Meals and Camping — Expeditions

People preparing a meal of pulled pork and stir-fried vegetables.


Here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education, we’re actually pretty well known for creating gourmet meals in the backcountry. And since we carry all of our food either on our backs or in our boats, much of our foodstuff appears in dehydrated forms, such as pasta or rice.

That’s because water weight is, well, weighty. And we’d much rather leave room in our packs for fresh vegetables, fruit, and fun snacks to mix things up.

Meals in the backcountry offer a variety of options — from meat and grains to fresh-baked bread, not to mention pizza made from scratch. Our students are taught to cook meals on the trail, often discovering they’ve developed cooking skills that they gladly bring home.

Custom-Made Menus

There’s always plenty of delicious food on an NCOAE trip, and each course includes its own custom-made menu, with portion sizes and quantities designed to meet the dining desires of every group.

For shorter trips, we pack up everything and bring it with us. During longer expeditions, we bring along our non-perishable items (like rice, pasta, and snacks), then restock freshies (fruits, meats, veggies) from local vendors along the way.

No matter the adventure, we always ensure your menu has a balance of:

Oh, and you can always count on us to have portions available for seconds or extra snacks available for even the hungriest of our students. Most breakfasts and lunches are served buffet-style, while dinners are often served family-style.

Dietary Restrictions

We can easily accommodate most food allergies and dietary restrictions, including those related to peanuts, tree nuts, soy, dairy, gluten, and even vegan and vegetarian students.


Typical breakfast items

  • Cereal and/or granola with milk, yogurt, and fresh fruit
  • Blueberry pancakes with sausage
  • French toast with eggs
  • Breakfast sandwiches (English muffins, eggs, bacon or sausage and veggie patties, cheese, and spinach)
  • Breakfast burritos (tortillas, eggs, salsa, veggies, beans, cheese)
  • Hash browns with peppers and onions
  • Scrambled eggs and sausage
  • Bagels and cream cheese
  • Oatmeal with dried fruit, nuts, and brown sugar
  • Cheesy grits with bacon

Typical lunch items

  • Sandwiches – turkey, ham and cheese, and peanut butter and jelly
  • Summer sausage and cheese wraps
  • Chicken salad wraps
  • Tuna wraps
  • Chicken Caesar wraps
  • Taco salad
  • Pizza pitas

Typical dinner items

  • Pizza (homemade, personal pan)
  • Chicken and/or veggie stir-fry
  • Shepherd’s pie
  • Potato mashers
  • Polenta w/peppers, onions, & sausage
  • Fiesta chicken
  • Thai peanut noodles
  • Mac and cheese
  • Pesto pasta
  • Chicken alfredo
  • Bean and rice burritos
  • Chicken and veggie quesadillas
  • Quinoa with chicken and veggies
  • Lentil rice curry
  • Chicken and rice
  • Spaghetti
  • Hamburgers and hot dogs
  • Gado gado Indonesian salad
  • Chili and rice
  • Chicken noodle soup or ramen

Typical snack items

  • Fresh fruits like apples or oranges
  • Peanut butter pretzels
  • Chex mix
  • Goldfish
  • Granola bars
  • Trail mix
  • Dried fruit – mangos, apricots, pineapple, banana chips, etc.
  • Pretzels
  • Carrots and celery with hummus
  • Chips and salsa
  • String cheese
  • Beef jerky

Typical dessert items

  • S’mores
  • Cookies
  • Brownies
  • Rice Krispy treats
  • Ice cream sandwiches or popsicles
  • Cherry or strawberry cheesecake
  • Oreo cheesecake
  • Vanilla or chocolate cake
  • Apple crisp
Two people setting up a tent.
A group of tents.


All of our outdoor expeditions begin and end at one of our many basecamps around the globe. After an orientation, we spend time helping you get to know your group and prepare for the first expedition leg of your journey. Topics covered include menu planning, gear selection, trip planning, and how to “pack out” for group expedition travel in remote wilderness areas.

Then you’ll head out with your group to explore some of the most beautiful mountains and rivers in the world, from the rolling peaks of the Appalachians to the snow-capped volcanoes of Patagonia. We’ll be living in tents and enjoying our evenings in different areas most nights, identifying the stars, and sharing highlights of our learning.

While there are no predetermined distances, you’ll travel three to five miles a day on a typical course. You may travel several miles one day and none the next. Either way, you will learn to embrace and appreciate the unknown and the unexpected.


We know one of our students’ biggest concerns is how they’ll stay clean without showering. The great news is, it’s surprisingly easy! You’ll typically shower about once a week, and your instructors will teach you how to maintain good personal hygiene in between, including using wet wipes each day to clean yourself and how to create and use a bathroom in the woods.

When you’re outdoors and away from your normal routine, you realize you can still have a ton of fun even if it’s been a few days since you’ve washed your hair. It’s important to remember that if you’re stinky, that means everyone else is stinky, too.

Each trip’s packing list has a comprehensive and detailed section on toiletries. Also, a lot of our trips include time on or near the water, whether it’s an alpine lake, a freshwater pond, or a meandering river. You’ll have plenty of time on these courses to splash around and rinse off, leaving you feeling clean and refreshed.

Hygiene Kits

Regardless of our location, each group will have a hygiene kit, which will include plenty of hand sanitizer, soap, and hygiene wipes. Students and staff will wash their hands before and after every meal and after each trip to the bathroom.

A student folding a sleeping bag in front of a tent.


On longer courses, there may also be the opportunity to do laundry once or twice during your course. Pay attention to the quantity of each item on your pack list in order to ensure you have enough clean clothes to get you through each section of your NCOAE adventure.

A person packing clothing into a small bag.

Start Your Adventure

Now you know what to expect, find the perfect expedition for you!