Beginner’s guide to healthy camping.

Eating while back country camping is a food challenge for sure. I like to stay flexible in my eating, not so rigid that I can’t enjoy life. But, even a half day of dehydrated camping meals serve as a reminder of why dehydrated food doesn’t cross over into the mainstream. The amount of salt in one bite of most bagged camping food will exceed your expectations.

I have only really camped twice. The recent trip was Joshua Tree National Park, a beautifully stark desert in Southern California. We drove pretty deep into the park and then hiked in another 2 miles or so, to a majestic rock formation with a flat area that was perfect for pitching a tent. I get excited to camp because freedom is a constant companion. You have what you brought. And you can use what you understand. I suggest a knowledgeable camping partner to start with – I have a good one. And I suggest a 3 day, 2 night trip. Long enough to totally relax, but short enough to make it happily.

Gorgeous weather graced our stay, along with a brightly colored (very) large lizard and a crazy dirt devil phenomenon that popped up out of no where. A dirt devil, as it was labeled for me, resembles a mini tornado that houses a bunch of very heady energy. While cutting through the land, heading towards our entry trail, we heard this aggressive swirling noise accompanied by one bush, among a million bushes, that moved like it just saw a spider on its twig. Then the aforementioned tornado, rushed out of the bush and it was off with seemingly huge plans before it just as quickly dissolved into nothing. We were left feeling a rush, simultaneously relaying our version of the story to each other. Becoming self-aware, we glanced to the right to find a completely unfazed jackrabbit with his naturally enormous ears chewing dry desert grass, unimpressed, thinking, “silly campers.”

My number one beginner’s three day camping recommendation would be to stick to one dehydrated meal a day. And if you are heading to the desert, plan to eat it for dinner. Try not to get overzealous. The dehydrated meals are dried foods that only require the addition of boiling water to their bags. They include entrees such as, chili  or beans & rice. Not well-represented under the shadeless desert sun, these warm salty meals settle better after the sun goes down. However, we have found one relatively delicious variety of back country food called Mary Jane’s Outpost. The meals are all organic. They are, of course, below the standards of home-cooked traditional foods, but they are leaps and bounds better than other brands of dehydrated camping food.  Perhaps the most important swap in her ingredients is the use of sea salt instead of table salt. Table salt can cause an imbalance in your body, that is immediately evident when you feel like a stuffed tick after eating the other brands of dehydrated meals. It makes a huge difference.

Aside from your dry meals, try attaching a small bag of apples, dried fruit, dehydrated nuts and the healthiest meal bars that you can find to the outside of your backpack. It will make your hike in a little heavier, but your excited anticipation helps carry it.  Soaked Granola, like Really Healthy Granola, is a great breakfast. Also, think jerky – beef or salmon.  Unfortunately, these are also salty, but a little goes a long way with jerky and having animal protein available is a nice luxury. If you aren’t backcountry camping, I’d suggest a few tins of tuna or sardines.  But, I wouldn’t take them backcountry because without a trash can, the smell would attract animals and repel your camping partner!

Also, I bring green tea. Bring a couple flavors for fun. Tea is an event. You can hike to a nice high spot, boil some water and sip tea while the sun heads out for the night.

Camping simply reconnects my spirit with nature and the rhythms of the sun. Even if I ate the worst food ever, I come home refreshed, refocused and happy. My brain just can’t help but try to evolve the food conditions within any circumstance. Silly brain.

xo – Organic Spark

One comment


  • madness rivera

    Nice to see that John has been elavated to knowledgeable camping partner .

    That photo of you is classic! Mmm, dehydrated black bean chili . . .

    April 28, 2008

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