Car Camping, Special Diets and Nourishing Traditional Foods

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Making hot drinks and breakfast at a rest stop in the United States.

Recently, I did a 5000km(3000 miles) road trip in the United States. Travel for someone on a restrictive diet can be difficult. I would like to share some of my strategies for finding and preparing food on the road. Even if you don’t have a special diet, these tips may help save money on food while traveling.

  1. Be aware of restricted foods before crossing any borders. I found a list of food items for the border police is very helpful and speeds up the process. Also, have a list of items with prices to declare for the trip back.
  2. Bring water for your trip. I bring a minimum of 2.5 gallons per person. I refill the containers along the way and always have a full supply of water. I also carry two stainless steel water bottles for easy use and refill them daily.
  3. Bring supplies from home. Bringing food from home helps keep one’s diet as close to normal as possible. This avoids stress from changes in diet that may result in illness. Typical supplies are: olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey, coconut oil, creamed coconut, barley miso, chocolate bits, cocoa nibs, macha, coffee and tea. I also brought homemade salad dressing, homemade beef jerky, homemade nut granola, homemade coconut creamer and homemade mushroom broth.
  4. Bring a cooler with ready-made food that’s easy to eat. My ready-made food lasted for the first three days of the trip. My ready-made food included: bean salad, meatloaf, kimchi, butter, cheese and cream. Bring food that everyone enjoys.
  5. Have some way to heat water. Have enough kitchen equipment to cook on the road. Fill thermoses and travel mugs with coffee, tea and hot water in the morning for use throughout the day.
  6. Use new technology to find local, organic food. Finding food along the way can be tough but with new technology it’s getting much easier. Smart phones can search out organic food stores and other local food producers in whatever area you are visiting. If you don’t use a smart phone finding places to provision before you leave home is a must.
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Here’s my water heating system. I use a simple alcohol stove fueled by methyl hydrate. The front of the cooking box can be closed up to stop the wind from blowing out the stove.

Over the years I have used many different types of stoves and camping kitchen equipment. Right now I’m using a small alcohol stove fueled with 99.9% methyl hydrate. You can find methyl hydrate at the paint or hardware store. I carry two stainless steel pots. One small pot and one larger pot that can boil 1.5L of water. A French press is good for making coffee. Stainless steel thermoses and insulated travel mugs are a great way to keep coffee, tea and hot water warm all day.

Recently, I have started cooking in a cardboard box. This may seem like a strange idea but the box is good for storing all the cooking gear in one place, and acts like a wind shield, making cooking faster while conserving fuel. When the box gets dirty it can be discarded. Just cut one side of the box with a box-cutter and fold up that side when cooking to reduce air flow. Of course, while cooking always watch the box so it doesn’t catch on fire!

Camping kitchen kits are great too. You can make your own or buy a ready made one. I bought a ready made one years ago and over time customized it. My customized kitchen kit has a cutting board, box-cutter, sheathed knife, 2-4 spoons, 2-4 forks, spice and condiment bottles, a lighter, scrubby pad and small bottle of dish soap for clean-up. I carry 2-4 bowl-shaped plates for cutting-on and eating which also fit inside the kitchen kit. I carry a supply of paper towels in a zip-lock bag for eating and wiping-off eating equipment for those times when there’s no water for washing-up. I’ve started carrying some small bars of soap and shampoo packages like the kind you would get staying at a hotel.

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Here’s my customized, camping kitchen kit. It has everything I need to prepare simple meals. As you can see, the equipment sees heavy use. I really like having a sheathed knife to avoid damage to the kit. Bowl-shaped plates are great for liquids and can be used as a cutting board.

Here are some ideas for quick, simple snacks and meals while traveling:

  1. Soft-boil 2-3 eggs per person and serve with lots of butter, sea salt and pepper. It takes about 2 minutes to soft-boil eggs.
  2. Homemade nut granola with chopped fresh, local fruit served with yogurt.
  3. When there isn’t time to cook, add some butter, coconut oil or homemade coconut creamer in coffee or mushroom broth for a quick, filling hot drink.
  4. Eat a handful of whole nuts. On this trip, the local pistachios were fantastic.
  5. Eat a small amount of beef jerky.
  6. Eat cooked meats, chicken or fish using a lettuce leaf as a wrap. Add some fresh avocado slices for an extra filling meal.
  7. If you’re on the road and really desperate, Sally Fallon-Morell recommends eating pork rings with only added salt. I’ve found this advice has worked well for me even though I’m very sensitive to food additives.

For more information about my typical traveling rations please see: Emergency Preparation: Some Thoughts About Water and Food Security.

If you are looking for light-weight, calorie dense rations for travel please see: Emergency Preparation: Fasting or Ketogenic Rations.

2 thoughts on “Car Camping, Special Diets and Nourishing Traditional Foods

  1. Yes, a cardboard cooking box is a simple, low-tech way to create a shield so the stove doesn’t blow-out in high wind situations. The box also saves on fuel because the stove doesn’t have to work as hard heating the water. The box is an excellent place to store and organize the cooking equipment and makes transporting “the kitchen” from the car to the picnic area easier too! When the box gets dirty, just throw it out and make a new one.

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