One of my favorite things to do in the summer is pack up the car and head to the mountains. My favorite sport is rock climbing, so most summer weekends we're out in the hills pulling ropes (and our bodies!) up climbing walls. There's lots of climbing locally, but sometimes it's nice to get a change of scenery, and unplug. That's where camping comes in! Since our main objective is climbing and not necessary hiking, we almost always car camp (i.e., pack up the car, park it at a camp site, and then pitch out tent a few feet away). Over the years we've honed our camping meal strategy. This has taken time, because most of the classic camping fall backs are out when you follow a mostly Paleo diet: oatmeal, granola bars, sandwiches, hot cocoa mix, and s'mores.
So here is what we've tried and tested over the years! My tips for eating paleo while living out of a tent.
1. If you're going to be camping often, you'll probably want to invest in some camping kitchen gear.
Here's a list of the tools I bring with me to go car camping. Obviously many of these things are too heavy to take backpacking, but it's a good starter list to have in mind. (Please note that the links below are affiliate links. I have used and recommend these products!)
- Cooler to keeps vegetables, proteins, and other food fresh. This is the best cooler I've found (It keeps ice frozen in the desert for several days! Definitely worth the extra pocket change, especially if you can split the cost between a group of campers).
- Camping stove - while I've used the tiny single-burner alpine stoves before, I prefer to be able to boil water for tea and cook breakfast at the same time, so I generally bring my 2-burner propane stove. We recently got an adapter that allow us to use a refillable tank of propane (goodbye little green bottles!)
- A lighter (While my camping stove has a igniter, it doesn't always work in the wind, and back up is needed)
- A pan or two - I recommend a cast iron skillet and a medium sauce pan, each with lids. The sauce pan is good for boiling soups, water for tea, or steaming vegetables. The skillet is good for just about everything else. While cast iron is heavy, I prefer it because a well seasoned cast iron doesn't need to be washed (that's awesome all the time, and extra awesome while camping)
- A Metal spatula or wooden spoon with a flat edge
- A small jar for keeping coconut oil
- A large jug to hold a lot of fresh, clean water
- A knife - we actually retired an old kitchen knife set and made it our camping knife set. They come with plastic blade guards which is really handy when we pack up -- we don't have to wrap the blades in a towel or anything.
- A dish cloth (or two!)
- A french press
- Silverware (sporks are great)
- Mug or thermos (if you bring just mugs, they can double as cups for cold drinks... If you bring just cups, you might burn your hand if you put a hot drink in!)
- Large jug for water for drinking, cleaning, and cooking (fill it up at home)
- Plate or bowl (or just eat straight out of the skillet ... less dishes!)
- A cutting board (I bring a cheap wooden cutting board found at TJ Maxx)
- Trash bag
- Flexibility! (If you're anything like me, you'll forget something and will have to improvise)
2. Breakfast is the easiest for us.
Have we talked about my love for breakfast? Eggs for breakfast in particular. Usually, when I'm camping, it means I'm going to spend my day doing something that requires a lot of energy so getting a solid breakfast is important. Luckily, it's pretty easy to bring eggs along when car camping. I usually pack the eggs in a sturdy egg carton and keep the carton in the cooler.
For me, camping is a way of getting away from everything, and part of that simplicity comes through in my meals. I almost never plan a fancy meal when we're camping. Some weekends, whatever is in the fridge goes into the cooler and whatever ends up in the cooler goes in the skillet to make a luxuriously lazy breakfast for two. And it always tastes amazing, because being in the wilderness has a way of making everything delicious.
I have also made a giant pancake in out skillet, by mashing together bananas and eggs. Yum! Add in some chocolate chips!
Luxuriously Lazy Paleo Camping Breakfast Skillet for Two:
1 four-ounce breakfast sausage
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 white onion
2-3 cups chopped quickly cooking vegetables (TIP: If you know ahead of time what you'll be cooking for each meal, chop your veggies before you leave and put them in a zip lock.)
1. Heat the coconut oil in the skillet. My camp stove only has two heat levels (insanely hot and off), but I do my best to get a medium sized flame.
2. Place the sausage in the skillet and cover. Once it has browned on one side, turn it.
3. Slice the onion, and add it to the hot pan. Slice the vegetables. Once the onions are soft, add them. Put a lid on the skillet and allow the vegetables to cook until soft. Stir occasionally.
4. Once the vegetable are cooked through, use your spatula or wooden spoon to push them (and the sausage) to one side of the skillet. If the pan is dry, add a bit more coconut oil. Crack the eggs into the pan. At this point I often turn off the stove, put the lid on the skillet, and allow the residual heat to cook the eggs.
5. Serve hot with salt and pepper!
3. Lunch on the trail: Keep it simple.
Lunch on the go has to be simple. We usually eat "at the crag" (the base of the rocks you are climbing) between pitches. I find canned fish to be the most satisfying lunch that is easy to eat anywhere. We bring romaine lettuce and make tuna (or salmon, or sardines) wraps, or packets of mustard and create tuna salad.
On longer camping trips, I get sick of eating canned fish every day. On these days I'll bring sliced cheese and hard salami, or nut butter and celery. There are also some grain-free bar options that are great: Epic Bars are pretty dang good, and I'm a fan of LARABARs. The mini ones make for a tasty dessert. Homemade Coconut, Nut Butter, and Honey "No Granola" Bars or almond flour chocolate chip cookies are even better.
I usually pack a bit of trail mix to nibble on, as well as an apple or grapefruit. And water!
4. Flex your creative muscle at dinner.
We have some defaults when it comes to camping dinners. If we have grass-fed burger patties, that's one of the easiest things to whip up, with a side of sautéd sweet potatoes and a cabbage leaf as a wrap.
But over the years, we've gotten more creative with our camping meals:
- We've made some really satisfying curry bowls on the road. Use this Butternut Squash Coconut Curry recipe, but make things easy on yourself by combining the spice blend at home (keep in a small ziplock or jar) and chopping the veggies at home (keep them in ziplocks).
- Have a grill? Assemble these shrimp and pineapple skewers ahead of time, so all you have to do is throw them on the heat.
- Foil packet dinners are great if you are looking to cook directly in the fire. Make it fajita style by wrapping peppers, onions, chicken, and potatoes in foil with salt, pepper, and taco seasonings. Cook until the potatoes are soft (be careful around the fire!)
- Beef korma is easy because it only takes a few ingredients, but half the recipe if you're only cooking for two so that you don't have to deal with leftovers.
- My dad has been know to make Tagine at the camp site. This is a bit too time consuming for me after a day of climbing, but if you plan ahead you can mix together you spices in a single jar, and chop your veggies, making it much easier to cook once you're out in the wilderness
5. Always end things on a sweet note!
This doesn't have to be fancy. My personal favorite: A bottle of wine, a bar of chocolate, and apples are perfect for passing around the camp fire.
But if you are looking to impress, there are some delicious campfire desserts, too:
- Banana Boats: get a banana, and with the peel on slice into it the ling way, and stuff it with chocolate, coconut, nuts, etc. Wrap it in foil and heat it up until the chocolate is fully melted. Unwrap and use a spoon!
- Plan ahead and bring brownies. You can make brownies in a skillet on the stove, too, but I have yet to test this.
- Bring a bowl of truffles, and pass them around.
- Make your own hot cocoa mix.
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