Keto is compatible with camping. There is no reason to fall off your keto diet just because you want to enjoy the outdoors on a camp out with family and friends. There’s also no reason to rely solely on protein bars and dehydrated camping food.
What We'll Cover
- Advantages of a Keto Diet
- Staying in Ketosis While Camping
- Keto Snacks to Pack
- Keto Meal Plan Ideas
- Breakfast: Bacon and Eggs
- Lunch: Sausage and Vegetable Hobo Packet
- Dinner: Steak Kebabs
- Dessert: Keto S’mores
- Prep at Home
Living keto doesn’t have to be a huge challenge on a camping trip. To be sure, traditional camping food are carb-heavy. They don’t fit into your keto diet discipline. But the good news is that you can enjoy your weekend or even your week in the woods while staying in ketosis. It’s easier than you think.
Advantages of a Keto Diet
Keto has become a popular diet option because it provides a lot of health benefits, and it can be helpful even while camping. Here are just some of the different reasons people go keto, regardless of if they’re on or off the trails.
Keto Burns Calories Faster
Even if you do not burn calories as fast as you like on a regular-carb diet, you can burn calories up to twice as fast when you stay on your keto diet. Your body will use a combination of fat from food and body fat for steady energy while you enjoy long hours of low-intensity-activity such as hiking, paddling, and campsite activities.
Keto Helps Recovery
A keto diet helps you recover faster from exercise. That is because there are lower levels of inflammation in a body fueled by ketones. The science tells us that low-carb plus high fat creates less inflammation than high-carb plus low-fat. There are higher levels of antioxidants in your body when you are on keto.
Keto Keeps You Fuller Longer
A keto diet protects you against hiker hunger resulting from inadequate intake of calories. It’s a well-known fact that sugar and other forms of carbohydrate provide just four calories of energy per gram. Fat provides nine calories of energy per gram. You can eat half as much food and get more than twice as many calories. And because high-fat foods are easy to eat, you won’t have to stuff yourself to get all the calories you need to keep going all day.
Staying in Ketosis While Camping
When you go on a a keto diet, your body enters what’s called “ketosis”. Ketosis is a metabolic process that occurs when the body doesn’t have enough glucose to use for energy. Because of this, it will instead burn stored fat. This is the bread and butter of the keto diet—but not literally of course.
If you’re already on a keto diet, you might think it will be difficult to stay in ketosis while camping. However, this isn’t necessarily true. You just have to plan ahead and pack the right foods.
Pack High-Energy Foods
The first thing to remember about choosing food for a camping trip is to pack high-energy foods. Many people confuse high-energy foods with high-sugar foods. Trail mix, candy bars, most energy bars, and cereals are high-sugar foods, but they are not high-energy foods. Why? Fat is the high-energy food—sugar is not.
Fat provides nine calories of slow and reliable energy per gram, while sugars and carbs provide just four calories of quickly-consumed and unstable energy per gram.
Electrolytes are minerals that help your body maintain fluid balance. Electrolytes are critical for avoiding heat exhaustion and heat stroke during summer camping. They help you maintain your energy levels any time of year.
Sodium gets a bad rap as the electrolyte provided by salt, but it is essential for maintain the electrical balance of every cell in your body. Campers who consume lots of salted nut butters, salami, cheese, seaweed snacks, salmon skin chips, soups, and broth are unlikely to become deficient in sodium. It’s still important to avoid drinking a lot of water without also consuming sodium-rich foods.
Potassium is not as abundant as sodium in most keto camping foods. This vital electrolyte is lost through sweat and through the feces, particularly when diarrhea strikes. Low-potassium levels, known as hypokalemia, can cause numbness, tingling, bloating, cramping, nausea, and muscle weakness. Keep up potassium levels by foraging for wild greens, or from fish and bone broths. And for those very few carb calories you have in your diet, choose half a banana, a few cherry tomatoes, or some citrus or dried fruit, all of which are great sources of potassium.
Plan Your Meals
When camping, you need to know what you’re going to cook and when. This helps take the guesswork out of cooking when it comes time to start a fire and prepare a meal. Before you even start packing for your camping trip, you should know what you’re going to cook. Have a list, go grocery shopping, and pack everything away.
Remember, if you’re packing perishable items, they need to be placed in a camping cooler. It isn’t safe to consume meats that have gotten to be above 40ºF. Using a camping cooler will keep all your cold foods cold so you can stay safe.
Keto Snacks to Pack
Sometimes you just want to snack on something without having to break out a camping stove to cook. There are plenty of keto-friendly trail snacks that you can munch on when taking a break from hiking.
Jerky is a snack food that can be eaten throughout the day. Just be careful to avoid jerky made with a sugar cure and jerky that is low-fat. Natural meat dried without a sugar cure is best.
Keto-friendly sports drinks help maintain electrolytes without loading you up with sugar. There are keto-compliant sports drinks with real fruit flavors and all the electrolytes you need but no carbs. Sports drinks that include coconut water, sea salt, and potassium are great for staying cramp-free in hot weather.
Mixed nuts are a great source of healthy fat for lasting energy. But choose carefully among nuts and nut butters, because some “nuts” are not really nuts at all. Good choices for keto are almonds and macadamia nuts. Peanut butter, not so much.
Hard cheese won’t get greasy in your backpack if you wrap it carefully. Dubliner cheese can be eaten as a snack or as a wrap. Another option is stocking up on freeze-dried cheese snacks. For meats, salami and summer sausage are carb-free and keep in all but the hottest weather without refrigeration. You can also make your own keto trail mix from unsweetened coconut, cocoa nibs, and sunflower seeds.
Keto Meal Plan Ideas
Meal planning is important when you’re going camping, and it’s especially important if you’re on a social diet like keto, vegan, or gluten-free. Here are some keto meal ideas for a day of camping.
Breakfast: Bacon and Eggs
When you’re camping, you can’t beat a classic campfire breakfast. There isn’t even a fancy recipe necessary for this one—just throw some bacon and eggs into your favorite cast iron skillet and cook as much as you like. Serve with a cup of your favorite campfire coffee, and enjoy.
Lunch: Sausage and Vegetable Hobo Packet
Hobo packets, also known as foil packets, are a camping staple because they’re easy to prepare and can be done ahead of time.
- Your favorite sausage
- Sliced bell peppers
- Bite-sized broccoli pieces
- Button mushrooms
- Salt and Pepper
- Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Portion vegetables
- Season with salt and pepper to taste
- Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat
- Place on sheet of aluminum foil with sausage
- Fold foil, use multiple layers if seepage is a concern
- Place beside campfire until sausage has reached an internal temperature of 165ºF
- Sprinkle with parmesan cheese (optional)
Dinner: Steak Kebabs
Kebabs are a favorite camping meal because they don’t require pots or pans, just skewers and possibly a grate to hold them while they cook. There’s no need to worry about seasoning your cast iron cookware when making kebabs.
- Beef, cubed (sirloin or Angus)
- 1 red onion, chunked
- Cherry tomatoes
- Salt and pepper
- Bamboo skewers
- Soak bamboo skewers in water for at least one hour before cooking
- Season steak and vegetables with salt and pepper to taste
- Skewer steak and vegetables
- Grill over campfire to taste
Dessert: Keto S’mores
What’s a camping trip without s’mores? While normal s’mores are off the menu for the keto diet, keto s’mores are delicious and 100% allowed. Keto s’mores are a bit more work than normal s’mores due to keto graham crackers and marshmallows not being widely available in stores. But if you can do the prep work before leaving, it’s well worth it.
- Keto graham crackers
- Keto marshmallows
- Dark chocolate
- Skewer marshmallow with marshmallow roasting stick
- Roast over campfire until desired doneness
- Sandwich between two graham crackers with a piece of dark chocolate
Prep at Home
It can be difficult to pack an entire camping kitchen for cooking on top of your essentials for living. To make cooking easier, try to do as much of the prep work at home as possible. This means doing things like cutting steak into cubes, chopping vegetables, pre-mixing spice blends to store in camping spice containers, and so on. You can even flip through camping cookbooks beforehand to think about how to customize recipes to be keto-friendly.
Doing this kind of prep work cuts down on the amount of things you need to bring with you while camping. After all, why bring a cutting board when you’ve already done all the cutting and chopping at home?
At-home prep work also cuts down on how much time it takes to cook. If it’s been a long day and you’re getting hungry, you want to eat ASAP, not in two hours. Doing prep work at home helps you get the food on the grill faster, which means you get to eat sooner.
There are no hard and fast rules for staying on your keto diet when you go camping, but there is one emphatic suggestion. Do as much of your prep work at home as you can. You’ll carry fewer bags and you’ll more time for fun. And you will continue to lose weight by maintaining ketosis even while you are having a great time!