Open Air Camp Kitchen: Top Tips for Eating on the Trail

In the opening parts of our camp kitchen series, we looked at how to choose a camping stove and the different types of fuel. Next week, we’ll bring you an in-depth look at dried food for backpacking and camping – a great way to save weight, time, effort, and fuel when cooking in the hills. To whet your appetite, here are some of our top tips for eating on the trail – enjoy!

Snacks!
Image: Angus Whitby

Embrace treats

You’ve earned them!

Keep things relatively simple

At the end of a long day walking and carrying a big pack, most food tastes good and you might prefer to spend time getting your camp set up whilst your dinner cooks.

Take food that is quick to cook and doesn’t spoil

Couscous is a good example. This saves fuel, time, and energy.

Take something you’ll enjoy and look forward to

There is little point carrying something you’re not going to want to eat.

Mix it up

Even your favourites are likely to become less appetising after a few days.

Spice up your meal

Different combinations of dried herbs and spices can help provide extra variety over longer trips and weigh absolutely nothing.

Fresh gnocchi or filled pasta

Make a good treat and a nice change from dried foods [see our upcoming guide to drying your own meals] – they’re quick to cook, and you can add dried slices of tomatoes, courgettes or peppers for example.

Consider the packaging

Try to reduce how much waste you’ll need to carry out.

Decant ingredients for meals into resealable bags. These can then be cleaned and reused after your trip.
Image: Angus Whitby

Use a windshield and pot lid

This can save a huge amount of fuel and time cooking.

Trap heat in, and stop wind from robbing you of valuable flame.
Image: Angus Whitby

Be careful about water sources

Even mild stomach problems in a remote place can be a big challenge. Consider whether you need to take a water filter or sterilising tablets with you to protect against water-borne pathogens, chemicals or filter out sediment.

Be considerate when washing up

Don’t wash up directly in streams or lakes, and use biodegradeable soap.

You don’t have to wait for camp to eat

If the weather is good, but you’re ready for some food, it can be nice to stop and have your dinner, then continue walking a bit further before you set up camp for the evening, like this dinner in Knoydart:

Fine food in a fine setting
Image: Jonathan Middleton

And finally, make sure you have enough food to eat in an emergency

Ensure you have some food that doesn’t require cooking that can get you by in an emergency. If you’re in the middle of nowhere and your stove breaks, you can’t light it, or you run out of fuel, some freeze-dried foods can be re-hydrated and eaten with cold water (though they will take a little longer). if you have an accident and get injured, it might not be easy to even do this and you’ll need something that’s ready to eat.

As a cautionary tale, after a long and tiring day walking over Ladhar Bheinn in Knoydart with a full pack, I once had the fuel hose of a gas stove break while trying to cook my dinner at Barisdale bay. Fortunately, one other couple were staying there that night and kindly offered me the use of their stove. Without them, I’d have been limited to a couple of cereal bars until I got back to my car the next morning – 3 hours’ walk away at Kinlochhourn!

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