So you want to go camping but aren’t quite sure how to avoid the common “camping foods”, like hot dogs, chips, s’mores, oatmeal, granola bars, and so much more? Yeah, I know, I had the same concern when I was planning a 4-day camping trip with the family to Moab last weekend. So naturally, like any 21st century young-ish person, I turned to Facebook and asked all of my awesome friends what their thoughts were on the topic. So many of you had great ideas that I either used as-is, or modified for our family. And I really wanted to share our paleo camping with all of you great folks.
But before I get on to that, I want to bore you with some pics from our little family adventure. Ok, it’s probably not boring because we went to Moab and Vail, which are anti-boring places. And we had a blast. However, please learn from our mistake and do not, I repeat, do not, go camping in Moab in July. Holy hotness! It was over 100 during the day and maybe 75 (probably hotter) at night. We wound up camping only one night because we just couldn’t take it. Everyone was miserable. Although our campsite was great and we would have loved to stay all 3 nights, it was just not going to happen. So we stayed in the Holiday Inn Express (that makes us smarter, right?) and swam in the super cold pool, which is a win right there.
If you ever get to Moab, make sure you try to partake in some adventuring, which we did not get to do because we had 3 kids in tow. Did I mention we were on this trip to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary? With our kids. While that wasn’t ideal, we really enjoyed our family vacation. Next time, when we go not in the summer and without the kids, I would love to do some whitewater rafting, hiking/climbing to the actual arches (not just seeing them from viewpoints), Jeep excursions, and anything else that’s awesome and exhilarating!
After 2 days in Moab and exploring around Arches National Park (which is super awesome, by the way), we headed back to Colorado and stopped in Vail for the night. We browsed the shops in Vail Village, rode the gondola 2 or 10 times, and hiked up on Vail Mountain. Vail is a beautiful city, in a beautiful setting, with gorgeous buildings, but I feel it’s a little too posh for my tastes. I’m not yet a skier (something I will need to remedy soon, seeing as how I’m a Coloradan now), but I prefer the more down-to-earth feel of Steamboat Springs, as far as ski towns go. But Vail is beautiful and fun, and I can definitely see myself returning.
Okay, so now that you’re bored with not being bored with my vacation photos, on to how to camp, paleo style. It’s really not that hard and I was surprised at how well everything came together. I think the key was packing the cooler. I was mildly terrified that my chicken and steaks were going to thaw and go bad and we would all get sick from food poisoning or something, so I was overly cautious and it turned out to be perfect in the end. I wasn’t so great at taking pictures during our trip because when it was time to eat, we just wanted to eat, so these pictures aren’t fantastic, but I will do my best to explain them.
I began the food prep work the day before we left. Since there are five of us, I needed to pack a lot of food for the 4 day trip. I started by chopping up some romaine lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers. I added all that to wide-mouth pint jars, and then packed a couple jars or Tessamae’s dressings. When it came time for a little snack between meals, or a side dish to a steak, we just poured in a little dressing, closed the jar, and gave it a quick shake. Instant salad!
Then I boiled 16 eggs (that’s all that fits in my pot). While those were boiling, I made a large batch of chicken salad, about 6 cups. Then I made egg salad out of the boiled eggs. I found these snack-sized ziploc bags at the grocery store, half the size of sandwich bags. They hold a cup and were perfect for portioning out the egg salad and chicken salad, which we ate right out of the bag for lunches. It was a little messy for the little ones, but they were still able to feed themselves. I think next time I will use the snack bags with the wide opening, instead of these that were tall and narrow with a short opening.
Now that I had some snacks and lunches prepared, it was time for some main course meals. I chopped up some bell peppers and yellow onions, and bagged them separately. My plan for these was to put some in foil pouches and saute the rest for breakfast with eggs. However, I completely forgot the eggs! I even brought the cast iron skillet and had nothing to cook in it. I was so disappointed. Next time I won’t forget. I hope. Anyway, back to the veggies, to prepare the peppers and onions, I just put them all in a large foil packet, seasoned them with salt, pepper, paprika, and a little cayenne pepper, sealed up the foil, and set the packet on the grill while the steak and chicken cooked (more on that in a bit). Once the meat was done, I opened up the packet, gave the veggies a little stir, and they were done.
Another veggie I prepped was zucchini and summer squash. I cut off the ends, cut the squashes to length to fit in a ziplock bag, and then quartered them. To cook those, I just put them on the grill, turning every now and then while the meat and veggie packet cooked. When they were done (charred and soft but not mushy), I just sprinkled on some salt and pepper. This was quite possibly my favorite thing on the grill. I loved these squashes!
On a side note, before I forget, spices are super important while camping. Nobody wants bland food. If you have a 7-day pill box, use it. The one I had didn’t seal up the compartments very well, so I had to improvise last-minute to try and get some padding between them. It wasn’t perfect, and there was some mixing of seasonings, but it worked well enough. Just bring a little of the spices you use most often or whatever works for the food you plan on bringing.
But we’re paleo people, and that means we eat meat too. So here’s what I did for meat prep. I took 2 bone-in ribeye steaks, sealed them in a FoodSaver bag, and put them in the freezer (keep in mind this is still the day before). For the chicken, I placed 4 thighs in FoodSaver bags, and added some Tessamae’s dressings to them before sealing them up. I brought 2 packs of 4 thighs, both with a different dressing flavor. I put those in the freezer as well. I cooked the steaks the first night, because I wanted to cook them from frozen, and the chicken was grilled the next 2 nights, since it had time to thaw a little bit more. Once both the chicken and steaks were cooked, we added a little more Tessamae’s dressings for dipping. That stuff is stupid delicious!
And speaking of meat, there’s one more thing I did. I cooked 2 packs of bacon the day before. You know we’re not going to go 4 days without bacon. Once the bacon had cooled, I cut them all in half and packed them in ziploc bags. We ate them cold most of the time, but some were reheated on the skillet over the grill.
Now, I mentioned earlier that I think packing the cooler was the key to all this food prep, so here’s what I did. Instead of ice, we froze a bunch of water bottles and some cooler ice packs. We laid the water bottles down flat the full width of the cooler. On top of that, I placed the frozen steaks and chicken from the night before. Remember, I was freaked out they would thaw and spoil, so I took extra precautions here. On top of the meat, I place a layer of ice packs. For the single serving chicken and egg salads, I put those in a larger gallon ziploc bag (to prevent any possible leakage in the cooler, but that turned out to be an invalid concern), and placed that on top of the ice packs. I placed the bottles of dressing and salad jars on that layer as well. I covered that with a few more ice packs, then set the bagged veggies, bacon, and some apples and avocados on the top. I crossed my fingers that it would do the trick, and by the time we got back home, 4 days later, the water bottles were still half frozen and some of the veggies got a little frosty in the cooler before we could cook them. So I’m calling that a smashing success!
As I said, the only thing missing was eggs for breakfast, so we had apples and almond butter instead, along with a trail mix made of mixed nuts, raisins, and banana chips. We had a few other prepackaged snacks, but what I was really hoping to do (and ran out of time) was to make some Dried Strawberries and apple rings, and maybe even some Paleo Marshmallows.
As it turns out, camping on the paleo lifestyle is way easier than I was expecting. If you take a camping trip this summer (or fall, or winter, or anytime!) and stay on a paleo food plan, let me know how it turned out for you. I loved preparing all this food. I think food makes or breaks a camping trip and was so pleased with how it turned out. I hope you have an awesome paleo camping experience as well!