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I have quite unfortunately found out several months ago that I'm gluten sensitive. Nearly all my meals I've planned and eaten on the trail have included wheat, and thus gluten, in them in some fashion. I'm still learning how to eat satisfyingly gluten-free at home, and on the trail this has proven to be even more of a challenge.

What are some good-tasting, calorie and nutrient-rich meals that I can pack on the trail that are gluten-free? For Breakfast, Lunch, and/or Dinner?

Answers can include full-prep from raw ingredients, freeze-dried type meals, or any other variation.

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4 Answers

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I follow a paleotic diet (which is gluten-free) for fairly similar reasons. I will give you some of my recommendations; I have tried them all myself except for the hard boiled eggs:

  • Beef jerky/pemiccan: it is very nutritious. It's my number 1 recommendation for food on the trail (regardless of whether you have celiac disease or not). You can make it yourself if you want to.
  • Dried fruit: water is heavy, so dried fruit is a lightweight and nutritious snack. A little bit sugary perhaps, but that shouldn't be a problem on the trail (when you're burning lots of calories). Raisins are my personal favorite in this category.
  • Coconut oil: also very nutritious and high in healthy fats. You can eat it raw, cook with it or you can make cookies with it.
  • Honey: either raw or used in recipes.
  • Raw nuts: again: nutritious and lightweight.
  • Dried seaweed and kale
  • Hard boiled eggs: as long as you have a hard container that keeps the shell from breaking, they won't spoil for two to three weeks. That's what I've heard, at least, I haven't actually tried it myself yet.
  • Canned sardines
  • Food bars: Tankabars, Pure Bars, Kind Bars, Lara Bars, and many others
  • Dark chocolate: not all chocolate is gluten-free, so check the ingredients list!
  • Vegetable chips: these carrot chips, for instance.

Also, most food in nature won't contain gluten. It's not something you should rely on (i.e. I would also take enough food with me), but some knowledge of the local fauna is always a good thing. However, it's a difficult subject, but it just is one more option that you may be interested in.

It seems hard at first to find out which foods you can and cannot eat and to find good substitues for each of them, but you get used to this fairly easily. I at first thought that this would never be doable to head into the wild whilst following this diet (which is more restrictive than a gluten-free diet), and now I feel as if I've got more than enough options. After a while, it feels just as "natural" as your previous diet.

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I have several gluten-intolerant people in my life, and though I haven't taken them camping, here's how I would feed them.

Breakfast: for a short trip, bring some gluten-free muffins or bagels. For a longer trip, learn how to make a dough (premix the rice flour, xanthan gum etc at home) you can rise and then fry into English muffins. Not kidding, we did this on trips with small children and it's very feasible to make a batch of dough on arrival at the site, let it rise, and cook muffins after dinner. Jam, peanut butter or both on a muffin is a nice start to the morning. I've also made corn pone at breakfast time which is delicious warm with cheese. (Small packages of cheese, kept sealed, that spend each night underwater keep well for a week or so.) If oatmeal is an option for you it makes a great breakfast.

Lunch: jerky, nuts, dried fruit, ... not much gluten happening here usually, because we tend to eat lunch on the go or at a portage. We sometimes have packaged dried soups for lunch on a stay-put day, choose a gluten-free one. Also the same gluten-free muffins and peanut butter, jam, or cheese as at breakfast can work well if you like a sandwich for lunch.

Dinner: pasta and rice dominate for us. Either buy gluten free pasta or have rice more often. Premix some dumpling mix to use in stew or chili (I know it sounds weird but chili with dumplings is delicious.) The meat-and-sauce part of most dinners will be gluten free if you make it yourself (dehydrate vegetables, tomato sauce etc and put it all together at the camp site.) You can also buy dehydrated potato dishes (au gratin etc) but read carefully because not all are gluten free. I've made these in a pot and they are delicious.

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I've had celiac for 8 years now. I am self described outdoor enthusiast and celiac is nothing that should hold you back from having fun.

Out on the trail I eat quinoa, brown and black rice (black rice is super healthy), dried fruits, nuts. I'll normally bring one or two cans of soup or baked beans, sometimes canned chili, corn tortillas, jerky, lentils, CANDY, another good option out on trail is to bring some protein powder.

Point of this post is to let you know that eating gluten free isn't hard once you're used to it. And actually it's quite healthier if you look into it. You can easily find "organic" "health food stores" that sell gluten free products by the masses. I've been to gluten free bakeries that were delicious! But even if you're only going to the regular supermarket there are tons of options. Also if we're going as far as raw meats, then dude, bring a friggin steak, chicken breasts. Get some dignity dank seasoning and make yourself some bomb bomb.

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First, sorry to hear the diagnosis, but you are not alone. I've shopped out many a trip for gluten-free clients, and, fortunately, it is surprisingly easy to replace just about every back-country meal** with a gluten free alternative.

Quinoa. Corn. Rice. Potato. Soy... there are lots of substitutes.

Most large grocery stores in the US are getting better about carrying gluten-free pastas, grains, etc. Natural foods stores are usually even more comprehensive. I've found gluten free bagels, tortillas, bread, etc.

The thing I find most difficult is the amount of processed food that has gluten in it (when you wouldn't suspect it). So my recommendation is foray into self-prepared meals. A few veggies, garlic, pesto paste, gluten-free pasta - bam! Live'n large.

(**Admittedly I never eat/serve freeze-dried or prepared "backpackers" food in the back-country, so can't help you there... Life is to short to not enjoy every meal.)

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Yes gluten is in everything! It's ridiculous, but it's getting better. These are some great recommendations for sure. And on the freeze-dried subject, it all depends on the meal and the brand. Some are horrendous, and some are so good I would make them at home for a quick meal. That is, if they were gluten-free. –  manoftheson Jan 19 '13 at 2:51
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