The Dirtbag’s Guide to Eating on the Go

One of the primary skills of becoming a veteran dirtbag or lady dirtbag is your culinary prowess. We aren’t talking about whipping up a tasty meal with your pressure cooker and sous vide at home, we are discussing the fine art of cooking on the road. Today we are giving away our best dirtbag cooking tips and tricks for making camping meals that are perfect for wherever adventure takes you.

How to Get Started with a Dirtbag Kitchen

The key to creating your own delicious dirtbag eats lies in creating the proper kitchen. As a dirtbag a “kitchen” can mean anything from a classic Coleman 4 burner stove to the MSR Pocket Rocket or even using the defroster in your car. The point is, be creative and come up with a system that works best for you.

Dirtbags can’t be picky, but it’s nice to have a few luxuries on hand. I’ve used old pill bottles, contact lens cases, and even collecting things like ketchup and soy sauce from take-out nights to create my very own “dirtbag spice cabinet.” Here’s what I’ve got inside:

  • Salt – there are so many ways to store salt, and it never goes bad. It’ll spruce up any dirtbag meal fail in a hurry
  • Pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Soy sauce packets
  • mini hot sauce bottles
  • Basil
  • Ketchup packets
  • Mustard packets

Get Creative

Dirtbags tend to also be MacGyvers in that they have this magical ability to come up with creative solutions to problems they face on their adventures. The same goes for food. Don’t be afraid to plop Indian spiced lentils in a tortilla, put cheese on everything, or make ramen with whatever is laying in the bottom of your cooler.

Get experimental with different flavors and don’t be nervous about adding in extra calories. Don’t forget that you are out there burning up energy like there’s no tomorrow, so don’t be shy with fatty foods on a big endurance day.

Pre-Packaged Backpacking Meals vs. Dehydrating Your Own

When it comes to living completely off the grid and in the wilderness, everyone has their own style for backpacking food. If you don’t live out of your vehicle, dehydrating your own backpacking meals makes total sense. You don’t have to be a pro chef to dehydrate your own meals, in fact, dehydrating foods is super simple.

The advantages far outweigh the time it takes to prep your own meals. First, you’ll save tons of money – backpacking meals are extraordinarily expensive! This means you’ll have more cash to spend on gas and gear to fuel your adventures. Second, backpacking meals produce a lot of non-recyclable waste, which impacts the places we love the most.

camping meal hacks
Image by Rami H.

How to Get Rid of Pesky Plastic

Last year I spent one month collecting all of the plastic waste my household produced. One of the things I discovered is just how much plastic involved food in the outdoors. The protein bar wrappers, the bags of gas station chips and candy, that rogue plastic bottled electrolyte drink, all of it added up quite quickly.

It turns out, that even if you live an on-the-go lifestyle, it’s still possible to use less. Vanlifers and vehicle dwellers should consider buying in bulk. Thru-hikers can carry packable, reusable grocery bags (they weigh nothing). Weekend warriors can skip the gas station snack stop, and bring their own snacks. The point is, be aware of what you’re using for your outdoor pursuits. Take those MacGyver skills to pursue innovative solutions to creating more waste on the road.

Our Favorite Dirtbag Food Hacks

Every adventure-worthy dirtbag knows a thing or two about keeping camping meals fresh. These camping hacks not only keep camping food simple, but they also keep messes to a minimum.

Freeze Water Bottles

Fill up a few water bottles and freeze them. Next, load up your cooler and instead of using ice, put the frozen bottles in there. The water bottles keep food cold without getting everything sopping wet. They also double as a water source should you need to quench your thirst. This method works best with hard, BPA free, plastic bottles or other water bottles without insulation.

A look at the food stash of a PCT thru-hiker. It’s tough to thru-hike without plastic, but traveling with a reusable bag helps!

Eggs in a Bottle

Raise your hand if you’ve tried to camp with eggs, only to have them break all over your cooler. We’ve all been there. Instead of gambling with a yolk-y mess, pre-crack your eggs and put them in a sealed bottle. You can even scramble them up if you plan on creating scrambled eggs. Now you’re ready to serve up a tasty breakfast in a jiffy – without the mess!

Bake in Orange Peels

Baking presents a unique set of challenges as a dirtbag. We don’t carry ovens around, so how can you indulge in a delicious muffin when you don’t have a stove? Cut your oranges in half and scoop out the insides, then save the peels. Mix up your baking mix, then pour the mixture into the orange peels. Cover with foil, poke a couple of holes in the top of the foil and bake over a fire until ready. Now kick up your muddy boots and enjoy!

Forget the dishes

It’s so easy to see all of the #vanlife Pinterest posts and think that you have got to create an Instagram-worthy meal while on the road. Let’s be honest, who has time and effort for all of that when you’re busy sending routes, reaching summits or flying down the single track? Easy, one-pot meals go a long way for a dirtbag. In fact, you can even skip the dishes and eat your food straight out of the pot. If you’re sharing, simply scoop, scoop, and pass. Now you’ll only have one pot to clean and you can get to enjoying nature.

camping meal hacks
Image by Rami H.

Squeeze Bottle Pancakes

Take an old ketchup bottle and clean it out. Use baking soda to get rid of the smell. Next, whip up some pancake batter and put it in the bottle. Pack that in your cooler for easy-to-squeeze pancakes in the wild. So delicious and mess free!

Spices for the Backcountry

Who says backpacking food has to be bland? Spice up your meals by collecting hot sauce, ketchup, soy sauce packets and more. Use an old contact lens case to store a few handy spices to spruce up your backpacking food. These small items take up very little room and are well worth the extra couple of ounces in weight.

Defroster Microwave

Burritos are a lifestyle choice for dirtbags. Pretty much any food can be wrapped into a tortilla and called a burrito. But how do you heat these bad boys up in a jiffy? Well, it turns out you can throw your tortilla of goodness on the dash (wrapped in foil), crank your defroster on a high heat setting, and power-heat your burrito.

What are your favorite dirtbag camping meals? Do you have any great cooking hacks you’d love to share? Comment below and let us know!

About the Gear Tester

Outdoor Prolink Pro
 | Website

Meg Atteberry is a full-time freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Her mission is to empower others to get outside and have an adventure. She loves a sunny crag and delicious trail snacks. When she’s not wordsmithing you can find her hiking, climbing, and mountaineering all over the world with her fiancé and adventure pup, Nina. To learn more about Meg, check out her blog Fox in the Forest. She’d rather be dirty than done up.

One comment

  1. Mo Kappes

    I was just re-reading this article and was curious as to why you had to use gender when describing a dirtbag. What is the difference between a veteran dirtbag and a lady dirtbag? Can’t a woman be a dirtbag, too? Can’t a lady be a veteran dirtbag? How does gender factor into whether or not you are a veteran dirtbag?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *