Last weekend was an official opening of the camping season. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to participate in yearly Grand Rassemblement de Kayakiste and I don't have any photos or recipes to share with you. But I still want to make a post about camping food (vegan, vegetarian, or not). From past years of camping with people and from hearing their stories I realised that food, or should I say it's weight, is one of the biggest problems among campers, and more specifically hikers. If you usually camp by car, canoe, or even kayak you can pretty much take whatever you want with you: even if the space is somewhat limited - you do not have to worry about the weight of your breakfasts and suppers. This changes once you realise that you have to carry all your food on your shoulders for next three ..... five ... or even ten days. Once you pack all your food try comparing its' weight to the weight of the rest of your equipment and you would start wondering if you really need/want eat that much! But good nutrition is important, especially when you spend 24 hours outdoors, hiking up and down the hills. Here I tried to put some advice about
MINIMIZING food weight.
I am sure that the list is not complete and I would LOVE to hear more ideas.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, bread and cheese, snacks and drinks, are the most heavy food items. Try to avoid bringing them with you, especially if you know that you are camping for several days. Even though it is amazing to bite into fresh apple, while sitting next to the lake you might want to bring dehydrated/dried fruits to snack on instead.
If you can't eliminate fresh produce from your diet, take those items that are less heavy and do not forget to ration them (see #2).
What about all those tofu-based "meats"? I doubt I can find a dehydrated version of my ground round.
I firmly believe that Textured Vegetable and Soy Protein (TVP and TSP) were invented by hikers. What could be better then these lights "biscuits" that turn into yummy chewy meaty chunks in your soups and stews? You can ground them to add in your pasta sauce or chili. They are truly versatile and weight NOTHING!
If TVP is not readily available you could always bring some tofu. I like my scrambled tofu made from silken "Mori-Nu" tofu which comes in tetra pack package and does not need to be refrigerated.
Finally if you can't imagine your weekend without fresh fruits and vegetables, or if you do not mind carrying a little bit extra weight, make sure to limit the amount of fresh produce you will be bringing. One of the ways of doing it is using an insulated lunch box with an ice pack in it as a "measure". Fill it up with perishable goods, strap it on your pack or put it inside. Anything that did not fit would have to stay home! If you find lunch box too big, try one of the insulated plastic bags with an ice pack in it.
Camping supper is far from an experience you have in a fancy restaurant but you still need a menu. I believe that any camping food preparation should start with creating a menu. All you need is a piece of paper and some ideas about the food you want to have while camping. The menu serves several purposes:
First of all, it will help you to make your grocery list.
Secondly, menu will help you calculate how much of each item you would need. It would also make it easier for you to mix and match your ingredients: if you are taking a zucchini for your scrambled tofu you might want to serve pasta in the evening - to use the leftovers of zucchini. Bringing "multifunctional" food helps reduce the overall weight of your food bag.
Finally, with the menu you will know for sure how much and what you would be eating, it will help you to calculate the number of breakfasts, snacks, and suppers you'll be having. Bringing one extra meal is always good, but you don't want end up with too little snacks or too many breakfasts. Bringing too much extra food is the most common problem among novice hikers.
And yeah, menu would help you to have varied food throughout your camping - this is specially important for longer hikes, when you end up making same dishes over and over again.
The idea behind rationing is similar to the one behind menu - calculating how much food you bring and avoiding bringing too much. I am not big fan of food rationing in real life, however when camping any extra piece of food translates directly into weight.
Not a lot of campers think about packaging of the goods that they are bringing. Compare the weight of a can of vegetables (+ the can opener) to the same amount of fresh vegetables. If you are not using the tin for anything - why bother bringing it with you? I know that some products are available only in cans and there is no way around it, but you could still minimize the weight by taking the smallest cans available.
With the meals in boxes, try to leave as much packaging at home as possible. Write down the cooking instructions on the plastic bag and leave the heavy cardboard at home.
Finally, if the amount of packed good is too big, do not hesitate to re-pack it in smaller Ziploc bags. You do not need 3 servings of vegetable couscous if you are leaving for one-night trip.