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3 Ways Camping Helps Reshape Food Thoughts

As usual for me this time of year, I'm getting ready for my annual camping trip to Baxter State Park. Even though I've been doing this for many years, it still involves a lot of prep work, especially when it comes to food.


That's probably true for most camping trips, but it takes on added importance at places like Baxter since you have to drive about an hour to get to a grocery store. It really helps to make sure you bring everything you need.


Doing this advance prep made me realize how going camping makes me think about food a bit differently.


How much do you need?

One of the first and biggest questions is, how much food do you need?


I don't think about this quite so much on a daily basis. I have a sense of how much I typically eat, but some days I have more, and some days I have less. When camping and particularly hiking, though, how much you need changes based on how active you are. Without knowing how much hiking we're going to be doing (depending on the weather and how we're all feeling), that makes it hard to gauge.


At least my friends and I don't have to carry our food to our campsite in our backpacks, but we do still have to think about how much to bring. I'm not great at this. I always worry about getting hungry and not having enough food, so I pack more than I need.


This year, I'm trying to scale back a little. It feels a bit nerve-wracking not to bring as much as usual, but I keep reminding myself that every year I've come home with plenty of food left over, and I'll be fine. But I might not fully believe it until we're leaving the campground.


Not taking food for granted

Hand in hand with this goes a deeper appreciation for food.


I recognize that I'm very fortunate not to worry about food. I don't wonder about where my next meal will come from, or if I can afford to buy groceries and pay my bills and take care of my cats. I can afford what I need.


Most of the time I take that for granted. But when I'm getting food for camping, I have to think about the fact that, even if I have money, once I'm at the campsite it won't be easy to get more food. All we have is what we bring.


This makes me more conscious not only of how easy it is for me to get food but also of everything that goes into the food I buy. Those who save seeds to grow fruits, vegetables, grains, and more. Those who grow and harvest those plants. Those who transform them into ingredients I can use, like cornmeal. Those who raise the animals that become meat or that provide cheese, butter, and yogurt. Those who package and transport all these items to a nearby store - as well as those who built the store, and the people who work there.


All this is usually invisible to me, making it easy to take for granted. So, I value the moments that remind me of everything that goes into making what I eat.


Appreciating what food does

In addition to thinking more about where my food comes from, I find myself thinking about what that food actually does for me.


It's so easy in our society to think about eating for comfort, pleasure, celebration, consolation, and more, that we may forget the fundamental reason for eating.


Food gives us energy. And that energy gets used in so many ways.


Yes, it's used for hiking while camping, but also for setting things up, packing, and driving. It goes toward our mental processes, deciding what trail to take, whether or not to bring rain gear, and how much water to carry. It keeps our immune systems going and our cells regenerating, which is important if you fall and scrape a knee (or worse). We need it to connect with friends and family, talk and laugh and hug.


Everything we do is only possible because of the energy we get from food. And that's a good thing to remember, even if it's only on special occasions.


Many reasons to celebrate food

Camping takes a fair amount of work, but it's worth it. You get some great views, time away from screens, and a chance to hang out with friends.

And if you're open to it, getting out of your usual routine in this way can help give you fresh perspectives on many things, including food. You may find that you appreciate it much more after a few days out in the woods.


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