I’ve spent a total of 11 nights in a tent over the past few weeks. Camping is great, but it’s not without its challenges. There’s staying warm, keeping everything dry…and feeding yourself, too. Being vegan adds an extra dimension to that.
At a campsite I stayed in at the beginning of August, the shop sold ‘the basics in the way of food: bread, milk, eggs, bacon, cheese, yoghurt, orange juice, crisps and cans of cola etc’. I found this definition of ‘basics’ rather worrying, not to mention deeply unhelpful!
I know a lot of people just eat out when they’re camping. But I’m way too cheap for that, so I had to find another way.
It turns out it’s pretty easy to eat a cheap and relatively healthy vegan diet whilst camping. You do need a camping stove and a pan, but that’s about it in terms of equipment.
So what food should you take with you? Well, it’s up to you, but here are some suggestions.
UHT plant milks – the non-refrigerated ones in the supermarket – keep really well. Bring cereal, and oats too if you like. It’s easy to make porridge (oatmeal) on a camping stove. You can also get foldable wire racks for making toast whilst camping.
I don’t normally eat cheap sliced bread, but it’s ideal for camping as it keeps for ages. Peanut butter and jam is a good sandwich filling. Hummus and the like are less than ideal as they need to be refrigerated.
Tinned soup is another good camping lunch. You can find vegan bean, lentil or vegetable soups in most supermarkets.
Two words: baked beans. They’re possibly the most stereotypical of camping foods (in the UK, anyway) and for a reason! If you have a toasting rack, you can make beans on toast. Otherwise, try eating them with tinned new potatoes.
You can get a little more creative here. I can’t bear to go without vegetables, so on my first trip I bought fresh veg. We were staying for 6 nights, so I knew we’d get through it all. We got a massive punnet of mushrooms, some broccoli and an aubergine. The aubergine turned out to be a mistake, because it took a long time to cook and used a lot of gas. But everything kept fine. Fresh veg is definitely a possibility if you’re willing to do the prep. But it can be a bit of a hassle if you haven’t got much space, especially if the weather is bad. Alternatively, you can use tinned veg.
Tins and jars are your friend whilst camping. If you’re worried about health, look for those with the lowest salt, sugar and fat content. I like to have tinned chilli and ratatouille, along with beans and jars of curry sauce. On one trip, I combined the beans, sauce and veg to make a lovely (and very quick) curry.
Pasta is good because it’s light and cooks quickly. Combine it with jarred pasta sauce and veg. Instead of rice, you can have couscous, since it’s virtually instant. But I find couscous quite bland, so I opt for bulgur wheat instead. It cooks in about the same time as pasta, and has more flavour than couscous.
I bought some dried apricots on one camping trip – dried fruit of any kind makes a good snack. Fresh fruit is good too – apples in particular keep forever. I ate a lot of apples dipped in peanut butter when I was camping.
Popcorn, crisps, nuts and so on all work well. So do crackers and oatcakes, which you can spread with peanut butter. Dark chocolate is ok as long as it doesn’t get too hot in your tent.
In fact, snacking is probably the easiest part of camping. You can pretty much eat whatever you normally do!
Bring whatever hot drinks you like – tea, coffee and so on. You can boil water in a pan or bring a camping kettle. UHT fruit juice would probably keep ok, but I haven’t tried. Squash would be fine too. Hopefully you’ll have a water point nearby so you don’t have to bring big bottles of water with you.
I honestly don’t think camping as a vegan is any more difficult than camping as a non-vegan. It may even be easier. I have a horrible memory of biting into a sausage whilst camping as a kid and finding it was still pink inside. At least there’s very little risk of food poisoning when you’re vegan!
Be sure to consider your climate, though. Even hot days in the UK aren’t that hot, relatively speaking. In a warmer climate, fresh stuff may not keep so well.
Camping season may be drawing to a close, but I hope these tips are helpful to you whenever you take your next trip. Good luck!