Don’t get the wrong idea, we didn’t say “superfoods,” we said, “super foods.”
The former refers to foods that provide substantial health benefits; the latter refers to foods that are simply awesome. Or, in this case, well-suited for hikers and campers.
However, there is certainly a bit of crossover between the two. Some of the foods discussed below may very well boost your metabolism or fight free radicals or help you live to 197 years of age, but that’s not why they’re on this list. Besides, many superfoods, including tomatoes and pomegranates, are full of water (read: they’re heavy), and therefore make less-than-ideal foods to take camping.
We’re talking about foods that are so spectacularly helpful for hikers and campers that you’ll always want to incorporate them into your overall meal plan.
Nuts are essentially little bundles of protein, fat and fiber that don’t require refrigeration. They are also full of important minerals, which will help keep you feeling your best while traveling miles across backcountry trails. You can munch on nuts as a snack, incorporate them in trail mixes or use them in recipes (almonds, walnuts, pecans, filberts and cashews can turn many dishes into veritable five-star meals).
Note that we’re not distinguishing between true “nuts” and “legumes” or “seeds.” Sure, botanists will recognize some important differences between the various groups, but they won’t matter much from a camping menu point of view. So, don’t feel limited to true “nuts.” Bring sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts or peanuts, if those are your preference.
Anchovies or Sardines
Anchovies, sardines and other types of canned fish are great proteins to bring along on your next trip. They don’t require refrigeration, are rich in both protein and fat and they can be incorporated into a variety of different dishes. And while some people may not enjoy the taste of anchovies or other canned fish, they can be incorporated into recipes that largely mask their taste.
Aside from their caloric value, these small, oily fish also provide a wealth of omega-3 fatty acids. These compounds help your body fight off inflammation, which can help keep your knees, back and legs feeling fresher as the trip goes on.
Chocolate is often considered an indulgence, but it provides considerable value on the trail. For one, chocolate is high in calories, relative to its weight, and it is full of sugar. While sugar-rich foods aren’t always considered ideal dietary items in the everyday world, they can be worth their weight in gold on the trail. Fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates may help fuel your body in a steady, long-term fashion, but there’s nothing like a little sugar to give you a quick boost. This can be invaluable for those facing one more steep hill before arriving at the designated campsite.
Additionally, chocolate is delicious and helps to boost your mood. This can be very helpful when trying to navigate challenges or deal with problems. So, when you have to take cover from the rain mid-hike or you have to sit down with the map and figure out where you went wrong, break out the chocolate – it’ll help you stay positive.
Proteins are difficult to bring on the trail. Most will spoil in a matter of hours if not refrigerated, so relatively few campers bring along filet mignon or rack of lamb when heading into the wilderness. You can bring some types of bacon, sausage and other smoked or cured foods, but these foods don’t offer much variety.
By contrast, you can get jerkies made from a variety of protein sources and flavored in myriad ways. You could select hickory-smoked turkey jerky, apple-flavored bacon jerky, spicy-beef jerky or any number of other combinations. This will help you avoid flavor fatigue and keep the menu interesting.
Also, jerky doesn’t require any preparation – just remove the wrapper and eat it. This makes it especially helpful for trail-side or early-morning snacking when you don’t want to break out the stove and make a proper meal.
We’re mostly talking about those noodles that start with an “R” and end with “amen,” but any brand of instant noodles will work. Instant noodles are great for a warm, but quick-and-easy meal and they are lightweight and easy to pack. And they come in roughly 3 billion flavors, so you don’t have to bore your self to tears eating the same ones during the entire trip.
But the real reason instant noodles are especially valuable is that you can eat them as-is. You don’t even need to cook them if you find yourself in a difficult situation. No; they are not particularly delicious this way, but it is nice to know you have an emergency meal at the ready.
Before you skip this section like an 8-year-old tries to skip his lima beans, hear us out: When roasted with a bit of olive oil and sea salt (and perhaps some pepper, if you are so inclined), kale can be quite delicious. And because your food supply probably won’t have many vegetables, and kale is one of the healthiest foods in the world, you really should consider bringing some kale chips along.
Note that kale chips can be eaten as-is, but they can also be incorporated into other dishes too. You can crumble a few kale chips in your soup, or add them to pasta dishes, among other things. Incidentally, while kale is the vegetable most commonly used to make chips, you can experiment with making chips from plenty of other vegetables, including carrots or squash.
Give some of these foods a try on your next trip. They are all extremely well-suited for life on the trail and flexible enough to use in different ways. In fact, as you may have noticed, these foods can all be eaten as-is, which means they’ll also work as mid-hike snacks too.