Hold on there – don’t dismiss this article if you “aren’t a camper.” I wasn’t a camper either – until about five years ago. One weekend out in the beautiful fresh air of the North Carolina mountains, a leisurely pace for a few days, lots of family fun and hiking and I was sold. We’ve made at least one camping trip every year since. Although we have camped at different times of year, summer is our favorite. Any excuse to escape the oppressive heat and humidity of the city and I’m there!
As I began to write this trip report, I realized that there is way too much information for just one article, so here you have installment #1. I’ll cover the first half of the trip now and next week, I’ll send out installment #2 with the associated recipes.
The information found here is applicable to all sorts of travel, not just camping, so if you are a die-hard hotel traveler, never fear, there is something here for you too. And if you really couldn’t care less about how to eat healthy while traveling, then just sit back and enjoy the pretty pictures.
My husband was relieved that I took to camping so well because it took a pretty hefty investment up front. In addition, all those hard earned Boy Scout skills were just itching to come back to the surface. Now, I’m raising my own little Boy Scout and he needs practice, of course.
Sure, you can borrow tents, sleeping bags, camp stove, etc. but we took the plunge and started buying each of these necessities during sales. Now we have all we need for a comfortable camping experience. I guess my husband was fairly confident camping would be successful for me. I’m glad he was right! I will say that our first ever family camping trip was at a beautiful mountain location, there were nice bathroom facilities, and the weather was amazing. If that trip had turned out like some of our subsequent trips, this whole camping thing might have gone right down the drain.
Here’s what I find necessary for a successful camping experience. No, we don’t re-create our home out in the wild, but there are a few items that make the whole adventure more enjoyable:
- a good quality tent that will not leak (yes, it rains outside)
- a comfortable bed – be it air mattress, camping pad, cot or plain old sleeping bag – get what’s comfortable for you
- a reliable camp stove – yes, you can cook over a fire, but if it’s raining and all you’ve planned are campfire meals, you will be hungry
- hot water showers and flush toilets
You might need more and you might need less, but if you’ve never camped, I encourage you to arrange for these “necessities” and if at all possible, go with some friends who have some camping experience. Even though it’s technically a lot of work to go camping, something about it is super therapeutic and relaxing.
On average, three hours lazily pass from the time we get up in the morning until breakfast is eaten and the dishes are cleaned up. Three hours! You read that right. When was the last time you indulged in three hours to get ready in the morning? It just naturally takes longer to cook and clean up when you’re living out of boxes, a tent and the back of your car. But here’s the thing – it is not a chore. I love it actually. We trip over tent stakes, I burn my hand, we get smoke in our eyes, but somehow it’s all ok when it’s 102 degrees at home, but 68 at your campsite, the sky is blue, there’s a gentle breeze and best of all – your kids are safely running free through the campground with all the other camp kids. It’s truly what I picture heaven to be like.
So how do we camp paleo? I ran into a friend at the campground this past weekend and she was saying that she thought it would be hard to stay paleo while camping. In fact, it’s super easy. You still have to plan, plan and plan, but the food is generally very simple, which fits in perfectly with the paleo lifestyle.
And speaking of the paleo lifestyle, not just diet, camping is about as paleo as it gets. You have to walk to do everything (this includes trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night – while all the woodland creatures are out – this part is not fun), our activities consist of hiking, preparing meals and then relaxing. It’s all about fun and time together and no stress.
Onto the food! Hopefully, these pictures and recipes will make you hungry for your own adventure.
Thursday night: We head out of Raleigh and pick up Wendy’s on the road. If you’re a regular reader, you know Wendy’s is our travel go-to. The kids eat burgers without buns or the grilled chicken wrap without the wrap, I eat either salad or a bunless burger. No, it isn’t paleo, but pretty close and even though there is surely contamination, this food never leaves me with any negative symptoms.
Friday Morning: I got myself a fancy, new camping coffee pot for this trip. This brought back such great memories as I folded the filter over the center thingy. I used to “help” Grandma with this part of making the morning coffee using their old electric percolator pot. I have this French press coffee cup from REI and it works great, but 1. it’s a pain to clean and 2. it doesn’t make quite as much coffee as I want. I got the 6 cup version of the percolator pot and it was perfect. Not only does it do the job, but it’s easy to clean, small enough to be packable and that handle does not get hot on the fire.
Oh yes, we did have more than coffee for breakfast. Before we left Raleigh, I made sausage patties. I also had a loaf of banana bread in the freezer. As I accumulate over-ripe bananas, I make a loaf of this yummy bread and stash it in the freezer for just this kind of event. We scrambled a few eggs in a bit of the sausage grease, added some fresh fruit and breakfast was done.
As for beverages, aside from my coffee, the kids and my husband had hot chocolate (totally not paleo), milk and OJ.
Friday Lunch: Here’s what works best for us when we’re camping: we keep the cooler in the car so we can have lunch where ever we happen to be when hunger strikes. Where we typically camp in the NC mountains, if you’re near some beautiful hikes, you are not near restaurants. So in order to not let food get in the way of our fun, we just keep our food with us. I keep a separate little box inside my big cooler with our lunch staples so they are easy to find:
- deli meat
- string cheese
- gluten free bread
I also keep a labeled bag of lunch add-ins that don’t need to be kept in the cooler: condiment packets that we lifted from fast food restaurants, paper plates, napkins, chips, and nuts. And we have a big jug of water as well to fill up our individual bottles.
On this particular trip, we happened to run into some friends from Raleigh. They had just finished a hike we were about to start and we were sitting in our car eating lunch because it was raining at the time. My son had a plate full of Cheetos in his lap and my friend jokingly said, “Are Cheetos paleo?” Why, yes, of course they are. Just kidding. No, Cheetos are not paleo, but the kids get these kinds of treats when we travel.
Confession time: When my husband and I had just started dating, he came to my apartment for dinner and a movie one night. During the movie, I asked him if he wanted a snack, he said yes, and I reached under my sofa for a bag of Cheetos. He still teases me about that to this day. Yes, I ate Cheetos. At that time in my life, a still-in-debt just out of graduate school girl, I followed a terrible diet. I was a vegetarian who ate lots of processed carbs. And apparently I was too lazy to walk from my living room to my kitchen and store my snacks appropriately. In my defense, my apartment was a gargantuan 750 square feet.
Back to the business at hand: Because we are expending a great deal of energy when we are on camping trips, I tend to eat more gluten free carbs than normal. Lunch is typically a turkey sandwich on gluten free bread (usually just one slice of bread), baby carrots, apple or grapes, nuts, a few chips and some dessert if I’m still hungry. I brought along a bunch of my cookies for this trip which came in really handy (just wait till you get to Friday’s dessert).
Dinner Friday: It was a lovely night so we chose to cook over the campfire – grass-fed hotdogs and foil packets full of vegetables.
Dessert was s’mores. How can you not have s’mores when you’re camping? To keep this mostly paleo for me, I used one of my sugar cookies and had a piece of good, dark chocolate on the side. The rest of the family used my chocolate chip cookies as their graham cracker substitute (totally paleo) and then added the chocolate and toasted marshmallow. They said it was delicious, but I decided that would be too much sugar for me. Yes, we had a wide variety of chocolate to choose from. Paleo Rule #1: You can never have too much chocolate. 🙂
Breakfast Saturday: remember those gluten free donuts I mentioned in this post? That recipe made a ton of donut dough so I froze enough for one breakfast and took those along on this trip. While my coffee perked and the hot chocolate cooled off, I let the donuts rest (they need a little time to rise). I brought along a little jar of palm shortening which I heated over the camp stove and fried those puppies up. The kids had a great time fetching the donuts from the pan and shaking them in their bags of sugar (one bag of powdered sugar and another coconut sugar + maple sugar + cinnamon). Although I think it is fairly well accepted that you don’t need anything else when donuts are on the menu, we are all about balance in this family, so we added bacon and fruit.
After this breakfast clean-up, we were off for our hiking adventures. Stay tuned for part 2 of this camping tips post.
If you take nothing else from this post, let it be this: donuts, Cheetos and camping are three of the best things in life. Amen.
I leave you with is lovely picture of some awesome hikers.