What to Pack for Remote Van Life & Off Grid Camping, FOOD Ideas
Are you finally planning to get out there, go for it, hit the road and never look back? We hit the road several years ago now in a converted Ford SUV with everything we needed – a bed platform we built for $20, some blankets and food, each other and our best mates, the travel dogs! It’s easy to say we’ve never looked back. And as we’ve traveled we’ve developed more strategies on how to keep us on the road, save money, find food, pick our gear, pack our gear, and find the perfect remote camps to call home. So, today, I’m sharing with you some tips on food. What are some of the best foods to consider bringing with to camp, especially if you’ll be off-grid at remote camps? What kind of foods last? Which foods are best to keep when the cooler is too warm or not available? Which foods are good to have with in case of emergency? Well, once again, we’re thinking like a backpacker here, but we can have more fresh produce if we get creative with recipes which use certain ingredients. Learn more in this video overview of the foods we bring with us on the road to camp:
The first and easiest types of foods to consider are the dry foods, dehydrated foods, & bulk foods. This will be things like oats, nuts, beans, rice, dried fruits, dehydrated meals. For example, you can find large containers of dehdrated food, from powder eggs to powder peanut butter, cheese, soup mixes, vegetables, fruits, and more. These types of foods are great to have on hand in case of emergency. In fact, many people do keep these dehydrated foods in their basements or bunkers for emergencies. This will be food that will last a very long time, so you won’t have to worry about it spoiling. It can be for entire meals or even just additions to your fresh ingredients. For instance, we add nuts and powdered cheese to our tuna dishes while at camp. Here is a list of more tips & ideas for these bulk dry foods:
Choosing Dehydrated & Dried Foods
So, you can find dehydrated food options at places like Wal Mart and WinCo, but keep in mind the selection varies and you may have limited options or not find these at all at certain stores. We have had some luck in the Pacific Northwest and around areas that have a lot of hiking, backpacking, travelers, campers, or even the dooms day prepper crowd. Another great option is probably just to buy these items online on Amazon, where you’ll have the fullest selection of fruits, veggies, and other meal mixes plus maybe even a coupon discount available or the option to get a deal by buying in bulk. I would recommend NOT buying the smaller per-packaged single-serve dehydrated meals, especially from outdoor gear shops like Cabella’s, Bas Pro, Sportsman’s Warehouse, REI, and similar outdoor recreation shops, as you will certainly overpay for your food. We examined some of these foods and also realized the ingredients were pretty terrible. Product brands like Mountain Warehouse get a premium price but the food quality doesn’t seem worth the dough to me. I think people are just paying for the convenience factor but maybe don’t realize there are A LOT of other options out there if they simply prepare ahead of time. Having these dry bulk foods on hand will allow you to create your own custom little meals along the way, save a tons of money, not to mention saving on all the extra packaging! So, get creative about the types of meals you can make with this list of dry and dehydrated food ingredients:
- Nuts (Pecans, Walnuts, Almonds, etc.)
- Beans (Pinto, Black Beans, Great Northern Beans, etc.)
- Cheese Powder
- Soup Mix
- Dried Fruits (Banana, Apples, Berries, Mangoes YUM!)
- Dried Veggies (Veggie Mix works great!)
- Dehydrated Meats (Chicken, Beef, Good for Dog Meals, too)
- Canned Tuna
- Canned Tomatoes (Great addition to burritos, pasta, or soups)
Now that you’ve considered the list of food ingredients, here are a few more tips from my experiences.
Beans: Beans are a great go-to. We make easy bean burritos at camp. If you can make the beans on a campfire you will save a lot of your energy (i.e. Propane stove) needed to cook it. This is a great meal that can be made in bulk for you, your camp guests, and your dogs. Just don’t forget about the dog farts!
Rice: Similar to the beans, you will want to consider cooking your rice on a campfire instead of stove. If there isn’t a fire ban (Good luck!) you can save money by purchasing bulk long grain rice to cook. It cooks up VERY FAST on a campfire. Combine the rice with beans and some dry cheese powder, maybe even some fresh onion, carrot, garlic, peppers, or other ingredients, and you’ll have a delicious burrito at camp! I find that Ground Cumin seasoning is a must for that taco flavor.
** If you plan to have a lot of burritos, don’t forget your tortillas!
Soup: One of the best ways to make the most of your ingredients is to plan to make a soup! To avoid everything from spoiling at some point we usually just toss all of the fresh veggies in a soup mix and make a yummy soup. With that, you will want to consider which soup bases to have on hand. Will you make it fresh yourself at camp? That sounds good, but can be a pain. You might also want to simply have a can of tomato past or diced tomatoes around to make a quick tomato base. This works really well for vegetable soup. There are also several soup bases, from vegetable soup to chicken soup to creamy or cheese soup base, available from those bulk dehydrated cans I just talked about. We carry a cheesy soup mix with us for potato and carrot soup. It goes great with a few foraged greens thrown in!
Backpacking Food Alternatives
As I mentioned previously, I would avoid buying dehydrated foods at outdoor gear shops as you will pay a premium for a limited selection. You could consider making your own mixes. Heck, you could even dehydrate your own food if you have a place to do so. If not, as for us we don’t have a permanent dwelling any longer, you still might want some pre-mixed dehydrated entrees. You could buy some mixes on Amazon or at a bulk foods store. You could also try some other options from backpacking food companies. This would be a great place to start if you need meal ideas or like certain things you just can’t find or make on your own. Cheese comes to mind for me! We came across this great little place that makes their own nutritious backpacking meals. It’s called Outdoor Herbivore & it’s a small local business out of California. We tried some of their meals and they were pretty tasty, plus for the price the portions are MUCH bigger than those you get from those outdoor stores.
What About Fresh Produce !?
Okay, so another big concern is produce! We care about nutrition, but it can be really hard to keep fresh ingredients (where most of the nutrition is locked in) for very long. Coolers and ice will only last so long and fancy coolers are sooo expensive anyway. So, what can you do? Well, there are a lot of veggies that actually last pretty long, sometimes weeks. You just have to pick the right vegetable and find the right meal recipes to use those vegetables in. I talk a lot of about choosing these ingredients, meal ideas, and even drop some nomad recipes here. So, to get you thinking, here are the types of ingredients that seem to last the longest:
- Fresh Garlic
- Oranges & Grapefruits & other citrus (lemon, lime)