Meals in the wild should be sustaining but easy to prepare. As with any culinary pursuit, the secret is to have the right ingredients and treat them with care. Fortunately, clean air and natural surroundings can add spice to even the most humble spread.
The proper way to pack food
When planning menus consider ingredients that keep well and are light and compact; they should also produce as little waste as possible.
- Before a trip, remove extraneous packaging from provisions.
- Carry loose, dry food in tough plastic bags.
- Transfer oils and spreads such as honey and peanut butter to plastic jars with screwtop lids.In hot, dry climates, pack foods with a high moisture content.
- Cold weather puts greater demands on the body’s energy reserves so stoke up on carbohydrates during winter.
- When planning your diet for a long expedition, consider more carefully than usual the balance of food and daily requirements. For short trips, a normal balanced diet will suffice.
Get the day started with a hearty breakfast
- Breakfast in the woods, even more than at home, is the day’s most important meal. A cup of coffee and a sliver of toast is not the best preparation for rigorous physical activity; much better is a bowl of hearty muesli or porridge, perhaps laced with dried fruits or honey.
- Warm drinks help get you started and toast or biscuits spread with jam or peanut butter round out the meal.
- Traditional fare, such as eggs, is only really practical for car camping, but bacon usually travels well in a pack.
- For something more substantial, pancakes make excellent camping food.
Midday meal suggestions
Few outdoor travellers bother to cook a midday meal.
- In winter it may be worth firing up the stove for some packet soup or a brew of tea but most lunches are informal smorgasbords of assorted cold meats, cheeses and perhaps some fresh fruit.
- Sturdy rye breads or crackers combine well with salamis, robust cheeses and tinned fish.
- Variety is important so energy-packed “nibbles” such as olives and nuts are useful.
- Fresh salad vegetables such as cucumbers and celery survive if transported with care. If you are in the bush for a week or more you can take a suitable container, some seeds and grow a fresh and nutritious supply of crunchy sprouts.
Cook a filling dinner
After a strenuous day in the woods, most people want a quick and filling meal. The instant dinners often advertised for bushwalkers are usually no match for your own recipes using fresh ingredients. Nevertheless, freeze-dried meals are useful for long trips where every gram counts.
- The time-honoured evening menu is a warming soup followed by a single-pot stew or a rice or pasta dish. With a little ingenuity and some herbs and spices such dishes are easy to prepare.
- Fresh meat does not travel well in a backpack but avid carnivores can substitute cured or preserved meats.
- Vegetables, including onions, carrots, sweet potato and garlic go well in curries, stir fries or tomato-based sauces. To add zest, use herbs and spices as well as grated parmesan cheese, powdered coconut cream, dried mushrooms, dried chillies and tomato paste.
Sweet treats you should try
- For something sweet, the classic camping dessert is dried fruit stewed up in a little water and served with custard.
- If cooking on a campfire, other alternatives include fruit damper or whole apples baked in foil.
- For those with a serious sweet tooth there is always chocolate or a handful of what bushwalkers call “scroggin” — a bagful of dried fruits, nuts and other sweetmeats that is nibbled at rest stops or whenever hunger strikes between mealtimes.
Consider these tips and create delicious meals that will provide you with the energy required for those long camping days.