how to plan a meal for group camping

How-to meal plan for a group of ANY size

Yes!  You’ve put a trip on the calendar and it’s coming up real quick!

Food is an extremely important part of any trip.  It gives us fuel to keep going strong and hopefully compliments our experience. If you’re in for a food suffer-fest of JUST bars and JUST jerky…well…this article isn’t for you. Here’s a link to go buy some trail mix.


At Outdoor Eats we cook outside for every trip and almost every meal because it tastes great, it’s totally worth it, and it’s not nearly as hard as you might think it is.

But, there are a lot of sizes of trips out there.

How do you plan for a Solo Trip / 2 person / 4 person / 5+ person / Young Family Trip?

Follow along as we work through common challenges and share ways to help you forge the meal planning river.

Check out our pre-planned meal plans here. Let us do the planning for you!

But oh man…now you have to start packing.  I can think of some worse things, but packing can really be a chore.

Laying out the clothes and piling up the equipment leads to questions like “Where did I put my tent again?  Did I ever get it back from lending it out last summer?” and “Are my hiking boots still good?”

With any trip my first question is:  What’s the water sitch?

Is there water consistently available?

Yes –  Awesome, you can cook anything and you’ll be nice and hydrated.

No –  Then you really have to be mindful of water for drinking and packing recipes that are light on water for cooking/coffee/tea. Check out this link for low water specific recipes.

My next question is: Dietary restrictions.

They can be a real challenge. Do you make everything Gluten Free or Vegetarian for just one person?  That’s a question you will have to ask your group but I will say it’s always easier to ADD meat and dairy rather than take away. Gluten Free breads/crackers are pretty available now with not too much extra work.  Don’t shake your head at field roast or soy based “meats.”  They are pretty solid and once in a recipe you will never know it’s a soy bean rather than a cow.  Added bonus:  pretty bulletproof hanging out in your pack for a couple days.


It may seem a little scary, but a solo trip is one of the best experiences you can have in the outdoors (check out this article of my 50+ mile solo trip in 2019).

The challenge:

You, and only you, are carrying everything.

Recipe Suggestions:

light and can be made in multiple ways over a multi-day trip.

Cheddar Grits

Breakfast Burritos

Cuban Black Bean Soup



The challenge:  

Not too many.

A 2 person trip is pretty easy to plan for.   But overall weight and volume of ingredients is something to be mindful of.

You only need one stove.  Just a few recipes and some snacks to keep you moving.

Recipe Suggestions:

Sweet and Salty Asian Noodles (w campy chopsticks…whittle some twigs!)

Apple Pear Crisp

Breakfast Rice



The challenge:

Everyone’s used to doing their own thing…..coordinating a plan.

Amount of food to keep everyone full and happy.

When you get to 4 people, a typical way to trip plan is to pack your own dehydrated foods and use one or two personal sized stoves to boil water for everyone’s bagged meal.  For a cheaper, tastier, and overall better experience, coordinating family style meals is the way to go!  You can have a fresher, heartier flavor than those bagged classics with our CLASSICS ELEVATED RECIPES or theme your recipes for a Mexican or Asian night.  Share the load and cook up something memorable!  Overall weight per person can be around 5 lbs + snacks.

Pack one large capacity (2+ L) or two smaller capacity (1+ L) burners and pots and share the prep and cooking duties.  Two pots are helpful for mornings – one stove can be for hot water, another can be for starting breakfast.

Recipe Suggestions:

Tamale Bowl

Blueberry Lemon Rice Crispy Bowl

Mango Fried Rice



The challenge:

Picky eaters, dietary restrictions, new campers.

The kiddos barely want to leave the couch let alone their electronics.  Keeping them happy for a weekend camping trip is going to be tough.  Also, meal cooking can take a long time.  When a melt down is happening, you need something NOW or else you might be going home! Outdoor Eats has a bunch of kiddo friendly recipes for fast, tasty meals.  All recipes are ready in 30 min or less!

If there are dietary restrictions like dairy or gluten, we have some great options to search through.  You know your camper on what they will or won’t eat, but it’s probably NOT the time to go adventuring into the culinary backpack for something fancy.

Keep it simple.  Keep it tasty.  And rest assured they will be excited about the next trip if their belly was happy on this one.

Recipe Suggestions:

Not Boxed Mac and Cheese

5 Min Marinara

Chocolate Marshmallow Fondue (with Campy Fondue Sticks…whittle some twigs!)



The challenges:

Amount of total food to fill everyone up and keeping everyones’ taste buds happy.

The main difference between 4 people and 5+ is quantity and meal planning.  You are going to need more of everything to make sure everyone’s belly is happy. It may be easier for everyone to go it alone, but it’s more fun to cook and plan together. Again, the great part about group meal planning is that you can share the load for everything!  Cost, weight, cooking and cleaning duties (this is how most professional guide services operate).  And everyones’ bellies are happier when they’re fueled with better ingredients.

My suggestion for the 5-8 person trips is to take TWO high capacity (2+L) stoves.

This helps for a couple of reasons:

  1. Morning bevies are fast with larger capacity pots.
  2. You can double up on recipes or theme night your meals to feed your group.

Example:  We went on a Outdoor Eats testing trip with 6 people.  We packed two stoves and spread the weight of ingredients evenly across the group.  One night, we doubled up on a Stroganoff Recipe that fed the whole crew no problem (most Outdoor Eats recipes are meant to produce 4 servings).  Another night we had an Asian night with mango fried rice and wonton dumpling bowl.  Then warmed up some sake for a campy night capper.  Amazing.


Recipe Suggestions:

Lasagna w “meat sauce”


Pad Thai

Caramelized Banana Nilla Wafer Bowl


Get out there and cook together!

Have more questions?  Send us a note and let us help plan for your trip.  We are happy to help!



Categorized in: Food, News