Covid-19, and the subsequent international lockdown in most cities, affected all of us in its own way. It was stressful for many reasons, and I dealt with the stress how I usually do, by engaging in my favorite passions: hiking and camping. But as the lockdowns progressed to help stop the spread of the virus, eventually parks, beaches, and trails were closed as well. Suddenly, the one thing that calmed me the most during difficult times became off limits; and these were difficult times indeed.
Not only did my main stress-relievers become off limits, but my second stress-reliever, food, became increasingly difficult to acquire due to markets running out of stock. I ate the remaining scraps of fresh food, then moved to dry food, and when I ran out of that, I found a backpacking meal hiding in my pantry. I had nothing else to eat, so I boiled some water, poured it in the pouch, stirred, waited 15 minutes, stirred again, then ate.
As I ate my dehydrated Pad Thai, something dawned on me that I already knew: I actually really like this food!!!
Camping food has been significantly improving over the years. Not only have companies started to improve upon the taste, they have also started to provide meals with nutritious and healthy ingredients. Long gone are the days of overly salty meals full of unhealthy preservatives; now you can eat organic red bean chili, vegan herbed mushroom risotto, or a tasty Pad Thai all made from ingredients you know how to pronounce.
I combined my lack of access to food, with my craving for the outdoors, and it worked! I ordered a bunch of backpacking food from my favorite outdoor retailer as if I was going to take a two month hiking trip. In my living room, I would eat my camping food out of my camping bowl, while sitting in my camping chair, and drinking wine from my camping cup. Sure, it wasn’t the same as sitting under the giant sequoias or on the top of a boulder in Joshua Tree, but it was as close as I could get to the great outdoors during a time when the outdoors were forbidden!
Don’t get me wrong, dehydrated meals don’t compare to getting it fresh from your favorite restaurant, but ordering takeout wasn’t providing the emotional comfort blanket that the camping food was eliciting in me. I couldn’t control the fact that Yosemite National Park was closed indefinitely, but I could get there as close as possible via my idiosyncratic food choices.
In the past, I regarded backpacking food as more functional than festive, but this lockdown showed me that camping food can be more than a means of getting nutrients into your body after a full day of trekking. This food can emotionally connect me with the stress-relieving qualities I get from being in nature.
If the quarantine lasts longer, I might have to set up a tent in my living room…