Food and Cooking


Food is one of the major items to be taken on any camp or bushwalk. Food is our main source of energy and body heat. It always tastes better in the outdoors, and it affects the morale of the camper. The food chosen to carry will meet daily needs, keep campers happy, or make the difference in a survival situation. Be thoughtful of the choice of food.

  • Nutrition

Nutrition may not be a major issue for an overnight or weekend camp, but it becomes critical the longer the camp. The type of food affects energy levels. The main types of food compositions are:

  • Carbohydrates

70% of the total food taken should be carbohydrates. Carbohydrates supply energy, and are essential for utilizing fat. Foods rich in carbohydrates (sugar or starch) include sweets, juices, biscuits, cakes, bread, grains, dried fruit, flour, spaghetti, and potatoes.

  • Fats

10% of total food taken should be fats. Fats provide the most concentrated source of energy. They also supply essential fatty acids. Foods rich in fats include nuts, seeds, margarine, chocolate, cheese, milk, and oil.

  • Protein

20% of total food taken should be protein. Protein builds and repairs body tissue. Foods rich in protein include cheese, eggs, soy beans, baked beans, peas, nuts, and leaf vegetables. The outdoors demand energy. Students and Pathfinders appear to have no shortage of energy, but over time it does catch up with them. Energy requirements are also greater than normal in the outdoors. Variations in weather, especially the cold, require more energy (for every degree below 10?C, a person needs an extra 3% energy).

Guidelines for Choosing Food

  • Choose food/recipes that taste nice. Experiment with new foods before a campout.
  • Choose food that is easily prepared. The evening meal is generally cooked.
  • Consider weight and bulk. Particularly if space is limited and it is carried individually.
  • When buying food:
    • Make up a menu.
    • Only buy what is on the menu.
  • Remove all excess packaging and put food in sealable bags. Some people sort food out into meals/food for the day. Some have breakfast, lunch, and specific evening bags.
  • Breakfast cereals can be pre-packed as a serving, complete with dried milk, dried fruit etc.
  • When camping just add water. This saves space and is useful even while base-camping.
  • Put oil/margarine in double sealed containers.
  • Jam, peanut butter etc can be put into sealable tubes or small containers. A cheap container is a washed out camera film canister.


1. Breakfast

A good serve of carbohydrates at breakfast is vital. It provides energy very quickly. Foods may include: cereals, milk (powdered), sugar, margarine, spreads, crisp bread etc.

2. Lunch

Lunch is usually eaten on the track, while walking or in the middle of some exciting event. It is generally a light, non-cooked meal made up of a variety of foods that provide energy for the day?s activities. Foods may include: bread/crispbread, margarine, cheese, spreads, nuts, dried fruit, small tin spaghetti, baked beans, creamed corn, biscuits, chocolate, etc.

3. Dinner

Dinner is the high-protein meal that provides the body with the nutrition it needs to repair your body while sleeping. It is usually a social occasion, and a time for relaxing and cooking a feast, so do not rush it. Try and plan so that each evening meal is different, to add a special feature to the day. There are so many foods available, which can provide a real feast. Foods may include: pasta, rice, TVP, potato, beans, etc. Deserts can include snack packs, instant puddings, creamed rice, or fruit.

4. Snacks

Snacks are foods rich in carbohydrates and should be eaten at regular intervals throughout the day. They are an energy top-up and help with stress release. Snacks may include: dried fruit, nuts (salted, if sufficient water), chocolate, glucose, scroggin (mixture of dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, jelly babies, and other sweets), muesli bars, fruit bars etc.

Special Conditions

  • Very cold conditions
    • Extra energy is needed
  • Very hot conditions
    • Provide higher levels of energy food per gram carried
    • Design foods that can be eaten without cooking
    • Keep a balanced diet
    • Watch perishable foods as they will go off quickly – fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, and bread last no more than 3 days.
    • Smarties are designed to survive the heat, so they can be included in snacks along with jelly snakes, jelly babies, liquorice allsorts etc.

Emergency Food

Plan to have extra food in case of any delays at the end of the adventure, due to unexpected conditions. This applies to bushwalks and weekend or overnight campouts. Extra food should contain some food that does not require cooking, eg. biscuits, cheese, dried fruit, chocolate, muesli bars. Also other food that is quick and easy to heat up, eg. soups, noodles, pasta etc.


On an average, allow between 900g – 1000g (1kg) of dried food per day. The average camper could survive on 800g but that is barely enough.

Some General Comments on Food


Black bread or rye bread is the longest lasting. Wholemeal, Lebanese pocket bread is fine.


Dry crackers (Jatz), Crispbread (Ryvita), good bread substitutes (often break up), Cabin Biscuits. Savoury Shapes and Sweet Biscuits have 25% more energy per gram. Shredded Wheatmeals have higher energy.

Dried Fruits

Sultanas, peaches, prunes, apricots, pears, apples, figs, dates, raisins, bananas and pineapple are an excellent source of snack food. Most of them are high in carbohydrates and thus are good energy sources.


Use flavoured drinks if wanting to replace minerals lost by sweating, or to disguise bad tasting water. You will need to have good containers that hold 3 – 4 litres of water. Sports drinks (eg.Staminade, Gatorade) may be used to replace glucose and minerals lost through sweating. Powdered drinks or cordials can provide sugar or glucose for energy, eg. Tang, Refresh, Raro, Robinson’s Lemon Barley.


These may be carried fresh for 1 day. Dried eggs are excellent scrambled.


Sanitarium products such as T.V.P, Bacon Chips, Soya Crisps, etc. all are excellent sources of protein. They take a short while to cook, have excellent flavour, and little dry weight. Lentils, Split Peas etc. take 30 minutes plus to cook.


Rice is an excellent source of carbohydrates. White is easier to cook, comes in a variety of types and sizes, and can be used as a savoury or a sweet.


Pasta is a good source of carbohydrates and protein. Many varieties are available, eg. noodles. It is easy to prepare and cook.


Honey and jam are rich in carbohydrates and give the same energy as cheese. Peanut Butter is rich in both protein and fat, with twice the energy of honey and jam.


There is now a wide variety of instant food available. Take only what is really needed. Try a few favourite meals and work out how much of the pack is enough. Eg. 1/3 of a pack of noodles may be enough for one meal with some chunks of T.V.P and a handful of dried peas. Use lightweight plastic containers for jams, honey, and margarine that can spill.

Energy Requirements

Build of Body Walking Rate Energy Requirement (kJ)
    Men Women
Slight Moderate
Average Moderate
Heavy Moderate

Cooking Food

One of the great pleasures of the outdoors is the time spent cooking. Traditionally this has been done over the open fire, times are changing, especially when camping in National Parks and State Forest.

Cooking Fires

  • If you have permission to use a fire, the following points must be considered:
  • Use a fireplace that is already established. Do not set up another one, even if in the wrong position, unless there is a real bushfire danger.
  • If there is no fire place, then site the fire on the barest piece of ground you can find.
  • Keep the size of the fire to a minimum. “The bigger the fool, the bigger the fire”. A small fire is easier to cook over, uses less wood, is safer in windy conditions, and is easier to extinguish.
  • Clear an area around the fire. Put a ring of stones (not creek stones which might explode) around the fire to keep it in place. The fire needs to be at least 3 metres from the tent.
  • Never leave a fire unattended. The fire must be totally out (cool enough to put your hands in the ashes). This will take between 5-10 litres of water.
  • Use only dead and fallen timber and avoid using large pieces.
  • When you go, leave the fireplace as if it has not been used. Avoid leaving a pile of wood for the next person, as using fires is no longer encouraged.
  • It is illegal to light fires in the Great Barrier Reef National Parks and in Tasmania (peat soils). Always check with the landowner or manager.


Advantages of using stoves include the following:

  • They are quick to set up and use
  • They provide heat that is easy to use for cooking
  • They save wood – dead wood is an important part of nature’s cycle
  • They can be easily used in an emergency or in bad weather

Types of Stoves

Type of Stove Fuel Advantages Disadvantages Other Comments
Pressure Stove Shellite.

Lighter fuel.

White gasoline.

Provides good clean strong heat. Works well at altitude.


Evaporates fast – clean if spilt.

Fuel highly flammable.

Some models have complicated lighting systems.

Fairly safe.

Safer with separate tank.

Costly to buy.

Pressure Stove Kerosene.

Paraffin in some countries.

Safe to use because fuel is less volatile.

Fuel readily available, cheap and efficient.

Needs other fuel to pre-heat it.

Spilt fuel evaporates slowly and may contaminate contents of pack.


Safe to use.


Non Pressure Stove Methylated spirits.

Denatured alcohol.

Fairly clean and hot.

Very safe – water extinguishes.

Simple to operate.

Evaporates fast – clean if spilt.

Half as much heat as the others.

Difficult to ignite in cold weather.

Uses more fuel.

Add 10% water to the fuel bottle to minimize blackening of pots.

Stove must be cool before refilling.

Cheap to run.

Stove is a self-contained cooking set.

Very durable.

Gas Stove Butane.

Liquefied petroleum.

Burns clean and hot.

Fairly safe.

Easy to operate.

No pre heating.

Not always available.

Uncertain how much gas left in bottle.

Have to carry empty bottle out. Heavy.

Very high cost.

Less efficient at high altitudes and in cold conditions
Solid Fuel Stoves Metaldehyde tablets.

Hexamide tablets.

Generally safe to use.

Simple to use.

Very compact and light.

Not a high cost.

Burns slow and dirty.

Produces toxic fumes so should not be used in a confined space.

Be careful where it is set up. The frame becomes very hot and can burn a wooden