Camping Food – Healthy Foods for Backpacking

Pursuing Health and Balance in the Real World.

A healthy lifestyle is all about balance. You cannot eat perfectly 100% of time, and frankly, who the hell would want to. Much of our culture,  celebrations and traditions are established around food. Your healthy lifestyle should never make you feel like you are depriving yourself of the things you enjoy. A balanced life is built around discovering health-promoting foods and activities that enrich your life rather than detract from it. With that being said, if you go camping one time each year just go ahead roast hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire, and drink a few [too many] beers. That is part of life. Enjoy it.

Whole Food and the Great Outdoors.

If you are like me and my fiance, most of our vacations are backpacking or camping trips. So, abandoning my healthy lifestyle every time we travel isn’t practical or desirable. Eating nutrient-dense, minimally processed foods is what makes me feel my best. This is especially important when we are doing something as physically demanding as some of our long distance hiking trips. Because God (and Kevin) knows how unpleasant I am when I don’t feel at the top of my game, and still have to walk 15 miles with my life on my back.  This is why we always bring high quality fuel, and a french press for coffee, because priorities. We try to pack lightly, but we certainly don’t take our camping food lightly.

Tips for Packing Food for the Long Haul.
Protein

My favorites: Wild-caught smoked salmon, tuna packets, grass-fed beef jerky, nut butters, nuts, and eggs.

Tips

  1. Assess the amount of sodium used in processed meats. If you are using something like jerky, smoked sausage or meat sticks as your main protein source consider how many servings you will eat throughout the day. If you are getting more than 20% of your DV of sodium per 1-2 oz. serving  consider diversifying your protein sources.
  2. Sugar is often overlooked when choosing a protein source, but worth considering.  Most smoked and cured meats have some added sugar, so if you are trying to avoid excess processed sugar be sure to read your ingredients and nutrition labels closely.
  3. Let’s talk additives! Nitrates and nitrites are used in many cured and smoked meats. Choose organic, grass-fed and uncured meats without added nitrates/nitrates when possible for the best quality protein sources.
  4. When we are feeling real wild and crazy we bring a 6 eggs. We have an egg holder from REI. Who knew happiness could be purchased for $3.50? Now, in terms of food safety we are toeing the line here. We always eat the eggs as soon as possible within 12 hours of hitting the trail, and have yet to get sick but testing this method might. Using fresh eggs would be a good options since they can be kept at room temperature.
Fruits and Vegetables

My Favorites: Pumpkin chips, kale chips, dried fruits (mango,  pineapple, golden raisins), fresh fruit and fresh vegetables.

Tips
  1. Veggie chips are incredibly light and an excellent way to bulk up the nutrient content of your backpacking menu plan. Things like kale chips come in awkward packing. Try transferring them into a Ziploc bag (the kind with the zipper will stay closed better) that you can re-purpose once they are gone.  Filling the bag with air can help prevent the contents from getting crushed.
  2. Dried fruits are an obvious trail go-to. For whatever reason, manufacturers love to add sugar to the sweetest things in nature. Choose dried fruit that is unsweetened and unsulfured.
  3. Fresh fruit. We usually bring several apples that we eat with nut butter for our first trail snack. Sometimes carrying a little extra weight for several hours is worth eating fresh food.
  4. Fresh vegetables! This is the best tip for supreme camping food. You may think this is crazy, but stay with me. There is something magical about hiking to the top of a mountain, and enjoying a seriously delicious meal while watching the most incredible sunset you have ever seen. I have to give credit to Kevin for this tip. When he first suggested we bring veggies on our trip, I thought he was crazy, but let me tell you, adding fresh veggies to a dehydrated meal really makes it taste 100 times better. Nothing feels classier than chopping up some zucchini and bell peppers on a rock. That is a fact.
Snacks

My favorites: Rx Bars, Bearded Brothers Bars, nut butter with Ezekiel sprouted grain tortillas, Epic trail mix, homemade trail mix, coconut chips, and chocolate covered coffee beans.

Tips

  1. Sitting down for lunch isn’t always practical during long hikes, so high quality, filling snacks is important. Pack several bars that are nutritious and minimally processed. Rx Bars are my favorite because they have an awesome balance of carbohydrate, protein and fat with an impressively small ingredient list. Rx Bars use egg whites as the protein source, which is great because I don’t tolerate whey protein very well. Lara Bars, and Bearded Brothers Bars are tasty whole food bar options. You can also make your own bars!
  2. Nut butter and tortillas make a perfect trail snack. They are incredibly filling, and easy to eat on the go. Be sure to be selective about your options, and read the ingredient lists.
  3. Chocolate. We love chocolate covered coffee beans, because they are made up of everything good in this world. Just be sure to include something delicious, and indulgent to make those miles easier.
  4. Try making your own trail mix. Trail mix was essentially made for this purpose, so capitalize on it! I love using goji berries, chopped up jerky, walnuts, golden raisins, mulberries, pecans, cashews, and coconut.
Dehydrated Meals

These are the simplest things to use for dinner, and have made leaps and bounds in the last 10 years. Pick several that use great ingredients, and have enough calories to fuel the rest of your trip. You can bulk these meals up with smoked salmon or fresh veggies. Topping the Asian options with nuts adds texture and nutrient density.

Healthy Backpacking and Camping Food