A fabulous guide to cooking outdoors, by Frank and Sue Wall and Deb Hadskis »

Enjoy excellent camping meals

By Robyn Lewis
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Warrumbungle National Park - Camping

Warrumbungle National Park - Camping

Bushwalking in NSW
Camping in the Mornington Peninsula's hinterland
Walking along the coastline, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria.
Food to Go – How to eat great hiking and outdoor food - by Frank and Sue Wall and Deb Hadskis


Have you ever wondered how to cook good food while on a bushwalk or camping? No more burnt offerings! Making your outdoor meals tasty, healthy and interesting has never been easier than with this handy e-book, written by experienced hikers and outdoor chefs Frank and Sue Wall, and Deb Hadskis.

As the introduction says, Food to Go is “a comprehensive guide to getting a menu planned and meals prepared for any outdoor adventure, anywhere”. Fourteen other experienced walkers from around the world have also shared their menus, tips and ideas, adding a diverse range of recipes and flavours.

When I came across the book this sounded almost too good to be true, but reading through the 169 pages, I realised that it delivers, and then some – if you're into camping and food, this is for you!

With Food to Go you can take your outdoor cooking to a level way beyond the boring and not-very-nutritious two minute noodles and dried pre-packaged foods, and add a dash of gourmet to your next camping or hiking trip.

As someone who has done a lot of walking in the Australian bush and elsewhere, the monotony of dried foods wore off long ago. When we go camping these days, especially with my family, we look for something a bit more interesting and tasty to eat, and even to have with a bottle of wine!

I’d certainly prefer learn how to dehydrate my own food, lessen the weight of food to carry (and also the rubbish needed to be carried out) and fit in that bottle of wine (or Scotch or rum) into my pack instead.

Food to Go starts with a section on planning your menu. This is based on

  • the size of your party,
  • the number of days of your trip,
  • what season it is and where,
  • your budget and
  • any special dietary requirements.

The book features a simple spreadsheet which you use to calculate how many meals required, including snacks. While this is fairly basic, the process of filling in the gaps is a very useful one and could also be used to plan a weekly menu at home, especially for a family.

But you’re not expected to do all this yourself. The authors asked several ‘mates from the outdoor world’ in Australia, NZ, South Africa, the UK and USA to provide some sample menus for a five-day, four-night trip, plus a menu of their own that only takes about an hour to shop for in a supermarket. They provide tasty, interesting, varied and well balanced meal and snack ideas for five days.

Some of the contributors like to keep their menu very simple, by having the same meals every day. That would bore me rigid, and despite perhaps a marginal increase in weight carried, I’d prefer a menu with some more variety. There’s nothing like anticipation of a good meal to keep you going that last kilometre on a hike, and Food to Go gives you plenty to choose from.

For shorter walks (or the first few days) you can carry fresh food (even freezing some and allowing it to defrost if the weather is not too hot); the longer the walk, the more dried food you’ll need, in the absence of an air drop.

There are ideas for walks of fifteen days or more – one contributor has completed a walk of 444 miles!

Food to Go also has lots of tips. One of the greatest problems on a bushwalk is bread – it’s bulky, gets squashed and breaks up. Enter mountain bread, wraps and pita bread, and ideas to make them interesting.

Monotony can be avoided by carrying some spices, including Cajun mix (great for fish, if you catch any, as is one of my own faves, lemon pepper) and chilli flakes. For the extra days in case you get stuck with bad weather, ramen noodles make a fine backup.

Vegetarians are well catered for – the author’s daughter is one, and she has contributed a menu. Many recommend drying your own fruit, like mango, banana and strawberries, because it’s so much better than the bought stuff. (another tip of mine: dip them in citric acid solution first, to prevent them going brown through oxidisation).

Next follows a chapter on ‘getting organised’, covering

  • packaging,
  • weight,
  • storage,
  • sharing,
  • packing,
  • energy and nutrition,
  • variety and
  • emergency meals.

With an estimated allowance of 700g – 1kg (1.5 – 2.2 lbs) per person per day, food weight can add up, so it’s important to keep both it and any packaging to a minimum.

There are plenty of tips in this section too, including how to recycle plastic containers, and for North American hikers, how to make your food scent proof (for avoiding bears). Zip lock bags (marked with permanent marker) are your friends, and you can even make your own clarified butter, which doesn't go off.

I particularly liked the next chapter on dehydrating – fruit including berries, vegetables, even baked beans, lean meats, curries (take-aways are perfect, apparently!) and spaghetti bolognaise can be dried.

This section alone is worth the price of the book if you are doing any food drying, and you can have a bit of fun and provide variety by first brushing the fruit (bananas or pineapple) with rum and brown sugar. ‘Preppers’ (those preparing for a global or national food crisis) will also like this book.

Chapter 4 is on breakfasts, with good muesli recipes, pancakes mix, etc. Did you know you can even dry yoghurt?! No, neither did I…. Dried eggs seem almost unprocurable in Australian shops these days, but the authors provide a link to an online supplier, Pace Farms.

Then to lunches – many of their ideas would also be good for a day walk or a fishing trip – and then of course to the most important meal of the bushwalker’s day: dinner. It’s here that your planning will pay off, as most people find they can eat a whole ‘4 serve’ packet after a good day’s walk!
The authors provide a range of websites where you can buy pre-packaged dinners, covering Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the USA and UK. One range is even prepared by a professional chef, others are preservative free.

Pages of comments from walkers who’ve taste-tested them are also included, blog style – beware the brand that ‘looks like polystyrene foam’ when reconstituted.

And there are still 80 pages to go! If only more cookbooks were this comprehensive, I can't help but thinking. Nothing is left to chance.

The reminder of the book is largely recipes, including plenty of vegetarian options such as Tomato Sauce; Pasta with Pesto and Parmesan; Yellow Dahl; Dried Hummus (you can also dry store-bought dips, apparently!); Banana Curry (adapted from the upmarket bakery Jackman and McCross in Tasmania); Latkes and more.

The recipes tell you how to make, dehydrate and just as importantly how to rehydrate and cook without the whole thing turning into an unappetising mess.

For meat lovers there’s Chili Con Carne; Chicken Tikka Marsala, Thai Curry Chicken and other Asian chicken dishes; recipes for Biltong (Beef Jerky), and fresh meat dishes for the first few days of your expedition.

Plenty of these recipes would be great for a mid-week meal at home too – when preparing for your walk, make double and feed the family at the same time. Most would also freeze well.

Then there are dishes specifically invented for camping and hiking, including Pizza in a Scone and ‘Planked’ Salmon (or Trout), a sort of hot smoking/roasting with a plank of wood and a fire.

Chapter 7 covers desserts. As the authors say, “there are few enough times that you can indulge in a dessert with no guilt. Happily, one such time is after a hard day’s hike.”

You’ll have plenty of friends in camp if you knock up a Berry Cobbler or a Cheesecake out of your rucksack, for sure. Of course there are also dried fruit and chocolate options, too, and stomach fillers like Fruit Rice Pudding, which can also double for breakfast.

Snacks follow. Everyone with walking experience has their own favourite scroggin blend (GORP or trail mix to Americans) but there are suggestions in here that I’ve never thought of using, and would be particularly good for kids.

The High Energy Bliss Balls sound amazing, and apparently contain a day’s energy allowance in each one. If you’re hoping to lose weight, don't make these.

Lastly, drinks, including milk, soups, teas, chai, and yes, wine and other alcoholic drinks. They recommend not carrying these in glass bottles (you have to carry them out), but up to you, the wine in question and the length of your trip. I have friends who walk into their chosen destination with their wine and whisky supply, hide it, and walk out to return with the food later!

Hydration is critical when bushwalking, and there are plenty of tips for water treatment too.

The final section is on cooking gear, of which there is now a huge variety, which is thankfully getting lighter in weight. The days of campfires in many areas are gone, so careful selection here is important.

One of the contributors, Sarah Connell, recommends cooking everything in freezer bags, which she says “(changes) the concepts of traditional outdoor food. It offers simplicity, convenience and variety, then whirls them together with the philosophies of lightweight outdoor adventuring. The cooking gear needed is minimal, lightweight and can be bought, found or even made”.

The days of roughing it in the bush and monotonous food are long over, and Food to Go will bring you up to date and provide enough material for years of camping and hiking enjoyment. Into the outdoors? Then get it!

Food to Go is an e-book by Frank and Sue Wall and Deb Hadskis, published in pdf form by the authors (2010; 169 pp) and is available for download from their website OurHikingBlog.com.au for RRP A$ 19.50

VisitVineyards.com subscribers can save 25% (A$5) off RRP by using a special promotion code obtainable here (you need to login to obtain the code).

This article was written by Robyn Lewis, wine, food and travel lover, founder and CEO of VisitVineyards.com, and huge supporter of Australia's fabulous wine and food industries.


  • Geelong and Bellarine Peninsula (VIC)

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