Since I’m in the middle of prepping for camping at the moment, it seems like the perfect time to write about this. I am a tent camper, which means I don’t have a stove, fridge or anywhere to store food aside from my small cooler. This means I have very little space for cold food. This does not mean I don’t like to eat well while I’m in the woods though. Let’s go over prep work you can do before your trip, ways to store food and foods that take little to no effort to prepare.
Before we get to food, I want to impress how important it is to store your food safely when camping in bear country. Dispose of food in bear safe garbage containers or burn them. Do not leave food unattended at your camp site as a vacant site with food is just calling for a bear to come by, and likely return again in hopes of getting more easy food. Coffee cups and juices also attract bears, so make sure your morning coffee isn’t sitting out with dregs, as a small amount of cream and sugar left in a cup is more than enough for a bear to sniff out.
Store food in sealed containers and preferable inside your vehicle/ camper / trailer. If you are camping away from you vehicle, store food is air tight containers. Unfortunately most re-sealable bags are plastic, but they can be re-used many times before they are disposed of, so I would recommend re-using them as many times as you can before you throw them out.
Non Refrigerated Items
While camping generally means eating less than clean, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy something other than chips. Apples, carrots, nuts, celery, bread, peanut butter, honey, etc, don’t require refrigeration and last over a week, which makes them ideal for camping. Not to mention how easy it is to eat an apple! No clean up.
As I said, I use a small cooler, so in order to keep my items cold I use frozen water bottles. This way I have water and get to keep my food cool, saving space and weight. I limit the cool foods I bring to cheese, hot sauce and sometimes meats. If I’m bring meats I vacuum seal them and freeze them before packing them for a few reasons. The first is to make the meat last longer and keep the whole cooler colder as it is frozen, the second is to avoid a mess. A vacuum sealed meat can’t leak as it thaws. The third is that it takes up less space vacuum sealed than it doesn’t in it’s original styrofoam container. Not to mention it can’t attract wildlife if it’s air sealed.
Junk Food / Snacks
I can’t pretend I don’t bring junk food when I’m camping, so let’s get it out there. Again for space reasons, I tend to ditch the original containers and switch them to ziplock bags to save space and to give them a re-sealable edge, especially with chips. I love sunflower seeds and almonds, both of which often come in re-sealable bags that aren’t half air, so they get packed “as-is”.
Tin Foil Potatoes
I have a deep love for cooking with fire, as it is something I’ve been doing since I was a kid. You don’t want to cut potatoes more than a half hour before cooking, so I take the small potatoes, a pre-mixed bag of spices (onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, cayenne and salt), some tin foil and a knife. Once your fire is good and hot you can cut your potatoes in half, sprinkle them with spices (you can add some olive oil if you have it with you) then wrap them up in foil, making sure there are no open holes in the foil, and throw them onto the coals at the edge of the fire. With 10 small potatoes cooking, it shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes for them to be steaming and soft. If you have a small fire or it hasn’t been burning for very long, it will take longer.
I rarely bring meats but when I do, I also bring tin foil. While steak doesn’t turn out great in tin foil, chicken and pork can be pretty tasty when cooked this way as it steams the meat in its own juices. It can be tricky to get the cook times right, so if in doubt, leave the meat at home. If you are confident that you can see white meat and no red or pink left, then you are ready to eat.
KEEPING DRINKS COLD
If you are camping near a water source, cooling your drinks will be easy as you can either net your cans and leave them in the water or dunk them in for a half hour before drinking them. If you are not near water then being as efficient as possible with cold space is important. The likely hood of ice you packed 4 days ago in a cooler still being frozen is slim, so you will need to keep the drinks themselves cool. Having a committed cooler for drinks with frozen water bottles is helpful as you won’t be opening your food cooler often, losing the chill for your other foods. Storing your cooler in a shaded place also helps keep it cool.
All in all, food is the least impressionable part of camping, but underpacking and spoiled food can ruin a trip. My tip would be to focus on foods that don’t perish for at least a week that don’t need to be kept cool. If you have any tips you wan’t to share, I would be so happy to hear them!