Camp Food: How-To
Summer is the season for camping and, with that, can come the stressors of what to eat while camping. If you're trying to maintain a modified diet, it can seem challenging. And, since many of my local clients come to me with this question, I now have a dedicated post for you!
The truth is, it’s not as hard as you may be thinking. It’s actually fairly straightforward, as long as you have a cooler and a fire (or camp stove). It can actually be really in line with what you might eat at home. So, please don't avoid the camp trip based on food fears.
Getting outdoors and being in nature can be some of the best medicine for your gut. Sleeping on the earth and unplugging from electronics lets your body reset and calms your nervous system. It is one of my favorite ways to get quiet!
My best tips for navigating Camp Food include:
Make a list of all of the meals you need
- For a weekend trip you may need: 2 breakfasts (B), 2 lunches (L) and 2 dinners (D).
- Plan them out with your schedule. Add snacks according to your style of eating, level of activity, or length of drive. Such as, Friday D, Saturday BLD, Sunday BL. Snacks for each day.
- Also, know how many people you are feeding and how much they like to eat: 2 adults, 4 adults or 2 children plus 2 adults are going to eat different amounts, of course.
Make your grocery list and rotate just a few things
- You’ll want some things to cook and some things that are easy to grab on the go, in the car or on a hike.
- Grab a carb or two: raw carrots and packaged sweet potato chips.
- Grab a green or two: kale or cabbage to cook, arugula or salad greens ready to use.
- Grab a rotation of meats: chicken thighs, ground beef, bacon and some lunchmeat.
- Grab some fruit, as you’ll need more sugar as you huff and puff in nature. Easy-to-eat berries, pre-cut melon, apples are all good. Peaches, pears and other soft fruit can get bruised easily and make a juicy mess.
- Grab avocados, single serving guacamole or dips for easy upgrades to add fat to your snacks and meals.
- A bonus grab can be coconut wraps or gluten free bread if you plan to picnic. It’s not necessary, as you can easily eat salami, chips and fruit on the go. Or, wrap in lettuce. Sometimes, it can be nice to “contain” your ingredients.
- And, I suggest to always get tea and a chocolate bar for fire-side evening time.
Keep it simple, and make real food!
- Be willing to switch it up with what you think of as “camp foods.”
- Bypass the hot dogs and make fresh burgers.
- Bypass the potato chips and bring pre-boiled potatoes from home.
- Bypass the s'mores and have tea with your dark chocolate bar.
- Bypass the cereal and make eggs with beef bacon for breakfast.
Get a good cooler to keep your items fresh
- If you have raw meats, put them in plastic zip bags or storage containers so they don’t get wet as your ice melts.
- Stack and plan your cooler accordingly.
*One of the best investments I have made for car travel is a Yeti cooler. They keep things cold for several days, and are bear proof when locked. (This one is a great size for 3-5 day car trips)
Be sure you have the proper cooking gear
- You’ll need a fire, stove, maybe some oil (though, I typically cook in the fat of whatever meat I use).
- You’ll def need water and cups for your tea.
- Don't forget plates or extra pans to eat off of (they’re usually in a pack and can be used either way).
- Do you have travel utensils? Paper towels? A way to pack-out your food scraps (zip bags or a storage container)?
- How about a sponge, soap and hand towels for cleaning up (and not attracting animals to your site)?
- Don’t forget the firewood!!
- Bonus: An old newspaper can help you light the fire and can soak up grease in a pan, if needed.
Then, cook away!
- Cook your foods up, starting with the meats (review the recipe below).
- Make a "one-pan-meal" they way you would anywhere.
- Use simple cooking techniques like sautéing and quick braising (sauté with water, essentially)
- Don't be afraid to take your time and get a little dirty in the process.
Beef, Kale & Carrot Plate, as seen above, is a great example:
- Start with the beef in a pan. Cook until fully done.
- Remove to a plate or other dish.
- Add the carrots into the fat and cover (with another pan or heat tolerant plate).
- When fork tender, pull aside (to another plate or to side of the pan) and add kale.
- Once cooked, place in one dish and top with salt to eat. Basic, tasty, great combo!
Create a wannigan (it holds your “go-to” camping or travel foods)*
- Include oil, salt, seasoning blends, tea, coffee, travel mugs, spatula, small chef knife, cutting board, plates, zip bags, etc that you’ll want to travel with you anytime you set out.
- Having everything ready and in one place will make it easier the next time!
*I learned this from my father-in-law who goes out into the Canadian boundary waters every year for 10+ days. He must be extremely prepared for the conditions and the length of his stay. When you think of spending a few weeks out in nature, it makes a 2 night camp trip seem like a breeze!
I hope these tips help you gather yourself and get the courage to go on the road!
Eating good, simple food, getting a little dirt on your plate and being connected to your meals with full attention (no tv, phone or music in the background) all lend themselves to better gut health. Simple foods digests well. Dirt actually feeds your gut flora in a positive way. Making meals with attention allows you to have single focus, calm your nervous system and destress, from the gut and beyond.
Sounds good, right?!
I love camping!! If you want to see more of how I eat when I travel, check out my Instagram feed with the hashtag #travelwithbmack HERE
If you’d like to learn more about backpacking, and taking your food and gear into the woods (not just car camping), check out my friend, Megan’s amazing organization called Quiet Adventures! She takes women out into nature and teaches you how to take care of yourself, reconnect with yourself and nurture yourself, out in the land. If you can't muster up the strength to get out on your own, let Megan guide you with a small group of other women! I can’t wait to join one of her quiet adventures soon!
Let me know if you go camping, and what was most useful for you! Share some photos with me on my facebook page! I'd love to see!!
Happy camping, Brandi