You have been in ketosis for a while now and life is beautiful.
All of a sudden, your friends NEED to go camping over the weekend.
OMG! What now? What can I eat? Should I prep?
Or should I just bulk up in carbs?
Is it even possible to go camping or backpacking while on keto and stay in ketosis?
There's no need to fall of the keto wagon because of vacations or outdoor weekends.
It is possible to stay in ketosis while camping and backpacking.
Living keto shouldn't be a huge challenge nor unpleasant.
It should be enjoyable and simple even during the vacation.
Keto and camping are a match made in heaven
Camping, hiking, and backpacking are an awesome way to enjoy nature and outdoors.
It's a perfect alternative to classical exercise because it's way more enjoyable, it helps with endurance and manages stress levels.
Although camping sounds like an awesome idea at first, it can become pretty scary pretty fast.
Why? Because most camping foods are carb heavy and may not fit into your keto diet regimen.
Plus planning and thinking about the following keto can create its own stress and ruin everything.
The good news is that there is a way to enjoy your weekend in the woods while staying in ketosis and it's easier than you think.
Once you are fat adapted, your body will get an endurance boost.
As your glycogen stores are long gone depleted and your body is efficient in burning fat for energy, this opens many new doors for efficient energy source management.
In simple terms, you have access to loads of stable energy source. You don't need to eat as much, you don't get those nasty blood sugar spikes and your endurance will improve.
The biggest perk in the keto book is that most keto meals are lighter weight than carb packed meals.
Wait, what? Yep. Either you are going camping or backpacking, you will need to choose what to take with you or not.
That becomes especially important if you are going backpacking and taking everything with you. So optimizing the weight of your stuff is essential.
Why keto meals are lighter than its carb heavy colleagues?
Because high-fat foods are way more calorie (energy) dense, thus you need less food for the same amount of energy.
Things to consider before going keto camping
Okay, before you dive deep into the woods and start fighting with bears, there are a couple of topics you should think about.
#1. Are you keto-adapted?
By now you probably know that getting into ketosis is our number 1 goal when first starting with ketogenic diet.
Before that, it may be difficult (physically and mentally) to follow the diet and do other activities.
That can happen thanks to the keto flu or other ketosis side effects.
Now, I am not saying that if you just have started that you cannot go camping, but it will be way harder for you to follow through.
If you are keto-adapted, you have mental and physical power to back you up during the trip.
It also gives you a little bit of wiggle room when it comes to consuming carbs.
#2. Watch your energy needs
It's highly likely that your energy needs are higher than usual.
Whether you are doing half day walk or long hiking trips, you need to support your body with enough calories, and you may need even incorporate some carbs to support the journey.
#3. Monitor your electrolytes needs
Electrolytes are one of the most important parts of the keto diet, no matter what you do.
They become even more vital when you do anything that makes you sweat. While camping or hiking, your physical activity levels are raised drastically, and you will be sweating a lot. Especially if the weather is hot.
This also means that you will be losing electrolytes at a higher rate than usual. You absolutely need to replenish them in order to perform well, feel good and have enough energy to withstand the whole weekend in the outdoors.
The first symptoms of off-balance electrolytes are a headache, tiredness, muscle cramps, insomnia, brain fog, and weakness. If you have any of these symptoms then ramp up your intake of electrolyte-rich foods or tablets and you will feel way better.
#4. Plan out everything
The key to a fun and healthy keto outdoor weekend lies in planning. The more you plan your weekend out the better results you will get and the more you will enjoy. A couple of questions to ask yourself:
- Am I going camping, backpacking or hiking?
- Can I bring more heavy stuff with me or do I need to carry everything and go light?
- Do I prefer prepping food upfront and bring them with me?
- Do I want to cook in the woods?
- Do I plan to do any physical activities?
How long and how intense?
- Do I have a tendency to snack?
- How long am I going to be in the woods?
- Am I going to take the kids with me? What do they eat?
- Are others going to eat keto as well? Or will they be with carbs?
- Will there be carb temptations for me?
What to eat while camping?
Keto MUST things to take with you
Before we dive deep into keto camping recipe ideas and snacks, first we need to cover the mandatory things that you need to take with you.
Why is this so important? Because while you are in ketosis, there are many surprises that you may experience (e.g. lack of electrolytes, energy, brain fog) that can ruin your whole weekend.
And in the worst case, you may start bulking up carbs, which will result in carb hangover after what you will feel really bad.
To anticipate all negative scenarios, we will suggest a couple of things that you should keep in your backpack, so you can resolve all your keto emergencies quickly.
Do you remember the first time you experienced the keto-flu? Yeah, good times, NOT. It was one of the biggest downsides I experienced with keto.
Electrolyte imbalance happens because when you start the ketosis process, your body excretes water and together with water loads of electrolytes.
Dreadful symptoms of deficiency include weakness, extreme fatigue, brain fog, irritability, weakness, muscle cramps, numbness, tingling and even changes in blood pressure.
In simple terms, it's very unpleasant. Especially if you experience it outside of the comfort of your own home.
Now, in most cases this imbalance is temporary. You only experience it during the transition phase and once your body has adapted to everything will be beautiful again.
In most cases, you shouldn't worry too much about electrolytes unless you are going outdoors for a longer time and do some physical activities.
Also, when you can get some amount of minerals from foods, you are outdoors and your food choices are limited. The more active you are the more you will sweat and lose electrolytes from your body.
If you don't replenish them, you will start feeling bad and you can ruin your whole trip. During any trip, I suggest taking electrolytes with you so you don't have to worry about it.
#2. MCT oil
Like you probably know by now, MCTs are the fastest energy source for your body and brain. MCTs, go straight into the liver where they are converted to energy.
Okay, but what does it have to do with camping?
The more physically active you are, the more energy/calories you need. The more fast energy you need. Regular keto is not meant to support high-intensity activities, but MCTs can help to fill that gap.
You can make your morning coffee bulletproof with MCTs and get a proper energy boost for the day. It can be the support needed for a full day hike. It's also a good way to increase your fat intake.
PS! If you haven't taken MCTs oil before, then during the trip is NOT a good time to try it the first time. Especially in the beginning, you need to start taking it slowly in small amounts, or your stomach will not be happy about it.
I would suggest starting taking it about a week before the trip, so your stomach has time to get used to it. Taking MCT oil with you is vital, because if you end up being weak, out of energy and tired, then you won't enjoy the trip.
MCT powder is one important tool to have on your keto belt, wherever you go. Oh, and if you look for MCTs out there, then definitely definitely prefer the powdered version.
Because you will make waaay less mess, your coffee won't be oily and nasty and the powder package is way more convenient to take with you when you are on the run.
I use the Perfect Keto MCT powder because the salted caramel tastes like heaven and the powder form is best to take on-the-go.
#3. Activated charcoal
This is the oldest trick in the book, but a must for anyone who is going to the woods. It's not exactly the same substance as found in charcoal bricks or burnt pieces of wood. Manufacturers make activated charcoal extremely absorbent.
This is the best remedy for any digestive symptoms, poisoning, diarrhea, indigestion, hangover prevention and much more.
Oh, and the only time you will experience digestive issues is when you are camping. I can guarantee it. Charcoal binds toxins and chemicals in the gut and helps your body to stop absorbing them.
It's one of those things that should be with you, so when things go south, you have something to put out the fire. Use it in reasonable limits and read the package instructions.
Snacks to bring with you
Okay, this is probably the main reason why you are here. What are the keto camping friendly snacks that I can buy and enjoy while camping, hiking or backpacking?
Here are my favorite camping snacks that you can buy from the grocery store.
#1. Chocolate dip cookies
My mouth is watering while I write this. My number one sweet keto snack out there. Yes, there are keto friendly cookies, god thank you.
Fat Snax cookies are sugar-free, they contain only up to 2g of net carbs and whopping 8-9g of healthy fat.
They are a delicious treat, but as like with other keto snacks, keep an eye on your net carb intake.
Carbs tend to add up quickly, even in the woods.
#2. Dark chocolate
YES, you can eat chocolate during keto, in reasonable amounts. And I am NOT talking about a Snickers bar, but ChocZero's dark chocolate is close enough.
It's so good because it has no sugar, sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners. Totally keto friendly and has ONLY 2g of net carbs. That's less than carbs in 1 cup of broccoli.
This is a must to try out no matter if you are going camping or sitting in your backyard.
#3. Moon cheese
The best cheese snack out there. It's crunchy and perfect poppable snack when you are camping.
It's totally keto-friendly and the best part is that it doesn't need any refrigeration, so if you are going light, then it's a perfect snack.
Just a fair warning, once you try them, you cannot stop eating them.
#4. Atkins bar
Yes, they are the perfect snack during keto. It's the snack when you are doing a full-day hike and need a quick bite.
Only 2g net carbs per serving and no sugar. Oh, and it has whopping 6g of fiber.
This will come in handy, especially when you are in the woods. Just a word of caution, these are delicious, so don't go overboard with them.
At the end of the day they still contain carbs, and they will add up quickly.
#5. Brie cheese
This is the second cheese twin and it tastes like holidays on your tongue.
While Moon Cheese is the perfect everyday companion, the Brie is a different type of treat. It pairs well with a Chardonnay, it has a very creamy and buttery texture.
The only downside is that it's suggested to store it in the cold.
So may not be the snack to take if you need to go light, or if you do then keep in mind to eat it on the first evening.
Macadamia nuts are one of the most keto friendly nuts out there. For ketoers, it's a dream source of on-the-go fat.
It has only 1g of net carbs, 3g of fiber and 25g of fat, plus a great omega 3/6 balance. I think that the MacFarms brand is one of the cheapest and best tasting.
Protip: nuts can be pretty expensive when bought in small packs from supermarkets. Buy them in bulk and you will save a ton of money.
#7. Nut butter
The perfect fat bomb for camping. It's keto friendly, made from macadamia, cashew and coconut butter.
Contains NO added sugars, chemicals or preservatives. It has a creamy and velvety texture. Perfect addition to smoothies or other foods. It's my healthy version of keto ice-cream.
The taste is delicious but the only downside is that you need to put it in the fridge. This can be an issue if you are packing light.
#8. Beef jerky
This is a must snack for anyone who is going camping.
It's especially perfect if you pack light and are constantly on the move.
It's made from 100% natural grass-fed beef jerky and is of course GMO-free.
My favorite is the spicy one.
#9. Powerade Zero
A mandatory drink if you are doing a day hike or backpacking.
Powerade Zero is totally keto friendly and will help to replenish your lost electrolytes.
Now, it cannot replace electrolytes, but it a fast way to get energy when you are physically active.
It contains zero calories, B3, B6, and B12 vitamins.
#10. Meat bar
Surprisingly, it's not easy to find a keto friendly low carb meat bar, that isn't packed with sugar and other things.
That's why I'm super happy that I found Epic meat bars. It really is epic.
One bar has 2g of net carbs, 3f of fat and 12g of protein.
Also a perfect snack if you are packing light and on-the-go.
Sardines are also a perfect snack or even meal replacement when you are in the woods.
Sardines are nutritional powerhouses, packed with essential nutrients for keto.
Including Omega 3, protein, calcium, iron and potassium.
It's perfect for everyone who is active, because it's a nutritionally dense food.
Simple and fast food ideas
My best advice is to plan ahead as many meals and snacks as you can, two to three a day. And don’t be tempted to take the easy route and use carbs for energy. You will feel some carb hangover later on and you will likely feel sick.
Keep calm, and you'll not only have an awesome camping experience but be able to take pride in overcoming a challenge. Keto camping is easier than it first looks like.
Okay, let’s start cooking. Here are some keto friendly food ideas that are simple to make, fast and delicious.
Assuming that you have a big cooler, bring coconut oil, a cast iron pan, tongs, and oven mitts.
All this stuff is an easy-peasy way to make food over an open fire or campfire stove.
#1. Bacon and eggs
We cannot get over the keto staple food. Bacon is sooo good in the morning and of course, you need eggs and heavy cream. I like to add some cheese and salami on top of that. It’s a pretty satisfying breakfast and it should be enough to get you through the day.
PROTIP: Do a premade mix at home: just mix up pre-cracked and scrambled eggs, peppers, onions, ham, and cheese. Store them in plastic containers. It’s way easier to transport than a carton of eggs and you can whip up breakfast super fast.
#2. Bulletproof coffee
Together with keto bacon and eggs, I usually drink a homemade bulletproof coffee. This will usually keep me full most of the day until dinner.
That's especially important if you are planning a day-long hike. Everyone has their own way to make their coffee bulletproof.
I have done some trial and error and found that the most delicious for me is a combination of black coffee, MCT oil powder, and heavy cream. The MCT's will give the energy and heavy cream will make it heavenly creamy.
PROTIP: Blending or frothing is an absolute must. I also suggest preferring powder form of MCT's, because oils will make the drinks pretty oily, and powder is way more camping friendly.
#3. Turkey drumsticks
As simple as they sound. Just wrap them in tin foil, add some coconut oil and set them on the edge of the grill for about 30 minutes. I usually add some cheese on top of that later on. Serve with some broccoli and spinach, covered with sour cream.
PROTIP: Definitely use aluminum foil, it helps to keep food moist, ensures it cooks evenly and keeps leftovers fresh.
#4. Naked burgers
My all-time favorite keto food, the naked burger. Basically a burger with bacon and cheddar but without the bun.
Patties are dead simple: ground beef, some seasoning, and cheese. I usually serve it with a fatty salad: cucumber, avocado, peppers, Chinese cabbage, sunflower seeds, mixed up with some mayo and sour cream.
It's delicious and makes a perfect couple with the naked burger.
PROTIP: Prepare the patties ahead of time, at home. So, you can just throw them on the grill and wait while the deliciousness cooks.
A must, if you go car camping and have an opportunity to store more food. Just prepare some favorite meat and low carb veggies with seasoning beforehand, store them in plastic bags or containers until ready to grill.
PROTIP: You can grill bacon on skewers. Just push the skewer through bacon strips and grill on top of the fire like a marshmallow.
#6. Bacon sticks
A very simple but delicious keto snack. Take a couple of asparagus sticks and just wrap some bacon strips around it and put it straight on the grill. Server it with Frank's red hot sauce to spice things up. It's very fast and delicious snack.
#7. Chicken wings
A classical late night snack. Just mix up some chicken wings with your favorite seasoning, add some butter and throw them on the grill. If you prefer a more juicier experience, then add them into tin foil packets when cooking. Serve with Frank's red hot sauce.
While we are on the late night snack lane, then something worth trying is the pickle rollups. I usually take some ham, add some cream cheese on top and add a couple of pickles. Just roll them up and seal them with toothpicks. They are perfect to eat straight up or you can throw them on a grill for a couple of minutes.
#9. Chicken breast
Another awesome and fast chicken bite. Cut the chicken breast open, add cheese and a couple of asparagus sticks. Add some seasoning and throw it on the grill. Cook there about 10 minutes (not more, or it will get dry) and voila. Just add some hot sauce (personal preference) and you are done.
Can't ignore that. If you enjoy spirits neat or on the rocks, then you are already good to go. Any hard liquor is generally safe during keto. Scotch, bourbon, rum, vodka - all great camping drinks. Now if you love light drinks, then beware. Many of them have quite a lot of carbs, and even the low carb ones can add up quickly.
PROTIP: Although hard liquor is pretty much keto safe, while you are in ketosis, your alcohol tolerance has gone way down. Beware, that you will get tipsy pretty quickly.
Keto camping tips
Tip #1. I would suggest always taking 2 coolers. One for food and one for drinks. Sometimes I will freeze bottled water and stick a couple of those in the cooler, so we don't have to buy ice all the time. You can also use blocks of ice which will keep the cooler cold for ages.
Tip #2. A tip for storing food in bags. ALWAYS put the bag inside of another bag, that way if there’s any leaking, you have two layers to protect you and there will be no unpleasant surprises.
Tip #3. When taking raw eggs with you, there is a big danger that they will break and there will be broken eggs all over the place. To bypass that, crack your eggs at home and store them in plastic containers. So your morning eggs and bacon will be already ready once you need them.
Tip #4. Wash, cut and pre-pack veggies in ziplock bags or store in hard-sided containers between paper towels. Pack produce that lasts and doesn’t bruise easily, such as peppers, mushrooms, squash, zucchini, and celery.
Tip #5. Cheese, cold cuts, hummus, cooked burgers and chicken stored in a cooler should be eaten within a few days. Freezing them beforehand will extend their life an extra day or two.
Tip #6. Make sure you get enough calories, depending on your activity level. The hiker hunger is real. It doesn't only kill you on a short trip, but kick you in the ass on multi-day trips. So prepare accordingly. It's better to over-estimate and have food in your bag at the end of the trip than it is to underestimate and spent the last day or two feeling awful.
Tip #7. As a keto marshmallow alternative, you can try roasting mushrooms. Just add them on top of your stick and hold that over the fire. When it starts to zizzle it will smell like heaven. It usually gets a lot of attention from carb eaters, and many of them have converted from marshmallows to mushrooms. Yay!
Alex is editor in chief of Bodyketosis, an author, low-carb enthusiast and a recovering chubby guy who reclaimed his health using the ketogenic lifestyle. The need for the keto life began after his aunt and cousin were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and he was next in line. Through personal experience and extensive scientific research, Alex offers insightful tips for everything keto.