Roughing It: A Guide to Staying Healthy While Camping & Hiking
It’s springtime, and after spending all week working away under artificial lighting, you’re itching to get out there and soak up some of that beautiful sunshine. What better way to make use of these longer days then to reconnect with nature by taking a nice long hike or going camping?
Being (and sleeping) outdoors isn’t just a good time, it’s good for you. Lying on the earth and retiring and waking with the sun improve your sleep cycle, reduce stress, and help to correct your circadian rhythm. Your quality of sleep is a huge determiner of your overall health, and all that exercise you get from hiking lowers your stress level.
But if you have dietary restrictions, the idea of having to pack and carry a picnic lunch, not to mention a weekend’s worth of meals, might seem daunting. When your diet requires a lot of cooking and prep time, eating on the go is stressful enough!
So how–and WHAT–do you eat when you’re camping? I have five tips to help you!
First and foremost, remember these two important points.
Food is fuel, and you’re carrying everything.
You’re exerting a lot of energy when you go camping. Between hiking, carrying your belongings, and setting up camp, you’re burning a lot of calories. For this reason, your food needs to be calorically dense and protein-packed, allowing you to get what you need from small portions (so you don’t feel weighed down).
All the food you bring needs to be portable. If you’re used to cooking and eating meals like vegetable soup and ground grass-fed beef, remember that those perfectly healthy foods weigh a lot, spoil without refrigeration, and take up a lot of space. Your food needs to be small, light, and non-perishable.
Five Tips to Help you Stay Healthy While Camping & Hiking
1. Prepare at least a day in advance.
Preparation is essential to ensure that you have enough to eat on your camping trip. It won’t be an option to grab something last minute, especially if your diet is restricted. Make a list, and write out exactly what you’re going to eat for each meal. Once the prep work is done, you can relax and enjoy the trip.
2. Portion out your meals and snacks.
You need to stay light on your feet. Avoid overpacking by portioning out your meals and snacks exactly. A coffee filter packed with looseleaf tea and tied off with a rubber band makes a great teabag. Trail mix is a go-to snack for most people, but if you have a sensitivity to nuts and seeds, it can be hard to find an equally portable and protein dense substitute. I suggest taking the extra time to pack some homemade jerky (recipe below), and fresh fruits and veggies. Opt for vegetables and fruits that will hold up in a backpack and won’t bruise, such as carrots and apples. Again, bring only what you need, and decide when you’re going to eat it–those foods can be heavy!
3. Invest in a dehydrator.
If you’re an avid camper, your new best friend is the dehydrator. You can dehydrate chopped vegetables like sweet potatoes and onions, making them smaller and lighter. Just add water and cook over a campfire or camping stove at dinner time–the rehydrated food will expand, creating a hearty and comforting vegetable stew.
4. Water water water.
Bring your own water. Hydration is absolutely essential, and running out of water can turn a relaxing camping trip into a dangerous situation. Water is heavy, so if you’re going far but you know you’ll be around fresh springs, consider buying a portable water filter.
5. Remember your medications and supplements.
The same rules apply to supplements that apply to food and water: preparation and portioning are key! I recommend leaving the clunky supplement and prescription bottles at home, and taking only what you need (plus a few extras just in case) in individual baggies marked with the day and time you intend to take them.
Homemade Peppered Jerky
Makes ~ 8oz of jerky
- 2lbs bottom round beef sliced 1/4 in (or other lean meat)
- 2T ground coriander
- 2T ground mustard seed
- 2T ground pepper corn
- 1T apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 T salt
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
Remove any visible fat from the meat (the less fat, the longer your jerky will last!). Put all ingredients in a gallon freezer bag and add water to cover beef completely. Seal and marinate in refrigerator for 24 hours. Remove from marinade and gently shake off excess liquid. Dehydrate according to your machine’s instructions. (My dehydrator took 10 hours at 165 degrees with 4 trays.)
Let cool on racks when done. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate or freeze until your trip.
This recipe is approved on The Myers Way.
Now tell me in the comments: What are some of your favorite camping and hiking tricks?
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