How To Pack Food For Camping

Want to know how to pack food for camping? The secret to packing food for camping is to think lightweight and secure. You don't want to weigh yourself down with cans and bottles and you don't want your dinner crushed or going stale. Learn how to pack food for camping and you'll never endure a soggy, dried out or smashed outdoor meal again.

Think Light

Even if you're not backpacking, chances are you'll at least need to haul your food from the car to your campsite. And since you'll also be hauling the tent, sleeping bags, lawn chairs and all important cooler, make it easy on yourself and learn how to pack food for camping that won't weigh you down.

Tips for packing light:

  • Choose boxes over cans.
  • Repackage bulky or fragile items in zip-top bags.
  • Measure out only what you need. If a recipe calls for a tablespoon of vegetable oil, don't take the whole bottle.
  • Assemble ingredients ahead of time. Combine the pancake mix and powdered milk in a zip top bag at home. Add water at camp.

When you're camping, you also need to keep your food secure. Outdoor air can dry out food quickly and ants and flies can ruin an otherwise wonderful meal. And critters–from bears to squirrels–could rob you of that precious last brownie or granola bar.

To keep food fresh and bug-free:

  • Pack dry ingredients in resealable plastic bags.
  • Pack crushable items in plastic storage containers with tight-fitting lids.
  • Pack liquids in plastic bottles or small plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. Old film cannisters or pill bottles work well, just be sure to wash them first.
  • Stack all your food containers in a plastic tote with a lid. This adds an extra layer of protection and makes everything easier to carry to camp.
  • If you're backpacking, place crushable items at the top of the pack, heavier items on the bottom.

To protect your food from bears and other critters:

  • Don't leave food out on picnic tables or open in your car or tent. Pack up after every meal. Even if you're not in bear country, secure the latches of your cooler and other food containers and weight them down with a rock to keep out dexterous raccoons and other small animals.
  • Store food away from your tent. In some places your food will be safe in the trunk of your car, but in others, such as Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks, bears are experts at breaking into cars. Store all food and food items such as energy gels, toothpaste and the clothes you cook in away from your tent and your vehicle.

In developed campgrounds, store food in a bear-proof locker.

In wilderness areas, stash food in a bear-proof container and suspend between two trees.

To suspend a bear cannister:

  1. Tie a weight onto one end of a long rope.
  2. Throw the weighted end of the rope over a tree branch and tie the end off on the tree trunk or to a stack in the ground.
  3. Thread the other end of the rope through the handle of the bear cannister.
  4. Weight the remaining free end of the rope and throw over a branch of a nearby tree.
  5. Tie that end off to the tree trunk or to a stake in the ground. (Use a slip knot so you can untie easily to raise and lower your cannister.)

Learning how to pack food for camping requires only a little thought and planning. Once you have your basic supplies and a routine, packing for your next camping trip will be a cinch.  

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