GT: Camp Meals We Love Omnivore Edition
Wandering around in the woods for varying lengths of time is one of the best things in the world for a long list of reasons. Not least of which is the fact that it’s a fantastic way to exercise without really realizing you’re exercising. But with great workouts come great appetites—which can lead to some challenges when you need to carry all the calories you’ll be consuming during your adventures.
Whether you’re out on a quick overnighter or a multi-week excursion, choosing foods that leave you well-nourished and satisfied without adding too much weight and bulk to your pack is the key to maintaining your energy levels, which are directly linked to your overall stoke levels.
Good backcountry meals give you a solid balance of carbs, protein, and fats. And from energy bars to store-bought freeze-dried meals, there are a lot of good options that deliver a pretty decent mix of nutrients, and will tide you over just fine for a day hike or shorter trips. But especially on longer trips, many people find themselves craving foods that are, well, meatier.
Maybe you’ve got a high metabolism. Maybe you’re on the keto diet. Maybe you’re big into lifting, and you’re all about those sweet, sweet gainz. Maybe your ancestors were burly Viking warriors. Whatever your reasons, some people just need more meat to feel satisfied. If this isn't you, check out our favorite plant-based camp meals here.
If you frequently find yourself craving something a little heartier when you’re out doing your thing in the wilderness, check out some of our favorite foods that can help you beef up (ba-dum-tss) your protein intake and overall mealtime satisfaction. All of these carnivorous delights can enhance backpacking staples like noodles, couscous, pasta, full freeze-dried meals—and of course, the backpacker’s best friend, the almighty tortilla.
Photo by Tom King on Unsplash
DRY SALAMI (OR OTHER CURED MEATS)
Cured meats like hard salami and prosciutto can last for at least a week, especially if you take care to keep them stored out of direct sunlight and wrapped up tight to limit exposure to air. They’ll make for a satisfying tortilla or pita wrap, or a meal all on their own.
Add yourself some dates, some nuts, and a backpacking-friendly cheese, and you’ve got yourself a backcountry charcuterie board. (Charcuterie log?) Speaking of cheese, if you choose something low-moisture like an aged cheddar, parmesan, or wax-wrapped single-serving cheese like Babybel, it should keep for at least a week, if not more. Wrap your cheese in wax paper and then a bandana for best results.
BEEF JERKY (OR BETTER YET, BILTONG)
A staple of backcountry travelers for centuries, jerky packs a lot of protein and calories into its weight and volume. And because it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, you can carry a big ol’ bag for hearty, satisfying snacking at any time of day.
If you want to really up your dried-meats game, try some biltong (Dutch for “meat strip”). You’ll find it at most grocery stores with a decent selection of international foods. Originating in Southern Africa, biltong is to gas-station jerky as ground beef is to a proper steak. It’s usually made from thicker yet leaner cuts compared to beef jerky, with a better texture that won’t turn your jaw muscles into mush by the end of a snack break.
There are near-infinite uses for these pre-packed lean proteins. And if you bring them in packets instead of cans, you’ll have less trash volume to pack out. Stir them into your pot of noodles, couscous, or pasta—or add mayo and mustard packets to make yourself a tortilla wrap or three.
Bonus calorie hack—if you can find tuna or salmon packed in oil instead of water, you’ll get some free bonus fats and flavor, a tasty and satisfying combination with whatever pot o’ carbs you’re cooking up for dinner.
Usually some combination of dried, smoked, and cured, summer sausage doesn’t need to be refrigerated until it’s been opened, which makes it a great choice for backpacking trips up to a week or so. Another great option to pair with cheese for an easy lunch, summer sausage also makes an excellent addition to just about any pot of rice, pasta, or other carbs. It also tends to be pretty fatty, which is actually a good thing when you’re burning a ton of energy and need something hearty to satisfy your appetite.
When you’re on your 3rd straight day of instant oatmeal for breakfast, what could be better than a few slices of crispy bacon to make things feel a little more like home? Pre-cooked bacon should last for several days if you wrap it in a paper towel and store it inside an airtight plastic bag or wrap. Add it to just about any meal for some extra flavor, fats, and happiness.
Heck, if you can prevent a tomato from getting squished for a day or two and pick a few fresh dandelions for their very-much-edible leaves, you could even make yourself a backcountry BLT wrap using your flatbread of choice. Now that’s some good eatin’.
EGGS (POWDERED OR FRESH)
Eggs are an often-overlooked option for hearty backcountry breakfasts. Powdered or freeze-dried eggs can be super tasty, especially if you cook them with a little powdered milk and olive oil to give them some extra flavor and texture (and save yourself some tedious pan-scrubbing.) Eat them on their own, with the aforementioned pre-cooked bacon, or as the guts for—you guessed it—a breakfast burrito.
If you can get your hands on some farm-fresh (or backyard-fresh) eggs, they’re an even more delicious option, and can last for weeks. In many parts of the world, eggs aren’t refrigerated at all—it’s just that once they’re refrigerated, they need to stay that way. But cracking a fresh egg into a pot of boiling-hot noodles is an elite-tier backcountry culinary experience, and highly recommended in chilly weather. Just make sure you store your eggs somewhere safe, like a crush-resistant carton wrapped in plastic, or the inside of a hard-sided water bottle.
Photo by Eduardo Roda Lopes on Unsplash
This one is for the dedicated carnivores who don’t mind being a little extra in search of an extra-satisfying backcountry meal. If you cut up a steak into smaller pieces and freeze it before you hit the trail, it should stay fresh until you make camp. (It’s not recommended to carry raw meat for more than a few hours, however—this is a first-night-of-the-trip treat only.)
A little salt, pepper, and olive oil is all you need to cook up a hearty steak on your backcountry stove of choice. Add some sauteed peppers and onions—and if you’re in a place that allows campfires, some foil-packet potatoes—for one of the most satisfying camp meals you’re ever going to have at the end of a long day on the trail.
Whether you’re more into no-cook camping or fancy yourself an aspiring backcountry Gordon Ramsey (hopefully without the bullying), we hope these carnivorous camp foods make your next wilderness adventure a little bit tastier and more satisfying. Just don’t forget to eat your vegetables once in a while, too.
TJ Parsons is a semi-reformed snowboard bum who now has a semi-adult career as a professional writer and creative. He's a self-proclaimed perpetual intermediate who thinks the outdoors are for everyone, and who wants to help dismantle gatekeeping and elitism in outdoor sports. When he's not squeezing brain juice into a keyboard, you'll find him riding boards or bikes throughout the Intermountain West.
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