Friday, August 5, 2016

#CarFreeCamping: Food for Four (+ 8 Tips)

Planning the food for four of us to spend three days camping was a fun challenge. Since we carried everything on transit, we tried to keep the food light & packable, picking up a few heavy or fluffy/crushable items in Nanaimo near the end of our journey to Newcastle Island. Here was our menu:

Making oatmeal for breakfast
Day one we were travelling until nearly dinner time:
Lunch: fruit, nuts, carrots
Snack: potato chips
Dinner: fire roasted hot dogs
Dessert: roasted marshmallows

Day two we walked around a bit & explored the two beaches near either end of the camp site:
Breakfast: oatmeal with chocolate chips
Lunch: fruit, carrots, nuts, peanut butter & jam wraps
Snack: potato chips
Dinner: pasta with tuna, peas & alfredo sauce
Dessert: roasted marshmallows, chocolate

Picnic lunch at Midden Beach on our long hike
Day three we went on a long hike (about 8km) so there were lots of snacks:
Breakfast: oatmeal & chocolate chips
Snack: nuts, raisins, apples, oranges
Lunch: peanut butter & jam wraps
Snack: chocolate, potato chips (yes, again--Oli bought THREE bags in Nanaimo!), carrots, cucumber
Dinner: brown instant rice with red lentil dahl
Dessert: roasted marshmallows
Snack: popcorn (Jiffy pop!)

Day four we packed up & left our camp site by lunch time, then spent the rest of the day in transit until a late dinner at home:
Breakfast: oatmeal with chocolate chips
Lunch: sandwiches, sausage, carrots, apples, cucumber
Snack: trail mix, cookies

Great new bike racks outside Famous Foods
For drinks, I packed quite a bit of powdered whole milk, but the kids didn't really like drinking it straight. It was great in our tea & in the oatmeal, however. I'll probably bring a lot less next trip. The kids are pretty good about drinking plain water, but just to keep them really hydrated, I brought a few single packets of Kool Aid. They loved it, even when made at half strength, & sported red 'moustaches' most of the weekend.

Oliver picked up a cheap 2L 'cardbordeaux' & a few cans of beer too, which we had at dinner & in the evenings. We specifically went for red wine & dark beer so they'd be tolerable to drink once they weren't that cold anymore.

A few useful tips I used on this trip:

Famous Foods selection of vaccuum packed pastas 
  1. Famous Foods is a great place to shop for backpacking food. They have powdered whole milk, which tastes way better than the usual powdered skim that I've bought elsewhere. Their freeze dried peas & onions are super light & taste good when rehydrated, which only took soaking in water (they also sell freeze dried corn & soup mixes). I didn't buy this, but there were some great looking vaccuum packed pasta & sauce dishes there too for about $5 for three servings. I think I'll try those next time
  2. Multipurpose ingredients make packing easier. Apples were eaten whole, sliced into tortillas for wraps, chopped to sweeten oatmeal. Chocolate chips & raisins also went into oatmeal & made trail mix with almonds.
  3. The Coghlan's multi spice shaker is refillable--I switched the paprika for cinnamon. We also used the salt, pepper, cayenne, curry powder, & garlic powder.
  4. Dense, light, high protein & fatty foods are great for active trips. We brought landjaeger dry sausage, which doesn't really need refrigeration, plus a lot of almonds, as well as a small amount of that 'powdered' shelf stable parmesan for our pasta dinner.
  5. No Name marshmallows are great--they taste just as good as the brand name ones, which is more than I can say for their vanilla ice cream. Ugh.
  6. Buy food according to cooking times. I got red lentils because they cook faster & don't require soaking rather than the green that I prefer. I chose rotini instead of other types of pasta because it cooks two to three minues faster. This isn't a huge thing, but on a multi day trip, it could make the difference between running out of stove fuel early or not.
  7. Tortillas don't squish. We ate wraps for lunch two days on the island--tortillas are great camp food, while not light, they are really compact & don't get damaged in transit. 
  8. Ziplocs are your friend. I measured the amount we needed for the trip & packed most of our food in zipper bags: oatmeal, powdered milk, chocolate chips, almonds, raisins, lentil dahl mix, freeze dried peas, pasta, pre chopped carrots, baby carrots.
Chocolate oatmeal for breakfast
I think we had a good balance of healthy food--we actually ate a fair bit of vegetables & fruit, kept fairly well hydrated, & didn't take too much food home with us. 

A few things I'd change about our trip for the next time: I brought way too much powdered milk, about 20% too much pasta, rice, oats, & lentils. We definitely didn't need three bags of chips--one would have been enough. More peanut butter would have been nice too, but we made the small amount last. Also, I needed to add more of the freeze dried onion to the dahl mix.

I'm pretty pleased with myself--this was the first trip I've planned where food weight was really a consideration. All our past camping trips were by car, where weight is fairly irrelevant, except for the bikepacking trip last summer to Galiano, but our friends planned the food for that one.

For more info on how to get to Newcastle, check out my post on taking transit from Vancouver to the island here

This post has details on how to pack light on a car free camping trip for four

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