The Importance of Nonperishable Food
Nonperishable foods will be able to weather the extreme conditions you're likely to encounter on an extended camping trip but still maintain their nutritional value without spoiling. Even if you're car camping and have a cooler filled with ice to keep perishable foods cold, most campers know that the ice won't last long. Once it melts, your perishables will become waterlogged or succumb to the heat and begin to go bad. The good news is that there are many nonperishable foods that are easy to pack and taste great, so you can still have great meals around the campfire.
Typically perishable foods can be preserved indefinitely in sealed cans or jars until you're ready to eat them on the trail. Because canned food isn't exactly lightweight, it's usually best for car camping meals. If you're backpacking and are at all concerned about the weight of your pack, skip the canned food and pack freeze dried meals instead (more on that below.) Canned food that makes a great camping meal includes canned chili, canned soup and canned tuna fish. Don't forget to pack a can opener.
Fruits, vegetables and meats are all perishable foods that can be dried. When a food is dried the water is removed from it, inhibiting the ability for yeast, mold and bacteria to grow. Food can be dried at home using an electrical dehydrator or you can purchase dehydrated food at the grocery store. One of the many benefits of bringing dried food on a camping trip is that it is lighter and takes up less space that it does in its original form.
Freeze-dried foods are fully cooked and, if sealed to keep moisture out, will last indefinitely on a camping trip. Freeze-dried foods are precooked, so all you have to do is add hot or cold water, wait a few minutes, then eat. All of the pre-packaged backpacking meals for sale at outdoor retailers are freeze-dried and they come in a surprising variety of flavors, from beef stroganoff to pad thai to chicken and dumplings. Another benefit to freeze-dried meals is that they are often calorie dense and have a good dose of sodium. While that's not something most of us are looking for in the food we eat day to day, it's a benefit out on the trail where you're probably burning a lot of calories and losing salt due to sweating.
Nuts are nonperishable and light-to-carry, making them a great food to pack on a camping or backpacking trip. Typically high in fat and calories, they can provide a much-needed energy boost on the trail and will keep you feeling full longer than if you were to consume quick-burning carbohydrates. Nuts are also high in nutrients and fiber, making them a healthy option, too. For a sweet treat, pack a bag of trail mix on your next adventure.