Dense cereal--oatmeal and farina as opposed to Rice Krispies--and powdered dried milk get active people through the morning and take little space. Hotcakes and biscuits made from dry mix and water add variety. If you have an ice chest, add breakfast meats and eggs. Some fresh fruits last a week without refrigeration, as long as they aren't crushed. Take plenty of durable condiments, such as salt, pepper and sugar. Butter, syrup, oil and jam also can travel in watertight containers.
Meat eaters enjoy hard sausage for the first day or two of unrefrigerated camping. Hard cheese lasts longer, although high temperatures melt it, so pack cheese carefully in watertight containers. Nutritious nut butters star in later lunches. Gather jelly or honey packets from a restaurant to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the spot. Crusty, unsliced bread lasts up to four days, even in summer's heat. After that, all sorts of crackers and dense bread--square, black, pre-sliced Jewish, Russian or deli rye loaves--take over. Don't ignore tortillas, good for up to a week, depending upon daytime temperatures. Pack them in a shallow plastic storage container.
Chips occupy a lot of space and get crushed. They are best eaten on the day you drive to your destination. Instead, for lunchtime crunch, carrots last about a week in Ziploc bags, as long as you air dry them every day. Celery, jicama and sweet potato or yam make a change, too. Celery lasts two days or so, the others longer.
Fruits in their own jackets--apples and oranges--finish lunch. For the first day, pears are good. For two or even three days, if you coddle them, bananas. Sturdy stone fruit--plums and nectarines as opposed to peaches and apricots--also are delicious. Pack them while still hard.
With all the available activities, the main cooked meal of the day may lose priority. This is a good time to use prepackaged food, avoiding those in cans or jars in favor of dried products. Powdered soup is easy and delicious. Eat it as directed, or add additional rice, potato or dried vegetables. Parboiled ("minute") rice is excellent when cooked in powdered broth or bouillon. Many people rely heavily on pasta for the evening meal. Other grains--quinoa is a complete protein, for example--make dinner anything but boring.
Add freeze-dried meat or fish, if you like. Vegetable additions and sauces can be made and dehydrated at home or bought from camping supply stores. The supermarket carries a number of whole meals-Rice-a-Roni to curry--that need only water and heat to make a satisfying main dish. Herbs and spices occupy little space and provide infinite variety. Fruit and vegetables that work for lunch also work for dinner. Some cookies also travel well: ginger snaps are durable and spicy.
There is no substitute for water on a camping trip. It should be the major liquid consumed, but there is no need to forgo tea and coffee. Also, many athletic types need electrolyte solutions, especially in the heat of summer. These come in one-serving packets or small plastic jars. Buy hot cocoa in single serving envelopes or mix your own from cocoa powder, sugar and dry milk. It's a super bedtime treat if the latrine is nearby.
Trail mix gives energy and a taste boost. Buy some of the commercial packets or make your own from nuts, seeds, coconut and dried fruit. Fruit leather has vitamins as well as flavor. If you own a food dehydrator, purée and dehydrate single-vegetable leather or mixtures, such as beets and apples. Dates are candy in an edible jacket.
Hard candy doesn't melt and gives a nice boost. Almonds and cashew meats filling. Alcoholic beverages are a possibility for those camping close to a trailhead and willing to store and pack out the empties. Buy wine or spirits in single-serving bottles. Beer is handier, since cans easily crush.
Sample Menus for Three Days
For breakfast, serve oatmeal with sesame seeds, almonds and dried cranberries, a pear and tea. Lunch might be a salami and lettuce sandwich, celery and jicama sticks, a banana, cookies and an electrolyte drink. A dinner of dried turkey hash and raw vegetables uses bulky fresh veggies in both the entrée (potatoes) and side dish, but takes little effort to prepare. During the day, munch on snacks like trail mix and peanut butter crackers and take an herb tea break. Treat yourself to raspberry hard candy and hot cocoa before bed.
Vary the morning meal: today, have granola, dried milk, an orange and coffee. For lunch, make a cheese sandwich with carrot and yam sticks, an apple and an electrolyte drink. A dinner of Indian curried chickpeas, rice and raw vegetables will perk up your taste buds. Snack on trail mix and herb tea. Bread and hot cocoa is an old-time bedtime treat.
Pancake mix still should be in good supply. Make a breakfast of pancakes with honey and hot cocoa. Lunch might be an almond butter and dried cranberry sandwich, an apple and electrolyte drink. For dinner use the remaining potato, add carrot, soup mix and spice mix, and eat this stew with biscuits. Celebrate Friday night with a dessert of reconstituted dried mango purée and ginger snaps. Snacks: beet-apple leather and crackers make a change from trail mix and give a good boost of energy. Since dinner was fuller than usual, chewing gum and herb tea while you enjoy the evening may suffice.
Sample Food Packing List for Eight Days, One Person
As breakfast food, pack three cups of oatmeal, pre-mixed with seeds and fruit (three meals); four cups of granola (three meals); and three cups pancake and biscuit mix (two breakfasts, two batches of dinner biscuits).
Assemble eight apples, one pear, two bananas, three stone fruit, twelve dates, 1/2 cup dried mango, four rolls of fruit or beet leather. Vegetables for the week consist of five carrots, one jicama, three stalks of celery, one onion, three yams, three potatoes and half a head lettuce (eat it on the first Saturday night and first Sunday noon).
A 12 oz. stick of hard salami, 8 oz. of the hardest available cheese and one mesh bag of semi-soft cheese in wax balls (Bon-Bel or similar product), one pill tube of peanut butter and one of almond butter will fill a week's sandwiches. Add a baguette, two loaves Russian deli rye, one sandwich-size plasticware container filled with six to eight tortillas and one regular-sized box of crackers.
Take 2 cups of parboiled ("Minute") rice, 1 cup of pre-rinsed quinoa, one two-serving package of an Indian meal, a 2 oz. package of turkey jerky and three dried soup mixes.
Condiments to get you deliciously through a week are: six honey packets, salt, pepper, herb-spice mixture, sugar, six mustard packets, six soy sauce packets and six bouillon cubes.
You will eat about six cups of trail mix, drink three cups of homemade hot cocoa mix and use eight tea bags, three-quarters of a cup of ground coffee and 12 servings of electrolyte granules. Don't forget an eight-day supply of food supplements and medication and, for treats, 1 cup of almonds 30 pieces of hard candy, two packs of chewing gum and 12 cookies.
Tips & Warnings
Stack crackers in emptied, waxed cardboard one-quart milk cartons.
Carry salt, sugar and herb-spices in plastic prescription medicine tubes. Check that the tubes are watertight by filling them with water and inverting overnight on a dry saucer. If the saucer remains dry, your food will stay inside the tube.
Double-bag food in Ziploc bags. The extra bag saves your food and what is packed around it and provides a sealable trash container.
Do not risk food poisoning. Take properly packaged food; keep containers sealed as long as possible; and safely dispose of leftover ingredients and prepared meals.