Matt Johnson

9 Food Items to Bring Camping with No Cooler

Author: Matt JohnsonPhotos/Graphics: Mike HawthornePublished: Jul 19, 2022Updated: Dec 11, 2023

When you go camping, one of the most important things to bring is food. But what if you don’t have a cooler? No problem! There are plenty of food items that can be safely eaten without refrigeration.

How can I go camping without a cooler?

When you think of camping food, you probably think of hot dogs and burgers. But those need to be kept cool throughout the trip. Otherwise, they’ll spoil, and you’ll get food poisoning. The same goes for other meat products, including chicken, turkey, and fish. So, if you don’t have a cooler, you need to focus on food items that don’t require refrigeration.

Of course, your drinks will still need to be kept cool, so make sure to bring a cooler for those. However, if you’re running low on cooler space, there are a few food items you can prioritize over others. Here are nine food items to bring camping with no cooler-

PB&J sandwiches.

This made the top of the list because it’s an obvious food to bring camping with no cooler. But, it is the perfect food since it doesn’t require refrigeration and can be eaten anytime.

You can either pre-make them or make them at the campsite. If you pre-make them, be sure to put them in a Ziploc bag or another type of airtight container. You don’t want your sandwiches to get squished!

If you want to get a little more creative with your PB&J, try adding some sliced bananas or Nutella. You won’t need a cooler for these ingredients either. Get crazy with it!


You need to start your day off right when you’re camping, and oatmeal is the perfect food to do that. It’s warm, filling, and will give you the energy you need to explore your surroundings.

You can either make it at home before you leave or at the campsite. If you make it at home, just put all of the ingredients in a Ziploc bag, and then you can add hot water when you’re ready to eat it.

If you make it at the campsite, you’ll need to bring a pot or pan to cook it in. No matter how you make it, oatmeal is a great food to bring camping with no cooler.

Tortillas and hummus.

Tortillas are another food that doesn’t require refrigeration and can be used in various ways. They’re great because they’re easy to transport and don’t take up a lot of space. One way is to make wraps with hummus, veggies, and/or avocado.

To make these quick and delicious wraps, simply spread some hummus on a tortilla. Then, add your favorite veggies. I like to use lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Once you have your desired toppings, just roll up the tortilla and enjoy!

Fruits such as apples and grapes.

These are a staple for our camping trips. Fruits are easy to pack, don’t need to be refrigerated, and are a healthy snack option. Plus, they’ll provide you with energy for all your camping activities!

If you’re looking for something a little sweeter, try packing some dried fruits such as raisins or dates. These are also great additions to oatmeal or other breakfast foods.

Crackers and cheese.

Crackers and cheese are classic snack food that doesn’t require refrigeration. And they go great together! If you want something a little heartier, try crackers with peanut butter or Nutella.

For crackers and cheese, I like to pack various cheeses such as cheddar, Swiss, and pepper jack. This way, everyone can find the cheese that they want. As for crackers, I usually pack club crackers, Ritz crackers, and/or Triscuits.

To avoid needing a cooler, stick with solid cheeses such as cheddar and Swiss. The softer cheeses such as mozzarella or Brie will need to be kept cold.

Chips and salsa.

This one is everybody’s favorite! Chips and salsa are the perfect camping food because they’re easy to pack and don’t require refrigeration.

I like to bring a variety of chips such as tortilla chips, potato chips, and pita chips. This way, there’s something for everyone. As for salsa, I usually bring mild and medium salsa. But, you can get whatever kind of salsa you like.

Salsa does need to be kept cool after it is opened. So, if you’re planning on eating it right away, you don’t need to worry about keeping it cold. But, if you want it to last longer, I recommend packing it in a cooler.

Canned goods like tuna, chicken, or salmon.

Canned meat such as tuna, chicken, or salmon is an excellent option for camping because it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Plus, it’s a quick and easy way to get protein. You can eat them straight from the can or add them to a salad or wrap. After all, we’re all about being creative regarding food!

If you’re planning on eating canned meat such as fish or chicken for dinner, I would recommend packing something to go with it, such as rice or pasta. Both can be made on the campfire if you have the right cooking supplies.

Just be sure to pack a can opener!

Jerky of any type.

Hikers love it, and for a good reason. Jerky is the perfect food to bring camping with no cooler because it doesn’t need refrigeration and lasts a long time.

If you’re looking for something different, try making your jerky! It’s not that difficult, and you can tailor it to your taste preferences. All you need is a food dehydrator and some seasonings. You’ll have to make this at home before your trip, but it’s worth it!

S’mores ingredients (graham crackers, chocolate, marshmallows).

S’mores are last on the list because they’re a nighttime campfire dessert. But they’re still food that doesn’t require refrigeration, so I had to include them.

To make s’mores, all you need are graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows. If you want to get fancy, you can also pack some peanut butter or Nutella or try them with Reece’s peanut butter cups instead of chocolate. But, the classic s’more is always a hit.

Get out, and don’t worry about the cooler!

When packing food for a camping trip, it’s essential to think about food that doesn’t need refrigeration. This way, you won’t have to bring along a cooler and can save space in your car or backpack.

There are plenty of food options that don’t require a cooler such as fruits, vegetables, crackers and cheese, chips and salsa, and canned goods. If you bring the right ingredients, you can get creative and make some delicious meals without worrying about keeping food cold.

So, get packing and enjoy your next camping trip! And, of course, don’t forget the s’mores ingredients for a delicious campfire dessert!


Matt Johnson

Senior Content Writer

Matt is an experienced camper and glamping enthusiast with a Master's degree in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University. Authoring posts for GlamperGear, he shares his wealth of knowledge on picturesque campsites, luxurious accommodations, and the best gear for outdoor adventures. His passion for nature and knack for comfort in the wilderness make him an expert guide for your next camping endeavor.

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