Quick and Easy Meals for Camping and Hiking

Do you often find yourself rushing about at the last minute for quick and easy food, ahead of an off-grid getaway?

Planning meals for a trip away can be a daunting task. Often, there are no shops nearby to grab that ingredient you left behind – and you don’t have the luxury of a 450-litre fridge for loads of food. It’s important to prepare well.

Firstly, don’t discount the idea of freeze-dried or dehydrated food as simple camp food options. Despite what you may have heard – their ingredients are real food, they usually taste pretty good, and they are easy to prepare! These options also have long shelf lives, require no refrigeration, and are compact – so you can stock up ahead of time in preparation for last-minute adventures.

Below, I’ve covered some straightforward methods to meal planning, as well as some of the quick, simple, and lightweight options on the market today. For more info on how to plan lightweight meals for a multi-hike, check out this blog too. 

People cooking outdoors with Sea to Summit cooking products

Last minute food for your trip can be sorted out quick smart. Image: Sea to Summit


Eating Well at the Campsite

Food and sleep are two of the most important things to consider when heading away on holiday. If you manage to get enough of both, you’ll be in a much better mindset to appreciate the outdoors.

  • Think about the variety of meals that use the same ingredients, such as tomatoes and mince meat – for example, both ingredients are found in Bolognese and tacos.
  • How much room do you have in the fridge or icebox? Do you need lots of ingredients to be kept cold? Remember, you’ll need space for beer, wine, and other drinks. Minimise what needs to be refrigerated, and look for non-perishable alternatives. For more tips on food storage, check out Meal Planning and Food Storage for Outdoor Adventuring.
  • Don’t forget snacks and dessert!
  • Include staples such as cooking oil, butter, tomato sauce, tea, coffee, salt, and pepper.

Planning Your Meals

Camping doesn’t have to call for just BBQs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – there are many more colourful and camp-friendly meals that are simply delicious. I mean that in every sense of the term: straightforward, tasty, and just objectively good.

For a 5-day camping trip, below is what a standard menu could look like. Yes, bakery food is on the menu. Driving to your favourite camping spot can sometimes mean passing through old country towns – and therefore old fashioned, delicious, country bakeries. Don’t pass up the opportunity to stop in.

A standard 5-day camping menu. Credit: David Leslie

Another no-brainer is baked beans.

…Hear me out.

Snowys’ seasoned chef Cam demonstrates his rustic take on that standard, canned, Sunday night staple sitting in your pantry.

Check it out below, or see here for more of his simple campsite dishes:

Watch ‘Camp Cooking with Cam’ on our YouTube channel, every Sunday from 6pm.

Gathering Your Ingredients

Some items will need to be bought, others you likely already have an abundance of in the pantry or fridge at home.

A grid indicating ingredients to purchase Vs those found at home.You may have many core ingredients already in your home pantry or fridge. Credit: David Leslie

Remember, preparing for your trip should be exciting – not a headache! Set yourself up with a list like the above to take the stress away, and be sure to have everything you need – and everything you want, like chocolate!


So, you’ve decided to finally start training and planning for a multi-day hike! Once again, for more info on how to plan lightweight meals better suited to hiking, check out this blog.

Let us now run through the pros and cons of the lightweight options: freeze-dried, dehydrated, and wet-pack food.

Freeze-Dried Meals

How Are They Made?

Freeze-dried meals are rapidly frozen, where the ice crystals in the food are evaporated to water vapour in a vacuum chamber via a process called ‘sublimation’. This removes more moisture than dehydrating does.

The food is then heat-sealed into foil packages, and the air is both removed and replaced with nitrogen gas.

These products have a shelf life of up to three years.


  • Water is quickly absorbed back into the food through pores left by the escaping ice crystals.
  • Food is prepared quickly in approximately 10 minutes using with hot water.
  • Food does not shrink.
  • Food retains much of its original shape, taste, texture, and smell.
  • Vitamins are retained in the food due to the low temperatures applied in processing.
  • Food can be eaten without re-hydrating, if necessary.
  • The freeze-drying process removes up to 98% of moisture from the product. On average, fruit contains up to 90% water, so freeze-dried foods are extremely lightweight.


  • Their labelling indicates a gourmet, home-cooked meal – and whilst the flavour is pretty good, their consistency is nonetheless best eaten with a spoon.
  • Extra water should be considered for food preparation, and this is especially important when lightweight hiking.

Person holding a spoon of Campers Pantry Beef Teriyaki

Freeze-dried meals are light and packed with energy. Image: Campers Pantry

Dehydrated Food

How Is It Made?

Dehydrated food is produced by passing warm air over the food for a period of time, evaporating the moisture from the product (a similar process to sun-dried foods). These products usually carry a 12-month shelf life.


  • Can be done at home with relatively affordable equipment.
  • As the food shrivels, it is a better space-saving method for storing or transporting food than freeze-dried alternatives (which retains much of its original shape).
  • Generally less expensive than freeze-dried foods.
  • While dehydrating food does not remove quite as much water as the freeze-drying method, it is still a very lightweight option.


  • Requires cooking/simmering to prepare, and 10-20 minutes in hot water.
  • As more heat is applied in the drying process in comparison to freeze-drying, it is believed that dehydrated food has a slightly lower nutritional value than freeze-dried foods.
  • Can have a chewy texture when rehydrated.
  • Extra water needs to be considered to prepare food, and this is especially important when lightweight hiking.

For more on how to dehydrate your own food, check out our chat with ecologist and YouTuber Dr. Kate Grarock on the Snowys Camping Show podcast:

We chat more about how to dehydrate your own food with Dr. Kate Grarock.

Hikers cooking freeze-dried food in the dark

You can buy dehydrated food from the supermarket, or make your own. Image: Sea to Summit

Wet-Pack Food

How Is It Made?

This camp food is not dehydrated or freeze-dried – but fresh, pre-cooked food packed wet into pouches. The manufacturing process produces a ‘retort’ product, packaged the same way canned products are but in a soft pouch.

The retort packaging method involves cooking at high temperatures to kill all microorganisms. These products usually have 18-month best-before dates as opposed to use-by dates. This means that while the food quality degrades after 18 months, it is still safe to eat.

Wet-pack food brands include Go Native and Offgrid Provisions


  • The pouch is simply heated in a pot of boiling water.
  • Less water is required for preparation, and boiled water can be used for drinking or washing.
  • Can be eaten cold.
  • Boasts the flavour and consistency of home-cooked meals.


  • Usually too heavy for hiking, so better suited for camping or kayaking.

Go Native Butter Chicken food ready to eat

Wet-pack food is a little heavier than other options. Image: Go Native.

Dietary Requirements: Freeze-Dried Options

For those with dietary needs, there are many options out there. See below, or check out our full range here. Happy camp cooking!


Back Country Cuisine


Back Country Cuisine

Radix Nutrition


Back Country Cuisine

Radix Nutrition

What do you prefer to eat when you’re camping and hiking?