oh yeah, is delicious.
Perhaps the best option is Cascadian Farm Organic Cinnamon Crunch Cereal. Not only does the cereal pack a serious flavor punch, but it also brings the heat when it comes to nutrition. With three grams of fiber and 15 grams of whole grains per serving, the cereal will keep you full throughout the day.
And, best of all, it can be packed as a hiking snack along the way. Mix in a few nuts, seeds, and maybe a few chocolate chips for an excellent energy boost mid-day. (And hey, you could even try crushing up a few pieces to sprinkle on your s’mores to turn it into a luxury camping experience.)
If You Bring Meat, Make It Canned
We get it, you want to grill over an open flame to make the outdoorsman experience complete. But unless you have a place to purchase fresh meat that day, it may be best to bring along canned meats. As the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service states, “Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40°F and 140°F, doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes. This range of temperatures is often called the ‘Danger Zone.’” That’s why the Meat and Poultry Hotline advises consumers never to leave food out of refrigeration for over two hours. If the temperature is above 90°F, food should not be left out more than one hour.”
You can still make plenty of delicious dishes using canned tuna that have nothing to do with sandwiches.
Fruits Already Come Prepackaged
Want to bring fruit? Guess what: Nature has already done all the work for you. Bananas, apples, peaches, and pears all come pre-packed in their delicious skins for you so no need to fret about how they are stored. Just make sure to bring along enough to share. Best of all, those peaches and pears can double as a delicious dessert, too.
Don’t Forget To Pack the Right Setup
Along with storage and food, you’re going to need to bring along a few other items like plates, cups, cutlery, wipes, a can opener, portable water filters, thermometers for cooked meat, a camper stove, and trash bags.
As often as you can, it’s best to bring reusable items so you’re reducing and reusing as much as possible. Don’t worry, there are plenty of eco-friendly ways to wash your dishes while you’re in the woods.
And make doubly sure to pack out all your trash when you leave. For those of you who may be new to camping, that’s called “leaving no trace," which is exactly what it sounds like: Leave the land exactly as you found it. For more on how you can go camping with minimal impact to the environment, check out the seven leave no trace principles. Then, get packing. The stars, fresh air, and peace of mind of the wilderness are waiting for you.