When it comes to making meals on a camping trip, easy and convenient is always best.
Canned food is great because it doesn’t require refrigeration, has a very long shelf life, and is ready to eat as soon as you open it.
The big downside, however, is that canned food can be heavy due to being stored in steel or aluminum filled with water—making it a less convenient option for lightweight/ultralight campers and backpackers.
You’ll also need to bring some kind of can opener and you’ll need to pack out the can with our garbage.
For more casual campers however, like car campers and RVers, canned food can be a great way to to get a health dose of protein, vitamins, fibre, and other nutrients while saving time.
Here are our top picks for some of the best canned foods for camping.
Canned tuna or salmon
Meat can be tricky to keep cold and cook in the outdoors, so canned tuna or salmon is a great alternative.
Both tuna and salmon are high in protein and packed with omega-3 fatty acids, making them a nutritious meal option on the trail.
Because they’re a solid protein source, they’ll also keep you fuller for longer.
It’s up to you whether you want to get flaked or solid tuna or salmon, but if you decide to get salmon, we recommend getting the kind where all the skin and bones are removed for less hassle and waste.
We also recommend bringing along a few mayonnaise or Miracle Whip packets to add to your tuna or salmon, which you can buy in bulk online or pick up from local restaurants.
How to enjoy canned tuna or salmon while camping
- Make a classic tuna or salmon salad wrap with mayo, lettuce, tomato, and onion
- Mix it up with some chopped hardboiled eggs, celery, and pickles to make a delicious egg salad sandwich
- Add to a pot of macaroni and cheese for a hearty protein-packed meal
If you’re not a fan of tuna, salmon, or fish in general, canned chicken is a good alternative.
It’s high in protein, low in fat, and contains essential vitamins and minerals.
Like tuna and salmon, it comes packed in water—typically in chunk form (as opposed to flaked) and can be used exactly the same way.
If you can’t find canned tuna in your nearest grocery store, you can order it online from Amazon.
How to enjoy canned tuna or salmon while camping
- Mix it up with some mayo, chopped celery and onion for a tasty chicken salad wrap
- Add to a pot of chili for extra protein and flavour
- Make a chicken and vegetable stir-fry over your camp stove for a simple dinner
SPAM may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of canned ham, but there are many other types available.
Canned ham is another great source of meat protein that you don’t have to worry about spoiling, and it’s easy to find low sodium options, too.
Most canned ham varieties are labeled as “cooked” or “fully cooked” and come in large chunks that you’ll undoubtedly need to slice or cut up in chunks to use.
We find that canned ham makes a great addition to breakfast dishes like omelettes, quiches, scrambles, and breakfast burritos!
Again, if you can’t find canned ham in your local grocery’ store’s canned food section, you can order it from Amazon.
How to enjoy canned ham while camping
- Add it to your favourite omelette or scramble recipes for an extra boost of protein
- Create a delicious quiche with canned ham, cheese, and veggies
- Make your own version of the classic SPAM sandwich by adding some slices of canned ham to a piece of toast
- Toss some canned ham into your favourite soup, stew, or chili
- Create a yummy pasta dish with canned ham and your favourite veggies
Beans are a great source of protein, fibre, and antioxidants so they make for an ideal addition to any camping menu.
Canned beans are super convenient because you don’t have to worry about pre-soaking or cooking them.
You can also get a variety of canned beans including black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, and pinto beans—or a multi-bean medley of all the above plus more.
Another alternative you have is to get baked or refried canned beans.
Some are flavoured, like with BBQ or chili, and can be eaten straight from the can.
How to enjoy canned beans while camping
- Enjoy a simple morning breakfast of beans on toast
- Toss your favourite type of bean into a salad, or mix them into a pasta dish for extra protein
- Make your own tacos with some canned beans, cheese, and fresh vegetables
- Add beans to a quesadilla with some cheese or create your own burrito bowl with whatever ingredients you
You can certainly bring fresh fruit camping, but you better be prepared to eat them within the first day or two.
Canned fruit, on the other hand, will last for weeks—if not months.
Most canned fruits are already cut and ready to eat, so do don’t have to waste any time chopping and prepping.
Try canned peaches, pears, apples, pineapple, mandarin oranges, and more to get your sweet fix.
We always recommend buying canned fruit with no sugar or syrup added, if possible.
How to enjoy canned fruit while camping
- Top some oatmeal with a few slices of canned peaches
- Mix up a fruity salad with canned pineapple and mandarin oranges
- Enjoy as is or add it to yogurt for an easy snack
- Make a fruity s’more by adding a few slices of canned fruit to your traditional s’more sandwich
Although you can’t really beat fresh vegetables, canned veggies offer the convenience of not having to worry about spoilage.
Plus, with canned vegetables like corn, peas, carrots, tomatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, beets, and green beans you don’t need to worry about pre-cooking or chopping them up.
Most basic canned vegetables are packaged as-is in water, but you can also find a variety of flavoured canned vegetable mixes—like Italian, Mexican, and Asian-style.
They’re a great way to eat healthy and get a healthy helping of greens and other veggies in when it’s far too easy to munch on processed foods instead.
How to enjoy canned vegetables while camping
- Add a can of green beans to your favourite soup or stew
- Toss some canned tomatoes and corn into an omelette or grain salad
- Mix up a veggie-packed stir fry with a variety of canned vegetables and your favourite spices
- Enjoy a simple side dish by simply heating up some canned carrots or asparagus
Most cans of soup are single servings, making them the ideal size for solo camping or camping in a small group (as long as you bring a can for every person).
Canned soups come in all sorts of different styles and flavours, from classics like chicken noodle to more exotic flavours like lentil or Thai coconut.
Many offer a healthy helping of protein (if it contains meat or beans) and vegetables depending on the kind that you get.
If possible, go for low sodium canned soups to help limit your salt intake.
How to enjoy canned soups while camping
- Enjoy as-is with a side of bread or crackers, with optional cheese sprinkled over it
- Heat up a can of tomato soup and make a grilled cheese sandwich over the campfire to dip into it
- Mix your favourite canned soup with some cooked grains (like rice or couscous) and extra canned vegetables (like corn, peas, or green beans)
- Add lentil soup to a curry or stew for added flavour, protein, and texture.
Much like soup, canned chili is best enjoyed in cold weather.
It’s pre-cooked and ready to eat, all you need to do is heat it up.
Many types of canned chili contain ground beef or chunks of chicken, making them a great source of protein for camping.
Canned chili varieties typically come in mild, medium, and spicy.
Similar to our advice on canned soup, try to get low sodium varieties to avoid going overboard on your salt intake.
How to enjoy canned chili while camping
- Enjoy as-is with a side of crackers, chips, or bread
- Mix it into macaroni and cheese for a chili-cheese mac
- Use it in your tacos or burritos instead of beef
We saved this one for last because let’s face it—there are lots of other ways you can bring milk camping.
But evaporated milk may be a good choice if you’re looking for a way to enjoy dairy while camping in warmer weather (or anywhere where spoilage is an issue).
Evaporated milk lasts longer than regular milk because it’s canned and vacuum sealed.
It has a slightly sweet taste that makes it best suited for baking, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and hot cereals like oatmeal.
It’s possible to drink it like a standard glass of milk, but you’ll definitely notice a difference in the taste.
You’ll also need to dilute it with some water first—using one can and a half of cold water per can of milk.
How to enjoy evaporated milk while camping
- Mix it into your morning cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate
- Make a batch of pancakes using evaporated milk in the batter
- Enjoy your favourite oatmeal cereal with a splash of evaporated milk and a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon
- Top off your favourite mug cake or biscuit recipe with a bit of evaporated milk
Elise is an experienced backcountry canoe tripper and winter camper from Ontario, Canada. She loves cooking up a storm over the campfire, taking in all the backcountry views, and enjoying a piña colada or two while relaxing at camp. She’s also certified in Whitewater Rescue (WWR) I & II and Wilderness First Aid (WFA).