This article has been sponsored by Rustic Scoop, maker of gluten free and allergy friendly baking mixes.
Today I want to share great info you can use when planning your gluten free camping trip, or a camping trip when someone has a food allergy (or other dietary restriction). You might be camping with a child who has food allergies, or, it might be your first time venturing out as an adult with Celiac Disease. No matter what the diagnosis, I’ll be sharing how you camp safely, and eat delicious food on your adventure.
Avoiding Cross Contact/Contamination when Camping with Food Allergies and Celiac Disease
There are several places where cross contact/contamination (click here to know the difference) can happen when camping. The most obvious place: a shared grill. Think about this. John grills beef burgers and steaks which have a steak sauce on them (it contains several allergens). Next, he grills your safe vegetables. Your vegetables have now come into direct contact with whatever was in that steak sauce. If you’re allergic, there’s cross contact there.
When a grill is the only means of cooking, you can avoid cross contact by bringing foil. Wrap your safe food in several layers of foil before placing it on the grill. Alternatively, use a grill-safe plate or container to put your food in, then cook over the flame. This ensures that your food only comes into contact with your safe food container.
Things to Do Before You Set Off
Before your allergy friendly camping trip starts, thoroughly investigate the area. Wether you’re going solo, with other adults, or have kids on the trip, you’ll want to know where to find:
- Nearest Hospital/ER
- Grocery Store (that has some of your safe food available)
- Nearest Gas Station
- Hotel/Motel (in case you realize camping isn’t for you and it’s too far to drive home)
This advice extends to any kind of road trip or overnight trip you go on. When you’re managing food allergies, Celiac Disease, or a restricted diet, it’s important to know what’s available in a pinch. If you’re someone like me that has to travel in a safe vehicle, know where you’d get it serviced in case of an unexpected break down.
If you’re going on a camping trip with other adults present, make sure someone else knows your diagnosis and action plan. Whilst you always want to hope for the best, it’s good to have a plan in case something goes wrong. Wearing your medical alert ID can also help with this.
Make sure you’ve tested EVERYTHING out before your trip. This includes camping gear, items that require power, skin care items (especially if it’s a new-to-you product), and recipes.
Plan for Dessert!
Having s’mores on a camping trip feels like a mandatory activity if you ask me, especially if kids are involved. Make sure you have safe skewers, a way to start a fire, and s’more making ingredients.
RAISE has a great graham cracker recipe if you don’t have one. Dandies and Sweet Apricity both sell pretty good allergy friendly marshmallows, and are both gluten free. For chocolate, I like the Pascha brand right now.
Other fun camping desserts include:
- Apple Crumble
- Sweet Trail Mix
- Candy Bars
Packing List for Gluten Free and Allergy Friendly Camping
Here’s a list of items to consider packing for your trip. If you’re taking a child with food allergies camping, there will be other items to consider. Whilst this isn’t an extensive list, it should get you started.
- Epi-Pens and Other Medication
- Medical Alert ID
- Safe Food with a Menu Plan
- Transportation for Food
- Temperature Control for Food
- Cooking Gear (pots, pans, utensils)
- Backup Shelf-Stable Food
- Cleaning Supplies
- Small Pack with Temperature Control for Food (to take a small amount with you on a hike etc.)
- Safe Skin Care Products (sun screen, bug repellant, etc., many contain gluten and/or allergens)
These are items you’ll want to bring in addition to standard camping gear such as your tent, proper clothing for weather, and so on.
Great Camping Gear for People with Food Allergies and Celiac Disease
The first piece of gear you’re going to want to purchase for your gluten free camping kitchen (or allergy friendly) are fire-safe food containers. Some collapsable metal cups and bowls along with plates will be fire-safe. Alternatively, a small Dutch Oven would be a great camping investment if this is something you plan to do often. Make sure you also have enough eating utensils for your trip.
You’re going to need a way to transport your safe food. I personally have a Dometic Dual Zone 95DZ (their largest unit available at the time of publishing). To power my cooler, I have two Jackery 2000 Pros. Each can power the cooler for 25 hours without any external power source. I’m sure I’ll get solar panels in the future as a back up source, but for now, my vehicle can supply power when it’s on.
If you’re not ready to make such a large investment in transporting food, a good cooler from either Igloo or Titan would be my choice. You can use ice packs and/or dry ice to keep your food at a safe temperature.
One of the upsides to having something like a Jackery portable generator as part of your gear is that you can bring a toaster oven or blender to cook/prep food on the trip. I prefer to cook everything in advance so I don’t have to think about cooking whilst away, but if you want a semi-rugged experience, this could be the way to go.
Transporting Spices for Cooking on a Camping Trip
If you plan to cook a lot at camp, there are two easy options for transporting spices. First, pre-mix spices into blends and label. It could be an Italian blend, or BBQ blend, or taco blend, and so on. This makes seasoning foods on site much easier.
Once you have your blends, put them into baggies and label. When you’re cooking over the campfire, season generously.
Alternatively, if you don’t quite have a plan yet, purchase small containers to take your spices in. Think very small jars in the 1/2 to 1 ounce range. Small jars can help you feel like you’re not taking your entire kitchen with you.
Cleaning Dishes Whilst Camping
You’ll need to make sure you plan for cleanup. Personally, this is why I like to make all the food in advance and use disposable containers where possible (more on this later). Here are some ideas to consider, but it’s going to come down to the availability of water. Will you have usable running water on site? Will you need to bring your own water? That will determine what kind of cleaning is possible.
Eliminate excessive dishes by bringing paper products (plates/bowls) and disposable utensils if you plan to cook onsite. This means the only items to clean are the pots/pans and cooking utensils.
Sopping wet paper towels with a little safe-for-you dish soap makes for a great sponge alternative. You probably won’t want to carry around a wet sponge throughout your trip. Using this method, once you’re happy with the clean up, use the water onsite (or the water you brought) to rinse.
There are two things you can do to make pot/pan cleanup easier. First, don’t burn anything. You probably won’t be in a position to soak and scrub, so keep an eye on your grub. The second thing is to clean up before eating. Cleaning whilst the mess in the pan is still easy to move around (not dry/hard/caked on) will be your best bet.
If you’re RV camping, you won’t need to think about a lot of these things since most RVs have a water system onboard.
Easy Gluten Free and Allergy Friendly Camping Meals
Below are easy meals that you can take camping. They’re all gluten free, diary free, and very allergy friendly. Many are top 9 allergy free too.
Cast Iron Skillet Breakfast (bacon, small diced potatoes, bell pepper, onion, mushrooms). Prep all produce and have it in a bag with the bacon to make the transfer to skillet easier when you’re on the trip.
Just Add Water Ramen. Pre-cook your accompaniments such as peas, carrots, meat, etc. Have it in a hot-water-safe container along with dry gluten free ramen noodles (Lotus Foods). Boil hot water over the camp fire, then add to the container. This cooks the noodles and becomes the broth.
Cast Iron Pizza Over the Fire. Press dough into the pan and cook about half way, then add sauce, cheese, and pre-coooked toppings, then finish cooking. It might take your dough longer than expected to cook over the fire so keep an eye on it.
Tin Foil Meals (think sheet pan meals, but wrapped up in foil). Hearty ingredients to include: sausage, onion, bell pepper, corn, potatoes, select cuts of meat. Be sure to have your packets wrapped in a few layers of foil to prevent leaking (and cross-contact if you’re sharing a grill).
Hot Dogs/Sausages. These can be put on sticks/skewers like marshmallows and roasted over the open fire. Add whatever makes sense, For some, it will be a type of bread or maybe a tortilla. For others, it might be chips. Serve with easy produce such as apples or carrots to balance out the meal. Don’t forget the ketchup!
Dutch Oven Meals. Dutch ovens work really well over the fire. You might want to invest in a smaller than normal oven for practical reasons. Either way, you can cook chili, stew, soups, and other dutch oven recipes right over the fire.
Kebabs Over the Grill or Fire. Kebabs can be seasoned and assembled at home, ready to cook at camp. Remember, if using a shared grill, put down several layers of protective foil to prevent cross-contact from previous ingredients.
Foil Packet Chicken or Salmon. Layer chicken or salmon and aromatics in foil packets at home. Don’t forget to season your protein. Cook over the grill or fire for flaky fish or juicy chicken that tastes awesome. You can also add other veg such as potatoes to your packets, just be mindful of their size and cook time.
Sandwiches. It’s easy to forget such a simple staple. Bring bread and your fave fixings. Sandwiches be as simple as jam with a nut/seed/legume butter or cold cuts and safe cheese. Be sure to bring paper towels and disposable cutlery to make prep and clean up a breeze.
Baked Potatoes. Yes, you can make a baked potato over a campfire. Use smaller potatoes to pull this off, as they’ll cook easier over the fire. Poke with holes and wrap in foil as usual. Don’t forget to pack seasonings and toppings you enjoy with your baked potatoes.
For Those Who Can’t Use Foil
There are still plenty of safe options for you. In the food idea list above, many options don’t require foil. Stick to those. Alternatively, you can use other cooking methods such as a skillet or Dutch Oven. You could even bring along an outdoor pizza oven such as an Ooni and use that as a cooking apparatus. Don’t forget, you also have the option to bring power such as Jackery batteries which can fuel blenders and toaster ovens.
Is It Better to Make Food in Advance?
For some people, yes. Making all of the food in advance means a lot less stress when you’re on the camping trip. This is especially true, in my humble opinion, for those with complex cases, and those managing multiple diagnoses that aren’t the same.
On the flip side however, if you want a more authentic camping experience, no. Making all the food in advance takes away from that. Especially if you’re wanting to show your kids how to rough it a little bit.
It all comes down to balance, personal comfort, and the diagnosis itself. You know the needs of you and your household best, and you’ll have to adapt that information for camping. Just be sure to have a stash of emergency snacks along with knowing what’s available in the area should you need it.
I know for our household, my food would have to be made in advance 100%, and there would be some food made in advance for some of the others.
Don’t forget to take something really important into consideration: Time. Weather too! If you’re cooking allllllll that food on site, is it going to take up so much time that you don’t have fun? If the answer is yes, make the food in advance and reheat on site.
Be sure you know the weather forecast to know if camp fires are even a viable option, as several suggested meals require an open fire.
No matter which road you go down, start by knowing your trip goals. Is it to relax? Have fun? Do a lot of hiking? Teach your kids how to live away from the modern world? Your goals will also determine what kind of foods you bring, and how much prep you do in advance.
I hope this helps you plan for an awesome free-from camping trip that’s safe, delicious, and full of fantastic memories.