The Best Times to Eat When You're Camping

By Molly Herber

Nov 5, 2015

Food has always been an important part of learning to live outside comfortably (no one should have to live without cinnamon rolls!), and we’ve spent a lot of time studying the best ways to keep folks healthy when the only food they have is what they’re carrying in a boat or backpack.

A Happy Group at Dinner Good food feeds the body and spirit. Photo by Tracy Baynes.

The Research

In a study NOLS did in conjunction with Washington University of St. Louis in 2009, we found out that students on NOLS courses were supplied with enough calories and nutrients in the ration, but that they didn’t necessarily know the best way to prepare the food or eat it at the right times during the day.

That’s when we came up with this handy nutrition sheet, which tells us not only what to eat, but how to teach folks what to eat when in the backcountry. At this year’s annual conference hosted by the Association for Experiential EducationNOLS’ Research Project Manager Shannon Rochelle helped present our latest research on backcountry nutrition for month-long courses.

We found that “despite the extensive nature of NOLS courses, students are effectively satisfying their nutritional needs while on course.” Basically, we’ve figured out how to eat well and how to teach our students to eat well (if you're really into nutrition, you can find the abstract and results here).

An important part of good nutrition in the backcountry is making sure that your body stays fueled over time.

Our Advice

Below are some of the basics of when you should be eating when you’re on the trail.

Eating Well in the Backcountry Eating at the right times will keep you healthy and happy. Photo by Tracy Baynes.

1. In the morning

Start off your day with energy!

2. Throughout the day

Eating regularly throughout the day will help keep up your energy. We recommendmixture of carbohydrates (including sugars), fats, and protein.

3. When you arrive in camp

You’re still burning calories even when you aren’t traveling, and sometimes it can be a long time between when you get to camp and when dinner is ready to eat.

4. At dinnertime

Eating something delicious not only supplies much-needed calories and nutrients, but can also give you a great boost of morale when you've been working hard.

5. Right before bed

Especially if it's a cold night, consuming calories in the form of a snack or a sugary hot drink will give your body something to burn to keep you warm and cozy all night.

Hungry? Check out the new NOLS Cookery!

Nerdy? Check out the latest research happening at NOLS.

NOLS also presented research on Dynamical Systems Theory at the 2015 AAE Conference, you can read the abstract here.


Written By

Molly Herber

Molly is a NOLS instructor and writer. She loves the smell of her backpack and does her best writing before 7:00 am. When she's not scouting the next post for the NOLS Blog, she's running and climbing on rocks in Wyoming. Follow her on Instagram @mgherber

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