Level Up Your Camping Oatmeal with 8 Creative Recipes

oatmeal and strawberries snack for hiking

I cannot count the number of times I’ve had oatmeal on a camping trip – over four summers of canoe guiding… it must be in the hundreds by now. And while I’m usually down for a classic bowl of oats, chocolate chips and brown sugar, sometimes you need a little variety (and a little nutrition). So in this post, you’ll find eight recipes to spice up your bowl of camping oatmeal recipes.

How to make (easy) oatmeal on a camping trip

Before we get started, lets quickly review how to make oatmeal in the easiest way possible.

  1. Boil water
  2. While water is boiling, place a cup of oats in your bowl
  3. Add boiling water and stir to mix

Why go over something so seemingly intuitive? I see new campers making the oatmeal in a pot over heat, which makes it more difficult to clean and doesn’t allow people to choose their own texture.  Use the above strategy to avoid scrubbing an oatmeal-crusted pot or eating oatmeal at a consistency weird to your pallet. You can use quick oats if you’d like, but I’ve found classic oats to work just as well.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way – let’s get cooking!

Should you use instant oats in camping oatmeal?

I get asked this question a lot and my opinion is that it doesn’t matter. You can use instant oats (the ones that come in those individual packets) or you can buy quick oats in bulk. I typically go with a bulk bag of quick oats because it’s cheaper and the individual packets add SO MUCH SUGAR. Now, I tend to add a lot of sugar to my backpacking oatmeal anyways, but I at least like to have control over it.

The only oats I wouldn’t recommend using are steel cut oats. Those really need to boil to soften up and (if you’re like me and lazy) you don’t want to wait around for your oats to soften. Quick oats or instant oats are perfect for camping oatmeal because you can add water directly to the oats in your bowl, add your toppings and be on your way!

Another tip to make faster oatmeal: Boil the water in an integrated backpacking stove system. These small and lightweight stoves can boil water in less than 3 minutes and are perfect for making backpacking oatmeal!

Camping Oatmeal Recipes

1. Choco-Classic oatmeal

With your camping oatmeal hot, add an obscene amount of brown sugar and chocolate chips. Admittedly, I’m a sucker for this style of oatmeal, despite the complete lack of nutrition. Ride the sugar high for hours.

2. Tropical oatmeal

In this recipe, add a variety of dried fruits (preferably pineapple, peaches and pears) and coconut shavings to the oatmeal. Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg on top and enjoy.

Read more: How to Dehydrate Food for Camping Meals (without a dehydrator)

3. S’mores oatmeal

Not the healthiest way to start your day, but a delicious one nonetheless. You know when you’re making s’mores and there are crumbled graham cracker pieces at the bottom of the package? Save them for an additional crunch in your oatmeal. Adding in mini marshmallows and chocolate chips bring this S’mores-inspired recipe full circle.

4. Apple Pie oatmeal

Cinnamon, nutmeg and diced or dried apple are cornerstone to this bowl of camping oatmeal. A little shaved coconut never hurts either. (This is also a good recipe to try the graham crackers pieces in.)

Kids all gathering around to add toppings to their bowls of oatmeal on our camping trip.
Picking toppings for your oatmeal

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5. Sweet & Savoury oatmeal

This recipe is met with mixed reviews. Cut leftover bacon into small pieces (or you could try packaged bacon bits) and top the oatmeal with shredded cheddar cheese and diced apples. A little nutmeg and brown sugar bring this bowl to life. As I said, this sweet & savoury bowl get’s varied feedback – bacon in oatmeal?!? But hey, don’t knock it til you try it. I’m a huge fan now, myself.

6. Healthy Hippie oatmeal

This is a hearty recipe: chia seeds, ground flax seeds and hemp hearts make it nutritious, while dried cranberries, cinnamon and nutmeg give it flavour. A touch of brown sugar, added in first when the oatmeal is still piping hot, is a great addition too.

Thumbs up from everyone on the camping trip as we cook. Backpacking oatmeal is an easy breakfast!
Cooking up a storm!

7. Maple oatmeal

Maple syrup in oatmeal – a Canadian classic, eh? Instead of brown sugar, sweeten this bowl with maple syrup, adding in toppings like craissons and coconut to create texture. If you’ve got fresh banana, a few slices go great with the maple.

8. Kitchen Sink oatmeal

This recipe got its name because I usually take my bowl of oatmeal and throw every possible topping in but the kitchen sink. Whatever toppings are available – chocolate chips, dried fruit, spices, coconut, banana and apple, spices and brown sugar – I’ll toss it ALL in.

BONUS: Fried granola

Got some extra time on your hands in the morning? Whip up a batch of fried granola. Here are the steps:

  1. In a frying pan, melt butter and brown sugar into a golden goo
  2. Add in a cup of oats and mix with golden goo
  3. Fry coated oats over heat, stirring regularly, until oats are crispy
  4. Toss some chocolate chips, coconut, and whatever other topics you’d like and serve

Big pro with fried granola: dishes are extremely easy. Con: it takes a lot longer and is more work than oatmeal. It’s honestly worth trying at home right now – my favourite way to have fried granola is with chocolate chips, freshly cut strawberries and a glass of milk – something very difficult to materialize on a canoe trip.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Canoe Camping

Additional tips for making oatmeal on camping trips

Have a variety of toppings on hand: The easiest way to make backpacking oatmeal fun is with topics. Spices, dried fruit, fresh fruit, chocolate chips, brown sugar – and mix and match. If you follow exactly zero of the recipes above, but feel inspired to bring some new toppings I will be more than satisfied!

You don’t need as many oats as you think: When adding dry oats to your bowl, remember the standard serving for the average adult is 1/3 of a cup. I know! That does not seem like enough. I do about a 1/2 cup personally and still think it isn’t going to be enough to keep me full, but this is a perfect example of eyes-bigger-than-stomach. Be mindful of how much you’re putting in your bowl.

Drink plenty of water: If you’re like me on a camping trip, then you scarf down literally anything resembling food in record time. While this isn’t a healthy strategy for any meal, it’s especially disastrous with oatmeal. If you want to avoid painful gas cramps and the feeling of your stomach exploding, eat slowly and drink water in between bites. This is especially important with fried granola.

Get my backcountry cookbook: For more breakfast recipes (and much, much more) check out my backcountry cookbook. It’s 40+ pages of recipes, food prep, packing tips, how-to’s and more.


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