After moaning for weeks about how long winter lasts, spring is finally here! We’ve had a few warm days and I find my mind drifting to the woods. We’re lucky to have so much wilderness around us, so that an overnight trip can happen on a whim without too much planning. As long as your gear is set to go, so are you.
I’ve heard a lot of disparaging remarks about camping food over the years, but I for one always thoroughly enjoyed mine. It may be true that “hunger is the best sauce,” and any meal would be welcome after a day of hiking or canoeing, but a little planning ahead can make you the envy of passers-by snacking on Clif Bars and GORP. Okay, I love GORP too, but let’s think outside of the tent here, people! Here are my top best for indulging on the trail. I hope you enjoy them, and please share your favorite camp meals in the comment section.
Fruit and Veg
Being on the trail is no excuse for shirking your fresh food intake. A lot of veggies and fruit don’t travel super well (I’m looking at you, bananas!), so it’s just a matter of choosing wisely:
Potatos and Yams- Hearty enough to survive a little banging around in your pack. Great for short trips, but heavy if you’re going far.
Bell Peppers- Remain largely usable even if they bruise or split. Store them in an inverted camp pot to save space and protect them.
Onions and Garlic- These can take a little abuse, and they make (almost) everything taste better.
Carrots- Are these things invincible? Pretty close.
Apples- Choose firm varieties, like Granny Smith or Gala.
Starches and Carbs
Save the more complicated meals for breakfast and dinner – bagels and tortillas make great foundations for mid-day breaks. A word to the wise: If your tortillas have been squished together, gently bend the whole pile (still in the bag) back and forth and it should loosen them up.
Oats- It’s easiest to measure out quantities per meal, so make separate bags (I like to use the veggie bags from the grocery store) for each breakfast. Put the cinnamon, falxseed, dried coconut, raisins and any other dry topping you want to include right in there with the oats for space and convenience.
Simple Bread Mix– Premix the dry ingredients for a simple bread (flour, salt, baking powder) and portion it into small bags per meal. Add water to make it the desired consistency, for pancakes, bannock, or simple cinnamon buns.
When you’re burning a lot of calories, it’s important to take in enough protein. Depending on how long your trip is, you’ll want to bring a few of these along for variety.
Red lentils – Light, delicious and fast-cooking.
Tofu – This should keep for a few days as long as the package is sealed. Silken Tofu, which comes in tetra packs, will keep indefinitely.
Nuts – Great for snacking on or adding to oatmeal and stir-fries.
Peanut Butter – You can throw a small jar into your pack, or use a small watter bottle lined with a plastic bag to carry as much or as little as you want.
Cheese – For extra indulgence on longer trips, I like to bring along cheese. If you soak some cheese-cloth (or a J-cloth) in white vinegar, squeeze it out and wrap it around the cheese, it will keep it from going bad. The texture will change for the worse, so this will be best melted into dishes rather than eaten on its own.
Fiddleheads – This delightful springtime delicacy will be popping up any day now. Harvest them when they are 1-2 inches from the ground, and still tightly curled. Remove the papery covering, and make sure you cook them properly before eating them. More details on which types are edible and how to prepare them here.
Berries – While blueberries may be the most obvious choice, don’t overlook the other berries that grow wild. Check out Northern Bushcraft for a fairly comprehensive list for the region.
Mushrooms – You have to be careful when picking your own mushrooms, as some can be poisonous; never eat a mushroom you cannot positively identify. Learning about which native species are edible can be very rewarding though. Chanterelles, which pack an incredible amount of Vitamin D, are my favorite. These can be found in summer and fall, in the sparse, mossy forests where faeries would live.
Tree Teas – Cedar Tree is a staple of the Mi’qmaq diet, and has been known to fight off scurvy due to its high levels of Vitamin C. Pick the youngest, greenest cedar branches for best results. Bring a small handful to a boil in fresh water and let steep for a few minutes. Spruce Tea and Labrador Tea are also high in Vitamin C and make for a great treat on a cool evening in the woods.
The key to any good camping meal. Pack small baggies of your go-to spices and seasonings, and nb- slip-knots are your friend. I also bring the following:
Salt, Ground Black Pepper, Chili Powder, Cinnamon, Turmeric, Cumin, Tarragon, Basil, Coriander, Crushed Red Pepper, Brown Sugar (for oatmeal and simple-syrup for pancakes), Chocolate Chips, Curry Powder, a small bottle of vanilla extract, hot-sauce.
Planning meals out ahead of time will ensure that you have enough food to see you through your trip, and that you have all the ingredients and spices you need. For easiest sorting, separate ingredients for each meal into their own bags (i.e. if you plan to make pancakes, cinnamon buns and bannock, bring three separate bags of dry bread mix). My favorite camp meals: campfire dahl, peanut stir-fry, lazy pierogies (broken lasagna noodles, potatoes and cheese melted together – don’t judge until you try!).