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Advice on which foods to take on wild and remote camps.

Each of us has our own gastronomic preferences depending on our taste, culture and experience so the topic of food for camping is diverse and subjective. This article doesn’t deal with the wider subject of longer-term nutritional needs simply because most camping exploits tend to be relatively short, so here are a few of the basic criteria for camp food and some suggestions.

Three Critical Factors

1. You need energy so it must be high-calorie food;

2. You have to carry it so it needs to be as light as possible;

3. You have to cook it so it needs to use little fuel, water and time.

You Need Calories

If you’re in a remote location, you’ve probably expended energy getting there and, for many of us, we’re in that location to engage in energetic activities like hillwalking, canoeing, mountaineering, cycling etc. so we need to replenish our used energy with high-calorie food.

There are three primary sources of energy:

  • Carbohydrates: short-medium term energy, easy to cook and digest.
  • Protein: medium term energy, slower to cook and digest.
  • Fats and oils: very high medium-long term energy;

As a general rule, carbs provide quick and easy fuel, protein provides slower energy release and amino acids essential for repairs; fats and oils provide slow-release longer-term energy.

These three food groups will provide almost all the calories you need, and you need a lot:

A 70kg person carrying a 10kg rucksack on a 5 hour hillwalk in the Lake District will burn approximately 3200kcal which needs to be replenished.

For each additional kg (bodyweight and load) add 10 Calories (kcal) per hour and for every extra hour walked, add 9x your bodyweight (kg) in Calories, to your total energy expenditure.

To replenish 3200 Calories you need to consume:


Food Type kcal
Sandwich Lunch 250
Banana Lunch 100
2 50g flapjacks Lunch/snack 450
Snickers/ Mars bar Snack 250
100g mixed fruit n nuts Snack 380
2 mugs of hot chocolate (with powdered milk) Drink 200
A large portion of pasta Bolognese Evening meal 480
5 chocolate digestives Snack 400
50g emmental/edam cheese Snack 180
Beans and sausages (350g) Breakfast 360
2 hard boiled eggs Breakfast 150
Total calories 3200

Each of us will choose our favourite foods, but the chart above gives an idea of how much to take.

Below is a list of foods that are popular with hillwalkers, mountaineers and paddlers:


Popular-High Calorie Foods for Wild/Remote Camping

All the following are relatively easy to prepare and pack with cooking reduced to a minimum saving time and fuel. Clip-n-lock containers are great for storing food items and flasks are great for liquids.

Pre-cooked meals are superb way to reduce cooking time, fuel consumption and hassle; they can be a little heavier but in most cases you’ll need to carry less fuel and water. As soon as you’ve finished cooking them, seal them in sterilised airtight containers while they’re still very hot and they’ll keep for up to several days in summer and for over a week in winter.

Most of the meals below can be re-heated in one pan, for example, heat your pasta sauce, add the pre-cooked pasta put a lid on the pan and then turn the heat off. Make sure it all gets very hot for a few minutes.

As a general rule while wild camping; eat your most perishable foods on the first day and save your long-life foods for last. Cured and pickled foods will last considerably longer than fresh and are often salty so they help replenish lost salts.


Nuts/mixed dried fruit and nuts

Chocolate/caramel and nut bars

Flapjack and other oat/cereal bars

Pork pies, cured sausage (saucisson/chorizo/salami)

Cheese (Emmental/Edam)



Oatcakes (biscuits, Scottish) with pate/cheese/sausage

Jelly babies

Peanut brittle

Biscuits; chocolate digestives, oaties, Kitkat, etc

Evening Meals

Pre-cooked pasta and sauce (meat/fish/veg Bolognese, carbonara)

Pre-cooked white rice and sauce (curry, chilli with meat or vegetables)

Pre-cooked egg noodles and sauce (prawn satay, beef n black bean, etc)

Instant noodles with pre-cooked added meat and veg (stir fry)

Instant mash with beans and sausages


Baked beans, pre-cooked sausages, tinned toms, pre-cooked bacon, omelette

Pre-cooked kedgeree (egg, fish, rice)

Pre-cooked pancakes, with pre-cooked bacon and syrup

Pre-cooked eggy oatcakes with beans/bacon/toms

Eggy bread (French toast) and beans/bacon/toms

Granola, other oat cereals (chocolate, fruit, nut and honey clusters)

Muesli, honey and peanut butter biscuits

Porridge (ew!-glue)


Teabags, sugar and milk (fresh milk in a flask in summer, a bottle in winter).

Fresh coffee (I carry fresh ground coffee when I can)

Hot chocolate.

The Author

Simon McElroy is an Accredited Practitioner of the Institute for Outdoor Learning, a Mountain Leader and Paddlesports Coach and has been camping in wild and remote places for over 40 years.

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