We’ve all read about those outrageous camping hacks, but does anyone actually put them into action? Carly does. She’s road tested five camping hacks – all food related – to see how they hold up and whether you should give them a go too.
I’m the type of Explorer who loves a bit of innovation. Anything that’ll make my time outdoors slightly more comfortable — and bring on the feeling (aka illusion) that I’ve mastered my surroundings, at least for now.
Read more: 20 Outdoor Hacks We Bet You Aren’t Using
Camping hacks have added appeal because they usually involve repurposing everyday items in unexpected ways, or illuminate some brilliant shortcut that you never would’ve thought of in a million years. And the internet is full of them.
My recent stint hiking a leg of the Great Ocean Walk was, I believed, an ideal opportunity to road test five seemingly superb camping food hacks. Read on if you too want to add a touch of ingenuity to your camp cuisine and beverages.
Hack 1 – An Esky-Free Cold Drink After a Long Walk
There are plenty of situations when an ice-filled esky might not be part of your camping set-up. This is especially the case with hiking trips – because who wants to lug a bulky, heavy esky along the trail? What’s equally true though, is that a cold drink is especially welcoming after a long stretch of trekking.
Enter camping hack number one: harnessing the cooling power of waterholes and creeks.
This hack couldn’t be easier. Stick a can of your drink of choice in a nearby creek, or whatever other body of water is around (maybe skip the ocean unless you want your drink as frothy as the crashing waves).
Within an hour, the can should’ve cooled right down to a much more pleasant drinking temperature. If you have a mesh bag handy, put the drinks in there and tie the bag to an overhanging branch on a piece of string. This’ll prevent you from having to fish around for the drinks later (we of course, forgot about this part).
Read more: Remember to leave no trace!
Also make sure to avoid anywhere with strong currents or big rocks to prevent the drinks from floating away or being damaged. But definitely give this hack a go, it really works a treat!
Hack 2 – Café-style Brunch in the Bush
If you love superfood breakfast bowls, or like me survive mostly on plant-based foods, you’ll be pleased to know you can achieve close-ish to café quality versions in your camp kitchen.
Take acai bowls, which are basically super thick smoothies using acai berry puree, served in a bowl. The trick is to buy acai berries in a highly portable powdered form. I got mine from Aldi for $4.99 for 100g and just took a few tablespoons scooped into a compostable Ziplock bag.
Combine the powdered acai berries with a tablespoon of coconut milk – also powdered. You can source powdered coconut milk from online health food stores, but I imagine powdered soy or regular milk works just as well. You could also do this with fresh milk if you have that luxury on hand!
Mix the two together with a good glug of water, top with fruit and a sprinking of granola, and hey presto: you have a delicious, antioxidant-packed, Instagram-worthy morning meal.
Another cool trick for the health-conscious is overnight chia pudding. In a bowl or Ziplock bag, stir 3-4 tablespoons of chia seeds with another generous spoonful of powdered coconut milk, about a cup of water, and a teaspoon of sweetener like honey.
Mix it together before bed and store the bowl or sealed bag somewhere overnight animal visitors cannot get to it. By the time you wake up, the chia seeds will have absorbed the liquid, and you’ll have a filling, protein-heavy breakfast on your hands.
They’re especially great if you have an early start planned and don’t have a lot of time, plus they make a refreshing change to your usual muesli bar.
Hack 3 – Damper on a Stick
Any food put on a stick is just better: think churros, icy poles, or chicken/tofu satay. So, it’s safe to say that damper on a stick is infinitely superior to regular damper. It’s also a good hack if you forget to pack tinfoil, or just want to cut down on your litter.
Prep involves bringing along;
- 1 tablespoon worth of butter
- 1 cup of self-raising flour
- a pinch of salt
- any sultanas or chocolate buttons you feel like adding in
Store all this in waterproof containers.
In a bowl, rub the butter through the flour until it feels like breadcrumbs. Then mix the salt and water until it forms a dough. Divide the dough into two pieces and roll it with your (clean) hands until it resembles a snake shape. Wind the pieces around a dirt-free, dry stick. All that’s left to do is to cook it over an open campfire and enjoy.
This hack is somewhat messy, and you’ll need to make fairly firm dough to stop it dropping off the stick into the flames. I ended up cheating and wrapping it in aluminium! But the satisfaction of eating hot bread off a stick makes these minor drawbacks worthwhile.
Read more: Food Is Fuel: A Guide To Healthy Hiking Food
Hack 4 – Doritos as a Fire Starter
This was by far the strangest hack out of the bunch. And I was sceptical: could Dorito chips really be used to help get a campfire started? Life-hack websites say that the dry, light and oily texture of this brand of chips is easily set alight.
So, in the spirit of experimentation, I gave it a go. And it did light up alright. Not as well as newspaper, but it could be an okay substitute if you’re running low, or all the kindling you usually source from the bush is damp. Plus, as a bonus you get to finish off the pack!
Hack 5 – Broken-Down Car Coffee
There are plenty of great tips out there on how to brew a satisfying cup of coffee while you’re out in nature. Instant coffee will do in a pinch. You can also DIY coffee bags by wrapping up ground coffee in filter paper, and securing it with a string. But as we learnt, there are certain circumstances in which you shouldn’t reach for a cuppa.
On the last day of camp, we were driving back to town when a warning light on my friend’s dashboard started flashing: our engine was overheating. It appeared that we were facing something all Explorers dread: car trouble.
Luckily, I had mobile reception, so we dutifully called RACV. A local mechanic would be in touch with us shortly about what to do. We joked that at least with all the leftover food and camping gear in the back, we were well prepared to be stranded!
Read more: How To Brew The Best Camping Coffee Outdoors
So, I suggested we brew a cup of coffee on our camping stove while we waited (I am from Melbourne, after all!). And it really did make us feel much perkier and cheerful. That is until the mechanic called and told us we would need as much filtered water as possible to pour in our radiator to get the car to the repair shop (their tow truck was on another job). Cue faceplant.
Fortunately, we scraped enough water together from our water bottles, but had a very thirsty ride home. So, this isn’t so much a food hack, as it is a survival hack: when in a jam, don’t waste your remaining water on a cup of coffee!