Easy Camping Meals You Can Make at Home

View from inside the green tent of a woman enjoying a hot drink in front of the campfireThe weather changes, the clouds disperse, the sun returns, and one’s thoughts wander to camping, backpacking, and generally walking outdoors. It is the human imperative to conquer the desert and rejoice in its grandeur, beauty, and danger. The real frontier is almost gone now, but we can emulate that more fundamental and ancient human experience by going camping.

I’ve explained why camping is very important for your health and happiness:

Restore your circadian rhythm.

Encourages healthy movement outdoors.

Put the fire at the center of the community nightlife environment instead of the television or smartphones.

It’s fun.

But you have to eat there.

What to Eat Outdoors: Easy Camping Meals

Camping meal ideas don’t have to be complicated. You can easily get by for a few days or even longer with a combination of:

  • grain free granola
  • jerky, biltong, pemmican
  • Olives or dried olives
  • Nuts and nut butter (available in individual packets)
  • Trail mix, spiced toasted walnuts
  • Hard salami, summer sausage
  • Hard cheese, freeze-dried cheese
  • Packages of tuna or other canned fish, canned oysters/mussels
  • whole avocados
  • whole fruits
  • low carb protein bars
  • Low carb tortillas (or regular corn tortillas if you prefer)
  • Cooked potatoes/sweet potatoes (which will last a few days at room temperature)
  • Hard-boiled eggs (which last one or two days depending on the temperature)
  • Nuts, dates, berries, figs

In fact, you can eat quite well this way. You can certainly survive.

But sometimes you want a little more luxury. You want something warm and comforting. Instead of squatting around the fire gnawing on dried meat and munching on nuts, you want to sit with your people with a hot plate in front of you and enjoy a proper meal, wild style.

Yesterday you learned how to dehydrate food. Check it out if you’re new to dehydration. It’s easy and inexpensive, but there are a few things you need to know to get started. Today I am going to give you some dehydrated food recipes. This is trail food, not car camping food. These are things that are light, stable in a backpack, and dehydrated. This is the food you can carry with you for days.

Make your own easy dehydrated meals for camping

Unlike most commercial foods, these are delicious, nutrient-dense meals without unwanted fat or ingredients. No industrial seed oils, lots of animal protein.

There are a couple of ways to prepare dehydrated camping meals:

  1. You can prepare finished meals at home, dehydrate and heat them on the go.
  2. You can make individual dehydrated ingredients and then mix and heat them together on the go.

I will describe below how to rehydrate food on the go.

Scrambled eggs

This is almost as good as the real thing. Almost.

  • Add 1 part powdered egg to 1.5 parts water, powdered milk powder, and powdered butter. (Ingredients readily available online or through a camping supply retailer.)
  • Beat it furiously. You want it totally mixed, completely smooth, with a lot of aeration.
  • Heat the oil or butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the egg mixture and any other rehydrated vegetables you may have and stir continuously. Salt and season as you go.
  • Finish with cheese if you have.

pressure cooker chili

This is a basic chili. It doesn’t have beans, but you can add them if you want.

  • Put the leanest beef you can find (top round, London broil, 96% lean ground, etc.) in the pressure cooker along with tomato paste, onion, garlic, bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika and chipotle chili (if you want as spicy). Add enough bone broth to cover everything, then pressure cook until meat falls apart.
  • Reduce the chili until most of the liquid is gone and it is a thick stew rather than a soup.
  • Spread the chili in a thin layer and dehydrate it.

The trick here is to use liquid and pressure to cook it, instead of fat. When you rehydrate it on the go, add plenty of fat.

Dehydrated mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes

These are a great base for any meal, especially if you’ve expended a lot of energy along the way.

  • Peel and boil the potatoes as you would mashed potatoes.
  • When they are soft, drain them almost completely. Reserve a few cups of the cooking water.
  • Mash them with as much water as needed to produce a thick puree with a “broth” texture, wetter than normal.
  • Add salt and spices if you like, or wait for the trail.
  • Do not add fat, milk, butter or cream. You can add that on the way after reconstitution.
  • Spread in a thin layer and dehydrate until dry and brittle. Crush or grind it into a powder and store it.

To reheat, mix 1/2 cup of dehydrated potato with 2/3 cup of boiling water. Cover for 5-10 minutes and add milk, butter, cheese, or seasonings. Adjust the texture by adding more water if you like.

This also works for cauliflower. Just be sure not to add fat until you’re rehydrating it along the way.

These are just a few ideas. You can do a lot of great things if you stick to the basics and follow a few fundamental rules.

Some advices

Use as little fat as possible.

The thing about cooking and dehydrating your own meals for on the go is that you have to do it a little differently. You can’t use a ton of fat when cooking because fat just doesn’t dehydrate very well. The goal of dehydration is to remove moisture and end up with a final product that is stable at room temperature for a long time. Too much fat will retain moisture and go rancid.

So when you’re looking at these recipes, they might seem like a bit of fun. When I make my regular camp chili, I’m searing the meat and vegetables in butter and olive oil and really making a thick, rich stew, but that doesn’t fly when you’re dehydrating chili. You can always add the fat later, after the dehydrated food has been heated, and I’ll include a list of essential additions to take with you when you head out into the desert to enrich your meals.

Use low-fat meat.

When using beef, make it as lean as possible. When cooking chicken, use canned chicken or breast.

Use liquid.

Since you can’t really use tons of fat when cooking meals for dehydration, you’ll need to include a good amount of liquid to prevent sticking. Dehydration will take care of the moisture, of course.

Important additions to add to your package

These are the kitchen ingredients that I consider essential for anyone to eat well on the go.

Powdered gelatin/powdered bone broth

Heat some water on the camp stove and mix this up, then pour the jelly-rich liquid into your soups, stews, chilies, and sauces to add texture, body, and jelliness.

Powdered butter (yes, real grass-fed powdered butter)

Add powdered butter to any low-fat dish to enrich it and make it more luxurious. You can also bring real butter if there’s room, it’s not too hot, and it won’t take the weight off your backpack.

Olive oil or avocado oil in small bottles

This is a great bottle (BPA free, made in the USA) for storing cooking oil and spraying it on food. This is a good olive oil and this is a good avocado oil.

Powdered eggs and yolks

Powdered eggs and powdered egg yolks are great to have on hand for quick breakfasts or to enrich other dishes.

milk powder

Powdered milk is another good addition to have on hand.

Cheese powder or cheese

Cheese powder is a great way to add body and nutrition to almost any dish. You can also pack pure hard cheese, which lasts quite well at room temperature. Shelf stable grated cheese is also an option.

salt, pepper, spices

At a minimum, bring salt, black pepper, and something like garlic powder, paprika, porcini powder, or cayenne. Very easy seasoning, very simple, very effective.

sun dried tomatoes

Sun-dried tomatoes provide umami, tartness, sweetness, and that burst of rich tomato flavor that enriches just about any dish it touches. You can also chop them directly.


Yes, yes, it’s not essential, but if you have the space, having some mayonnaise on hand will really enhance your meals.

How to rehydrate your dehydrated foods

This is pretty simple.

  1. Heat the water to a simmer on the camp stove and add your food. Typically, this is 1 part dry food to 1.5 parts water.
  2. Cover and heat until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Garnish your food with spices, seasonings, oil, fat, and cheese.

Different dishes will have different rehydration requirements, but that’s the basic formula. If you’re just guessing, use less water than you think. You can always add more.

I’d love to hear what you guys are dehydrating and rehydrating along the way. Let me know below what are your favorite dehydrated backpacker dishes to make and eat!

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather of the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is keto for life, where he discusses how he combines the ketogenic diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is also the author of many other books, including The original planecredited with fueling the growth of the primal/paleo movement in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating people on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen , a real food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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