Easy camping meals to prepare at home

View from inside green tent of woman enjoying hot drink in front of campfireThe weather is turning, the clouds are dispersing, the sun is returning, and thoughts wander to camping, hiking, and generally outdoor strolls. It is the human imperative to conquer the desert and rejoice in its grandeur, beauty and danger. The true frontier is all but gone now, but we can emulate this most fundamental and ancient human experience by going camping.

I have explained Why camping is so important to your health and happiness:

It restores your circadian rhythm.

It encourages healthy movement outdoors.

It places fire at the center of the common nocturnal setting rather than television or smartphones.

It’s funny.

But you have to eat there.

What to Eat in the Great 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 roasted nuts
  • Hard salami, summer sausage
  • Hard cheese, freeze-dried cheese
  • Canned tuna or other fish en papillote, canned oysters/mussels
  • Whole avocados
  • Whole fruit
  • Low Carb Protein Bars
  • Low carb tortillas (or regular corn tortillas if you prefer)
  • Baked potatoes/sweet potatoes (which last a few days at room temperature)
  • Hard-boiled eggs (which last a day or two depending on the temperature)
  • Dried fruits, dates, berries, figs

In fact, you can eat very well this way. You can definitely survive.

But sometimes you want a little more luxury. You want something warm and comforting. Rather than squatting around the fire gnawing on jerky and crunching on nuts, you want to sit with your people with a hot bowl in front of you and have a good meal, wilderness style.

Yesterday you learned how to dehydrate food. Check this out if you’re new to dehydration. It’s easy and economical, but there are a few things you need to know to get started. Today I’m going to give you some dehydrated hiking meal recipes. This is trail food, not car camping food. It’s light, stable in a backpack and dehydrated. It’s food you can take with you for days.

Make Your Own Easy Dehydrated Camping Meals

Unlike most commercial trail foods, these are nutrient-dense, delicious meals with no fat or unwanted ingredients. No industrial seed oils, lots of animal protein.

There are several ways to prepare dehydrated camping meals:

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

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

Scrambled eggs

It’s almost as good as the real thing. Almost.

  • Add 1 part powdered egg to 1.5 parts water, powdered milk powder and powdered butter powder. (Ingredients readily available online or through a camping gear retailer.)
  • Whip him furiously. You want it totally blended, completely smooth, with lots of airiness.
  • 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 any.

Pressure Cooker Chili

This is a naked pepper. There are no beans, but you can add some if you wish.

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

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

Dehydrated mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes

These make a great base for any meal, especially if you’ve spent a lot of energy on the trail.

  • Peel and boil your potatoes as you would to make mashed potatoes.
  • When they are tender, drain them almost completely. Reserve a few cups of cooking water.
  • Mash them with as much water as needed to produce a thick mash with a “soupy” texture, moister than normal.
  • Add salt and spices if desired, or wait for the track.
  • Do not add fat, milk, butter or cream. You can add this to the trail after replenishment.
  • Spread in a thin layer and dehydrate until dry and brittle. Break or grind into powder and store.

To reheat, combine ½ cup dehydrated potatoes with 2/3 cup boiling water. Cover for 5-10 minutes and add milk, butter, cheese or seasonings. Adjust the texture by adding more water if desired.

This also works for cauliflower. Just be sure not to add grease until you rehydrate it on the trail.

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

Some tips

Use as little fat as possible.

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

So when you look at these recipes, they might seem a bit funny. When I make my normal camp chili, I sear the meat and vegetables in butter and olive oil and really make a thick, rich stew, but it doesn’t fly when you dehydrate the chili. You can always add the fat later, after the dehydrated meal has been reheated, and I’ll include a list of essential additions to make when heading out into the wild to enrich your meals.

Use lower fat meat.

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

Use cash.

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

Important additions to add to your pack

These are the cooking ingredients that I consider essential for anyone who eats well on the trail.

gelatin powder/bone broth powder

Boil water on the camp stove and whisk this mixture into it, then pour the gelatin-rich liquid into your soups, stews, chilies and sauces to add texture, body and gelatin.

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 space, 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 edible oil to pour over your food. It’s a good olive oil and it’s 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 fortify other dishes.

Powdered milk

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 hard cheese, which lasts quite well at room temperature. Shelf stable shredded cheese is also an option.

Salt, pepper, spices

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

Dried tomatoes

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


Yes, yes, it’s not essential, but if you have the space, keeping some mayo on hand will really spice up your meals.

How to rehydrate your dehydrated meals

It’s quite simple.

  1. Heat water to a simmer in a camp stove and add your meal. Usually it’s about 1 part dehydrated flour to 1.5 parts water.
  2. Cover and heat until it reaches your desired consistency.
  3. Decorate your meal with spices, seasonings, oil, fat and cheese.

Different dishes will have different rehydration requirements, but this is 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 dehydrate and rehydrate out there on the trail. Let me know below which are your favorite dehydrated backpacking meals to make and eat!


About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, the patron 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 explains how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is also the author of many other books, including The primordial planwho was credited with spurring the growth of the primal/paleo movement in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating people about why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining wellness optimal, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real food company. which creates Primal/paleo, keto and Whole30 compatible kitchen staples.

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