Eating Well When Camping (On the Road or Without a Kitchen)

I love to go camping! When we were in Colorado, my husband and I would go camping at least a couple times a month in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Many of our trips were 3 to 5 days in the wilderness with no access to ice, groceries, or running water. Before we moved back to NY, we went on a two and a half week road trip throughout the American Southwest. It was an incredible trip and a true lesson in how to eat well when camping, when you’re on the road, or really anytime you find yourself without a kitchen.

Just because you’re not at home or don’t have a kitchen doesn’t give you a free pass to gorge on “camp food” like white buns, hot dogs, potato chips, and smores. Sure, these foods are nostalgic and remind you of childhood camping trips. . . but if you’re used to eating pretty clean, one meal like will probably make you feel like crap. Sticking to a real food diet when you don’t have a kitchen really isn’t that hard. It simply takes a little planning and creativity!

Here are 3 strategies to eat well that you can use anytime you’re camping or on the road:

1. Plan ahead. Eating Well When Camping- Cooking PastaHealthy real food meals don’t just appear, especially when you’re far from a grocery store, farmer’s market, or your local CSA share. Eating well when you’re kitchen-less takes some planning and preparation. If you have a small cook stove and/or camp grill, knife, small cutting board, and a cooler chest you’re good to go to make pretty much anything you please. Just like you’d plan meals ahead at home and get everything you need to make them ahead, do the exact same thing when you’re camping. A “camping meal plan” may not seem spontaneous or glamorous, but it sure makes for yummy and healthy meals. To refresh your memory on how to make a super simple meal plan, check out this post.

2. Keep it simple. Eating Well When CampingWhen planning meals for your trip, keep it simple! Fresh sides like salads, one-dish meals, and packaged bases make camp cooking a lot easier. I’m not a huge fan of boxed foods at home, but when you’re on the go they can make things easier and lend some variety to your meals. For example, the box of brown rice pasta with seasoning packet in the photos is really easy to make, is a filling hot meal, and is made with real food ingredients (brown rice and dehydrated vegetables).

3. Just add veggies. Veggies make a meal a meal. In the photos from our trip, you’ll see lots of veggies. We added cherry tomatoes to a boxed pasta mix, grilled asparagus with Eating Well When Campingsalmon and pasta, lettuce with avocado and cherry tomatoes on the side, and grilled veggies, salsa, and lettuce on grilled chicken tacos. When you’re making your meal plan, be sure to include veggies at each meal. Prepping as much as you can before you leave home also makes it a lot easier to incorporate veggies. For example, chop up some onions and green and yellow zucchini and put in a zip-top bag. When you’re ready to cook the veggies, just pour the bag into some tin foil, add a little oil, salt, and pepper, and grill until tender. Easy peasy!


Eating Well When Camping


Erin Harner

Erin Harner is an Integrative Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), author, and speaker based in Ithaca, NY. Erin melds functional medicine and culinary nutrition to help her clients uncover their unique diet and confidently cook healthy nourishing meals that meet the needs of their whole family. Learn about Erin's services and connect on Instagram.

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