How To Eat Well When You're Camping

Because you can do better than trail mix.

Couple Cooking on Camping Trip
Getty ImagesTonywestphoto

When you’re carrying your kitchen and the pantry on your back for a multi-day hike, every ounce matters, but so does each meal. “During an intense hike, like the Appalachian Trail, you’re burning 5,000 calories a day,” says Zach Dibble, who leads through-hiking training sessions with REI in Atlanta. Here’s how to fuel your body with meals you will actually enjoy eating.

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Prioritize weight-efficient foods, like jerky and cheese, which carry about 120 calories per ounce.

Pack between two and two and a half pounds of food per day, and a half gallon of water unless you’re entering a drought area, says Dibble. Then he’ll carry up to two gallons. Prioritize weight-efficient foods, like jerky and cheese, which carry about 120 calories per ounce. Legumes and nuts are also good. To add calories to pasta, rice, or a dehydrated meal, Dibble recommends coconut oil, olive oil, or powdered goat’s milk. It’s full-fat, unlike dehydrated cow’s milk.

To save time, or even forgo a stove, cold-soak food while you walk or sleep. You can rehydrate packaged meals or make couscous, lentils, oatmeal, and even rustic hummus—soak chickpeas, add garlic salt and oil, then mash.

Resupply every five days on longer adventures by mapping out towns and stores you’ll be passing. In more sparsely populated areas, like the lands the Pacific Crest Trail goes through, mail food to gas stations or post offices in advance.

If you’re hiking in an area with a known bear population, like the High Sierra Trail, you’re required to carry a bear canister. BearVault offers canisters with four-day ($70) and seven-day ($80) capacity in impact-resistant polycarbonate. In northern and mountain states, it’s still smart to hang your food from a tree branch overnight. Hang it four feet out from the trunk of the tree, four feet down from the branch, and high enough that you can barely touch it, Dibble says.

Breakfast: Truffled Eggs

  • 2 oz powdered eggs
  • ¼ tsp truffle oil
  • 1 Tbsp dehydrated black olives
  • 1 tsp chopped sun-dried tomato
  • 1/8 tsp dried basil
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt

    In a cooking pot, combine eggs and water to a slightly thin consistency. Heat on a camp stove or fire. When eggs set, add the remaining ingredients.

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    Lunch: Make-Ahead Pita Pockets

    • 1 Tbsp harissa
    • ¼ cup shredded carrots
    • ¼ cup shredded celery
    • ¼ cup shredded fennel
    • 1 oz Moroccan cured olives, pitted and diced
    • ¼ tsp wild fennel pollen
    • ½ cup instant hummus
    • 1 pita, split in half

      Mix the first six ingredients before heading out. At lunchtime, follow the hummus instructions to rehydrate. Then combine all ingredients and divide between two pita halves. If backpacking overnight, you can assemble and pack after breakfast.

      Dinner: Campfire Risotto

      • 1 oz spicy salami, diced
      • 1 cup arborio rice
      • 4 cups water
      • 2 threads Spanish saffron
      • ¼ tsp Sicilian oregano
      • 1 bay leaf
      • ¼ tsp dehydrated onion
      • 1 oz pecorino cheese, grated

        Heat salami in a pot until it starts to crisp. Add rice and stir until fragrant. Add saffron, oregano, bay leaf, onion, and 1 cup of water, stirring until it is absorbed. Continue adding water 1 cup at a time. Finish with cheese.

        3 Prepackaged Meals We Love

        Organic Apple Cinnamon Oats & Quinoa
        Backpacker's Pantry amazon.com $7.52
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        Backpacker’s Pantry Cereal: Not too sweet, not too mushy. 11g protein.

        Pad Thai
        Good To Go amazon.com $12.50

        Good To-Go Pad Thai: Probably better than your local delivery joint.

        Red Bean Chili
        Patagonia Provisions patagoniaprovisions.com $7.00

        Patagonia Provisions Chili: Beans, tomatoes, carrots, chipotle in a generous serving.

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