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The Basics - What to Know

Camp Cooking:

Planning and packing

Planning meals and snacks is the best way to make sure that you are well fed and happy during your camping trip. Having planned meals will be much more satisfying than hastily throwing together a menu for the weekend that is not well thought out.

A key thing to remember is that not everything must be made from scratch at the campsite. Many meals can be started at home. For example, pre-cutting vegetables or preparing a pasta sauce in advance will drastically cut down prep time at the campsite. Bring pre-packaged meals and non-perishables, such as canned foods, that are easily stored until you are ready to use them. Many meals now only require boiling water in order to enjoy a delicious, hot meal.

Not all meals need to be cooked either. Easy breakfasts and lunches that are healthy and delicious do not always need to be heated. Cheese and crackers, bagels, fruit, cereal, pita and hummus, fresh veggies, and sandwiches are great ways to make good meals without having to cook.

Example meal plan: Weekend

Option 1Option 2Option 3
Friday - Dinner Sandwiches and garden salad Hamburgers, potato salad and corn on the cob Fajitas
Saturday - Breakfast Yogurt, granola and fruit Cereal and fresh fruit Omelettes
Saturday- Lunch Pita, hummus, fresh veggies and cheese and crackers Soup and sandwich wraps Hard-boiled eggs with cheese and crackers
Saturday - Dinner Spaghetti Stir fry Chile
Sunday - Breakfast Bagels and fresh fruit Pancakes Oatmeal and fresh fruit

HINT! Try cooking outside at home with your camp stove during a “test run”. This will allow you to become more familiar with your stove and cooking meals outdoors.

Kids eating watermelon
Kids eating watermelon
© Parks Canada / D. Wilson

When packing, try bringing just what you need rather than the whole container for smaller groups. For example, condiments such as ketchup or mustard can simply be put in a smaller, reusable container. The same can be done with large cereal boxes, pasta packages, pancake mix, etc.

Whenever possible, bring food and liquid stored in plastic containers rather than glass. Plastic is generally lighter than glass and does not shatter if dropped.

Pack all of your food together and keep it together. For example, use a large plastic bin to carry all the food that doesn’t need to go in the cooler. This will make it easy to store your food and keep it out of reach of wildlife.

One important fact to remember when planning meals is that food in your cooler may spoil more quickly than it normally would in your fridge. Meals with ingredients like milk and meat should be eaten earlier in the trip. Certain foods can be frozen before you leave; they will last longer in a cooler and can be eaten later in the trip.

One thing to keep in mind is that many of our campgrounds have grocery stores and other shops close by that sell food and other necessities. To find out if there is a grocery store near your campground, please call the park directly before you leave for your trip.

Remember, when cooking on a camp stove, always use it outside. Harmful gases may build up if used inside posing a hazard for you and your family! If it’s raining, many campgrounds have kitchen shelters that will allow you to escape the rain to cook and eat.

Cyclist drinking water
Stay hydrated
© Parks Canada / D. Wilson


Drinking lots of water is very important while you are active outdoors. Especially on hot, sunny days, you will want to drink plenty of water in order to avoid dehydration. Make sure that you only drink potable water from reliable sources, such as the potable water taps found the campgrounds. Although water in streams, rivers and lakes is generally clean and may look good enough to drink, it may contain harmful bacteria or parasites. If you are unsure, just ask!

Food and Wildlife

One difference you should be aware of while camping is that you will need to store your food and dispose of it carefully. Usually, wild animals have no cause to approach humans. However, wild animals such as raccoons, squirrels and bears are attracted by odours from food, grease, garbage, cooking stoves, and empty pet food bowls so you need to know what to do with these items.

Store all of your food, food-related items and pet food inside a closed, hard-sided vehicle or special bear-resistant container. Coolers, boxes, cans, tents and soft-sided campers are not animal-resistant!

Never cook in, or near, your tent or tent-trailer. Dispose of wastewater from cooking or dishwashing in washrooms or at a dumping station. Clean up promptly after meals.

Stash your trash! Garbage should be placed in the park's bear-proof garbage containers. If you store garbage at your site, keep it in a vehicle or hard-sided trailer. Keep your camping equipment, tent and tent-trailer clean and free of food odours.

By being proactive on how you store and dispose of your food and waste, you can greatly decrease the chance of attracting any wild visitors.

Many of our campgrounds have a "Bare Campsite" program in place. A special effort is being made by park staff and campers to ensure that no wildlife attractants are ever left unattended anywhere at these campgrounds. The "Bare Campsite" program is in place for your safety, and to help keep the wildlife in our national parks alive and wild. For more information, please consult our "Bare Campsite" program leaflet (PDF, 883 Kb).

Check out the video to learn more:

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Remember: If you are unsure just ask one of our friendly campground attendants and they will be happy to assist.