When the great outdoors calls, we all answer in different ways. Some toss the cooler in the back of the car and drive to the nearest campground. Others strap on their backpacks and head deep into the wilderness. Either way, you’re going to need to bring food.
While hot dogs, toasted marshmallows and other traditional camping fare may hold a special place in your heart (or your arteries), healthy camping food is a much better option, especially for trips when you’ll be physically active. Here’s a few suggestions to help you eat well on your next adventure in the wilds.
Planning is Everything
A little planning really improves your camping food options. Plan every meal in advance, so you know exactly what to pack and how much you’ll need. Consider the number of people in your camping party, how many days you’ll be gone, and any dietary restrictions members of your party may have. Be sure to add an extra day’s food and water for everyone, especially if you’re hiking into remote areas.
If you’re driving straight to your camping site, you’re got the luxury of packing a cooler full of food in the back of the car. Coolers greatly increase your ability to eat healthy while camping, but that doesn’t mean you don’t still need to do a little planning.
- Pack fruits and vegetables that don’t bruise easily
- Eggs and yogurt can be packed in hard containers to prevent breakage or spills
- Be careful with meat—only bring what you’ll eat within a day of packing and freeze it before packing
- Pack with a mind to accessibility—the last items packed should be the first items you’ll need
- Use large chunks of ice or ice coolers to keep food cool
- Only open the cooler when necessary to maintain temperature.
Into the Wilds
When you’re living out of a backpack in the high country, coolers aren’t really an option, and planning meals becomes even more important. Hiking and nature walks burn through calories, so you want high calorie meals. You don’t want sugary foods that cause blood sugar spikes and crashes, nor do you want salty food that leaves you thirsty (and tearing through your water supply).
Water is, of course, the best and healthiest camping drink. It’s important to stay hydrated, so you’ll need a minimum of two 32-ounce bottles a day, plus cooking water. add a few tea bags to your backpack and you’ve got the option of a hot drink that doesn’t take up any real space.
If you’re not packing water into your campsite, it’s extremely important you know where to find water sources. Depending on your location, you may need to pack a small filtration system to treat water before drinking.
Prepackaged rolled oats make a quick, hearty campfire breakfast, especially if you mix in some dried fruit and a handful of nuts. Powdered eggs can be used to make omelets seasoned with spice mixtures—just choose spices rather than thirst-triggering seasoned salts.
For lunch, whole wheat pita bread with nut butter or tuna makes a quick but satisfying meal. Minimize the space tuna takes up in your backpack by purchasing pouched tuna instead of canned.
Vegetables or fruits that can last for a few days without refrigeration make excellent healthy camping snacks, while granolas and nut bars provide energy boosts in the middle of the day.
After a busy day in the wilds, you may find yourself wanting something hot for dinner. How does some pasta, macaroni, and beef or teriyaki chicken sound? Prepared freeze-dried, eat-in-pouch healthy camping food is easy to prepare—just boil some water over your fire or camping stove and you’ve got a hot, hearty meal in minutes (and if you “accidently” packed a few marshmallows to toast afterwards, all the better).