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Gluten-free camping: Keeping safe and having fun

I'm a market researcher and brand marketer by trade. Quit it all to focus on everything gluten-free. I'm now the founder of Celiac & the Beast, author of Celiac and the Beast, the book (released October 2013) , and working full-...

With all of these great gluten-free options, it's easier for us to feel normal when it comes to fun weekend activities like camping.

family camping

Photo credit: skynesher/Vetta/Getty Images

Sometimes being gluten free keeps you from "normal" activities that everyone else can do. However, when it comes to camping, you can enjoy the great outdoors as as a celiac or as someone with gluten sensitivity. In fact, nowadays there are so many products on the market that are gluten free that you can have a fairly normal experience and sleep among the stars.

Road tripping

Even though going camping seems like a fun and easy weekend excursion, it does require some pre-planning for the trip. Calculate your route to where you are going and how long you are going to stay, and convert that into how many meals you will have to prepare. If you are visiting a remote place (or non-gluten-free-friendly location) to set up a tent, you'll have to bring all of your meals with you. This is where coolers, ice packs and pre-packaged food comes in handy. Shelf-stable jerky, bars, easy-to-prep soups and non-meat sandwiches are great meals that don't require a lot of prep and have longer storage times.

Along the way, use FindMeglutenFree.com and CanIEatHere.com to locate roadside locations and grocery stores that cater to a gluten-free lifestyle. However, always make sure you go through the necessary precautions when dining out, and put your safety first over exploring new places.

Grilling

Make sure you bring foil, your own utensils and your own condiments. You could clean the camp grill (though honestly, who would want to), but you're better off just bringing your own items to keep it safe and easy. Grill all of your items on top of the foil. Flip burgers with your own spatula, don't rely on the common utensils available at the grill. Plenty of hot dog brands are gluten free, but I think Applegate is the best because they are a pretty clean dog; no fillers, etc. If you are a veggie lover, Hilary's Eat Well and Sunshine Burgers are great brands to heat on the grill. I would also recommend a Misto sprayer with olive oil to keep things from sticking.

Snacks

In your cooler, bring plenty of naturally-gluten-free items like fruit salad and fresh veggies. Make sure to bring a gluten-free dip and note that there's absolutely no double dipping if you are dining with a mixed crowd. Chips are often gluten free, even major brands like Lay's and Fritos. However, great brands like Good Boy Organics and Way Better Snacks provide healthy alternatives to regular chips that are also safe for us.

Campfire favorites

Yes, you can make gluten-free s'mores. Natural Decadence is a great vegan gluten-free brand that puts together everything in a pack for your convenience. But if you're building your own kit, Schar honeygrams are a great brand of graham cracker to use. Many chocolate bars don't contain gluten, but my favorite brands that are made in a facility without gluten and without nasty ingredients are Enjoy Life Foods, Alter Eco and Pascha. Many marshmallows are naturally gluten free, but always check the labels.

Some of the best stories are told by the campfire with an ice-cold beer. While celiacs may think once they go gluten free, they can't have good beer, but they're wrong. There are plenty of great brands that are made from sorghum like New Planet Beer and Harvester Brewing (Pacific Northwest area only). These brands, along with other brands like Bard's, New Grist, Redbridge and others are commonly available at natural food stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts, although I have found them at liquor stores across the country. As an alternative, wine is gluten free (note: not wine coolers). Hard liquor holds some contest in the community, although the science of distillation does not allow gluten to pass through into liquor made from gluten-containing grains. Some liquor, however, has malt or barley mash added back into the liquor after distillation, making it unsafe for us.

With all of these great gluten-free options, it's easier for us to feel normal when it comes to fun weekend activities like camping. Even though they may require more pre-planning than regular people, our camping experience can be just as fun.

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