What to Include on Your Family Camping Checklist for Cooking

Alright, enough, you think to yourself as The Jungle Book ends this third time in two weeks. The kids are jumping off couches like tree trunks and "The Bare Necessities" has become their latest bedtime song.

This can only mean one thing: it's time for a family camping trip.

Where to start? Beyond the overwhelming task of making your first camping checklist, you're more worried about how to explain to the kids these two things: 1). that bears do not, in fact, sing and 2). they're not exactly our friends.

This should be fun.

When it comes to camping, the outdoors is an important experience to introduce to the family. Campfire meals can make lifetime memories. Whether it's your family's first time or you're well-seasoned campers, your experience will be as good as your preparation.

If you have young ones especially, usual camping necessities are even more important to ensure a positive experience. Read on to make sure you have the right camping items to properly brave the wilderness.

Outdoor Orientation

Before you make your epic camping checklist, it's best to start with some outdoor orientation. The following questions will give you a road map to the perfect family camping experience.

When it comes to the outdoors, where does your family stand? Ask yourself...

  • Is this our first camping trip or a recurring experience?
    • If it's recurring, do we want to do a similar trip to last time or a different one?
  • What level of camping are we looking for? Something safe and easy or more challenging? 
    • If you have several kids with large age gaps, how you can find a happy medium for everybody?
  • How long should we go for?
  • How rustic or civilized should this trip be?
    • This will inform your camping necessities
  • Are the kids really ready, or is there resistance to the experience?
  • What are your kids' relationships with the outdoors? Have they been to overnight camp? Have they camped in the backyard? Do they like playing outside? Are they scared of the dark?
    • Knowing your kids' outdoor orientations will help you decide which level of camping to choose
  • What is the focus of this trip? Having fun, being comfortable, challenging yourself? All of the above?

Take some time to visualize your ideal camping trip. What's on your perfect camping food checklist? The best trip will be based on what your family needs right now.

Oftentimes, that simply looks like spending more time together; so what will make that happen?

Camping Checklist

Even if you've never camped, you've likely been on vacation with your kids. Consider camping to be a shorter vacation in the woods—with a different way of packing.

Your chosen campsite will impact your camping supplies list. Some will have grills, stovetops and grocery stores up the street if you prefer packing less now and doing more later. For others, packing more upfront makes for a more immersive experience.

When it comes to a thorough camping checklist, there are subcategories to consider. Knowing them will help you format your checklist in an organized and focused way. They are:

  1. family tent camping checklist for shelter
  2. A first aid kit checklist for safety
  3. A camping food checklist, including food and camp-friendly silverware, dishes and utensils
  4. A clothes checklist (lots of layers!)
    1. Daytime clothes
    2. Nighttime clothes
  5. A miscellaneous and every-day checklist for things like matches, headlamps, sunscreen, bug spray, dish soap, batteries, trash bags, coolers with ice, tin foil, and coffee (obviously)
  6. An activities checklist for fun

An organized checklist will come from breaking down the basics. Bringing only what you need makes for a simple, deepened experience with the family.

Depending on your family's outdoor experience, it might be best to keep things familiar by bringing board games, cards, and some favorite snacks. Having some home comforts can ease the kids into a camping experience.

If you don't have space limitations and won't be gone long, you have more freedom to bring a sense of home with you. For others, you'll want to leave your home life behind. In this case, your camping food checklist is a perfect way to create new and unique ways of eating together. 

Here's what you'll need.

camping food checlist

Camping Food Checklist

Food shapes the camping experience. If your family's never camped, the camping food classics are a good way to go. These include the following things.

  • Hot dogs on skewers
  • Shish kebobs (veggies and preferred protein)
  • Tinfoil dinners (veggies, potatoes, preferred protein, spices) to cook on the grill
  • Popcorn
  • Pancakes and eggs
  • Eggs in a nest
  • Mac and cheese
  • PB&J
  • Trail mix
  • Nut bars
  • Squeeze pouch snacks and fruit leathers for younger kids
  • Hot chocolate
  • S'mores

For some families, going from popcorn in a bag to popping corn in a pot is a great way to "campify" your food experience. It may not be as much about the foods you eat as it is how you eat them. Cue make-your-own taco buffet!

If you have a mellow trip planned, food preparation, cooking, eating, and clean up will play a greater role. You can decide how much you want the kids involved in the cooking process, as well as how much time you lend to cooking.

If you've conquered these classics, read on for more creative camping food options.

Best food to bring on a camping trip

Camping Connoisseurs 

There are infinite ways to bring your sweet home cookin' with you to the campsite. Instead of bringing classic trail mixes and protein bars, make your own!

If you're familiar with food preservation, fermentation, freeze-drying, and foods that keep well, it's time to bust them out! Camping does not mean boring meals—in fact, it's the opposite!

Premade meals and freeze-dried soups are your friends. Switch up those flavor profiles! You'll be thanking your former self for prepping a camp food flavor feast! 

Remember campfire cooking can be easy. Using premade meals and buffet nights to offset the meals you make from scratch may be the best camping kitchen hack yet.


Creative Camping

Camping is a playground for imagination and creative thinking. If the kids see camp snacks like potato chips and Cheetos like any other day, the natural camping experience may get lost. Designating certain home-cooked camp snacks for camping only will get your kids excited about the trip.

Your cooking can help the kids feel comfortable and it's more natural than bringing their usual convenience snacks! Explaining your choices to them will help them orient to the outdoors in a profound way. 

Camping—like any adventure—is a special occasion. Treating it that way will show the kids that new is exciting!

Good camp food is a staple to a good camping experience. Especially with kids, it's easy to see camping as hard or yucky, since it's radically different from their every day. Being mindful of your food choices can impact your kids' camping experience for the better.

Camping's the perfect time to do things differently and celebrate those differences. Being outdoors teaches skills around adaptability, learning, survival, simplicity, and presence. Your camping food experience is another way to encourage these lessons.

Consider camping to be the most legendary, ongoing picnic you've ever had. Let your greatest picnic inspirations guide you!

You can make this experience anything you want it to be; from themed nights to glow-sticks and table cloth decor, you have within you the power to recreate the enchanted forest from The Jungle Book—minus the singing bears.


Kitchen Camping Hacks

If there's any place to experiment with food, new experiences, and your comfort zone—it's camping. Ultimately, the best camping kitchen hacks will come from two things: 

  1. Your creativity
  2. Your supplies

Sometimes, the best kitchen hacks come from making familiar meals in unconventional ways. For example, instead of s'mores on sticks, maybe you make a s'mores skillet. Instead of cooking your sausages separately, throw your whole breakfast in a pot. The more meals you can set and forget, the easier your cooking experience will be. 

It's not about having the latest and greatest camping tools. It's about having the basics and letting your creativity come from what you do have.

Family Camping Is Forever

Camping is an all-ages experience. Not only is it fun, but it's an important experience to have. Relating to nature at a young age can shape a kid's entire life; likely family camping trips will become some of their fondest memories.

While there's a process of camping, it's entirely up to you how to craft your trip. With a thorough camping checklist, you're destined for a positive experience. Ultimately, finding a balance between what's new and what's familiar will help you pick the right foods for your family.

Food will be foundational to your camping experience. That said, think about all the songs you'll sing, the stories you'll tell, the games you'll play and the memories you'll make. You're on the verge of cookin' up something amazing.

Check out what items are trending now to get fresh ideas for your next trip!

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