There is no better time to get out and surround ourselves with nature, but what are you supposed to eat?
Ironically, the most popular camping foods, meals, and snacks are so highly processed that they bear little resemblance to real food. From the chips to the sugar-filled trail mix, the hotdog buns to the deli salads (and let’s not forget about s’mores), most classic camping foods are packed with processed carbs and far from being healthy.
That being said, it is surprisingly simple to improve health and reach your keto goals while camping, hiking, and backpacking. All it takes is packing nutrient-dense keto-friendly foods and ditching all the highly-refined high-carb “foods” they are often accompanied by.
To help you plan for your next trip, let’s explore the most important aspects of how to stay in ketosis while your camping, hitting the trails, and backpacking:
Keto and camping are the perfect combination for two key reasons:
While you’re camping on keto, weight loss is likely to happen effortlessly and naturally as your body burns more fat and ketones for fuel and high-carb foods are no longer readily available.
That being said, jumping on the keto train right before your camping trip won’t be the best strategy. It is crucial to account for the three keto considerations in the next section before you go.
Before you start packing for your camping, hiking, or backpacking trip, there are a few keto-related questions you must consider:
Before getting into nutritional ketosis, you may experience flu-like symptoms as your body adapts to carb restriction. Though the symptoms usually go away in a few days, you’ll find it hard to be a happy camper during this time.
For this reason, it may be best to give yourself at least 1-2 weeks on a strict ketogenic diet before going on your camping or backpacking trip.
If you are already keto-adapted, then staying keto will be much easier. Plus, you’ll be able to add some extra carbs into your diet to compensate for any long hikes you go on.
On the other hand, if you can’t change your plans, you may want to hold off on strict keto until you get home. Instead, use the camping trip as an opportunity to cut back on high-carb foods and ease your transition into ketosis.
It is crucial to plan your meals and snacks around what your activity levels will be.
In general, how much you eat will depend on these two principles:
The second principle is particularly important for backpackers or anyone hiking for multiple hours a day. If this substantial increase in activity levels is not compensated for with extra calorie consumption, then your body will start breaking down muscle and won’t be able to recover from the hike.
To get a better idea of how much extra food you’ll need, I’d recommend using a backpacking activity calculator and adding that estimate to the macros you get from our keto calculator.
In general, it is better to over-prepare for your trip. There is nothing worse than having a beautiful serene spot in the middle of the woods and running out of food. (This is especially true for keto backpackers who have no car to get them back to town.)
The easiest strategy is to make sure you have a plan for each meal with extra nutrient-dense keto snacks that can serve as meal replacements if necessary.
How much excess food you pack will ultimately depend on what style of camping or backpacking you decide to do. For example, if you’re backpacking and space/weight are at a premium, you’ll want to prioritize the highest calorie, easy-to-prepare foods with the least water weight.
In contrast, for those of you planning to bring your car and 2 or more coolers, you can be much more flexible with what keto foods, snacks, and meals you have.
With these considerations in mind, the only barrier standing in our way to staying ketosis while camping is knowing exactly what to eat. Fortunately, there are a host of on-the-go keto foods and easy-to-make recipes to choose from.
Before we start prepping, let’s save some space and money by learning what popular camping foods to avoid.
Though you may have to ditch these high-carb camping staples, there’s a major upside to keep in mind: By avoiding them, you will free up plenty of space for some of the most satisfying foods.
Here’s a summary of our keto camping food list, but scroll down below for a more in-depth look at what to eat and tips on how to include them:
Low-carb Foods to Keep Cool
Keto Camp Foods With a Long Shelf Life
*Make sure there’s no added sugar or artificial ingredients.
Drinks and beverages:
For a complete list of keto drinks (with and without alcohol), check out our complete guide to drinks and beverages.
Rather than mixing and matching from the food list above, you can plan your camping menu ahead of time with the help of the keto recipes below. For each meal, we’ve included recipes you cook over the fire as well as delicious easy-to-store meals you can make before you go.
Keto Campfire “Oatmeal”
A comforting low-carb “oatmeal” recipe that is perfect for chilly mornings by the campfire. Just mix the dry ingredients before you go and bring your preferred keto-friendly milk alternative with you.
Warm the keto milk over the campfire and stir in the dry ingredients until it resembles oatmeal. Pour your keto “oatmeal” into a bowl and top with crushed nuts, seeds, and/or berries.
Sliced Keto Sandwich Bread
Bread that won’t kick you out of ketosis. Make a loaf before you go and toast it in your campfire pan with butter for a quick high-fat keto breakfast. (Missing a few of the ingredients? Check out our other keto bread recipes.)
Keto Zucchini Bread with Walnut Crust
If you prefer to start your morning with something sweet, this keto zucchini bread will be the perfect breakfast. Warm each slice over the campfire and spread with butter, cream cheese, or nut butter for a satisfying low-carb camping meal.
Maple Pecan Fat Bomb Bars
For a quick no-fuss breakfast, bring these fat bomb bars with you. They are nutritious, delicious, and packed with healthy fats, making them a great meal replacement energy bar to bring with you on the trail.
Keto Chicken Salad
Skip the deli line and make the chicken salad yourself. This keto recipe makes for a quick lunch bowl or a satisfying lunch wrap on a low-carb tortilla.
Creamy Keto Taco Soup
A hearty, flavorful soup that is incredibly easy to make at home and reheat over the campfire. Don’t forget to add some extra cheese and avocado on top if you need to fuel up for the trail.
Easy Keto Smoked Salmon Lunch Bowl
If you’re looking for a lazy lunch idea, bring these keto recipe ingredients with you and assemble the bowl for a quick meal. Feel free to use any extra lime, greens, or mayo to make tonight’s dinner or tomorrow’s lunch even better.
Hawaiian Hot Dogs
Though you can have them without the bun on keto, there’s nothing like packing a hot dog with all the fix-ins. Feel free to customize the toppings with your keto favorites, especially if you are bringing beanless campfire chili or pulled pork with you.
Don’t forget to bring the two-ingredient keto hot dog buns with you. They are surprisingly satisfying and can be used as low-carb tortillas or bread replacements if you’re limited on space.
Easy Keto Campfire Chili
All you need is the right mixture of spices, sugar-free tomato sauce, cheese, and meat to make a delicious campfire keto chili. In fact, this recipe is so simple that you can make it all in one pot over the fire (as long as you skip the sauteed onions and peppers) — or just make a big batch at home and use the fire to warm it up for dinner.
Portobello Mushroom Burger Bun
If you’re craving a juicy burger with all your favorite toppings, this is the recipe is for you. Just clean and marinate the mushrooms and prepare the burger mixture beforehand so that all you have to do is grill them over the fire.
There is nothing like slow-cooked pork by the campfire. Though it’s easier to make it at home and fill your Tupperware to the brim with carnitas, you can also slow-cook the pork shoulder in a large pot over the fire. Just make sure to give it plenty of time to cook — and don’t forget the low-carb tortillas.
One-Pan Cabbage and Bacon Keto Bowl
Bacon, green cabbage, butter, a skillet, a fire, and a trusty knife are all you need to prepare this keto meal. It can also be made as a side dish to accompany your carnitas, burgers, or chili.
To maximize storage space, chop the bacon and cabbage beforehand and pack it into separate containers. You can also cook it up and pack the leftovers for a quick meal or side dish.
Keto Chicken Bacon Ranch Foil Packet Meals
Foil packet meals are an awesome keto camping hack that can save you a ton of time and minimize clean-up. Essentially, you’ll be loading up heavy-duty aluminum foil with your preferred meat, low-carb vegetables, and seasonings, seal them up into a foil packet, and cook them over the campfire and/or grill until done.
As an example, For a quick chicken bacon ranch foil packet meal, follow these six simple steps:
Feel free to customize your own keto foil packet meals as well. Just use the low-carb camping food list and this recipe example as your guide.
No Bake Coconut Cashew Bars
High-fat, low-carb, delicious, and filling, these bars are a must-have if you are craving something sweet or need a reliable keto snack on the trail.
No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Fat Bombs
To get your peanut butter and chocolate fix, make a batch of these and take them with you. Feel free to double up the recipe and bring them on the trail for a great hiking snack as well.
Coconut Chocolate Fat Bombs
These are the perfect desserts for anyone who finds themselves eating a bit too much chocolate candy when they’re camping.
Neapolitan Fat Bombs
A delicious camp-friendly dessert for fruit lovers, these fat bombs combine chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla with keto sweeteners to satisfy your sweet tooth. If Neapolitan is not your favorite flavor combo, check out our fat bomb guide for more keto camping dessert ideas.
To give you a better idea of what keto eating looks like in the great outdoors, we formulated this straightforward meal plan suitable for a long weekend camping trip:
Keep in mind that your servings and portion sizes will depend on your specific macronutrient needs and daily activity levels. To figure out how much you should eat to stay on track toward achieving your weight loss goals, use our keto calculator.
If you’re not sure exactly how to prioritize your foods, meals, and recipes, I recommend following these camping tips:
Keep in mind, however, these rules work best for camping trips with the help of cars and coolers. Everything changes when storage isn’t plentiful, climate control is not an option, and we don’t have the luxury of an automobile.
If you are going on long hikes (lasting longer than 2 hours) or backpacking, it is best to prioritize high-fat, low-water foods that will not spoil quickly. These foods tend to take up the least space and provide the most calories, which is crucial when you’re burning up such a substantial amount of energy.
Let’s take a look at the best trail foods that fit into this category, followed by the simplest keto meals you can have after you set up camp at the next spot.
Are you looking for more keto trail snack ideas? Check out our complete list of keto-friendly snacks.
Backpacking meals are not as glamorous as the camping recipes above, but they can still be flavorful and satisfying:
What you’ll need:
How to make it:
Alternatively, use your rehydrated keto milk to make the campfire keto “oatmeal” from the camping breakfast recipe section above.
What you’ll need:
How to make it:
Alternatively, squirt some mayo on each bite of tuna for a deconstructed trail-friendly tuna salad.
If you’re planning to backpack or hike for multiple hours a day, I recommend having a trail snack and dessert to make sure you have enough food to recover for the next day.
We’ve included three delicious recipes below that make for the perfect snack and dessert:
Regardless of your camping style, it is crucial to keep these two principles in mind so you can stay keto:
To make planning for your next keto camping, hiking, or backpacking trip as simple as possible, we’ve included several resources below:
Remember, however, it is best to hit the trails after you are in nutritional ketosis. (This may take up to 2 weeks of strict keto eating.)
If you need help getting started before your trip, the easiest option is to use our keto meal planning app. It will do most of the hard work for you, so all that’s left is to prep your meals and enjoy!
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