If someone asked me what the single BEST wellness practice for summertime is – I would hands down say it’s camping!
There are SO many ways as to why regular camping trips can be such an important contributor to our wellness routines and help to actually ease anxiety levels (both in the short term and longer term)! However, in order to get the maximum health benefits it’s especially important to be mindful about the types of foods you pack!
That’s why in this blog post I’m sharing ALL my favourite healthy camping food essentials – but before I do – let’s just go over why camping is in fact SO beneficial for our health?
Why Is Camping Such a Health Benefiting Activity:
- By camping you’ll be spending time IN NATURE which has more benefits than one can even quantify! For starters, the forest/ earth contains negative ions which help to to neutralize our bodies. This can go on to help reduce inflammation, pain, and neutralizes free radicles in the body. (1) You can get max ‘grounding‘ benefits by walking barefoot around your campsite 🙂
- You’ll be exposed to a completely new ecosystem to help diversify your microbiome. It’s especially great because you’ll likely be more in touch with the soils around you – which happen to be such an incredibly rich source of beneficial microbes! In fact, soil contains Mycobacterium vaccae which has actually been found to increase serotonin levels – acting like a natural anti-depressant! (2) We really do ‘breath our biomes‘ so spending time in the outdoors, breathing in fresh air is a great way to expose your biome to all sorts of new diversity!
- You get to go back to the basics of survival – food, water, warmth, and connection. It can feel so fulfilling (and very calming) to focus on these primal needs!
- So many of the activities that most camping trips entail are so good for the body, mind, and soul. Camping activities often include lots of walking, swimming, connecting with those around you, laughter, cooking/ food prep, hiking, sitting by the camp fire, and simply witnessing the beauty of nature around you
- In camping we remove ourselves from so many stimulants that can often be anxiety triggering/ not great for our health – whether it be taking a break from work, the news, social media, excessive caffeine/ refined sugars, EMF, wifi, television, or so on… taking a break from these inputs can help bring our nervous systems back to a place of balance
- You have an opportunity to drink fresh water (as opposed to chlorinated tap water) and delicious nourishing foods (just wait until you read below for inspo)!
Okay so now that we’re all clear as to *some* of the many ways that camping can be incredibly beneficial for our health – let’s discuss what the best healthy camping meals can be!
Healthy Meals for Camping
Okay, let’s get one thing straight – you CAN eat amazing, nutritious, and delicious food while camping! I think a lot of people have the impression that the only thing you can eat while camping is like hot dogs or ultra processed foods – and this is simply not true!
You can in fact bring all sorts of fresh wholesome foods with you! With a little bit of planning and pre-prep you might even find yourself eating better while camping than you do back home!
There are typically 2 types of camping most people do:
- Car camping: this is great because you can bring a cooler and ice with you which means the amount of fresh stuff you can bring is essentially limit-less 🙂
- Backpacking: this is when it gets trickier to bring fresh foods because everything you eat you must carry on your back. However, you’d be surprised what you can come up with if you’re keen to get creative! Anywhere you see a * it indicates a meal you can bring on a backpacking trip as well as a car camping trip. Dehydrated meals are also super helpful for this type of camping. I share my top 2 brand recos for these below as well!
– Oatmeal*: For breakfast my camping go-to is almost always oatmeal! I love oatmeal because it’s light and easy to pack, you can cook it with just water in a pan, and you can add nearly any topping to it! Typically I’ll pack whole rolled oats and then top with raisins, walnuts, peanut butter or almond butter, and if I’m lucky and berries are in season – I’ll pick some local berries to go on top like salmon berries or blackberries. I also love serving with some almond milk (if you have access to a cooler) and a sprinkle of some granola on top (like Granola King)
– Egg Veggie Hash: if you’re backpacking eggs aren’t ideal but for car camping they make for an incredible protein rich breakfast option. I like using onion, black beans, yams (can pre-cook for ease), and bell pepper and then scrambling some eggs to make a veggie hash. Top with some avocado and/or natural ketchup and you’re good to go!
– Rye bread with nut butter and hemp hearts:* This is a great option for a quick and simple breakfast – I love sprinkling a touch of honey and even some sliced bananas on top if not backpacking (bananas are not a good backpacking option). If you’re car camping and have the time for something more elaborate – avocado, eggs, and sea salt on rye bread is a great go to (and relatively simple as well)!
– Blueberry Sweet Potato Muffins (gf & refined sugar free)*: this recipe is a go to for me! Such a great thing to pre-prep before you leave and top with some nut/ seed butter for quicker breakfasts or mid morning snacks
– Pancakes: YES you can have pancakes while camping! The beauty of camping is that you typically have a lot of time on your hands so having a slower pancake morning breakfast feels sooo good! I’ll typically pre make the dry ingredients (I do oat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and sea salt) and then bring the wet ingredients like almond milk, egg, and banana. There are tons of great recipes online for these types of panacakes. Don’t forget the maple syrup 🙂
– For lunch I love doing simple snacky foods/ charcuterie spreads – some of my faves include:
- Edward & Sons Brown Rice Crackers
- Mary’s Crackers
- Red pepper jelly
- Miyokos vegan cheese (great because a little more shelf stable than traditional cheese) or other nut based cheeses
- Smoked tofu (so great to chop up for some protein)
- Salami – we get an amazing Bison salami from Whole Foods
- Hummus – homemade or Sunflower Kitchen Organic is great
- Fresh veg like: cherry tomatoes, carrots, & cucumber
– Soup: pre-prepped soups are an amazing option for lunch! I love serving with some bread or pita. You can either make your own and pop it in the cooler or here a few great brands to check out:
- Happy Planet: some contain dairy so be sure to read ingredients closely if you’re avoiding dairy!
- Kit’s Kitchen: many delicious flavours – local to Vancouver
- Amy’s Kitchen*: canned soups great for a non refrigerated option. Can be good for backpacking but will pack on extra weight
- Maya Kaimal Indian Foods*: more of a curry than soup but SO delicious!
- Dehydrated soups* (see brand recos below)
– Veggie Wraps*: I love using the Indian Life wraps and stuffing with hummus, cucumber, lettuce, roasted chickpeas (can pre-roast at home) and/or smoked tofu – this combo tastes great topped with a little dressing inside like Little Creek – I highly recommend bringing some along 🙂 For a different take you can also do canned salmon inside the wrap with veggies of choice. I recommend opting for salmon instead of tuna as many tuna species are highly over fished and can contain high levels of mercury.
– Pre-prepped Quinoa Salad: this is a great option if you want to have quicker lunches while camping and you have access to a cooler. I love doing a Mexican inspired quinoa salad with corn, black beans, cilantro, bell peppers, and yams – or else I’ll use this recipe for a simple veggie quinoa salad. If you assemble everything at home and bring in containers it makes for a super simple meal. Quinoa is a complete protein so makes for a great grain to bring camping to help keep blood sugars stabilized.
– Pasta*: is it even camping if you don’t have pasta? I love opting for Chickapea noodles as they’re loaded with protein and fibre, and then using a simple store bought organic tomato sauce, tempeh, and spinach or arugula. Sort of like this recipe but simplified. You can also buy pesto or make your own – to bring a long instead of tomato sauce.
If you’re backpacking you can bring a can of tomato paste so it’s lighter and then thin it down with water when you’re cooking – if you add some cane sugar, salt, and garlic (or garlic powder) it can go a long way in terms of flavour – but if you can’t bring these – the good news is nearly everything tastes amazing while backpacking
– Burritos*: these win the award for my all time favourite camping meal! We stuff with Amy’s Refried beans, lettuce, cilantro, sautéd onion and pepper, and salsa or tomato. We love also adding Very Good Butchers Taco Stuffer for some extra protein and flavour (however unfortunately they are not gluten free).
– Protein & Potatoes: using a high quality animal protein (like a pasture raised chicken sausage or a filet of wild fish) with potatoes, onions, and cherry tomatoes makes for such a delicious meal! Some people do this in tin foil however I try to avoid tin foil at all costs because it’s technically a neurotoxin. Instead you can cook over the fire in a cast iron pan or on your camp stove. Pre-boiling the potatoes and keeping cold in the cooler until you’re ready to re-heat makes things go quicker! If you can bring some salt, paprika, and cumin to flavour the veggies/ fish with – it makes it ultra delish!
– Veggie burgers*: buying store bought veggie burgers (I like bean based ones) and bringing buns, tomato, lettuce, ketchup, mustard, and some red onion is an amazing camp meal! It’s so quick to cook the veggie patties over the fire (or on your camp stove) and then all you have to do is assemble your burgers! If you’re backpacking – I’ve found that Very Good Butchers burgers are relatively okay out of the fridge for a few days because they are plastic wrapped (although don’t quote me on this as I believe they are intended to stay refrigerated)
– Veggie Stir fry with Lotus Noodles:* If you buy the individual packets of Lotus Noodles they have a little miso inside which is actually delicious! I then love adding a scoop of tahini, sautéd zucchini, onion, and kale. For protein I’d recommend tempeh, vegan or animal sausage (see below), or wild fish if you can keep it cold for long enough 🙂 If you’re backpacking just doing the noodles with the miso packet and some vegan sausage is yummy and minimizes some weight.
NOTE: * indicates a meal you can bring on a backpacking trip as well as a car camping trip
Notable Product Mentions for Meals:
- The Very Good Butchers Vegan Sausages
- Maya Kaimal Indian Foods – they’re packaged curry dishes/ soups and are honestly SO delicious and flavourful – I love the chana masala – SO easy to heat up over a camp stove for quick lunches or dinners!
- Smoked Tofu – brands vary depending on where you live – but if you’re a close to Salt Spring I can’t recommend Soya Nova enough!
- Lotus Food Noodles – honestly a game changer when it comes to camping! They have single serve ramen packs that include the miso flavouring packets as well as larger packages of noodles (which don’t contain the miso). They also have little ‘cup of ramen’ to where you just need to add water (like a healthy Mr. Noodles). And best of all – they’re gluten free and organic!
- Chickapea Noodles – the perfect protein and fibre rich camping noodle!
- Indian Life Wraps: I love the spinach or masala flavours to make burritos/ lunch wraps with
- Unbuns – I don’t often buy as they aren’t organic but love them for camping because they contain some extra protein and healthy fats, are gluten free, and are honestly VERY delicious!
- Mac & Cheese: if you’re looking for a little indulgence/ child hood nostalgia – Annie’s has you covered with organic Mac & Cheese – gluten free and vegan options are available too! Such a fun meal to eat around the camp fire
- Amy’s Kitchen Canned Goods: from refried beans to soups – they’ve got so many delicious organic products that are perfect for camping!
- Dried fruit: I love dried mango, pineapple, apricots, dates, and raisins – just be sure whatever one’s you’re buying don’t contain extra added sugar
- Trail mix: my fave combo is walnuts, pumpkin seeds, cashews, sunflower seeds, almonds dried cherries and dried mulberries- you’ve got to try it!
- Prana products: I love the Kilimanjaro mix
- Hornby Island Granola Bars
- Homemade Bliss Balls – I’ve got tons of recipes you can check out here
- Mid Day Squares: the Peanut Butta flavour is my all time fave!
- Nomz Bliss Balls: great if you don’t have time to make bliss balls at home!
- Carrots or rice crackers and organic hummus
- High quality jerky (there are good vegan brands as well as ethical meat brands) check out Patagonia Provisions
- Organic dark chocolate – a daily essential for me!
- S’mores!!! Opt for the brands pictured below to make the best s’mores ever that just so happen to be gluten free and vegan (all purchased from Whole Foods Market)
Other ‘Extras’ To Bring:
- Don’t forget your fave morning beverage – trust me you’ll enjoy it even more than normal when camping. I recommend making French Press coffee if you’re a coffee drinker. You can find a stainless steel french press to avoid having to bring glass to your campsite.
- Chamomile tea (or your fave herbal tea) – perfect to sip by the fire in the evenings
- Hot chocolate mix – I love Harmonic Arts 5 Mushroom Drinking Chocolate
- Almond/ Nut Milk – most are shelf stable before opening but after that must be kept in the cooler
- Oil for cooking – I recommend bringing some avocado oil because of it’s high smoke point and some olive oil for dressing salads/ veggies
- Honey – I’m a huge fan of honey and love adding it to my tea in the mornings. I also feel like there’s always something you come up with that could use a bit of raw honey
- Sea salt – if you’re a salt lover like me – don’t forget the sea salt!
You’ll definitely want to bring all the basics to cook with – which in my mind includes:
- A sharp knife for chopping (2 is helpful if you’re camping with multiple people)
- A cutting board (although you can find some old pieces of wood to make one out of it’s always best to have one on hand)
- At least 2 pots – I reserve one specifically for tea/ drink water and one for cooking (this way your food flavours don’t taint the flavour of your tea/ coffee)
- A cast iron pan (SO helpful if you’re not backpacking/ needing to carry too far)
- A wooden spoon for stirring
- A metal spatula for flipping
- A stove! If you can bring a propane 2 burner cooktop that’s amazing! I also recommend the ‘Pocket Rocket‘ stove for heating water or quicker 1-2 person meals like soups – it’s incredibly efficient, compact, and light – I don’t camp without it!
- A lighter or matches – don’t forget these!
- Serving bowls, plates, spoons, forks, and knives (enough for all campers)
- Cups for drinking (I usually bring enamel mugs or my to go Yeti coffee mug and then drink water from my Nalgene
- A metal grate for cooking over the fire – if you have one of these it can be a GAME CHANGER when it comes to camp cooking – however if not, it’s no big deal as long as you have a propane camping stove
Other Camping Supplies:
- The best 1-2 person tent: MSR Elixir 2
- Water filter: we use a Steri Pen – I cant verify this is the best option out there but it’s relatively quick and has always worked well for me!
- All natural bug spray (mec has some)
- Cards – so fun for playing!
- Zinc Based Sunscreen – I love Super Goop Zinc Screen for my face
- Warm down feathered sleeping bag – an investment you will not regret if you become a regular camper!
Back Packing Meals:
I tend to avoid dehydrated foods unless absolutely necessary (a sacrifice to carry the extra weight but depending on the difficulty of the hike I’m usually willing to do so if it means fresher food ) however, if you’re looking for some good brand reco’s these are the 2 I recommend:
Okay friends, there we have it – a compilation of ALL my fave camping foods (and essentials) to make for your healthiest camping trip!
I love camping because it reminds us that at the end of the day it’s the basics that are most important in life – good food, shelter, water, warmth, and those we spend our time with.
I hope this blog posts encourages you to get out to enjoy some camping/ nature time this year and reminds you that you CAN bring healthy nutritious foods camping and have an incredible time enjoying them!