I don’t know if you’re like me, but when I’m camping, food and sweets are always on my mind.
I know I should extoll the virtues of organic, heathy eating but sometimes I just gotta let me hair down and chomp some chocolate. Dark chocolate that is! Again, if you’re like me, camping does not consist of lazy days sitting by the fire drinking a beer and barely leaving the campsite all day.
For some reason, when I’m camping, I sleep later than when I’m home. I love being able to sleep in guilt-free.
Once I’m awake, I want to move!
I really don’t care if I hike, meander around a pick wildflowers for the campsite, go kayaking, or go down to the water to swim and make rock cairns in the river. Many times, camping involves horses. I absolutely love waking up in the morning to the sound of my trusty steeds chewing their hay. It’s a very relaxing sound. Molly Miss Molly, my favorite horse kind of purs when she’s content. I love that sound!
Staying active during the day and into the evening gets me hungry!
It seems like the fresh air and eating outside makes everything taste better too.
I tend to over pack food every time I camp. I’d really rather drag some back home than have to limit how much I eat. Did I already say I have a huge appetite when I’m playing, relaxing and sleeping outdoors?
How Much is Enough?
The “experts” say you should consume 1.5 to 2.5 lbs of food per person/day, that weight should contain 2,500-4,500 calories. Take into consideration the amount of activity you plan, your body size and weight.
Most guides of essential items to bring camping specify bringing more food that you think you’ll need.
Try to hit that tipping point between bringing a little more than you need and packing enough for an army!
Food Packing Tips
- Track what you eat on days when your activity level is high and you are participating in outdoor sports. It’ll give you an idea of the bare minimum.
- Pack your favorite foods. Backcountry camping is NOT the time to switch from being a junk food junkie to vegan. I’m a hot chocolate-aholic and I decided I was not lugging a gallon of almond milk and could do without my beloved hot chocolate. Wrong. I was like an addict looking forward to being home and partaking in my usual morning ritual.
- Don’t combine a camping trip with a weight-loss diet. If you head healthy and watch your junk food intake, you’ll lose a bit just because you’re more active.
- Make sure you drink enough water and eat enough calories so you won’t end up with a headache or really tired.
Candy bars and Smore’s are great but you really don’t want to gorge yourself on snacks just because you’re on vacation. If you’re not used to eating fatty or sweets, keep them to a minimum, especially if you’re doing some strenuous biking, hiking or climbing.
Nuts, dried fruits and seeds can be substituted for the junk stuff.
Weight and Girth (as we say in the horse world):
You’ll want to purchase or repack in zip lock bags much of your food to cut down on the trash/recyclables you’ll have to pack out with you on a backcountry trip.
If you’re glamping or camping at a designated campground, most likely you’ll be able to recycle and dump your trash onsite.
I don’t know anyone that’s worked as a camp chef so I KISS (keep it simple stupid) when I camp. Even if I have a propane stove with me, I always take along simple meals like cereal, hummus and crackers, or fresh bread, a good cheese and some nuts.
Water, Water, Everywhere
Or not! If you’re at a campground most likely there will be potable water available (check first). This will mean you don’t have to bring it with you on the trip but you’ll have to lug it to your site from the spigot. Don’t forget to bring jugs or containers that are safe for water storage. I usually drive my car to the source and fill up. I save my muscles for hiking and horseback riding!
Be sure to bring enough fuel if you have a camp stove. How many BBQ’s have you been to that the stove runs out of propane. UGH. Dehydrated foods are probably not the most scrumptious meals but they sure are handy. My personal fav is beef stew. If you get to camp and are super tired and ravenously hungry, freeze dried/dehydrated are easy peasy. Have at it!
Cost and Convenience
- If you’re planning on packing freeze-dried meals and healthy snacks – prepare yourself. Those types of food come at a price. I vote that their price is worth it though… you will feel better eating healthy rather than cheaping out and buying Dollar Store oat bars.
- If you’re bringing fresh foods, plan accordingly. Backpacking is hard on anything fresh. It gets bruised and starts to spoil quickly.
- I would recommend consuming your fresh food within the first two days and dipping into the packaged foods after that. Carrots can really take a beating so you can dole those out to yourself throughout the trip! Treat yourself to a great meal at a healthy restaurant diving home!
- Most of what I pack are dry or dehydrated foods. Just make sure you have ample access to fresh water. The LAST thing you want to take home as a souvenir is Giardia or some other god-forsaken intestinal illness.
- Canned foods are great to pack along if you not backcountry packing. They are too heavy and you must pack out the cans. I love to bring along tuna, baked beans, low sodium soup, and canned meat. You can whip up some amazing meals with 2 or 3 cans of food!
- Spices are “the spice of life”. I am a spice fanatic and even more so now that I found out most of them are so good for you. I usually bring pepper, garlic powder (good on popcorn too), cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, cinnamon and ginger.
- I always bring maple syrup and lemon juice when I camp. They are multifunctional. You can use the lemon to zip up some pasta or seltzer water and maple syrup is as good in seltzer water as it is on French toast!
- Nuts, trail mix and dried fruit are always staples in my pack. I love that they are healthy, full of calories, and delicious. When I’m going to be going camping with friends, I always organize a pre-camping party to plan the details and make a “community trail mix”. Everyone brings a unique ingredient to add to the mix.
Mmmm… my favorite meal – breakfast! I’m not much of an egg and bacon kinda gal because there’s so much more to choose from. In my experience though, most campers choose a griddle breakfast like pancakes, French toast, omelets, bacon, sausage!
My favorite, all time, delicious and healthy breakfast is vanilla Greek yogurt with nuts, dried fruit, banana, maple syrup, and granola tossed in. Yum!
I’m not addicted to coffee like everyone else seems to be. My poison is almond milk hot chocolate made with Trader Joe’s grated chocolate – oh la la! The awesome thing about loving almond milk is that it comes in boxes that don’t need to be refrigerated.
My breakfast routine is an easy clean-up which helps me be able to sleep in a while longer too. Yeehaa.
- Breakfast bars
- Dry cereal
- Instant oatmeal
- Dehydrated eggs
- Fresh fruit
- Dried fruits
- Instant coffee and tea
Since I’m usually involved in some outdoor sport, I don’t stop for lunch. I’d rather spend the time riding, hiking or kayaking.
My favorite things to graze on are turkey jerky, fig bars, Medjool dates, sweet bread, granola bars and trail mix. You could also pack some pita chips, bagels, and flavored rice or popcorn cakes and spread hummus or cheese on them.
Another option is to make pbj or fluffernutters in the AM and bring them along.
Most campers that are active during the day look forward to a hearty meal at sunset followed by some toasted marshmallows over a campfire. Perfect.
Typical meals would include chicken, steak, ribs, chops, baked potatoes, veggies, bread warmed in the fire or meat and veggies with pasta.
A great shortcut is to take chopped potatoes, veggies and meat chunks with some olive oil and spices and wrap them tightly in tin foil. Place the tin foil packs on hot coals for about 25 minutes. I call it Cowgirl Campfire Supper. Try it!
For dessert, wrap a banana with sweet goodies in double wrap tin foil and put it on hot campfire coals for a few minutes. Mmmm… drizzle some chocolate sauce over it and dig in!
- Carrot sticks
- Bell pepper slices
- Cucumber chunks
- Cherry tomatoes
- Hard boiled eggs
I’m sure you have some family favorites too. Check out our other camping articles.
Photo by Teena Kulakowski