Keeping it simple is first on the list because I hate to cook. No matter where I am (not a chore I enjoy at home either). I know there are many campers that love the experiences of camp cooking. But not me. I don’t think solo travel or car camping have anything to do with it. But, having said all that, I still need to put some calories in the body to get out on the trails. I’ve never been a three meal a day person, but I try to shove something in before I hike….like a spoonful or two of peanut butter or a little bit of cold-soaked steel cut oats (its usually either one of those…the menu is quite small & rarely varies…it’s easy).
I’m usually up & on the trails early, but I always make coffee first thing. I keep all the essentials in one bag, so it’s easy to grab & just add hot water! (This also works really well on long road trips, when I need a caffeine hit, but don’t want to stop for bad or overpriced coffee; I can just pullover & make my own.)
I have plenty of water jugs to refill as needed. I drink a lot of water & don’t like single use plastic. I invested in the large heavy duty gallon jugs & they’re great. Many grocery stores & places like Walmart have refillable water stations. I have some containers for leftovers or to transfer food from non-cooler-friendly containers to stainless steel ones. A plate, some utensils, a pot & I’m good to go.
The water jugs go in the floor behind the drivers seat so I can easily get to them. I carry all the cooking stuff & whatever food I bring & buy in two storage drawers behind the passenger seat. The bottom drawer holds all my ‘equipment’ & the top drawer holds food, spices, etc.
Here’s where I come clean: I don’t need a lot because I don’t cook a lot. My second biggest expense (next to gas) is eating out. I’m trying to change this habit, but I love eating this way! Being a beer geek & a fan of local food, I love to head out about 2 or 3 in the afternoon, whenever I’m off the trail, to a yummy place to eat, sit at the counter or bar & experience the atmosphere, food, drink, the waitstaff & other customers. I almost never eat at a chain or do I eat at high-end fancy places. I have gotten to know owners of restaurants I re-visit & met some super cool people while eating out. It’s amazing & surprising who you find yourself sitting next to over a burger & a beer. Going in the afternoon means I can linger during slow times & really enjoy it all & take it in. I’m not afraid to ask tourist type questions & sometimes I get better answers (local hikes & other yummy places to eat) than if I’d gone to the Visitors Centers.
This past spring, I tried to set myself up to cook more, plus you always need food for when you’re in a town that doesn’t have anywhere you want to eat. I purchased more food than usual, dehydrated some food & took it all with me.
It worked, but not great. I was able to eat all of it, but really missed my experiences by eating out. There’s a learning curve when it comes to re-hydrating food…so there were a couple of ‘crunchy’ dinners until I figured that out.
When it’s time to cook something, I set up my table & backpacking stove & get it done. I do love to sit outside & eat….most of the time at camp I’m in a lovely forest or have awesome views & that’s the best part of eating in camp.
(By the way, I don’t recommend those potatoes in the photo below. I’d seen them on some long distance trail forums, so I’d thought I’d try them. Ended up dumping the all of it…yuk! But isn’t that view spectacular? Who cares about the food when you have all the eye candy you need!)
I was recently generously given a high-end cooler & it holds ice for a couple of days, three at best, in cooler weather. So I buy ice frequently…way more than I’d like to. I only carry 1/2 & 1/2, a couple of beers & a bag of salad greens inside, but I love ice cubes in my water & my hiking bladder. In my dreams, the perfect refrigerator would be small (they are all huge!), not require much ventilation around it (I don’t have extra space), be affordable & powered by my rotating tires….I am a dreamer & will always be one!
In the evenings, whether I’ve eaten out or in, I really enjoy sitting outside & watching the sunset & the stars pop out. I love to build campfires (when allowed) & sip on a great beer or glass of port. And, I do enjoy making & eating s’mores!