Cooking in Camp: Food on the Trail
Camping is a fun way for you to get in touch with nature, while spending time with your family and friends. Take some time to get away from the stresses of your daily life (and technology’s constant reminders of the things you need to do) and enjoy the present. Aside from being able to get away for a while, camping is great because it’s inexpensive and, regardless of where you live, you don’t have to travel far if you don’t want to.
While camping, many people like to hit the trails in search of waterfalls, mountain vistas, or wildlife. Not sure where to go? There are more than 400 national parks in the U.S.—as well as a plethora of state parks—so there is likely a location that fits your family’s interests near you.
But, before you head out on the trails, be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks for everyone. It’s important to stay hydrated while hiking and a well-timed snack can keep you level-headed and safe.
Instead of loading up on overpriced, individually packaged energy bars and single-serve trail foods, why not make your own snacks? With a little advance planning, you can make foods that are healthier for you than store-bought—and can also cut down on the amount of waste. If you are trying to get in touch with nature, it makes sense to be as green as possible on your trip!
At home = more vitamins and minerals
If your family is big on hiking, consider investing in a food dehydrator if you don’t already have one. This handy kitchen device allows you to make your favorite trail snacks—but as much healthier versions than if you bought them in the store.
- Jerky treats aren’t just for your dog: Jerky, whether beef, turkey, or venison, is packed with protein. This makes it a fantastic trail snack. Plus, it doesn’t need to be kept cold since it has been dehydrated. Long hikes require packing as light as possible to conserve your energy, so you don’t want to haul around a cooler to carry your snacks. Hiking is an active sport, so make sure you’re putting the healthiest foods in your body. Making your own jerky at home can greatly reduce the sodium content and remove the artificial additives and preservatives manufacturers use to extend the shelf life or enhance the appearance. You also save a lot of money!
- Dry it out: Dried fruit is much more practical than certain fresh fruits when you’re packing a backpack for the trail. While hard fruits like apples will likely hold up, softer fruits (peaches or plums) can easily be smashed or punctured, causing the sweet, sticky juices to leak all over the inside of your pack. Choose fruits that known for being superfoods—or that are good to eat while being active and dry them at home. This way, you can avoid the added sugar that is in store-bought dried fruit. Once you’ve dried your fruits, chop them into smaller pieces, if needed, and add them to a blend of nuts for a great homemade trail mix.
- Power up with energy bars: Another food to take out on the trail is one that is usually either unhealthy and inexpensive or nutritional but overpriced. The good energy bars are great snacks for the trail because they pack a lot of nutrients that fill you up for longer stretches of time and replenish the energy you used up on the first leg of your hike. Making these at home before you go on your trip is the best way to get a healthy energy bar without the hefty price. Using the fruit you dried yourself, you can combine nuts, peanut butter, dark chocolate, and oats in a bowl before transferring the mixture to a baking pan. Pop it in your oven and you’ll have a batch of tasty trail treats in no time.
Simple Trail Mix Recipes
Trail mix can be whatever you want it to be. It really is that easy. That’s what I love about it because it satisfies my need for spontaneity. But if I stick to the categories of ingredients below I know it will be a healthy, protein-rich, snack to help me stay focused. (Thanks to Kathryn Vercillo, a blogger and freelance writer, for compiling this great information! Read her original post and visit her website.)
- Nuts. Any type of nut can be included in trail mix although some may overpower the mix. Walnuts and almonds are both great. Peanuts and cashews add texture and taste to a trail mix without overwhelming it.
- Seeds. Seeds (such as sunflower) are a healthy addition to your trail mix. So are pumpkin seeds, which you can remove from pumpkins yourself, roast, and then add to trail mix. Flax seeds and other seeds add additional healthiness to your snack.
- Cereals. Add in bits of your favorite cereals to trail mix. This can be almost any kind of cereal—granola, bran flakes, shredded wheat, those little round toasted oats. You probably want to avoid the real sugary choices, though.
- Crackers, pretzels, and popcorn. Add some crunch to your trail mix with any kind of small cracker or pretzel that won’t crumble into bits. Cheese crackers and goldfish are a great addition, as is popcorn if you’re going to be eating it soon after making it.
- Dried fruit. Reach out to your sweet tooth by adding dried fruit—any type will do. Common ones are raisins, cranberries, blueberries, and apples. For a more exotic mix, try mango, ginger, or strawberries.
- Sweets.Some people add chocolate to their trail mix (chocolate chips, M&Ms, white chocolate chips). Others add yogurt-covered fruits or even candies. Be aware: These will all melt, so if you’re taking your trail mix somewhere warm and you don’t want it to be messy, skip these sweets.
Basic Trail Mix Recipe
Combine one quarter cup each of the following: unsalted peanuts, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, dried cherries, dried apricots, raisins, chocolate chips, pretzels, Cheerios, Chex, granola. (Leave out any that don’t sound good.) Mix in a big bowl. Store in an airtight container or eat immediately.
Toss and Go Trail Mix
Combine one quart cereal with two cups each of a dried fruit and a nut or seed of your choice. For example, one quart of Cap’n Crunch Cereal with two cups walnuts and two cups apricots. Or, try one quart of Cheerios with two cups mixed dried fruit and two cups sunflower seeds. Toss it and take it!
Ultimate Trail Mix Recipe
In this recipe, more = better! Combine equal parts of: dried cranberries, dried blueberries, dried apple, dried pineapple, peanuts, cashews, almonds, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, mini marshmallows. Mix it all thoroughly (omit what you don’t like) and eat it before those sweets start to melt!
Healthy Trail Mix
Trail mix can be a healthy snack food if you choose the right ingredients when you’re making it. This simple recipe combines equal parts white raisins, raw almonds, raw sunflower seeds, and dried pineapple. Make sure the pineapple is organic, unsulfured, unsweetened dried pineapple. Mix completely.
Advanced Trail Mix Recipe
If you’re looking for something that will take a little bit more time to make so you can really enjoy the process of cooking, this is for you. This recip[e takes 30 to 60 minutes to make—but only moments to enjoy!
- 1 cup uncooked old fashioned oats
- 2/3 cup dried cherries, chopped
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1 tablespoon stick light butter, or similar product, melted
- 1/4 cup honey
Preheat oven to 350.
Combine rolled oats, cherries, almonds, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add butter and honey slowly. Mix.
Line cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread mixture on cookie sheet.
Bake 20 minutes, stirring periodically for even cooking. Let cool. Enjoy.
These snacks are so easy to make everyone in the family can get involved with preparing food for the trail. To help build excitement, have an energy bar party before you leave where everyone makes a sheet of their own personalized mix so they’ll have something that fits with their particular tastes while on the trail.
Since you have complete control over the ingredients, you can also make bars that fit within everyone’s dietary needs. Say someone in your family has a nut allergy or gluten intolerance, simply substitute ingredients they caneat for ones they can’t. Then be sure to package them separately from the others.
Summer is the prime time to go camping! But what about meals? What special tools or methods of cooking to you need to use your campfire for more than just a gathering place? Check out these blogs on Cooking in Camp from CHEFS Mix:
- Cooking In Camp: Campfire Cooking Like A Pro
- Cooking in Camp: Food on the Trail
- Cooking in Camp: Campfire Methods
- Cast Iron Cookware: Not Just for the Campfire
Your turn: Do you have a recipe to share for your favorite, homemade, trail mix?