Homemade Instant Oatmeal Recipes – a perfect camping breakfast!

Do you like secrets?  Do you also like oatmeal?  Well, for all you oatmeal-eating, secret-lovers, this one’s for you:  Did you know you can stop buying those overly processed and overly-sweetened pre-packaged instant oatmeals and instead start making your own healthy homemade instant oatmeal for camping?

No worries, it’s easy!  You can do this.  These instant oatmeal recipes below are quick, very adaptable, and easily transportable for single-serving meals.

Sure, you can mix up a big batch to keep in your home kitchen.  But, the true appeal of these oatmeal recipes shines at the campground and on the trail when you’re looking for healthy, quick, and lightweight foods.

a cup of instant oatmeal at the campsite


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The Best Instant Oatmeal for Backpacking, Camping and Hiking

Really, what’s nicer than a hearty, healthy, hot cup of oatmeal for breakfast on a cool camping morning?  Sure, you’d probably rather have your mittens wrapped around a steaming mug of salted caramel mocha with soy milk… but, you’re roughin’ it, remember?

And, so, second best could be your homemade instant oatmeal!

I’d go as far as to suggest the best instant oatmeal for backpacking is the one you can make affordable and customize for your own prefernces and needs.

Below you’ll find a list of various homemade instant oatmeal recipes, but here’s an updated tip: Use the pre-packaged, store-bought instant oatmeals as a base… this is currently our family’s favouite version. I’ll share how we do it below!

A woman sitting on the ground eating oatmeal. Text written on the photo points to various things in the photo like her, her oatmeal, and the hiking kitchen

5 reasons these homemade instant oatmeals for camping are perfect!

  1. You can fill them with calorie and nutrient packed dried fruits, seeds, and nuts.
  2. Homemade instant oatmeal is relatively inexpensive.
  3. You can easily package them individually into single-serve containers or just scoop out of one larger bag to get the serving size each person wants.
  4. They’re not full of preservatives and such.
  5. And, there’s more to them than sugar (which, let’s all agree, is the case when it comes to our good ol’ Quaker Oats, Instant Oatmeal Packs)

Family Camping Tip: Fill small mason jars with your instant oatmeal ingredients for single-servings.  Then, just add the boiling water directly to the jars.  When the oatmeal’s all eaten up, screw the lid back on and worry about washing them at home where you can throw them in the dishwasher!

Although, this tip works best for short camping trips.  You probably don’t want those used jars to go weeks before a wash!

homemade mason jars full of camping oatmeals
Homemade instant oatmeals ready for a camping trip

Overnight hiking tip:  Assemble a few servings worth into a larger ziplock bag, then serve out individual portions into your enamel mug in the morning.  This instant oatmeal mix is also handy to have on hand as an extra, emergency, ‘oops, we ran out of stuff to eat’ food.

When we’re out backpacking we always have a baggie of our own homemade instant oatmeal (apple-cinamon-raisin flavour)!

The healthy camping oatmeal basic recipe:

These instant oatmeal meals are very forgiving.  Add a little more of this, don’t add that… it’s up to you and your family’s preferences.

Here’s the basic recipe:  take some quick oats, add a bit of sugar, toss in a dash of something tasty, add a handful of fruit, nuts and seeds…. And voila!

An oat note: 

There are 3 main types of oats – Regular, Quick, and Instant.  We prefer ‘quick’ oats for their texture when preparing our own instant oatmeal mix.  While the package instructions for quick oats is 1-5 minutes on the stove or in the microwave, we find just adding boiling water and letting it sit for 5 minutes works just as well.

If you don’t want to wait that long (or you kids can’t handle waiting that long), then go for the instant oats.

Before buying your oatmeal, read the labels and you may need to try a few varieties to find your preference.  Here’s a quick explanation on the different type of oats and their cooking times by Bob’s Red Mill.

Updated: The super-quick, no-fail, better than just the box version:

If you’re worried about the ease of making your own homemade instant oatmeal or worry that your kids won’t eat it, you might want to start by trying this:

Make the store-bought instant oatmeal better:

  • Empty out a few of your kids favourite flavoured instant oatmeal packs into a jar then add some extras:
  • some crushed nuts,
  • half a cup of quick oats,
  • maybe some chia seeds, flax seeds, and/or hemp seeds
  • and a generous handful of dried fruit like raisins, crasisins, and/or dried apple

Ingredients for one single serving of cinnamon raisin homemade instant oatmeal:

  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of quick oats
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp brown sugar or regular sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1-2 tbsp dried raisins
  • 2 – 3 tbsp broken or chopped dried apple chips
  • 1-2 tbsp of seeds and nuts (almond slices, pecan or walnut pieces, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, etc)
dried apples, dried fruit, oats, sugar - ingredients for instant oatmeal - spread out on a wooden cutting board

How to make camping instant oatmeal:

Just throw it all into a jar and give it a shake!

For individual servings you’ll need small jars or baggies.  When car camping and at home, we prefer to use short, wide mouth mason jars.  When backpacking, we use snack-sized ziplock baggies or make an over-sized batch and dole out smaller servings into enamel cups or bowls.

individual baggies of homemade instant oatmeal
homemade instant oatmeal ready for camping

You can even use your kid’s lunch thermos for camping trips.  Just toss the dry oatmeal mix into the thermos, and add the hot water directly into the thermos when breakfast rolls around.  It’s handy and the thermos will also help keep the oatmeal hotter longer on cold mornings!

Here’s a little clip of my little and I getting some camping oatmeals ready for a trip.  You can see, it’s a pretty relaxed recipe!

How will you cook the instant oatmeals at the campsite?

Really, this is up to you.  You’ll need to boil water somehow. Here’s a whole post dedicated to all your camp kitchen gear and camping cooking kits.

Once you’ve got hot water, pour some over the oatmeal, stir, let it sit, and keep it warm by covering it or wrapping a tea towel around the bowl or cup.  Add more water as needed.

cooking instant oatmeal while backpacking with a portable camp stove
Boiling water for our instant oatmeal while backpacking

A few homemade instant oatmeal recipe variations:

I’ll be honest and tell you that the standard raisin, apple, cinnamon, nut mix is my family’s favorite.  However, we have tried these following variations as well, some with more success than others!

What about powdered milk?  If milk is your thing, then go ahead and dump in some powdered milk too.  You’ll increase the calcium content and up the creaminess.  We’re a ‘milk alternative’ family, so we don’t use it. However, you can also purchase powdered soy and coconut milk from specialty stores and these might be worth experimenting with.

Peanut butter, really?

  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of quick oats
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dried powdered peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp dried berry mix (cherries, craisins, blueberries)
  • Or 1 tbsp chocolate chips
  • 1 – 2 tbsp nuts and / or seeds (almond slices, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)

(Please note, this one is only appreciated by my kids… meaning my husband I really don’t enjoy it!)

Apricots and Ginger are yummy!

  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of quick oats
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp shaved or thinly sliced dried crystallized ginger (a few dashes of powdered ginger works too)
  • 2 tbsp chopped dried apricots
  • 1 – 2 tbsp nuts and / or seeds (almond slices, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds)

(please note, this one is only appreciated by the adults… meaning the kids hate this one!)

A Chocolate Breakfast for Champions

  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of quick oats
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • A few chopped, dried strawberries or dried cherries
  • 2 tsp – 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 – 2 tbsp nuts and / or seeds (pecan or walnut pieces, almond slices, hazelnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds)
  • Cocoa nibs if you have them

(instead of adding sugar and cocoa separately, you can also use hot chocolate powder!)

eating instant oatmeal out of a blue cup while hiking

Tropical Party

  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of quick oats
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp shredded dried coconut
  • 2 – 3 tbsp chopped dried mango, pineapple, papaya, and / or apricots
  • 1 – 2 tbsp nuts and / or seeds (almond slices, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)

The oddball couple of Blueberry & Coconut

  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of quick oats
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp shredded dried coconut
  • 2 tbsp dried sweetened blueberries
  • 1 – 2 tbsp nuts and / or seeds (almond slices, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)

If you’d like a few more instant oatmeal recipes to try, Wholefully has 8 variations worth taking a look at.  I really like the idea of her cranberry orange oatmeal!

Did I mention these are also fantastic grab and go office and school lunches?  As long as you have access to boiling water, you can make these up wherever you are.  Just make sure your containers are leak proof so you don’t get oatmeal juices leaking into your bag after you’re done eating.  Yucky!

Next time you’re heading out to the campground, give these healthy instant oatmeal recipes a try.  And, really, they’re good! These homemade oatmeal packets are cheaper and healthier than the pre-packaged ones.  Sure, they take a little more time to prepare, but it’s worth it, I promise!

homemade instant oatmeal in a cup at the campsite
A mason jar of oatmeal on a wooden picnic table


References and Additional Information:

Learn more about oat types here.

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