Before I got turned on to Adventure Food's Bake Packer meals I got all my foodstuffs for camping at the grocery store. Yes, I dabbled in hiker's fare of dehydrated camping foods, some good, some not so good, mostly expensive, but for the most part I based every thing around getting stuff at regular old grocery stores, sometimes on the way to the put in. So I thought I would share some of my old recipes and strategies for camping cuisine.
The most important meal of the day! What breakfast would be complete with out coffee? Don't bring grounds, filters or percolators, and God forbid that "cowboy coffee" technique. Get the best quality instant coffee you can find. It is quick, no horrible mess to dispose of and lighter than grounds. Repack your instant coffee into a plastic container or zip lock bag. Burying or burning coffee grounds is a big no-no! If you must have grounds, then you must pack them out.
If you have consensus on creamer and sugar, mix it all together before the trip. Powder milk can be used as a creamer, but I like to bring a small lunch size box of real milk. It is sold under the brand name of Parmalat. It requires no refrigeration and is head and shoulders better than powder milk or non-dairy creamers. It is hard to find, but most big markets have it, and it is great for oatmeal too.
Instant oatmeal has always been my staple breakfast. The instant is best, no fuss no muss. Just boil water in your cook pot, enough for coffee too, and pour it into your bowl of instant oatmeal and some into your insulated cup of instant coffee. Trust me, use an insulated cup, coffee gets cold fast in the outdoors. Use the straw that comes on the milk box, and squeeze the box gently to pour the milk over oats and into cup. Heck I could almost mix the coffee and the oatmeal together to save cleaning an extra dish.
Bring along some small lunch size fruit cups with the pull tab tops for nice treat. Drink any remains of the milk, it won't keep. The milk box will crush flat. The small hole for the straw will prevent residual leaking. For a break in the oatmeal regime try instant pancakes, the kind you mix in the plastic jar. Bring along some syrup in a Nalgene bottle, or in the original plastic container if you will use that much.
Bread is the staple of life, but many types of bread do not pack or travel well. Get bagels, pitas or tortillas for bread. For sandwiches a can of sandwich spread like deviled ham or canned tuna salad or chicken salad is good. Not many people think of taking canned goods on a camping trip, but your boat will be carrying the load. If you were backpacking you would not carry such weight and would rely solely on dehydrated foods.
Peanut butter is a great energy food. If you can select a smaller size plastic jar at the supper market, other wise get one or two of the squeeze tubes for camping and repackage the peanut butter, and jelly too, into them. Squeeze tubes work great, no knife needed.
My all time favorite kayak camping dinner is canned chicken and stovetop stuffing, cooked hobo style. Canned chicken comes in small and larger size cans. The small size is good for one and the larger size is good for two. Measure out your stovetop stuffing into an appropriate size for the desired amount of servings, I like two servings per person, and put in a zip lock bag before the trip.
While in camp, boil the recommended (dryer is better for clean up) amount of water in a pot with a cover. Follow the directions for the stovetop stuffing, you can skip the margarine, it is not necessary. If you must have it and want to use margarine/butter for other meals, like pancakes, a plastic squeeze tube of margarine works well, and will keep for a few days, but I have never been able to finish one before the trip ended or it went bad. It is high in calories you could put it on every thing for extra "fuel." A small plastic bottle of vegetable oil is a good substitute and will keep for the whole trip.
While the stuffing is cooling in a covered pot, place an open can a chicken right on the stove burner or fire. Leave the lid of the can attached and partly sticking up as a handle. Don't drain the juice in the can, let the chicken boil in it. When the juice in the can has almost evaporated then it is done. Lift the can off the stove with a Leatherman tool or gloved hand. Serve the chicken on top of the stuffing and season to taste. You can eat right out of the pot and/or the can to save on dish washing. I like this meal so much I could have it for every night.
Another great camping meal is potatos, onions and carrots cooked in the coals of an open fire. This will only work with a fire, and is not an option if you are only using stoves. Select at the super market small size potatos and onions, they will cook faster and completely. Also select some carrots, organic is best. The carrots can be eaten raw as snacks and all these veggies will travel well.
Tear off sheets of foil that are a good size for wrapping and fold carefully. Bring extra foil sheets for wind guard for stoves, reflectors for lighting, cooking fresh caught fish, and other many uses. Leave the roll & box at home. The sharp edge will make your dry bag leak. When in camp with a nice campfire, wrap the veggies in foil (could wrap at home) and place on red-hot coals. It must be coals and the foil wrapped veggies must be partly buried. Poke and turn them with a stick and roll them out when you think they are done, carrots first, then onions and potatos last. This will go well with fresh caught fish if you are lucky fishermen/women.
Not all fruit will travel well. Fresh fruit is another luxury that paddler can feel free to carry. Oranges, and Lemons can take a lot of punishment. Apples do OK for the most part. Peaches, nectarines, and plums won't do, but grapes will fare a little better if you eat them the first day. Bananas don't travel well either, and are considered bad luck on a boat by Hawaiians. (They were bad luck for us in Hawaii, but that is another story.) Yes, I know that fruit and peels are biodegradable, but DO NOT try to scatter, bury or burn your fruit discards, you will only attract animals to the location, who will dig up trash or steal from your supplies. Then they will become addicted to human food and suffer in the long run.
Everyone, every day should carry and eat from a personal "snack pack." Put into zip lock bags, one per day per person, an assortment of snacks that are easy to eat, full of calories and good. I like to fill my snack packs with a breakfast bars or power bars, candy, slim jims or other meat sticks, string cheese, nuts and dried fruit. The reason you do this is to keep up your energy reserves. This can prevent Hypothermia.
Wet soggy paddlers are very susceptible to getting chilled and frequent snacking stokes your fire. Even in the summer you need to fill your tank. Paddling, hiking and many outdoor pursuits will burn off far more calories than your normal "work a day" routine ever will. To heck with the diet, you need to eat to survive! You like to hear that do you? Don't worry you will still end up with a calorie deficit on a camping trip, just beware of the beer and pizza joints on the way home.
An alternative reason to carry a snack pack is for unexpected delays in getting back to camp. Tired hungry people perform poorly and make bad decisions. If you have been delayed by weather, navigation errors or other reasons, it is nice to stop at "dinner time" and have a meal, even if it is just snacks on the fly. Keep your daily snack pack close at hand, in a backrest pocket, deck bag, center hatch or in your lap. If it is in a freezer zip lock it will be very waterproof.
Once again the beast of burden, your kayak, can carry the heavy stuff. Bring along a few juice boxes for beverages. They are nice treats and fruit juices contain electrolytes that are needed for long sunny days. They work just like the milk boxes and are easy to crush and slip into a zip lock for trash.
Depending on the territory you will be paddling you may need to bring water, a water filter, or at least some water purification tablets. For those who paddle on the sea with out access to fresh water, or filter, you will need to bring a gallon of water per day. Get medium size spring water bottles (used soda bottles are good too) that have tight sealing lids. If you are bringing a filter make sure you pump ample amounts at each opportunity.
For those who are using purification tablets, bring tang, or other powder drink mix to hide the taste of the iodine. New products claim to remove taste, but I have not yet tried them. DRINK FREQUENTLY to prevent dehydration. You will perform better, think more clearly, have more fun and feel better if you are properly hydrated.
Some folks may want an alcoholic beverage. That's OK if you are responsible. Red wine and certain English beers can be served at air temp, your ice will not last forever, and dunk bags for cold drinks only work in really cold water.
For a nightcap nothing beats a cup of hot coco, even in the summer. Get the instant single serving packs, I like to "double bag." You don't have to clean your mug if you have the insulated cup with a lid. Just keep it for the morning and pour your instant coffee and boiling water right in to make a Mocha.
Sometimes thing go badly. People fall into cold water, you get into camp too late to make a real meal, your lost or it has been cold and rainy for too long. This is when you need something fast, easy and hot. Pack along some ramen noodles, cup of soup, and herbal tea as an emergency meal. All you have to do is boil water.
In a separate dry bag pack a small camp stove and some storm proof matches. Bring this little two-bag kit with you while paddling in cool or cold conditions. You can land almost anywhere and have a hot, body warming meal.
When things go from bad to worse, warm food or even just a snack will help you regain your fortitude an recover your mood. One time a group of us got lost as darkness came after sunset. Yes, we should have stared early or planned better, but did not. We had no idea where to go, people were tired hungry and almost panicky. It seemed that we would have to spend another unplanned night out and wait till dawn. We all sat down and had some food and drink, what was left of our supplies. Surprisingly enough after we had something in our stomachs and were re-hydrated the solution to our navigation problem was solved and we made it out that night. We were so close to our destination it was absurd!
Well I hope you have enjoyed this little piece about preparedness, and have come away with some good tips.
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