Living in New York City, I love going camping for a few days to gaze at natural wonders beyond the trees in Central Park. The only problem? I’m gluten-intolerant, and that makes eating while camping a little more complicated. Combine my dietary restrictions with the added sugar packed into gluten-free foods, and most traditional gluten-free camping snacks just slow me down on the trail.
Whether you’re headed out for a day of hiking or planning to spend a week in the woods, a great trip starts with delicious, energy sustaining snacks. Here’s my list of gluten-free camping snacks will give you the nutrients you need to get the most from sunrise to late-night stargazing.
1. Breakfast without the mess
Camping guides typically recommend instant oatmeal packets and granola bars for breakfast. Unless you want to experience a pre-lunch sugar crash, I recommend skipping these. Instead, I grab Munk Pack’s Oatmeal Fruit Squeezes, which are certified gluten-free, vegan, and high in whole grains.
Designed similarly to those applesauce pouches that are so popular with the elementary school crowd, Munk Pack’s Oatmeal Fruit Squeezes’s mess-free packets contain extra fiber with quinoa and chia seeds, omega-3s from flax seeds, and no added sugar. With flavor combinations like raspberry coconut and blueberry acai flax, these breakfast packets are the only way you’ll be enjoying berries on the trail unless you find them in the wild. Blueberries aren’t very backpack-friendly, after all.
2. Fight against hanger with portable proteins
Unless you have all the fancy cooking gear and giant coolers, camp meals require a lot of planning and time. And after spending hours on long car ride or hike, that’s time I don’t have to wait for my next snack. If you want a protein that’s quick and not at risk of spoiling, pack shelf-stable proteins like nuts and beans instead of a cooler packed with chicken and eggs.
Be careful with jerky and pre-packaged protein snacks — those are often high in sodium, which will leave you feeling dehydrated while out in the sun. That’s why I make my own before heading out of town. Making your own roasted chickpea snacks is easy — all you need is a can of beans and your favorite seasonings. Skinnytaste’s roasted chickpeas recipe contains significantly less sodium than most packaged chickpea snacks from the grocery store. Just set a timer and let those chickpeas toast while you pack.
3. Skip the bruised bananas
Bananas are one of my favorite fruits, but they make terrible camping companions because they bruise and smash in a backpack. Luckily, I’ve found a solution that’s a little more flavorful than a banana sauce pouch. Barnana brand snacks export the “imperfect” bananas typically get rejected to make to make snacks like banana brittle and chewy banana bites.
My favorite Barnana snacks are the chocolate banana bites. These do contain more sugar than the other snacks on this list. However, the potassium in bananas will soothe your aching muscles after a long hike. Some researchers even recommend eating a banana instead of downing a sports drink to better recover from exercise.
4. Reduce cravings with seeds and sprouts
Like many people with gluten sensitivities, I have a sensitive digestive system that can make healthy foods like whole grains and seeds hard to digest. One solution? Sprouting. Sprouted grains and seeds are making a serious comeback in the health food community, and according to registered dietician Kristina Secinaro, germination may make these staples easier to digest and increase the availability of key nutrients.
Freshly sprouted grains and seeds are vulnerable to bacteria and not exactly camping-friendly, so I enjoy them in the form of Go Raw’s Flax Snax. One of several types of sprouted foods available from Go Raw, I opt for the Zesty Pizza flavor. These sprouted crackers are high in dietary fiber and healthy fats from the flaxseeds so they’ll satisfy your cravings and keep you full between meals on the trail. Make sure to down his gluten-free camping snack with a lot of water as it’s a bit higher in sodium.
5. Indulge in a gluten-free campfire dessert
Okay, s’mores won’t help you sustain energy or recover your aching muscles, but it’s not camping without treating yourself to a fire-toasted dessert! Traditional graham crackers won’t fit the gluten-free camping menu, but there’s plenty of ways to make gluten-free s’mores and campfire desserts. Get creative with stuffed bananas in foil or slow-baked apples.
For s’mores, I love using Kinnikinnick’s gluten-free graham crackers. There’s also Pamela’s graham crackers, however, these aren’t my first choice because they contain dairy. Pro-tip: if you’re trying to make healthier s’mores, skip the vegan marshmallows. They don’t melt well and you’ll end up with an inedible mess.
Camping the Gluten-Free Way
One in every 133 Americans have Celiac disease and many more of us consume a gluten-free diet for other reasons. That’s why it’s important that eating gluten-free shouldn’t be considered a restriction — it’s just another way of taking care of your body. When I choose gluten-free snacks, then, I focus on nutrition and flavor first because many of the best foods are naturally gluten-free.
If you’re planning a camping trip, don’t forget to keep it simple when you gather around the campfire. Nothing beats listening to popcorn snapping over a fire or the flavor or the taste of a fire-roasted hot dog. The same applies to your time on the trail — fruits, nuts, and sturdy vegetables like carrot sticks, radishes, and peppers never go out of style.
With the days growing longer and warmer, it’s time to get out your tent and cooler and hit the trail – and these gluten-free camping snacks will keep you satisfied and energized along the way.
Now the only question is, where are you headed?