Food To Pack For Camping The Ultimate Checklist
When Im preparing for camping in the wild for a few days, I always make sure that I have packed all the essential food. Living off the land by hunting and gathering is not as easy as it sounds, especially if youre simply a recreational camper. Which is why you and your group need to have enough diverse food to sustain you for days.
So what food should you pack for camping? While it depends on equipment and how long you plan to camp, here are the best options:
But, of course, a short answer shouldnt satisfy you. There are a few more details that you need to know and some factors that you should consider. Also, I have a few useful tips besides the food list. Let us read on.
Dehydrated Camping Food Faq
Q: How much water does it take to rehydrate meals?
A: Each meal varies. You could need anywhere from a few ounces to a few cups depending on how large the meal is and how many people it feeds.
Q: Can you eat dehydrated food without water?
A: In short, yes, BUT theres not a lot of reason to do so. Given that the food is dehydrated, it will search for water. You can add that water ahead of time, or it will take it from your body, and youll end up quite parched and drinking as much water as you would have used to rehydrate the food in the first place.
Q: Is dehydrated food healthy?
A: When crafting these meals, the manufacturers are acutely aware that the bulk of their user base has just engaged in some kind of physical activity in the outdoors, not limited to hiking, backpacking, climbing, skiing, kayaking, and more.
The brands found in this guide are lauded for taking consumer needs, diets, and goals into account. The result? Healthy dehydrated camping foods full of well-rounded sustenance regardless of activity levels.
Q: Does dehydrated camping food taste good?
Q: How do I prepare dehydrated camping food?
A: Generally, any dry foods are prepared by adding water, whether heated or unheated. Your food pouch should come with instructions on how to prepare that specific meal.
How To Dehydrate Meat For Camping
Step 1: Make sure your meat is fresh and with low fat. Fat spoils fast, and you don’t want your food to go bad soon before serving the purpose.
Step 2: After that, cut your meat into thin and uniform strips.
Step 3: You can marinate your meat using salt and any other preferred spices. Then refrigerate for 3 hours.
Step 4: Brush off the spices and dehydrate at 145F until they crack but do not over dry. Pat dry and pack as desired. Dehydrate ground meat at the same temperatures.
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All The Food That You Need To Pack For Camping
I understand that personal taste is something to take into consideration. And as I mentioned earlier, how long you intend to camp and what equipment you carry are also factors that can influence your food list. Which is why Ive written down all the best options available, and it is up to you to choose what youll pack for camping.
Need a few recipes for the camping food mentioned in this post? Here is a video that will help you:
What Ingredients Should You Avoid In A Dehydrated Dog Food
Some ingredients should not be in dehydrated dog food. Here is a short overview of what should not be in a high-quality dehydrated recipe:
- Melamine. This is a toxic substance added to dog food to give the impression of more protein. However, it is harmful to your dogs that can lead to kidney failure and even death.
- BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin. These are common preservatives that are added to dog foods to extend their shelf life. However, they can cause various health problems like cancer. Also, ethoxyquin, which is used as a fat preservative, is also utilized as a pesticide.
- Propylene Glycol. This is an additive that is added to the dog food to improve its texture. It helps keep your dogs food moist and primal in texture. This can have long-term health complications on your dogs body.
- Carrageenan. This is commonly used as a thickener that helps maintain the consistency of your dogs food. It is an additive that can lead to GI inflammation and possibly cancer.
- Food Dyes or Corn Syrup. These are added to give color to your dogs food. This serves no purpose other than to make the food look appealing to pet owners.
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Best Lightweight Backpacking Meals
For this round up of the best lightweight backpacking meals, weve mostly focused on nutritious dehydrated dinners and high-calorie freeze-dried meals, including vegetarian, vegan and dairy-free meals, but we have also included one ready to eat option so theres something for everyone. In our view, the four best-tasting brands are Firepot, LYO Expedition, Real Turmat and Summit To Eat with not much to choose between them. But obviously this is down to personal preference and its all very subjective, so your best bet is to order a selection of meals and discover what tastes best to you. Below we list the 10 best backpacking meal brands, and in the reviews we outline our favourite picks from their ranges.
- Firepot Best Lightweight Backpacking Meals
- LYO Expedition
- Wayfayrer Best Ready To Eat Backpacking Meals
- Adventure Food
- Expedition Foods Best High-Calorie Backpacking Meals
- Extreme Food
Meals Tested: Orzo pasta bolognese, posh pork & beans, dal & rice with spinachVital stats: 135g / 510kcal / 3.8kcal per gram / 15mins posh pork and beansBest for: Wild camping, car camping, campervan trips, hiking tripsKey attributes: Environmental packaging, tastes like real food, best taste on test
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Meals tested: Pulled pork with rice, blueberry and vanilla muesliVital stats: 121g / 547kcal / 4.5kcal per gram / 8 mins pulled porkBest for: Campsites, wild camping, a camping treatKey attributes: Unique meals, delicious taste
Advantages Of Freeze Dried Meals For Campers
While freeze-dried and dehydrated foods have many similarities, there are a few reasons campers prefer freeze-dried products.
First, freeze-dried foods were designed to remove as close to 100% moisture as is humanly possible. Dehydrated foods, however, could retain as much as 10 percent moisture content when you buy them. The lower moisture content in freeze-dried foods is the major reason they have a longer shelf life than dehydrated foods.
Further reading: Check out our guide to planning your backpacking meal requirements.
Another advantage freeze-dry foods have over dehydrated foods is that they weigh less. Youll only add a few ounces to your travel kit with freeze-dried food packages. By comparison, many dehydrated food packets are measured in pounds.
The downside to freeze-dried meals though, is the need to carry a backpacking stove and fuel with you to prepare these dishes.
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Important Safety Tips For Campfire Cooking
The campfire is a great way to bring people together and cook food at the same time. But, it can also be one of natures more dangerous creations so here are some tips on how to keep yourself and your family safe while cooking with fires!
Know your regions fire danger forecast and adhere to current rules regarding conditions. Make sure your campsite allows fires. If campfires are not allowed due to dry weather or campground rules, bring a camp stove.
Use the designatedfire pit.
Its preferable to use matches to start your fire. NEVER add lighter fluid to an already lit fire, this can lead to serious burns.
Always use local firewood and start your fires with small items such as twigs, bark, dried leaves and scraps of paper.
Pay attention to wind, the size of your fire, and nearby burnables.
Once your fire is going, never leave it unattended.
In drier weather, have a pan of water and/or sand nearby to assist in putting out any escaped embers.
Always make surechildren and pets are supervised when near the fire. Do not allow burning sticks to be pulled from the fire.
Do not put pans directly on the fire! A grill grate is an excellent choice for a cooking surface. You can cook food directly on it or use it for your pan to sit on.
Use cast iron cookware for even heat distribution and no worries regarding warping.
Best Freeze Dry Food Brands
Here are the top best brands of backpacking foods for camping you may like to try out.
1. Alpine Aire
Alpine is not new in the industry of making freeze-dried backpacking foods. You can buy their meals both online and in specialty shops around you.
Some of the company’s meals include Himalayan Lentils & Rice and Wild Thyme Turkey. The company also makes exciting deserts, dips, and snacks for your camping.
Their meals are pretty straightforward and quick to prepare as you only need hot water to soak them off.
2. Backpacker’s Pantry
It is one top brand for light, nutritious trail meals. The company produces a diversity of meals and flavors. They package their meals into pouches for single servings and large cans for groups.
The good thing about the pouches, you can use them to soak the foods and eat. So no worrying about carrying dishes around. The pouches’ designs allow them to sit on a surface, so you don’t have to worry about falling off.
3. Mountain House
The mountain house company is famous for its home-style prepared American meals. The meals are hearty and have consistent flavors. Their meals are delicious that are easy to make, even in emergencies.
Buy freeze-dried meals from mountain house for your breakfast, dessert, and dinner. Their meals are available both online and in outdoor shops.
4. Mary Janes Farm
5. Packit Gourmet
Their meals are easy to prepare, and you can buy their meals on their website or outdoor shops.
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Heather’s Choice Smoked Sockeye Salmon Chowder
Heather’s Choice is an Alaska-based backpacking food company that specializes in energy-packed meals made from hearty ingredients. Our favorite is the smoked salmon chowder, which is packed to the brim with wild-caught sockeye salmon, as well as potatoes, celery, and carrots. It’s hearty enough for dinner but also makes for a decadent mid-day meal or snack. A single portion of this chowder provides a whopping 39 grams of protein and 490 calories, keeping you full for the adventurous day ahead. Bonus points to Heather’s Choice for the handy measuring scale that comes on the side of every bag, so there’s no confusion regarding the amount of water to use.
How To Dehydrate Meats
Learning to dry your own meat doesnt have to be scary. Lean meats, properly cooked, dehydrated, vacuum-sealed, and stored, can last for months without going bad. Dehydrating your own meats drastically reduces the cost of buying freeze-dried proteins to add to your backpacking meals and reduces pack weight significantly by replacing much heavier packets of tuna, salmon, and chicken.
Keys to Meat-Drying Success:
Use lean meats
Add breadcrumbs to ground meats while browning to help them absorb water later
Use canned or pressure-cooked chicken
Slice cooked meats thinly
Dehydrate meats separately from other ingredients for best results
How Much to Make: Because its easiest, we prefer to cook and dehydrate entire packages of meat or whole fruits and veggies, then use them to make an array of meals . Use a fresh-to-dry equivalency chart to estimate how much of a fresh product you need to start with to end up with an approximate amount of a dry ingredient for specific meals, but theres always a little guess and check involved.
tip: blot your meat to extract moisture before dehydrating
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Best Beef Jerky: Peoples Choice Beef Jerky Old Fashioned Original
When we taste tested 10 top beef jerky brands, our testers agreed that Peoples Choice had the best taste and texture of the bunch.
It was dry without being the least bit tough or chewy, with a deliciously deep beef flavor. One taster said it tastes like a well-done steak, in a good way.
One of our testers regularly makes homemade beef jerky, and said the Peoples Choice tasted remarkably like authentic fresh-from-the-oven jerky.
With an ingredient list of only beef, water, and seasoning, it was also the brand with the cleanest label. It was the only jerky in our test with zero sugars, and it had the highest amount of protein per ounce.
Fruit And Yogurt Parfaits
At home: Wash and chop up several kinds of fruit, and smaller pieces are usually better if intended to go in a parfait. Pineapple, grapes, apples, blueberries, raspberries – just about anything is delicious! If using a fruit that gets brown like apples, dip them in orange juice after chopping and dry on a paper towel . Consider bringing granola or nuts as well.
At camp: Using individually bought yogurt containers will cut down on your cleanup. Simply lay out your tupperware full of fruit and nuts/granola choices and let everyone make their own!
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Option : Dehydrating Your Food At Home
Your food should dry well to avoid spoiling fast. Thus you should ensure to cut all your foods into a uniform size and thickness. There are tools you can use for measurements.
A hand peeler or the tools you have available at home to peel and slice your food into desired sizes. For best results, cut fruits and vegetables in not more than 1/2 inch thick. Meat needs higher temperatures and more time to dry hence you should use thinner slices.
You may prefer to blanch some of your vegetables and meat before placing them in the dehydrator.
Option : Combining Dried Goods
A very simple and easy way to start making your own backpacking meals without doing any cooking is to buy pre-dried ingredients that are readily available in grocery stores. Blend proteins, starches, and spices together to create unlimited combinations.
DRIED FOODS AVAILABLE IN GROCERY STORES:
PROTEINS – Dried proteins are a bit tougher to find in regular grocery stores, but there are some excellent products that you can order ahead of time. Meat Shredz – packets of dried pulled pork – are fairly lightweight, super tasty, and very convenient on the trail. Its also easy to prepare your own using a food dehydrator , or you can order freeze-dried meats from a website like Thrive Life. Buying freeze-dried meats can be a bit expensive, but they are usually a good value since they last almost forever and youll get a lot of servings out of a large can or pouch you buy.
HEAVY BUT EASY PROTEIN ADDITIONS – Another popular, but heavier protein option is to pack summer sausage, chicken, tuna or salmon packets to add to meals on the trail. Nut butters are on the heavy side as well, but they pack a punch of healthy fat and compliment dishes with delicious rich flavor and creamy texture.
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Best Powdered Milk: Carnation Nonfat Dry Milk
After subjecting five people, including myself, to a blind taste test of eight popular powdered milk brands, our results were clear Carnation NonFat Dry Milk is the best tasting powdered milk out there.
Carnation was the clear winner in terms of taste and aftertaste, receiving more 5-star ratings than any other brand. If youre looking for the best powdered milk brand, this is it.
Non Refrigerated Desserts For Camping
Cookies or Brownies
Sweet Apple Sandwiches – Core an apple before cutting it into slices, creating bread for a dessert sandwich. Fill with peanut butter or nutella and chocolate chips, fruit, or nuts.
Smores Nachos – Layer pieces of graham cracker and top with chocolate and marshmallows before heating over the fire or camping stove
Dessert Cones – Fill a waffle cone with chocolates, nuts, marshmallows, fruit, etc before wrapping in foil and heating over the fire
Dessert Pizza – Spread nutella over naan before topping with your favorite sweet topping choices, from chocolate to fruit
Baked Apple Slices – Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over sliced apples before wrapping in foil and heating over the fire
Banana Boat – Cut a slit lengthwise in a banana that still has its peel. Fill the middle with chocolate, peanut butter, nuts, marshmallows, etc before wrapping it in foil and heating it over the fire.
Tortilla Roll Ups – Spread with peanut butter or nutella before topping with chocolates, nuts, fruit, etc. Roll, wrap in foil, and heat over the fire.
Alrighty! We hope this master list of camping food ideas that require no refrigeration or cooler helps you simplify your camping meals! If you think of anything we missed please share it in the comments below.
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