Backcountry camping with food sensitivities or food allergies

Have you ever let a food sensitivity or food allergy stop you from going on a backcountry trip? Did you give up on the idea because you thought it would be too hard to manage? With careful planning, backcountry camping with dietary restrictions is completely doable!

Bannock with quinoa spinach soup.

In 2018, I did a 5-day canoe trip at Algonquin Provincial Park with a paddling partner with Celiac disease. Jen has to be super vigilant about everything she eats, avoiding foods that contain gluten, or those that may have been cross contaminated with it. We had never canoe-tripped together before, and I had never canoe-tripped with anyone with a food sensitivity or food allergy before (just with picky kids!). I knew that I would have to be careful in prepping and packing food, but I also knew that we could plan a menu that would work for our nutritional needs, personal tastes, and food restrictions!

Planning the Menu

Jen and I worked out our menu over email. We agreed to share lunches, dinners, and evening snacks, but to pack our own breakfasts and morning/afternoon snacks (except for gluten free pancakes one morning, with bacon and lots of maple syrup). We made lists of the types of foods we like to eat while camping, and settled on those that would be easy to make gluten-free for both of us (e.g. use gluten-free pasta), or easy to modify to be gluten-free for Jen (e.g. we brought both gluten free wraps and regular wraps to hold our carrot raisin peanut pepper salad).

Our menu:

Lunches

  • Carrot raisin peanut pepper salad in wraps
  • Pepperettes, cheese sticks, bannock
  • Dehydrated tomato and toasted almond spread, cheese, dehydrated veggies, bread/bagel
  • Peanut butter, nuts, seeds and dehydrated fruit in a wrap
  • Crackers, dehydrated hummus, dehydrated fruit

Dinners

  • Dehydrated quinoa spinach soup with bannock
  • Pasta with dehydrated veggies, sauce, bacon, parmesan cheese
  • Egg, bacon, dehydrated veggies, dehydrated salsa, cheese in a wrap
  • Pizza with pepperoni, cheese, dehydrated sauce and veggies on a wrap
Egg wraps with veggies, cheese and bacon.

Evening snacks

Pizza – yum!
  • Apple crumble
  • Chocolate cake to celebrate Algonquin’s 125th birthday!
  • Chocolate pudding with toppings (peanuts, M&Ms)

Food Preparation/Packing at Home

Since I’m not used to making food for someone with Celiac disease, I had to be really careful to read the ingredients on everything I bought and used to prepare our food. Jen would tell you that I texted her many times – either from the grocery store with a picture of the ingredient list of a product – or from home, asking whether she could eat something! I didn’t want to take any chances and make her sick.

I also made sure to use a clean chopping board, clean utensils etc., and not something that I had just used with food that had gluten in it (e.g. my wrap). I also wrapped my gluten-containing foods separately from the ones that we would share.

Precautions at Camp

At camp, we made sure to keep my gluten-containing food separate, and to prepare Jen’s food first, so that we didn’t accidentally touch a serving spoon to my food and cross-contaminate hers (e.g. we didn’t want to spread peanut butter onto my wrap first, and then use the same spoon to spread it onto hers).

I’m no gluten-free expert, but I will say this: we were able to find alternatives to gluten-containing foods, the meals we had were super delicious, and I didn’t for one second feel that the food on this trip was lacking compared to what I would eat on canoe trips with friends who are not Celiac!

Just plan, be careful, and get out there!

We had so much fun that we did it again in 2019. Here’s our menu from this summer.

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