Top 10 Camp Food Alternatives for Outdoor Adventures

by Justyna Frank
real food camp food

In which we present some of our favorite real food alternatives to “camp food”.

I absolutely despise energy bars. While I have been enticed to try, and even slightly enjoyed, small morsels when offered as samples at trade shows, there is literally nothing I find less appetizing while on a long bike ride, hike, or other vigorous outdoor pursuit.

Energy bars and packaged camp food have their place as convenient fuel on long treks or in emergency situations. But a big part of what I enjoy about strenuous outdoor activities is the reward of a delicious, fresh air meal. Real food offers more gustatory pleasure, fewer additives, and often better nutrition than the packaged meals. Plus, it’s fun to make if you add cooking as a component of your microescape.

We usually bring food that can be enjoyed cold, or easily heated using some of our favorite outdoor cooking methods. Here are ten of our favorite go-to camp food alternatives.

  1. Smoked Polish sausage. In Chicago, there’s no shortage of places you can purchase a wide variety of this delicacy (choose a brand that doesn’t have added MSG). It travels well, is delicious cold with a little mustard, and incomparable heated on a stick over open fire. Don’t pack it in plastic; wrap in parchment or a dry paper towel.
    NOTE: If the real thing is not available in your area, don’t settle for chemical-laden packaged varieties. Pre-cook a nice Italian sausage or brat, cool it, and bring that along instead.
  2. Hard boiled eggs. A staple, especially delicious with the Polish sausage. Or you can tuck in a few pieces of pre-cooked bacon.
  3. Grilled or roasted chicken also travels well. It makes a delicious protein-packed cold lunch, or you can easily reheat it and combine with other pre-cooked ingredients (white or sweet potatoes, onions, peppers, mushrooms) if you have the time.
  4. Home made chili, stew or spaghetti. When cooled overnight in your fridge, it is thick enough not to spill in your pack while you’re traveling, and is super-easy to quickly reheat when you get to your destination.
  5. Vegetarian curry packets available in the ethnic section of most supermarkets are another option if you didn’t plan ahead to pre-cook something to bring with you. They are easy to carry, and you can reheat them in hot water (not boiling) right in the bag. You can bring along some packaged pre-cooked rice to go with it.
  6. Avocado. We pack a little salt and lime, and mash an improvised minimalist guacamole right in the avocado half-shell.
  7. Sourdough bread. Excellent, non-crumbly, chewy companion to any of the above. Retains flavor and texture even after a couple of days on the road. Wrap in paper before putting it in plastic. If you wanna get fancy, a wonderful addition to an improvised outdoor sandwich is a small portion of treats from a grocery olive bar.
  8. Potato salad made with oil and vinegar dressing instead of mayo. Great alone, or as an accompaniment for many of the items above. Cooled potatoes are packed with nutrition, and contain beneficial resistant starch, a carbohydrate that resist digestion in the small intestine and ferments in the large intestine, a process that is awesome for your internal microbiome.

  9. Nut butter, and something to put it on: apple slices, dates, celery or not-too-ripe banana. BTW, did you know that dates are awesome stuffed with small chunks of sharp cheddar or gruyere cheese? You’re welcome!
  10. Dark chocolate.

Seriously, who needs pre-made camp food, when reading this list is enough to make your mouth water? One of the benefits of short microescapes is that you can bring virtually any food, without risk of spoilage, and dispense with pasty camp food altogether.

What is your favorite real camp food to bring along??

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