There is a reason why people come back with different answers when asked what they love most about camping: there is a lot to love! Camping, in a way unlike any other activity, lets us truly unplug and get away from it all. In the soul-soothing quiet, the sights, sounds, and smells of the forest get the full spotlight they deserve. In addition to all that, providing for yourself out in nature with no civilization in sight brings an invigorating sense of empowerment.
If you’re a vegan, you may think that it’s difficult to camp and also stick to your diet. After all, when most people think about camping, they think about roasting marshmallows for s’mores, cooking hotdogs over the fire, and eating pork and beans–none of which vegans can eat. If you’re vegan and want to go camping but don’t know where to start, I’m a vegan camping expert here to share my expertise. I hope this vegan camping guide can help you get out into the great outdoors.
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Have a Plan
Whether it’s for weight loss or another type of dietary restriction, any purposeful design of a diet or meal plan quickly goes awry with a lack of advance planning. Activities last longer than anticipated, and you run out of time. Hunger begins to gnaw at you, and in desperation you’ll settle for the first edible items in your path whether they adhere to your goals or not.
A week before your camping trip, you should be getting your meal plan in order. If you already know what you’re going to eat for each meal, you won’t be left scrambling out on the trails trying to whip something together.
Do Prep Work at Home
Thinking ahead and taking care of some simple prep work before you ever leave home not only keeps you on track as far as how you want to eat, but gives you more free time to enjoy the destination, which is what got you so excited about your trip in the first place! When preparing everything you’re going to bring along, be sure to consult a camping kitchen setup guide and camping cookbook to make sure you don’t forget anything at home.
If you have a recipe that requires a lot of ingredients (like the roasted cauilfower recipe you’ll see a little later), take all the dry ingredients and put them in a plastic baggy. Doing this means you won’t need to bring a dozen bottles of spices, which will save you a lot of space. It’s a lot easier to dump pre-mixed spices into a camping spice container than it is to bring a spice cabinet’s worth of bottles and measure them all next to the campfire.
Vegan Snacks to Pack
Speaking of derailing diets, there is no way to predict quite how hungry you’ll get out there–you might not be satisfied until you see what’s at the end of that hiking trail and use up a bigger chunk of the day’s fuel! In addition to your planned meals for the day, you will have all bases covered if you also bring along some already-prepped, ready-to-eat snacks.
Protein bars are a favorite staple among campers because of how much energy they give you and how easy they are to pack. You can buy protein bars at the store, or you can even make your own at home and bring them camping. Some protein bars can be made with as few as four ingredients, like this one. The inclusion of popped amaranth (a gluten-free grain rich in protein, calcium, and fiber) adds a nutty flavor and gives a light crunch. Only 4 ingredients total for these bars, but you’re free to be inventive with vegan chocolate drizzle on top, etc.
The tried-and-true camping staples of nuts, trail mix, and fresh or dried fruit keep their place on every camper’s list for good reason: they’re just as easy to eat on-the-go as they are to store and carry, and all of them give you energy. Try walnuts or pistachios for a significant boost to your daily protein, not to mention the flavor.
And now for the crowd-pleasers: no one in your party, no matter what their regular diet, is going to think vegan or restrictive if presented with chips and salsa or popcorn. Stores offer tons of salsa options to choose from, or if you’re willing to put in a little extra prep time, make your own with the freshest tomatoes you can find.
As always when camping, be sure to pack lots of water to drink and make a conscious effort to pause the fun and sip often, especially alongside salty snacks. Dehydration is a serious risk out there, and you need to make sure you’re staying healthy and hydrated.
Vegan Meal Plan Ideas
If you’re unsure of what to make for your camping meals, we’ve prepared some tried-and-true recipes that are sure to make you want to set up your portable camping kitchen. These are some of my favorite go-tos for camping.
Breakfast: PB&J Overnight Oats
Overnight oats for breakfast leave you with most of your morning free as they fall squarely into the category of set-it-and-forget-it meals. Peanut butter and jelly is my favorite flavor, but you can personalize overnight oats to include just about anything.
- Your favorite peanut butter
- Your favorite jelly, jam, or fruit preserve,
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup instant or rolled oats
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1tsp maple syrup
- Blend 1 tbsp of peanut butter with the water until smooth.
- Add rolled oats, chia seeds, and maple syrup. Mix.
- Place half of the mixture into a jar. Layer with additional peanut butter and jelly to taste. Cover with remaining oat mixture and additional PB&J on top if desired.
- Let chill in fridge overnight or until ready to serve
Lunch: Rainbow Veggie Sandwich with Hummus
A sandwich will probably be an easy sell even to a varied camping crowd. Everyone loves sandwiches, and I believe the quality of your sandwich depends in large part on the bread. As long as the filling is tasty, pair it with freshly-made ciabatta, rye, sourdough, or your favorite bread and it stands a good chance of making another meal where no one will miss the meat. I make this recipe with beets, tomato, carrot, yellow bell pepper, butter lettuce, greens, and cucumber, but you can mix and match your favorite veggies.
Hummus keeps the sandwich from being dry and pulls the flavors together. Some people swear by homemade hummus, but I just don’t have the time to make it from scratch when I’m preparing to go camping, so I go the store-bought route.
- Your favorite bread
- 3-4 tbsp your favorite hummus
- Rainbow veggies of choice
- Slice rainbow veggies thinly.
- Spread hummus on each piece of bread.
- Layer veggies onto bread and hummus.
- Place second slice of bread with hummus on top and wrap in plastic wrap or paper to keep it together.
Dinner: Roasted Cauliflower Head
This meal makes use of herbs and spices to get big, complex flavor out of one main ingredient. It also relies on your campfire’s intense heat to tenderize a marinated head of cauliflower. I am already a fan of Indian flavors so I don’t need convincing, but if you or your camping troupe haven’t yet ventured into Indian cuisine this could be a nice gentle introduction. This recipe is also keto-friendly and gluten-free, so it can multiple dietary needs.
Mainstays already in your spice cabinet lay the foundation, with coriander and cardamom being the only ones that might not be in your regular rotation. If you’re new to cardamom, it has a warmth like cinnamon but a savory quality as well and goes wonderfully with fruit and tea. Here it brings something special to a meal that seems simple at first glance.
- 1 small or medium head of cauliflower
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp garlic powder (or fresh garlic)
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1.5 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp ground sage
- 2.5 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1.5 tsp coriander
- 3/4 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp cardamom
- Potatoes (optional)
- Carrots (optional)
- Mix all ingredients minus the cauliflower in a bowl to combine.
- Make small cuts on the top and bottom of the caulflower. Place the cauliflower upside down and pour half the marinade over it. Swish to coat interior. Let marinate upside down.
- Turn cauliflower upright and pour remaining marinade over top. Place in a skillet with potatoes and carrots (optional) and cover with aluminum foil.
- Roast over fire for 35-40 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook for 30-35 additional minutes if cauliflower is larger.
- Baste cauliflower with marinade in the skillet
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, serve when fork tender.
Dessert: Vegan S’mores
These are probably what everyone looks forward to on a camping trip as afternoon turns to evening. No extra prep work at home for this one–you’ll have fun putting them together around the campfire. Just pick up the vegan components on your pre-expedition shopping trip. There are graham crackers on the market that have always been vegan, and switching to vegan marshmallows will probably not be a noticeable change. Find brand recommendations in the recipe.
- Vegan marshmallows
- Vegan graham crackers
- Vegan chocolate
- Place two graham crackers on a plate. Place a pice of chocolate on one cracker.
- Place marshmallow on marshmallow roasting stick and roast over campfire to taste.
- Place roasted marshmallow on the cracker with the chocolate. Use the other cracker to help the marshmallow of the stick and place cracker on top.
- Serve immediately.
Foraging for Food
For additional snacks while exploring, and just for something fun to do, make like the critters who call your camping spot home and forage for your own food! What you’ll find will of course depend on your region, but woods and trails hold a myriad of edible plants, including flowers. Blueberries and blackberries grow wild in many areas of the United States, and there are plenty of other berries safe to eat.
You should also be able to find mushrooms, particularly in shady spots the woods provide. For all of these, though, it would be a good idea to pack a field guide just to be sure you don’t poison yourself. Remember, “All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once.” If you aren’t confident it’s safe to eat, don’t eat it.
If vegan food is not your norm and you’re looking to try it, you may notice how easily this menu comes together. Veganism fits naturally into the camping scheme for very practical reasons: ingredients are generally a lot less perishable, so camping coolers are optional, and required cooking temperature is much more forgiving.
Yes, there are plenty of health benefits, but in a situation where you may be carrying everything you’ll need for several days on your shoulders, it just plain makes sense. Give this menu a try or tweak it to your own tastes, but we hope it helps make things fuss-free and delicious for you out there, wherever you choose to pitch your tent.