Go beyond PB&Js and hot dogs while camping. Cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner over the open fire and make meals that taste better than anything you could cook at home. Follow this three-day camping guide that includes what to pack, how to layer your cooler, and day-by-day meal plans for a foolproof outdoor weekend. 
Credit: Photo: Getty Images/Hero Images Inc.

It's true, camping does take a lot of planning ahead. However, you can make it easy and simple by bringing only the necessities and planning meals that highlight leftovers, use similar ingredients, and can be made over the fire. 

From the ingredients list to what kind of appliances to bring, follow this guide (multiplying as needed for larger groups) and all you need to worry about is not burning your marshmallow while making s'mores. 

What to Pack: 

  • Cooler on wheels, we recommend one that is at least 82 qt.
  • Matches and lighter
  • Foil, make sure you have enough to use all weekend
  • Propane gas and stove 
  • Two good knives
  • Spatula
  • Silverware for two: spoons, forks, and knives 
  • Large and small resealable bags  
  • Paper towels 
  • Cleaning wipes, small dish soap, sponge, dish towels, and dishwashing bucket 
  • Ice packs, you will stop multiple times for ice
  • Skillet with lid, saucepan with lid, and pot with lid 
  • Plates and small bowls for each camper
  • Cups, mugs, and plastic cups for writing names, for each camper
  • Trash bags 
  • Bug spray - here are some natural repellents we recommend.

How to Layer Food in the Cooler: 

  • Bottom Level
    • Ice Packs 
    • Drinks, water, and milk 
    • Butter
    • Chocolate bars for s'mores
  • ​Middle Level 
    • Deli meat and lunch supplies
    • Cheese
    • Salsa, pesto, and dips
    • Chicken and salmon
  • Top Level
    • Eggs - only buy in foam containers, cardboard will get soggy in the cooler 
    • Any produce items 
    • Bread and tortillas
    • Pre-cooked whole-wheat pasta in a zip-top bag with 1 teaspoon of olive oil

What Dry Goods To Pack:

  • Small salt and pepper shakers
  • Whole wheat sandwich bread
  • Peanut butter
  • Cooking spray
  • Marshmallows
  • Plastic bottle of olive oil
  • Basic seasonings
    • Salt and pepper shakers
    • 1 tablespoon of each:
    • Onion powder
    • Garlic powder
    • Cayenne 

Make sure to review all the ingredients in the recipes below as well to complete your shopping list! 

Day 1 - Buy fresh bags of ice:

Eat a filling breakfast before you leave and make snacks for the car ride beforehand. 

Credit: Photo: Randy Mayor

Lunch Day 1:

Make this chicken salad ahead of time, store in the top of the cooler and assemble sandwiches during your first road trip stop.

Dinner Day 1:

You've made it to your camping ground! Time to relax and fix a quick dinner with pasta you've already prepped at home. Everyone can personalize their own pasta packet and make it themselves. 

  • Whole Wheat Pasta Packets with Tomatoes 
Credit: Katherine Flynn

Stir in any pasta sauce of your choice, salt, pepper, and olive oil with prepared pasta. Place a single serving of pasta in a foil packet with shredded parmesan cheese, basil and diced tomatoes. Heat packets directly over the fire until the pasta is warm and the cheese is melted, approximately 10 minutes. 

Dessert Day 1:

  • Grilled fruit kebabs 
    • Peaches
    • Pineapple
    • Mango
    • Strawberries

Prepare the fruit before at home and keep them in one container. Cut fruit into 1 to 2 inch cubes or slices to make sure they can stay on the skewer over the grill. Do not cut the strawberries in half, just de-stem them. Let everyone build their own skewer and include marshmallows or cut up pound cake as well for an extra sweet treat. Grill over the campfire, turning every 1 to 2 minutes depending on the strength of the heat. 

Breakfast Day 2 - Drain water from the cooler and get new ice:

  • Campfire Eggs

Eggs can be prepared directly over the fire however you like. Whether scrambled or over easy, be sure to use cooking spray or butter to make sure they do not stick. 

Credit: Photo: Katherine Flynn

Buy the listed pancake mix before your trip, then follow instructions to make batter. Cook pancakes on propane stove. 

Lunch Day 2: 

You can prepare these sandwiches ahead to take with you on a day hike or you can make them at lunch time at your campsite. You can grill these directly over the campfire using a wide skillet. 


Personalize your popcorn with a few of the spices or throw in some mini marshmallows and chocolates pieces if you just can't wait for s'mores later that night. 

Dinner Day 2: 

Add the chicken to the marinade right before you leave on your camping trip. Follow the grilling instructions and grill over the campfire. We recommend using smaller cuts, such as pre-cut tenders, instead of breasts to cook over a campfire. Warm tortillas directly on the grill and assemble fajitas with a squeeze of lime. 

Dessert Day 2:

Skip the recipe's recommended marshmallow creme and place 1 inch banana slices and marshmallows on a skewer. Cook directly over the fire and prepare campfire s'mores! 

Credit: Photo: Getty Images

Breakfast Day 3 - Drain water from the cooler and get new ice:

Substitute whipping cream with low-fat milk and use any leftover fajita chicken and vegetables in your scramble. 

Lunch Day 3:

  • Campfire Pizza

You can bring premade pizza dough but plan ahead on how to roll it out. We recommend using whole wheat tortillas and brushing both sides with olive oil before adding toppings. Bring a can of prepared pizza sauce - here are the brands we recommend. Everyone can make their own and use up your leftovers. 

Here are some of your suggested combinations:

Snack Day 3:

Credit: Katherine Flynn

Make these ahead of time and have them to snack on throughout the weekend. Make enough granola to have extra for breakfast and your final dessert. 

Dinner Day 3:

The final supper of camping! 

Bring only the amount of dill you need in a plastic bag. This whole meal can be made over the grill and there is no clean-up needed. 

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Dessert Day 3:

  • Campfire Fruit Crisp 

Use the leftover granola and any fruit you have to make a campfire crisp. Spray or butter the skillet and layer fruit on the bottom. Cube 1/3 stick of cold butter and mix with remaining granola. Sprinkle the granola mixture on top of the fruit. Cover with foil and place over campfire for 10 minutes until the top is golden and fruit is bubbling.