Food is the last thing on most peoples mind when they’re planning a camping trip. They get all their gear in order and wait until the last minute to plan meals. That can work out if you know what you’re doing, but it usually leads to boring camping meals. What food should you bring on a 3 day camping trip?
Find meals that are easy to prepare, pack, and stable at moderate temperatures. Plan out a handful of easy campfire meals, traveling dinners, and simple trail snacks. I usually make a simple breakfast with eggs, meat, and carbs, light trail-ready lunch, and get adventurous when dinner comes around.
Start off by looking for foods that are filling, easy to pack, and prepare. Once you have that down, you can venture off into more adventurous meals. Let’s go over how I choose the meals I bring on my 3 day camping trips and then I’ll give an example menu.
What Food Should I Bring For A 3 Day Camping Trip?
Planning meals for a 3 day camping trip is fairly easy! It’s short enough to get by with a small cooler and long enough that you may need to get adventurous. I like to break my camping meals down into 3 basic categories: campfire and stove top meals, on-the-go dinners, and light trail snacks. You then have to break it down further into breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but that’s easy.
- Campfire and Stove Top Meals: These are your most important meals where you get the majority of your calories. You can cook almost anything on a campfire or propane stove, but I like plan out 5-7 ingredient dinners. Usually meat as the main course, vegetables, and high calorie starch as a side.
- Easy On-The-Go Meals: I’m usually busy around lunchtime so I plan a light and simple meal that I can make in 5 minutes or less. It’s usually some kind of sandwich or wrap that I can throw together fast and get back to whatever I’m doing.
- Calorie Dense Trail Snacks: Grab high calorie trail snacks to fill in the gaps during the day. You can’t always stop for dinner when you’re hiking down the trail so it’s nice to have a crackers, nuts, trail mix, energy bars, etc. in your pack.
I’ll go over each of these meals below, but you may want to skip down to my 3 day camping meal plan.
1. 5-7 Ingredient Campfire and Stove Top Meals
You can get crazy with your dinners if you’re camping in a campground or near your car. I can cook almost anything with my Coleman 2 Burner Propane Camping Stove or a cast iron pan/pot over the fire. Keeping my ingredients stored at safe temperatures is the only thing holding me back if I’m not worried about trail weight.
Planning out meals for a 3 day camping trip seems like a challenge, but you can simplify the process. Figure out each days meals ahead of time and get as much prep work done at home as possible. Every meal doesn’t have to be a 5 course dinner, but it’s nice to have at least 1 well prepared meal per day.
Try to keep things fairly simple when planning out your camping meals. I usually make a basic breakfast scramble with eggs, potatoes, meat, cheese, onion, etc. in the morning, a light lunch that I can prepare in 5 minutes or less, and a hearty high calorie dinner.
Go with a simple 5-10 ingredient or less main course if you’re doing all the work at the campsite, but you can get a little bit crazy if you prepare your meals ahead of time. It’s so much easier to cut and measure ingredients at home where you have a sink and garbage can nearby.
Do all of the prep work, measure out ingredients, cut vegetables, and get your meals ready to go before leaving home. That makes things so much easier since you’re not constantly worried about preparing meals.
2. Easy On-The-Go Meals
I can almost always find time to make a decent meal first thing in the morning and around dinnertime. That rarely happens when lunchtime rolls around. I’m always doing something exciting where I don’t want to take a 45 minute break to make dinner, eat, and clean up after myself.
That’s where it’s nice to have fast On-The-Go meals that you can prepare in 5 minutes or less with no prep work or cleanup. Deli-Meat sandwiches, tortilla wraps, simple salads, pasta/potato salads, etc. are perfect for that.
The key is doing all the prep work before you leave home. I usually separate my meats/cheese with wax paper, and have my veggies cut so they’re ready to go. It takes less than 1 minute to throw together a simple sandwich or tortilla wrap and a serving of pasta or potato salad.
3. Calorie Dense Trail Snacks
Look for high calorie trail snacks to fill you up between meals. I like to stick to the basics! Nuts, trail mix, protein bars, beef jerky, etc. Look for snacks that are high in calories, fats, sugars, filling, and shelf stable.
Those tiny bags of peanuts are like 400 calories, which is half of the calories I normally eat in a dinner. Throw in a protein/energy bar and you’ve basically eaten a full dinners worth of calories. You can get in a lot of calories if you carry a small bag of trail snacks to munch on throughout the day.
Just try to avoid high calorie snacks that won’t fill you up. I love eating potato chips as much as the next guy, but they take up a lot of space. Plus you can eat an entire bag of chips and still feel hungry.
Bring More Food Than You Think!
Most people don’t realize how many calories they burn on a camping trip. Plan on eating at least 2500-3500 calories per day and maybe more if you’re going on a long hike. It’s crazy how many calories you can burn just wandering around camp. I got over 20,000 steps in just wandering around my campsite the last time I went camping.
It’s hard to eat that many calories when you’re making simple meals. Stick to high calorie, foods with lots of fat, sugar and starches. That doesn’t sound great from a health standpoint, but it’s the only way to get your calories in with a limited supply of food.
Try to fill in the gaps during the day with light snacks and easy to prepare meals. I like to carry a variety of trail snacks to eat throughout the day. Honestly, I could probably survive off my trail snacks alone.
How Do You Keep Food Cold While Camping?
Keeping your food cold is easy if you’re camping near your car. Just load everything up in a well-insulated cooler and fill it with ice. You may need to top the ice up a few times if you’re using a cheap cooler, but you can get through three days with any “Yeti-Style” roto molded cooler.
I use 2 of the 28 Quart Lifetime Cooler that they sell at Walmart. They also have a 55 and 77 quart version, but those are way two big for a 3 day camping trip. One of the coolers is used for drinks/beer and the other is for food.
The ice lasts at least 5 days in 70°-80° weather so you should be fine on a 3 day camping trip. You might be able to get by with a cheaper cooler if you follow these basic precautions. Just be careful because eating food that’s not stored at safe temperatures can lead to food poisoning. Food poisoning is terrible at home, but it’s 10 times worse when you’re camping.
- Pre-Chill the cooler before the trip so you don’t lose ice lowering the cooler temperature.
- Keep your cooler in the shade to reduce temperatures.
- Use frozen water bottles and ice packs around food that shouldn’t get wet. You can also store the food in waterproof food containers if you’re using bagged ice.
- Freeze the food you plan on eating on the 2nd/3rd day so it can slowly thaw out throughout the trip.
- Bring one cooler for drinks and the other for food. This prevents cold air from escaping every time you get a drink. Plus some foods shouldn’t get wet which almost always happens in an ice filled cooler.
3 Day Camping Meal Plan Example
It isn’t hard to plan interesting meals for a 3 day camping trip. Don’t rely on hotdogs/hamburgers for every meal. It’s possible to make delicious meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a little bit of planning.
All you need is a little creativity, and your meals should turn out better than you could have expected. Use this 3-day camping meal guide as your inspiration to come up with few easy meals of your own.
Breakfast: Breakfast Scramble, Toast, Coffee and Fruit
Almost anything can go into a breakfast scramble. They’re easy to make, require 5-7 ingredients, and are extremely filling. I like to make a simple scramble using scrambled eggs, potatoes, onions, peppers, bacon or sausage, and cheese.
Cooking the potatoes is the hardest part so I usually use pre-cooked hashbrowns to save some time. They’re not as tasty, but it takes less than 5 minutes to heat up versus 20+ to cook them from scratch.
You should also toss in your meat and veggies at this point. Everything should finish cooking at about the same time so it’s really easy. Toss the cheese in at the end and you’re ready to go!
Make coffee to have alongside your breakfast, buttered toast, and fresh fruits. It’s almost impossible to make a single portion so you should definitely have leftovers to tide you over throughout the day.
There are endless options when it comes to sandwiches. Any type of sandwich will work, but cold sandwiches are usually best! I’ll pan fry a panini every once in a while, but it’s so much easier to make a cold deli-sub.
Buy some deli-meats, cheese, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and your favorite condiments. I usually go with a roast beef, tomato, onion, lettuce, and cheese. Pepperoni and salami is a great choice if you don’t have a way to keep your lunch cool on a hike. Peanut butter and jelly (or banana) is another simple option when you don’t feel like messing around.
Sandwiches are so easy to make. They take less than 5 minutes to prepare and they’re perfect for on-the-go.
Dinner: Easy Pasta Dinner
Your first day camping is usually the hardest so cooking a big dinner is the last thing I want to do. A pasta dinner is quick, easy to prepare, filling and it’s perfect for large groups. You can get creative with fancy recipes or go with a prepackaged past dinner.
I shouldn’t have to explain how to make past. Just boil water, throw in the pasta, and cook it for about 10 minutes. Once your done throw in the sauce, seasonings, meats, cheese, etc. It’s hard to screw up a pasta dinner!
Breakfast: Fluffy Pancakes
Start off your morning with fluffy pancakes! It’s an easy breakfast that you can make in less than 10 minutes. I recommend going with a premade mix, but you can make them from scratch if you’re feeling up to it. All you need is water and a little bit of vegetable oil to make boxed pancake mix.
I recommend using a small single/double burner camping stove, but you can cook them over the fire. Just heat up the pan to 375°F and cook each side for 1 minute 30 seconds. You may also want to throw in blue berries, chocolate chips, or any other filling. Take your pancakes with a cup of coffee and you’re ready to take on the day.
Lunch: Leftovers, Pasta/Potato Salad, Fruit, and A Simple Salad
It doesn’t matter how well you plan out meals, there will always be leftovers.
If your camping ground is near a river or lake, take advantage of the availability of fresh fish to make yourself a fantastic meal. Cook the fish in foil packets in which you add some vegetables, seasoning, and butter. Then, place the packs on the hot coals until the fish is ready.
This is a fun and easy way to cook fish while retaining its natural flavors. You could also grill the fish and drizzle some lemon over it.
Dinner: BBQ, Steaks, Burgers, Hotdogs, Sausages, Fish, Etc.
There are so many different meat options that you can decide between. I usually go with steaks if it’s just my wife and I or hamburgers/hotdogs for big groups. You can cook them over the campfire on a cast iron frying pan or fire up a propane grill.
This is also a great time to experiment with foil packet meat recipes. Fill the foil with onions, peppers, potatoes, cheese and meat. Grill them over the fire and you’ll have dinner in no time. You can prep the meals ahead of time making it one of the easiest ways to cook.
Breakfast: French Toast, Sausage/Bacon, and Eggs
I almost always eat french toast, sausage/bacon, and eggs on my last day camping. It gets rid of all my extra bread and I don’t have to deal with leftover eggs and meat that may not have been stored at the perfect temperature.
Throw everything you have into your last days meals. You don’t want to load everything back into your car and take it home. French Toast is almost impossible to screw up. All you need is egg, milk, bread and vanilla extract. You can spice up the recipe a bit if you’d like, but it’s still pretty basic.
The rest of the meal is self-explanatory. Cook your eggs and meat how you like them and enjoy.
Lunch: Tortilla Meals
Tortillas are the perfect lunch for On-The-Go. Think past the basic Mexican Cuisine. I love Mexican but you can also go with Asian, Greek, Mediterranean, Seafood, BBQ, Pizza, Lunchmeat Wraps, etc. Your options are basically endless.
If I’m heading home on Day 3 I probably won’t make dinner. I’ll stop somewhere on the way home or grab a pizza or something. I like to have everything packed up early so I’m ready to hit the road. On holiday weekends I usually make a large batch of chili.
Chili is one of those meals that seems hard to make, but it’s surprisingly simple. There’s a little bit of prep work to start, but once that’s over you just need to stir every so often. Chili’s a comfort food that’s great for large groups and chilly nights.