Here is where I share my thoughts, ideas and opinions about the world of nutrition, food and health. I hope you find good sense, helpful guidance and inspiration to eat great healthy food that makes you feel good.

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25 Nov 2015

Food for camping out

Posted by Nicole Senior on Wednesday, November 25, 2015

My teenage nephew is going on a camping adventure with his school. They are going into a national park for five days and four nights and must take all their food with them, and bring all the rubbish out. Luckily, there is drinking water available. He’s asked for my advice about what food to take.

My husband had a great idea: take army ration packs. These have serious teenage boy credibility as well as being nutritionally adequate and compact. I know these packs are designed (by a dietitian) to meet the daily nutritional needs of soldiers so I’m guessing they’ll do the same for my nephew. You can buy army ration packs at army surplus stores, and they are coded with a letter to denote different days so be sure to buy a variety of letters to prevent eating the same thing every day. They contain an entire day’s meals, snacks, condiments and powder to make up with water for beverages.

If you can’t get hold of ration packs, or you’d rather do things differently, here’s a few guidelines and tips to put together an adequate ‘ration pack’ of your own.

Plan it

Write a menu plan of three meals & three snacks and drinks and pack only what you’ll need; you don’t want to carry anything extra. Your objective should be to come back with little to no food.

Energy dense

The aim of camp rations is to cram as much energy and nutrition as possible into a small space. There is a reason military personnel have chocolate as part of their ration packs! Chocolate is energy dense and enjoyable, and this camping trip is an occasion where chocolate has its place in providing energy for exploring the bush, and food-fun in a limited-food situation. In fact, bush-walking is one of the few times chocolate IS appropriate to eat. The point of camping is to survive and have fun, not score 100% for the healthiest food.

Dry foods are good

Water is heavy, so carrying dry foods you can mix with water when you set up camp is efficient. Here are some examples:

Grain foods: pasta (pasta & sauce), oats, rice, noodles, quinoa, roasted chickpeas, muesli, muesli bars, breakfast biscuits.

Vegetables: dried (surprise) peas, beans, carrots, mash potato and mushrooms

Fruit: dried apricots, sultanas, dates and apple

Nuts: all of them! eg Peanuts, almonds, cashews, macadamias

Dairy: powdered milk

Drinks:  sweet drink powders such as milo and sports drinks offer appealing hydration; and tea and coffee for the older teens who like it

Meat etc and alternativesbiltong, powdered egg mix; dried tofu (from Asian grocers), red lentils (these cook in 15 minutes)

Flavourings: dried soup mix, flavour sachets, dried recipe mixes; herb mixes (put these into small seal-able bags), sugar (for oats, tea etc) 

Shelf stable

There are a lot more shelf-stable ready-meals in the supermarket these days. These are ultra-heat treated and sealed and don’t need refrigeration. You just have to check the packaging  of meals to check if they can be boiled in a billy as most are designed for the microwave. These are ideal for evening meals- check out these examples of meals you can boil in your billy (a camping pot used for cooking). As it’s difficult to get dried meat, fish and chicken; canned fish such as tuna, salmon, herring and prawns in single portions, or canned beef and beans is a weight worth carrying. It sounds a bit weird but there are squeezy sachets of fruits and custards made for babies and kids that would work well as a single serve of fruit or dairy.

One pot meals

Here’s how you can create satisfying, flavoursome meals in your billy in four steps.

1. Grain

2. Meat or alternative

3. Vegetables

4. Flavour

  • Moroccan: Wholegrain couscous + red lentils & almonds + dried peas, corn, carrots + Moriccan seasoning.
  • Asian: Instant wholegrain noodles + dried tofu + dried mushroom + Asian seasoning
  • Indian: Brown rice + Madras lentils + dried peas
  • Italian: Pasta & Sauce (dried) + canned salmon & corn 
  • Mexican: Brown rice + Canned beef & beans

Minimise packaging

Choose lightweight packaging materials such as packets and pouches rather than cans because metal is heavy, and glass is heavy and dangerous. Portion out extras like sauces from home into smaller seal-able bags.

An example Day’s menu


Oats and sultanas with (powdered) milk


Morning tea

Milo and milk (made from powder)

Muesli bar


Instant noodles, dried vegetables and small can of tuna

Roasted chickpeas

Afternoon tea

Dried apricots, almonds and chocolate OR Nut bar


One pot pasta: wholegrain pasta + Braised steak (can) + sundried tomatoes


Milo and milk

Breakfast biscuits

Enjoy your adventure in the great outdoors!