Camper Meal Planning
Eating outdoors is half the fun of camping, but it takes some planning. Consider not only the weight and bulk of the food you carry but also its caloric content (hauling a pack may burn 3,200 to 3,800 calories per day, more than twice what’s needed to swing in a hammock).
Also consider store-ability. Among the foods that won’t spoil if left UN-refrigerated for a few days are hard cheese, hard salami, jerky, sliced carrots and celery, margarine, frozen bagels, and pita bread.
Try new camping foods at home; a campsite is a poor place to discover than an anticipated delight tastes more like sawdust.
Plan major meals in advance and pack all the ingredients in double plastic bags for extra protection. Use color codes to distinguish breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Place colored paper between the inner and outer bags or mark the bags with indelible pens.
If you are tenting, anticipate rainy days when you won’t want to cook outside. Take along a few one pot add-hot-water dinners to heat at the tent door. For cold, rainy mornings, fix a breakfast that doesn’t need cooking. Dried fruit, rich breads, cheese and smoked fish.
Camper meal planning needs to include sweets, right? Indeed! An inexpensive 1-1/2 quart ring mold (for gelatin) and a camp stove can be used to bake quick breads and biscuits. Mix the dry ingredients in a plastic bag at home. Add water in camp; hold the bag shut and mix the contents by squeezing and kneading. Slit the bag slightly and squeeze the batter into the greased mold.
Set the mold on the stove, centering its hole over the burner to avoid burning the dough’s edges adjust the stove to the smallest possible blue flame. Cover with an upside down frying pan or aluminum plate.
If your stove produces only a wide spreading flame, nestle the ring mold inside another of the same size to distribute the heat more evenly. If wind keeps blowing the flame to the side, rotate the stove often.
Baking time depends on elevation but averages 80 percent of the baking time for a package mix. Longer if you remove the cover often to check progress.
For the camper meal planning, know that a lightweight camp stove is faster, cleaner and easier to cook with than a fire. It also causes less wear and tear on the landscape. If you do use a fire, spread the coals out for low, easily controlled heat.
You can devise cooking pots from 1, 2 and 3 pound coffee cans that nest inside each other. Pack pliers to lift the hot cans.
Supermarkets sell many freeze dried foods at about half the prices charged by camping stores. Combine instant macaroni, noodles, or rice with instant soup mix for a satisfying camp meal. Other standbys, such as powdered fruit drinks, instant potatoes, individual oatmeal packets, spaghetti dinners, and puddings work well too.
Remember that freeze dried meat needs more cooking than other ingredients. Place the meat in cold water (20 percent more than the instructions call for) and bring to a boil; then add spices, if called for. Continue boiling for five minutes before adding other ingredients.
Because water boils at lower temperatures in high elevations (about 1 degree per 500 feet), you must boil foods longer. Experiment with cooking times.
Cooking with a stove inside a tent can cause headache, nausea, dizziness or even death from carbon monoxide. In bad weather set the stove just outside the tent door under the rain-fly overhang while cooking from inside the tent. Some tents are designed with vestibules for this purpose.
Caution: Always refuel a stove outside the tent and away from all open flames. And don’t ever throw used fuel containers in the fire.
Food Storage for Camper Meal Planning
- Remove powdered foods from their original containers and re-package small quantities in double plastic bags. Between the two layers, slip in an identification label and the mixing instructions.
- Transfer spices from large containers into clean prescription bottles or plastic film canisters. Label the containers and lids.
- To protect eggs, carry them in a container filled with pancake mix or flour.
- Snowbanks provide cool storage. Put food in secure containers and bury it deeply.
- A stream can serve as a refrigerator. Put the food in well anchored waterproof bags.