No matter what your style of camping, it’s all about having fun in the outdoors

When we go camping, we gather our gear and go. What we carry depends on where we are heading, our mode of transportation, our planned housing and the duration of our trip.

To be clear, motor homes and truck campers are not camping. Those apparatuses are extensions of our kitchens. Kitchens, because food is the most important item in the camper’s repertoire. There are certainly other items such as sleeping bags, rain gear and footwear that are important. But as we all have heard, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

Truck camping used to be the most common camping method. One throws a huge pop-up type tent in the back of the truck, several fold-up cots, various pots and pans, a propane stove and a cooler of drinks. Food usually consists of bacon, eggs, hot dogs, bread and a bunch of snacks. Extremely heavy on the snacks.

SUV traveling is somewhat different than truck camping. There is less “stuff” because there are usually less people.

The stove will be smaller. The tent may be attached to the car and there could be a blue tarp along. The latest trend may include a tent style outhouse. It is a mystery as to what is done with the waste.

The camping being discussed here are weekend trips. Longer travels require more preparation. Road trips need far less planning and care than off-road operations. Highway travel allows one to stop and buy everything that was forgotten. Pizza and showers are also on the menu.

True camping involves foot travel. What one carries will vary considerably with the length of the trip and trip objectives. Sheep hunters tend to stick with dehydrated food and oatmeal. A small high-tech stove that uses a minimum of fuel is almost a necessity. Food that only needs hot water is a must. Good taste is optional. What is carried in, is carried out.


Long trips where moving, as opposed to hunting or fishing, are the focus involve entirely different planning. Cooking is mostly done over a fire. The food carried is secondary to physical care and comfort.

Week-long excursions require excellent raingear, good sleeping bags and appropriate footwear. The food is not as important as the pot. Oatmeal, cream of wheat, pilot bread and peanut butter are staples. Honey, jerky and some sort of warm drink are also important.

Back in the day, true excursions took months. Some took years. Food was not the primary consideration. Physical care was the key to a successful expedition. There’s some great photos scattered here and there on the internet and in Arctic expedition publications depicting some minimalistic camps. A tarp, a pot, a bit of rope and sleeping paraphernalia were the extent of preparedness.

I took a personal trip that covered 40 days; completely off road, without contact or resupply. There was no sleeping bag, no tarp; just excellent rain gear. It was a summer trip into unfamiliar country. Fishing gear and snares were the focus of my food supply. Concessions were a couple pounds of pilot bread, peanut butter, honey, oatmeal, and rice.

The first week was a bit tough until I was acclimated. I had insulated tennis shoes and extra socks for foot care. Looking back, good knee boots would have been a better choice.

There is another type of camping that has to be discussed. Trappers going to the Bush and commercial fishermen headed to the water.

While these trips are not normally thought of as “camping,” they have similarities. Participants leave their comfort zones for an extended period of time. A big difference is what can be brought along. Space is at a premium. Trappers are the most limited as they could be out without resupply for several months. Flour, sugar, salt, beans and rice are the same basic necessities now as they have been for generations.

Boat food can be quite different. Quick food is a necessity. Soups, ramen noodles and minute rice. Oatmeal, eggs, bacon and pancakes are familiar items. My crew has some specialty items: avocados and mangoes are an occasional addition to the diet.

As you can see, camping or traveling across country is an individualistic enterprise. Some might look at my food list and say; “eeew, yuk!” So be it. Go camp, make your own list, but whatever you choose to travel, whatever your food choices, have a great time outdoors.

John Schandelmeier

Outdoor opinion columnist John Schandelmeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives with his family near Paxson. He is a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and two-time winner of the Yukon Quest.