Eating Well in the Woods: Healthy Camp Food Tips

One time, and one time only, I ate one of those Mountain House dehydrated meals. I had been misled into believing that real outdoors people must not only have nerves of steel, but guts of steel, and thus such food was a mandatory accessory to proving expedition toughness.

As camping and mountaineering season approaches, it would seem appropriate to share some foodie wisdom of the backpacking and camping sort. To those of you who just purchased a Jetboil and scrambled eggs in a bag: toss the eggs and keep the boiler, for at least coffee is always a part of a quality camping menu.

There are typically a few key factors in figuring out what sort of food to take with us into the wild, namely caloric value, weight, space, and does it taste like dehydrated cardboard with sawdust seasoning on top. Most of us mountaineers starve ourselves to the point that the latter actually sounds delicious. Throw some soggy cat hair on there and you’ve got a complete meal.

There is another consideration we often overlook, but it is worth a mention: soul food. I have been known to lug an espresso maker and a bar of chocolate through sub-Arctic Patagonia instead of a rain parka. While this may not be the wisest of choices, it sure felt wise while sipping Italian roast on the shores of a glacial river.

If you’re going light and need calories, nuts are going to be a part of your menu. High in both protein and fat, these power-packed delights don’t get old and funky. This is why trail mix is such a common occurrence in our bags. The trick is to not eat all the chocolate first. Another great source of protein and fat that keeps well (for about three days or more if you’re brave) is boiled eggs. Your cured meats are a great option too: smoked salmon, salami, jerky, cooked sausage.

What we often miss most are those fresh vegetables and fruits that don’t keep well or need too much preparation. Carrots, kohlrabi and apples are typically my go-to fruits and vegetables because they all work well as platforms for peanut butter. I also bring a bag of chopped kale because you can eat it raw or cooked, and it keeps pretty well for days. And trust me, when you’re in the great outdoors, you’ll want to stay regular.

Another good source of nutrients in the outdoors is homemade energy bars and muffins. You can add mineral salt, fruit, nuts, seeds, coconut, butter, and all kinds of things to create the macronutrient balance you want. Homemade mini-quiches also keep really well (and you can cook vegetables into them). Dehydrating your own meals is an option too. I was once dining on a glacier when my climbing partner pulled out a curried salmon and cilantro lentil dish that she’d dehydrated. It was almost as epic as the view.

Whatever adventure you’re embarking on, you don’t need to rely on prepackaged energy bars or chalk-paste to fuel you. Eat real food and you’ll enjoy your meals and appreciate how great you feel while you’re on your next adventure.

3-Day Backpacking Food List

Everything on this list can be eaten without further cooking. Vegetarians can replace meats with things like lentil loaf and garden burgers.

2 apples, 1 orange, 1 bag macadamia nuts, 9 peanut butter energy balls, 1 package smoked salmon, 2 large cooked sausages, 2 boiled eggs, 1 medium bag chopped kale, 6 large carrots, 1/2 c nut butter, 3 coconut muffins, 3 sweet potato tortillas, 9 slices cooked bacon, 1 bag trail mix, 1 bag coffee

3-Day Car Camping Food List for Two Mountain Bikers

I try to pack so I don’t actually need ice, depending on the temperature. One trick for making this work is having your meats already frozen.

1 bottle of wine, 1 wine opener (I cannot stress how important it is to NOT forget this), 1 can of coconut milk, 12 eggs, 1 pack of bacon (frozen), 1 hard salami, 1 pack of two large sausages (frozen), 2 salmon filets (frozen, eat on day one unless you want lutefisk), 1 bag of kale, 4 apples, 2 oranges, 1 bell pepper, 2 zucchini, 1 clove of garlic, 1 bag of carrots, 1 jar of peanut butter, 1 bag of nuts (cashews, Brazil, etc.), 6 muffins, 1 head of cabbage, 2 lemons, Salt, Olive oil, Dark chocolate, Coffee

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