These Easy Make-Ahead Meals Will Keep Your Next Camping Trip Stress-Free

There is no experience quite like cooking on a camping trip. Whether you've got a portable camp stove, a kitted out RV kitchen, or are just using simple cast iron pots and pans over a live fire, there is something wonderful about making food at the campsite. Well, for some of us, anyway. Others, even though they love camping, are stressed out by the very notion of cooking meals from scratch every day without a proper kitchen or refrigerator. But it doesn't have to be this way.

Though you could technically survive on roasted marshmallows and hotdogs for the entirety of your trip, you will end up getting sick of them sooner rather than later. And while trying to figure out what to make in the wilderness can be stressful, especially when the weather isn't cooperating, there are ways to plan ahead and mitigate any unfortunate emotions.

Planning ahead and making meals before you head out on your trip is by far the easiest way to prevent a campfire cooking meltdown. There are an absolute bevy of options to choose from, but we've narrowed it down to 15 make-ahead meals that are easy to make, store well, and are, above all, tasty.

English muffin breakfast sandwiches

English muffin breakfast sandwiches are not only highly portable, but they're super easy to make in advance of any trip. They're also highly adaptable in terms of ingredients. With the English muffin as a base, you can add a fried or baked egg, and your choice of cheese and breakfast meat. 

The reason these sandwiches are so easy to make in advance is because of their simple ingredients. You're not trying to bring together a million different things. Instead, you're bringing together four ingredients you could easily find at any grocery store. And all you really need to cook in advance are the eggs. An easy way of doing this is to whisk up a bunch of eggs and bake them in a pan in the oven. You can then cut them up into individual squares and allow them to cool completely before assembling the sandwiches. 

Aside from the eggs, bacon will need to be cooked in advance too. Other meats, like breakfast sausage patties, ham, and Canadian bacon are pre-cooked and just need to be warmed up. You can make dozens of sandwiches at a time. For travel and storage, wrap them in foil or wax paper, and keep them cold in the cooler. At camp, you can reheat them in a pan over the fire or stove and have breakfast ready in under 5 minutes. 

Overnight oats

One of the most trendy foods of the last few years, overnight oats are not actually anything new, or altogether difficult to make. Literally nothing more than oats soaked overnight in some kind of milk, they are an easy, and very travel friendly, way of enjoying your favorite bowl of oatmeal. Old fashioned rolled oats are the way to go for making overnight oats, as they will best absorb the liquid, turning smooth and creamy without becoming mush. You can set up multiple small mason jars worth of overnight oats and keep them in your camp cooler until you're ready to use them. And unless you like your oatmeal hot, there's no need to heat up the oats.

A good batch of overnight oats will last up to five days, which makes them perfect to bring along for a week's camping. If you're sensitive to dairy, you can make overnight oats with oat, rice, soy, or almond milk. And as far as additional flavors go, the sky really is the limit.

You can do honey and blueberries, cinnamon and walnuts, maple syrup and chocolate chips — anything that will get you smiling. And keep in mind, these don't necessarily need to be eaten for breakfast, or have to be sweet. You can make savory, lunch-style homemade oats by adding cheese, herbs, or hard boiled eggs if you so choose. However you eat them, they're great to have in the cooler. 

Sheet pancakes

If you've never mastered the art of flipping pancakes, you might want to consider making one, or several, sheet pancakes to bring with you on your next camping trip. Essentially one giant pancake that is baked in a sheet pan, hence the name, you can bake as many as you'd like ahead of time, and then divide them up into individual "pancakes" and store them in bags until they are ready to be eaten. They will last upwards of five days if they are plain, and two to three if they have additives like fruit or chocolate chips.

Baking a sheet pancake is the simple process of pouring your batter in a greased sheet pan and baking it in a 425 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15 to 20 minutes. You can make a savory or sweet pancake, and add in elements that bring more flavor. You could do bacon, root vegetables, herbs, and cheese for savory, or berries, chocolate chips, and bananas for sweet. Just remember the more you add in, the less time it will keep. So, if you're camping for a week and want things to last, keep it plain.

You can heat these up fireside or on the camp stove, but they are perfectly fine eaten cold. Add a little whipped cream on top with some fresh berries and maple syrup, and you've got yourself a diner breakfast without having to leave your campsite.

Baked oatmeal and egg muffins

These are kind of a two-in-one meal. Excellent far beyond their uses at the campsite, baked oatmeal or egg muffins are breakfasts that you should bring into your regular cooking rotation. These are basically omelets and oatmeal bowls that are baked in muffin tins. This makes them small enough to transport and make for very easy eating. All you need to do is remove them from the tin, wrap in foil, and keep them in the fridge, or cooler, where they will last for up to 5 days. 

Like a lot of the other meals on this list, the oatmeal and egg muffins are highly adaptable in terms of what kinds of ingredients you can add to them. To the eggs can be added breakfast sausage, bacon, ham, tomatoes, cheese, hash brown potatoes, and herbs. Meanwhile, the oatmeal could be sweet or savory depending on your tastes, flavored with anything from fruit, nuts, brown sugar, and syrup to herbs and breakfast meats.

These will keep well in the cooler wrapped up individually in foil. Keeping them together in one bag tends to lead to soggier results, especially with the oatmeal. If you want to warm them up, grease a small cast iron with some butter and heat on the coals for five minutes or so. These make for a great breakfast if you're planning on hiking, or a nice mid-day snack between meals.

Breakfast burritos

Another favorite among those who prefer to make their breakfasts in advance, breakfast burritos are flavorful, compact meals that you can eat anywhere. Like their counterpart, the English muffin egg sandwiches, breakfast burritos can be made well ahead of your camping trip. The general rule for storage is three and three: three days in the fridge, three months in the freezer. 

Breakfast burritos are easily customizable with your choice of eggs, meat, vegetables, tortilla, cheese, and any additional condiments. If you're planning on keeping these in the fridge or freezer before your trip, don't add any salsa or condiments like sour cream into the burrito. They don't freeze well and the moisture content will cause the tortilla to get soggy. Some great ingredient choices for breakfast burritos include thick-cut bacon or ham, fresh pico de gallo, tangy Monterey jack cheese, bell peppers, and wild rice if you're looking for unique flavor.

Bringing them along for camping is certainly going to make you the envy of the campground. Anyone smelling the tantalizing scent of burritos wafting from your stove or campfire is going to immediately wish that they'd thought to bring some along for their camping trip.

Pasta salad

Moving onto lunch and dinner staples, we have, arguably, one of the best camping meals you can make in advance of your trip: pasta salad. Make a large batch of this and you and your crew are sure to be happily fed for days on end. The great thing about pasta salad is that it is meant to be served cold. So, you can do all the cooking at home before you leave, and scoop some out of a bag or container to your heart's content. No reheating required.

One thing you will need to make sure of here is that you are balancing the flavors and ingredients. Some pasta salads can be too heavy on one ingredient, like dressing or cheese, meaning that the other items, like chickpeas or olives, will get lost in the overall dish. Also, be sure to cook your pasta al dente so it has some bite and doesn't become soggy or mushy in the cooler.

One thing that you will need to be careful of when bringing pasta salad to the campsite is keeping it cold. It needs to be kept at colder, refrigerator temperatures or else it may start to spoil more quickly than you'd like. This is especially true if your salad is mayonnaise-based. The mayonnaise can easily turn rancid if it's not kept cool. If you have easy access to ice on the campsite or a battery powered cooler, you should be good to go.

Chickpea or farro salad

If there is anything that is good for long term storage, even when they're cooked, it's chickpeas, farro, and quinoa. Though the latter two are technically grains, all three have their benefits as excellent storing, very flavorful, and easily transportable foods. This is especially true if you whip up a salad with them. For anyone who is gluten intolerant, chickpeas and quinoa, offer fantastic alternatives that work well with a variety of different ingredients.

Make the salad well ahead of your trip and keep it cold and covered in the cooler. They should last up to a week in storage, and the longer they sit the more time the ingredients have to mingle with one another and increase in flavor. One of the best ways you can make a chickpea of farro salad is to get Greek with your ingredients. Cucumbers, feta, red onions, bell peppers, olives, and acidic Greek dressing all work incredibly well with these three main ingredients.

These salads can be eaten on their own, or served as a side. They will work really well when paired with some meaty mains, as they offer a lighter, more nuanced flavor to something that's much more intense.

Cheeseburger sliders

Yes, we're talking cheeseburger sliders, people. These are an absolute must for dinner or lunch when you're out camping. Sliders are miniature cheeseburgers. You can make them like normal burgers, on the grill or stove top, but for ease of preparation and cooking at the campsite, you'll want to assemble these at home in a large baking tray. These sliders are constructed in the pan as follows: bottom buns, cooked burger meat, cheese, pickles (optional), and finally the top layer of buns. A pound of ground beef will make roughly 12 sliders. 

Keep in mind, the ground beef will need to be cooked and cooled to room temperature before it is applied to the buns. Failing to do this will result in an incredibly soggy batch of sliders, as the steam from the hot beef will turn the buns soft. The steam will also add moisture to the cheese, which could lead to mold growth and spoilage. 

Once you're ready to eat them, all you need to do is nestle the pan on a grill grate held above the hot coals. It should take something like 10 to 20 minutes to have them fully reheated to proper burger eating temperature. Serve alongside some pasta or quinoa salad, and you've got yourself a stress free, and utterly delicious, camping meal.

Chili

This one is an absolute no brainer. Chili is such an easy meal to have prepared far in advance of going camping. While some of the meals on this list, like pasta salad or burger sliders, should only be made days or weeks ahead, chili can be made months in advance of your trip. It is one of those meals that you can make in large batches and freeze for upwards of a year. 

There are two directions you could go with chili. You could make a meat-based chili or a vegetable/bean-based chili. Whatever camp (pun intended) you're in on this matter, the chili is going to make for excellent traveling. If you've planned well enough ahead, you'll have the chili divided up into individual portions, which are far easier to fit inside of a cooler than several gallon bags. Be sure to have plenty of ice to prevent premature thawing.

When you're ready to eat, all you'll need is a pot and a little extra water. The water will prevent the chili from burning as it reconstitutes. The smell of the chili as it warms over the crackling fire is sure to set your taste buds alight. And there is nothing better on a cold night outdoors than a piping hot bowl of chili. 

Mac 'n cheese

What's camping without campfire mac n' cheese? It's easy to see why this favorite of all comfort foods is something of a camping staple. It's one of the easiest meals you can make in bulk, and, depending on how fancy you want to make it, requires relatively few ingredients. At its core, all that's required is macaroni, a bit of milk or Alfredo sauce, and shredded cheese. All of the cooking work can be done in the comfort of your own kitchen at least three days before you head off into the woods.

How to store the mac n' cheese is a decent question. You can choose to have it all in one large container for sharing, or you can divvy it up into individual aluminum containers and cook them as their own separate meal. This is likely the better option for camping, because this way you don't have to worry about having hot extras to re-store.

You will have to let the mixed mac n' cheese cool to room temperature before tossing it into the refrigerator. Once it's totally cooled, divide the meal, and keep it in the cooler until you're ready to warm it up by the fire's edge. You can add extra breadcrumbs or more cheese at this stage. It'll get wonderfully gooey and melty, perfect for a brisk evening at camp.

Potato Salad

There is a wide range of potato salad recipes to choose from when deciding which one to bring along for your camping trip. You could go classic, with mayonnaise, onions, vinegar, and mustard. You could get a little more unorthodox, seasoning the potatoes with lemon, salt, and bacon, and using plain Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise. You could toss the potatoes in some salt, bacon bits, chives, red wine vinegar, and mustard and call it a day. Whatever recipe you choose to do, potato salad is an excellent make-ahead option to have at the campground.

You can make the salad a few days in advance of your trip. One thing we would advise against is the using of eggs. Even though hard boiled eggs have a refrigerated shelf life of about a week, that is in the stable environment of the refrigerator. Unless you've got a mini fridge or a plug in cooler, or regular access to ice for your cooler, don't put eggs in the salad. They may go rancid before they are ready.

Like other salads, any potato salad you make is going to be best served alongside other main courses like the cheeseburger sliders, hot dogs, and pulled pork. It's great for a crowd, so if you've got company, potato salad is always good to have on hand.

Dirt Pudding Cups

Moving onto desserts — because who isn't bringing desserts when they go camping? — we have an absolute classic: dirt pudding cups. Remember these when you were a kid? A chocolate pudding dessert designed to resemble worms emerging from the dirt, these goofy treats always makes the kid in us remember pretending that we were actually eating worms.

To make these, you'll need some individual serving cups, chocolate pudding, crushed chocolate cookies, and plenty of gummy worms. The layering goes: pudding, cookies, worms. You could get a little creative and do multiple layers of each, but if you're looking to make them quickly, one thick layer of each will do. And don't skimp on the gummy worms, since they are the best part.

Once again, you're going to want to keep these as cold as possible to protect the integrity of the dairy in the pudding. Serving these at the campsite, especially if you have kids in tow, is going to be a wonderfully thrilling moment.

Mason jar strawberry shortcake

Not as commonly seen as some other camping dessert classics, mason jar strawberry shortcakes are yet another easy grab from the cooler. This is a strawberry shortcake made for travel! Constructed almost like a trifle, these desserts can be crammed into small jars, sealed, brought to camp, and served up straight from the cooler.

To assemble them, you really don't need much. You'll need your base of cake, which can be shortcake, pound cake, or sweet biscuits. Then you add in your strawberries. These could be as simple as sliced strawberries frosted with sugar, or even some strawberry jam. Then on goes the whipped cream. For this, it might just be easiest to add on site using a can of Reddi Whip. Unless you're willing to whip the cream onsite or stabilize it with sour cream ahead of time, homemade whipped cream can often separate when traveling, losing its fluffiness and getting gloopy.

These are best for those warm summer camping nights, as strawberry shortcake is always refreshing and a common summer dessert. Enjoy with some tea, coffee, or a sweet beverage, and tuck into these delightful little desserts.

Rice Krispies treats

You don't have to go to the supermarket and buy boxes of Rice Krispie treats when you can make them at home! This is one dessert that couldn't be easier (or more fun) to make. A mixture of melted butter, marshmallows, and Rice Krispie cereal, these delectably sweet squares make for great campfire eating. If you're planning on having them fresh, you should plan to eat them early on in your trip, as they only last for around two days. Otherwise, you can freeze them up to six weeks in advance and give them 15 minutes to come to eating temperature. 

As delicious as these are on their own, there are a number of fun and creative ways you can enjoy Rice Krispie treats. You can add pretzels, nuts, and other candies for a wider profile of flavors. But perhaps the greatest thing you could do is use the treats to make the ultimate s'more. Instead of graham crackers, use the Rice Krispie treats to sandwich your marshmallow and chocolate squares. 

Cookies

We'll close out our list with the single easiest make ahead dessert of them all: cookies. These morsels of sweet goodness are the go-to for so many of us — and for good reason. They travel incredibly well and are always welcome on a table, especially when camping. And there are so many things you can do with them! Imagine, a s'more wedged between two peanut butter cookies, ice cream sandwiches in between two chocolate chip or snickerdoodle cookies, or your own homemade oatmeal raisin cookie cakes with frosting in the middle.

Most cookies will keep for up to three weeks at room temperature, and up to two months in the refrigerator. So, you can make your favorite cookies quite far out from your camping trip, and they will still make for good eating at the campground. 

These meals and snacks are hardly the only ones you can make ahead of your camping trip. There are plenty of other recipes you can utilize to make your camping trip as stress-free as possible. Use these as a starting point for planning your next successful camping trip. Camping, at its core, is about adventure, fun, and relaxation. That should apply to the meals you make, as well. 

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