Several years ago we bought a tent for our family. My husband and kids set it up in the backyard for a makeshift camping experience. They were very excited about sleeping outside.
Seamlessly, I walked into the house after my husband and kids fell asleep in the tent. The ground was bumpy and it was a bit cold and damp that night.
I seem to remember a pesky fly buzzing near me.
Seriously, why should I sleep on the floor with plenty of comfy beds available within walking distance?
However, if we had an RV with a TV, air conditioning, and a kitchenette with a microwave and fridge, I could probably be convinced to “camp”.
After my children woke up, I cooked breakfast in our house and we ate outside. I think they noticed I wasn’t with them all night.
Millions of people enjoy camping and other nature excursions. Has camping increased or decreased during the pandemic?
Camping has increased markedly during the pandemic. In fact, Kampgrounds of America (KOA) reported that 48 million households participated in camping in 2021. This included 10 million people who had never camped before.
People wanted to escape their homes during the pandemic quarantines. Camping was a lower-risk activity compared to eating out and other recreational activities.
Camping allows you to enjoy the beauty of nature. However, each time we move food preparation and serving outdoors, the risk of foodborne illness tends to increase.
Bacteria multiply faster in warm, humid conditions, which summer often provides. In some cases, only a few bacterial cells can cause disease. Under the right conditions, bacteria double in number every 15 to 20 minutes.
In response to increased interest in camping and hiking, many “fancy foods” continue to be developed and are sold online or in retail stores. These foods are usually dehydrated or freeze-dried.
The offerings vary from mushroom risotto to mango sticky rice, according to my quick perusal of the offerings. Just add boiling water to rehydrate your meal.
These foods offer more upscale options than beans and hot dogs cooked over a campfire. Having somewhat gourmet meals certainly sounds like “glamping” (glamorous camping) to me.
If you’re eating on the road to a campsite or on a hike, ask yourself a few questions.
Do you bring coolers to keep perishables cool? If you bring cold food in a cooler, try to have raw meat and poultry in a separate cooler. Using large blocks of ice lasts longer than ice cubes.
If you don’t bring a cooler, foods such as nuts, whole fruit, granola, energy bars, dried fruit, jerky, and peanut butter sandwiches don’t require refrigeration.
Are you driving towards your adventure? Be sure to carry your cooler in the passenger area of the vehicle rather than in the trunk. When you reach the site, keep the cooler in the shade and cover it with a blanket or tarp to help retain the cold temperature.
Don’t you forget to bring a food thermometer? Remember to cook the burgers at 160 degrees Fahrenheit and the chicken at 165 degrees.
Is potable (potable) water available on site? If you are unsure, be sure to bring containers with drinking water, wet wipes, and biodegradable soap.
Keeping our hands clean is very important. I think we all know the “exercise” after hearing about hand washing for two years, but here’s a reminder: wet your hands, lather for 20 seconds, rinse and dry.
In addition to washing your hands before handling food and eating, be sure to wash your hands after playing with your pets and using the bathroom.
Do you follow safe food handling rules? Remember that fully cooked foods and cold-cut perishable vegetables and fruits should not be on the serving table for more than an hour in hot weather.
Do you protect your food from insects? Flies and other insects can spread germs to your food. Be sure to cover your food and don’t use bug spray near your serving table. To keep insects away, make sure you stay well hydrated, wear long sleeves, avoid scented moisturizers, and avoid wearing dark-colored clothing, which can attract insects.
Do you leave your campsite clean for the next ones? Use designated trash cans. Food scraps can attract animals to the site. Use biodegradable soap to clean tables and dishes. Finally, don’t forget to put out your campfires carefully.
Instead of a recipe, this week’s food offers an exercise in creativity. You can host a “do it yourself buffet” so family and friends can create their own snack before heading out on a hiking or camping adventure.
Custom snack mix
- 4 cups of cereal in various shapes (Examples: squares or rounds of whole grains or multigrains)
- 1 cup bite-sized crackers (examples: goldfish, animal crackers, cheese crackers)
- 1/2 cup dried fruit (Examples: raisins, dried cranberries, apples, blueberries)
- 1/2 cup nuts (Examples: peanuts, almonds, mixed nuts)
- 1/4 cup “treat” (Examples: chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, or coated candies)
Create your own mixes by mixing your favorite ingredients in a large bowl. This recipe with all the ingredients will make about 25 snacks (1/4 cup). Experiment with your favorite healthy snack ingredients. Add up the calories in your snack by doing the “nutritional calculation” based on the Nutrition Facts label.
Pack in snack-size plastic zip-lock bags to help with portion control. For best quality, use the products before the expiry date or the expiry date indicated on the packaging. Grain-based products remain safe to consume beyond the date, but their quality (flavor, etc.) may decline.
Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., RD, LRD, is a food and nutrition specialist at North Dakota State University Extension and a professor in the Department of Health Sciences, nutrition and exercise. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson.