Whether you love camping or you’ve spent some time on the go, you’ve probably wondered what you should eat. I once spent a month living out of my car in-between jobs at opposite ends of the country. Trying to explore on a budget, I put the adventure first and food second. I made do with cheap granola and Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice. But that wasn’t the fuel I needed.
Let’s face it. Nutrition and lightweight don’t always go hand-in-hand. Add environmental responsibility into the mix, and you’ve got yourself a puzzle. Food choices get complicated fast, especially for those of us who love to wander and explore new places with as little as possible in our packs. While freeze-dried space meals offer a convenient hunger fix for busy adventurers, they’re not real food.
This fall I went on a drop-everything-and-go overnight canoe trip in the Adirondacks that changed things. I met my three adventure buddies in a pitch-dark parking lot. We tossed what supplies we had into the bed of a pickup truck where we shuttled off to our starting point. To our benefit, we had an organic farmer from the North Country joining us. Dan had packed a cooler full of the heaviest produce imaginable, which contradicted everything I learned about being a minimalist.
All was smooth sailing until we approached a stretch of rapids where we had to pull out onto shore and carry two canoes, the food cooler, and all our gear over what seemed like an endless portage. There was no easy way about it. We just had to suck it up and lug the weight. What seemed like the worst part of our trip, however, ended up paying off. That night, we feasted on roasted vegetables over the campfire, aerloom tomato sandwiches, and some ancient varieties of melons for dessert. Cleary not your traditional overnight campfire meal, but it made me re-think everything.
Not only was I eating a real meal with good company, I took comfort in knowing where it came from. Dan grows organic food in the extremely challenging climate of Upstate New York with the simple purpose of feeding people good, whole food. By taking the time off for this canoe trip, he was actually losing money. In his life, food comes first.
Sure, we don’t always have a Dan to feed our adventure with local produce, but we’re living in a time where more alternative options are changing the way we eat at the campfire. Luckily we have the Internet as a tool for putting a little strategy into our camp food.
Food not only keeps us alive, it's a way of living. We’ve become so disconnected from that. What goes into your body, where it comes from and how it impacts the environment are all things we could be thinking more about. Making the right choice is something that we should take with us everywhere we go.
My simple solution is this: put food first. Plan your meal as if it were your main adventure. I’m not saying you have to break your back packing gourmet meals, but don’t cheat yourself. Share a real meal with real people. Make friends (maybe not with the animals). Fill your tank with better fuel. And most importantly, feel better in the end. After all, the choices we make about what we eat impact more than just us.
written by Justin Dalaba