Anyone who has gone tent camping would agree that having a functional kitchen makes it so much easier to cook. But teardrop trailer kitchens do have limitations – limited cold storage space, little cabinet space for dry goods, and minimal counter space for prep. Food also gets heavy when you pack in a lot of canned and boxed goods. To avoid adding unnecessary weight to your trailer (and increasing your fuel costs), pre-plan a menu for your trip.
Keep in mind that our trailers have fully equipped kitchens. We aim to provide everything that you need to cook with and eat on, so you should not have a need to pack kitchen tools unless your menu requires something unusual. Just bring your food, your pillow & blanket, and an adventurous spirit! The pillow and blankets are easy. Planning meals and packing food can pose a challenge. Here are some packing and meal planning tips to consider when traveling by teardrop.
Your luggage: Hard sided suitcases have no place in a teardrop trailer, so if you bring them you will likely have to leave them in your tow vehicle. They do not fit in the cabinets or benches and can be unwieldy in small spaces. We suggest you pack in smaller soft-sided duffel bags that can be tucked into the bench seat storage areas. Better yet, consider investing in ‘Packing Cubes’ which allow you to pack bags horizontally, and store your items vertically.
Linens: Since the T@B trailer beds are an odd size, fitted sheets are not an option. We provide flat sheets that you can tuck in around the mattress, plus a top sheet. We also provide 2 bath towels, and 2 kitchen towels. At a minimum, you will need to bring your own pillow(s) and blankets. Some guests prefer to simplify the bed-making and sleep in sleeping bags. If you prefer a softer bed, you might put an extra sleeping bag underneath as a makeshift pillow top.
Stuff shifts: Anything not shut in a cabinet, closely packed in a bin, or tied down is likely to move when the trailer moves. This can be annoying or dangerous, as things can break or take flight. So, contain your food: pack edibles in plastic bins or cartons instead of grocery bags. Wedge your containers in spots where they won’t budge during turns and speed bumps. Pack your breakable items in your tow vehicle instead of the trailer so that you can hear them rattling and deal with them in transit. In fact, it makes sense to pack your tow vehicle with as much weight as possible to minimize weight in the trailer and improve gas mileage.
Space: There is never enough cabinet space in a trailer, and it helps to be realistic about what will fit. Be sure to choose easy, small-ingredient menu items. If you can find one-pot meals or crock pot meals then you will save a lot of space with food prep. Combine ingredients at home to minimize the individual ingredients you need to pack.
Lightweight tableware: Since stuff shifts in transit, you want to avoid bringing anything breakable. Glassware, ceramic and heavy pots and pans just aren’t practical to travel with. Glasses can topple out of cabinets or slip out of soapy hands during clean-up in small sinks. For this reason, we stock our trailers with either melamine or Corelle plates & bowls, stainless or acrylic cups, and lightweight nesting pots and pans. We make an exception for mugs… you just can’t drink a hot cup o’joe in a plastic cup! If you prefer to avoid washing dishes entirely, you may opt to bring paper plates or plastic utensils from home.
Spices on board: Our trailers come with a basic set of spices. Typically, we have on board a combination of – Salt, pepper, garlic salt, cayenne, curry, and paprika. We also provide non-stick cooking spray and toothpicks.
Paper products: Our trailers are stocked with a few days’ worth of basic paper products. We include – A roll of paper towels, RV toilet paper, garbage bags, Kleenex, antibacterial cleaning wipes, plastic wrap and foil. If you replenish toilet paper, please only use single-ply biodegradable rapid dissolve TP, or it may clog the black water tank.
Beverages: Since space is at a premium, think about beverages that are compact as well. We stock the trailers with a few days’ worth of Starbucks Via instant coffee, Lipton tea bags, raw sugar packets, and powdered creamer. You definitely want to bring some drinking water. Iced tea can be steeped at the campsite. Frozen or powdered drink mixes are perfectly compact and travel well. Consider packing boxed or powdered milk that does not need refrigeration. Beer, wine and soda take up a lot of space to pack and keep cold, so if they are diet staples consider buying them at your destination. Avoid packing breakable glass bottles, and consider rebottling and labeling your alcohol in plastic bottles at home before you leave.
You never outgrow sippy cups: Seriously! Our kids are mostly grown, and we still use spill-proof unbreakable sippy cups for camping. Our favorites are those that you can squeeze with a one-way valve. If you can find sports or cycling bottles with similar features, those work too! We bring just enough milk to squirt into our morning coffee. While a bit embarrassing, they are also ideal for transporting and dispensing booze! Just don’t confuse it with your toddler’s apple juice. 😉
Eggs: Eggs notoriously break in transit, and egg cartons break or disintegrate in a wet cooler. Sporting goods stores sell plastic egg holders, but we have not had any luck with them. In fact, the egg holes in the plastic egg totes are smaller than large eggs, so we have found the egg holders cause breakage. So why fight it? We recommend that you pre-break your eggs at home and put them in a water-tight plastic container or Ziploc bag. A 16 oz water bottle can hold 8-9 large eggs. Or bring cartoned Egg Beaters (made with real egg whites), and pour out what you need when you need it.
Multi-purpose ice packs: If you need more cold storage than the trailer refrigerator can accommodate, you will likely be bringing an ice chest. And since space is at a minimum, you likely want to maximize your ice chest storage too! Rather than bringing separate ice packs, we recommend that you use frozen food as ice packs, and consume them as they thaw. Pre-freeze cartons or bags of eggs (see above). Pre-freeze little 8 oz plastic water bottles that you can drink at camp. Use frozen concentrated juice to chill other foods, and have the juice for breakfast. Put frozen meats in a Ziploc bag (so thawing meat won’t contaminate other foods) and use that as an ice pack. You can pick up more ice at your destination if needed, and as you make room in the ice chest by consuming food.
Refrigeration: The trailer refrigerator in DC mode has the highest power draw of anything on the trailer. It is the fastest way to drain the trailer battery if you do not have a generator or shore power, and can deplete the battery in less than a day. While driving, the fridge can draw DC power from the 7-pin trailer connector on your vehicle, but may still require more power than the 7-pin connector can provide. Once you arrive at your destination, make sure to plug in the trailer or generator and your fridge will get cold. The trailer refrigerators cool faster when you load them with food that is already cold or frozen. Reserve your cooler and/or refrigerator for dairy items (milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs), meats, and leftovers. Don’t fill your refrigerator so full that the air can’t circulate. If you do want to bring more highly perishable food, or if you’ll be packing sodas or beer/wine, pack a large cooler you can replenish with ice. If you are in a trailer that has a tri-fuel refrigerator (which is ideal if you will not have power hookups), be aware that safety features will not allow the refrigerator to run on propane unless the trailer is very level.
Pack ‘shelf stable’ foods: You should avoid bringing high-risk perishables and opt for shelf-stable items. Some of our favorite shelf-stable provisions include: Canned tuna and beans; tortillas; peanut butter and jelly; bread; dry salami; Spam, pasta; couscous; tomato sauce; tube polenta; olive oil; cereal; oatmeal; fruit; avocados. And graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate for nightly s’mores.
Think multi-purpose: To avoid packing or cooking more than necessary, consider how you can use the same ingredients more than once. If you grill a chicken for dinner, you can use the leftover meat for chicken salad sandwiches at lunch the next day. If you grill hamburgers, you can use the cooked meat for tacos the next day. Salsa can be used to top grilled chicken for dinner, on eggs for breakfast, and with chips as a snack. Sandwich bread can also be used for french toast at breakfast. Pasta or couscous can be served at dinner, then chilled for a salad for the next day’s lunch. Breakfast can also be cooked for dinner. Tortillas are more versatile, and easier to pack than bread.
Avoid meals with lots of prep: In close quarters, you may find that you prefer to cook as quickly as possible, then clean as little as possible so you can get outside and enjoy time with nature, friends or family. And unless you bring a folding table or use a campsite picnic table, your trailer counter space and prep area is limited. For more complex meals, pre-prep at home before your travel as much as possible, packing cut foods in baggies or plastic containers.
Gallon and quart-size Ziploc bags: These are extremely handy for advance prep at home, or as mixing bowl alternatives as you cook at your destination. They are lightweight, versatile, compact, and fun to ‘squish’. They can be used to marinade meats, pack pre-chopped veggies, and store small items. If you want to make cakes, muffins, breads, pancakes, before you leave home mix the dry ingredients and place them in a labeled Ziploc bag. Then mix the wet ingredients separately in another Ziploc bag. They are also great for complete meals too, such as meatloaf, or prepared salads. You can even put the recipe inside the bag – or write on the bag with a Sharpie.
Bring a portable grill: Having the option to grill opens up your meal options as well as simplifies cleanup. While our trailers do not have ovens, if you bring a portable grill you can also use it to bake. You can make lasagna, breads, cookies, casseroles, or just about anything you might bake at home. Any kind of covered grill will work, although it is easier to control the heat with a gas grill than a charcoal grill. In order to use a grill as an oven you need to turn direct heat into indirect heat. If you have a gas grill with multiple burners, turn on only some. You’ll do your baking above the unlit burners. Aim for up to 25 degrees (Fahrenheit) higher than the desired temperature, as some heat will be lost when you place your unbaked items inside and won’t be regained as easily as it would in an oven. A gas grill can be hooked up to the trailer’s on-board propane tank with the proper hoses & connectors (you’ll need to bring those to be compatible with your grill).
Appliances: All our trailers have 2-burner propane stoves, which should be plenty to cook 3 meals per day without boredom. However, you may want to supplement with an appliance from home to meet your personal preferences. Our trailers have functional 110V AC outlets inside and out that you can use to plug in appliances (although they only work if you have a generator or electrical hookups. See our article on power management while dry camping here). We bring a portable ice maker, which allows us to replenish our ice chest (plus, we appreciate a good icy cocktail). Some campers like to bring a blender for a margarita or smoothie. There are some fantastic crock pot recipes that are great for camping, so you may want to bring one. If toast with peanut butter is your daily breakfast, you will want a toaster. Due to space limitations, you can’t expect to reproduce your home kitchen, but if an extra appliance makes you feel more at home, bring it!
Tried and true teardrop-friendly recipes: We are always collecting recipes that are easy to pack and prepare, and most importantly…yummy. You can see a collection of recipes we have enjoyed on our teardrop travels along with our candid reviews of them here. You can also peruse our Pinterest Recipes page for tried and true recipes that other campers have enjoyed.
No-brainer meals: If you prefer to avoid prep entirely, some favorite stand-by meals that do not require a lot of thought, cooking or cleanup include:
- Freeze dried ‘Just add boiling water’ meals such as Mountain House Emergency Food Supply
- ‘Meal-in-a-bag’ like Chicken Viola (Pasta, chicken and veggies just need to be sautéed in one pan)
- Spaghetti, or other simple pasta dish with store-bought sauce
- Bagged salads with all the fixings included
- Sandwiches – Lunch meat, tuna, cheese, bread & condiments
- Canned foods – Chili, soup, green beans, corn, fruit
- Burgers or hot dogs
Cooking in your bedroom: For trailers with indoor kitchens, keep in mind that any heat you generate cooking your food will raise the temperature in your sleeping space, which can be problematic on warm nights. Likewise, the aromas of whatever you cook (such as bacon or fish) may linger as you are trying to sleep in the same living space. You could run the ceiling fan on high to suck out the heat and odor. If you want to avoid the issue altogether, you may prefer to cook outdoors (on a grill or campfire) when possible. Or, aim for meals that cook quickly as opposed to anything that needs to be boiled or fried. This is less of an issue if your trailer has an outdoor clamshell kitchen.
Bears: It’s no secret… bears like food and can be aggressive to find it. Do not tempt them by leaving your food outside overnight. Pack it in the trailer cabinets, close the outside clamshell kitchen, or pack food in your locked tow vehicle. If your campsite offers bear lockers, store your food in them.
Leave room for local finds: Most road trips have special culinary delights to discover. You may find a charming roadside fruit stand. You may catch a fresh fish you want to grill. There may be an amazing local restaurant that you want to try. Perhaps you will meet some new friends and your travels and want to share a meal. Allow some room in your menu planning for spontaneity!