One of the best parts about being out in the woods is that it really gets us back to our most basic needs. No fussing about responding to emails, navigating office politics, or worrying about running into an ex while out grabbing drinks. Food, water, sleep, and warmth. That is just about all you need to concern yourself with while out in the sticks. It is surprising, then, how many people underestimate the amount of time and attention they should pay to the food that they pack out with them.
Your food is just about the most important part of the equation when it comes to getting out on any lengthy backpacking trip, camping expedition, or even a day hike. After hiking around all day or simply hanging around camp and enjoying the company of your friends, your body can get pretty tuckered out trying to keep up. Especially if it’s cold out there. If you don’t have any fuel to supplement yourself with, your blood sugar will crash, and the next thing you know you’ll be the grumpiest and least happy beast in the woods aside from Bigfoot. To help you avoid this fate we’ve put together a basic list of the best camping foods.
Our Approach To Packing Food
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, we wanted to take a moment to talk about the general approach we take when packing our bags. First thing’s first. When heading into the woods our goal is to always leave no trace. That means, among other things, no stupid little wrappers, pieces of plastic, or cardboard. To a certain extent this rule dictates the type of food we bring out with us. Meals that create excess waste get docked points in our book, and meals or food that can be taken out of their package and put into a Ziplock bag easily get a thumbs up.
Another thing you’re going to want to consider is how much fuel each meal will require. So for example – it is not a good idea to bring out a bunch of rice that’ll take 45 minutes to cook because you’ll either run out of fuel or seriously deplete your camp stove’s supply. Dehydrated foods or quick-cooking solutions are a good go-to. As far as taste goes, don’t worry. Just about everything tastes better after a day in the woods. Finally, don’t forget that all of this grub needs to get stuffed into your pack one way or another, so the lighter, less crushable food (we’re looking at you, bananas) should be on the top of your list.
Early Bird Gets The Oatmeal
That old adage about breakfast being the most important meal of the day really is true. Yeah, sure, other meals are important too – but jump starting your metabolism and feeding yourself after essentially 8 or so hours of fasting is key to getting a good handle on the day. If you’re going to be heading out on the trail to your next campsite you’re going to both want your breakfast to be easy but full of nutrition. That is the approach we took putting these meals together. You can either cook these over your camp stove in a short amount of time, or you can simply stir it up without busting out the fuel can.
1. Granola + Dehydrated Milk – This is hands down one of the easiest ways to get a bunch of energy in the morning. Just add water to your dehydrated milk, stir it up, and add a hefty helping of granola.
2. Quick Oats – For those who prefer warm cereal in the morning, this is a solid grab. Making these is just as easy as heating up water to a boil and pouring it over your oats.
3. Pancake Mix – A little more involved but incredibly tasty. Throw pancake powder into a Ziplock bag, add water, cut a hole on the corner and pour it out onto a pan.
Fuel On The Go
The last thing you want to do while out on a long day hike or while backpacking from one campsite to the next is sit down and bust out the stove or other gear in order to make yourself lunch. Not only does it break up your progress on the trail, but you end up burning that precious daylight while you’re doing it. That is why we always defer to meals that can be pre-made in the morning or are ready to eat on the trail. Stick these in the brain of your backpack, or close to the top for easy access.
1. Peanut Butter + Jelly + Tortilla Rolls – Bread is not going to fair very well stuffed in your pack, so this updated version on the PB&J is a great go to (and one that you can modify with fruit and nuts).
A Warm Reward
You’ve done it. You’ve made it another day in the backcountry. If that isn’t cause for celebration we don’t know what is. Dinner, in our eyes, should be a bit more involved than your other meals. If you’re a hardcore hiker that charges until sundown, eats twigs by the light of his headlamp, goes to bed, and then does it all again in the morning – then good for you. The rest of us look to the end of the day as an opportunity to let our feet breathe a bit and enjoy some heavier and more nourishing meals.
1. Mac and Cheese – This classic is surprisingly perfect for cooking over a camp stove. Full of carbs, protein, and calcium, it takes just minutes to prepare and offers relatively easy cleanup so long as you act before the cheese hardens in the pan.
2. Rice + Bean Burritos – If you are looking for something really filling – this is the way to go. Cook up these beans with rice and roll it up in a tortilla with some hot sauce and you’ll be in heaven.
3. Instant Meals – There are a surprising number of pre-made meals out there for campers. If you want something a little more on the simple side but don’t want to compromise on flavor – you should consider bringing a few of these along.
Booze Coffee And Granola
Because the likelihood of you just eating three meals while out in the bush is low, the best way to keep your blood sugar high and your spirits higher is to have some good snacks on hand while on the trail, or while preparing your breakfast or dinner. Here are some picks you will most definitely find in our camping packs.
1. Granola – Simple, straight forward, classic. While the stuff with the M&Ms is great, always try and pick a bag with that offers up a lot of energy with every bite.
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