Tips for Camping with a Celiac

When we first started camping with a diabetic, dairy free, two celiacs and two ‘non’ celiacs, in our trailer, it seemed like a chore figuring out what to eat and how to cook for everyone… and not get ‘glutenened’! I truthfully found it complicated and a lot to think about.

person cooking pancakes
Photo by Taryn Elliott on

In the beginning, when we went camping with friends or family, it got even more stressful for this celiac mom. We would sit around the fire and everyone would bring out the smore stuff. An activity that use to be fun and didn’t require any thought, I now felt like I was constantly worrying about my celiac son getting cross contaminated or feeling left out of traditions if he didn’t participate. Everyone’s hands touching the graham crackers and then putting their ‘glutened’ hands into the marshmallow bag … was unsafe and gluten just seemed to be EVERYWHERE!

It was a celiac’s nightmare, but HOW could I let me little celiac participate and feel like he was part of everything AND stay healthy? Well, let me tell you that I now have an over 6 foot tall teen who does not stress AT ALL about smore’s. He enjoys the fire, smores, camping, family, friends and the outdoors and doesn’t worry about the gluten at all! I’m so thankful that it didn’t stay stressful.

So, if you are stressed and don’t know how to handle camping with a celiac, here are a few tips that my family does. Maybe it will help you relieve the stress and just enjoy the adventures;

  • We told him that everyone else around the fire does not have to worry about gluten, it is your issue and you need to watch and ensure things are safe for you. If it’s not safe, don’t eat and enjoy the people…. because it’s the people around the fire he would remember more than the smore’s! Yet, we also told him to bring his own food so that he could participate in any activity.
  • I open the marshmallow bag before we ever leave to go and put a few for my son (and myself!) in a ziplock bag. I label it with his name. This means he does not have to watch sticky gluten hands going into a shared bag .. he knows that the ziplock is safe. I label it with his name instead of ‘gluten free’ … as many people don’t have a problem eating a gluten free marshmallow and will eat out of the separate bag. If it has his name, they realize it is his and don’t touch. Simple … but it works!
  • I use to bring graham crackers for my daughter and gluten free graham crackers for my son. Now, I just bring gluten free graham crackers for our family. No way to get gluten when it is just our family eating smore’s. Our daughter eat’s other peoples graham crackers, if we are with friends or family, if she wants to. I keep gluten free chocolate in our trailer fridge and our kids can get it anytime for smore’s.
Other Tip’s for Camping With a Celiac
  • Cook some things ahead in your own kitchen. You don’t have to worry about sharing pans, if you cook some things ahead.
    • For example, we like taco salad when we are camping. I cook the taco meat ahead of time and freeze it. It’s very easy to warm up when we want to eat and everything else doesn’t require cooking or sharing pans. Therefore, no risk of being sick.
    • I cook the bacon before we leave and then freeze it. When we eat breakfast it is easy to warm up and no risk of being contaminated … it also is far less messy!
  • Washing dishes is not the safest, if there is gluten, when camping. If you have gluten in your trailer, I would suggest washing the gluten dishes last and then changing the dish cloth and towel after washing dishes. BUT what is even better is to just limit the gluten completely.
    • In the beginning I wouldn’t allow my non-celiac daughter to have those fun cereals for camping because I didn’t want my celiac son to be sick. She never complained, but I realized it wasn’t fair. So, she now gets fun cereal when we camp and she uses a paper bowl and spoon and throws them out immediately.
    • If we have hamburgers or hotdogs, the non-celiacs get regular buns but we cut them outside and they get a paper plate that gets thrown out immediately. This system works for us and we have never been sick.
  • When my son was younger, I would put some gluten free ice cream cones in our trailer. If we stopped for ice cream somewhere, he could have a cone. I have since stopped doing that, as we never really used them because he was fine with a cup and didn’t really care. It is an option, if your child feels left out.
  • If you have a trailer with a freezer, throw some popsicles and ice cream in. If the campground has a shack with treats and nothing is safe for your celiac, they know that they can come back and get something from the trailer.
  • I always bake some gluten free cookies and muffins and throw them in the freezer, they are easy to grab if needed.
  • I also have a small red & green cutting board and red & green colander. If we ever have tortellini or need to cut something with gluten, I use the RED item. I picked red for gluten … as it is unsafe and we never use this item for gluten free items. If I can’t wash the ‘red’ item safely … I simply put it in a bag and tuck it away to wash in my dishwasher when I get home.
  • We normally make our own homemade pancakes, when we are home. When we camp, we buy store bought. I have used many brands and like them. Yet, we found one that has two individual bags inside the box. It is fabulous as you don’t have to measure when you are camping! You simply dumb a bag in a bowl and add a couple ingredients and you are good to go! They also taste great!

Now, camping is very simple and not stressful at all! It’s nice to have fun and not worry about getting cross contaminated. So, I thought I’d share a few things that my family does … and hopefully it sparks some ideas for you and your family to have a fabulous time making memories and NOT worrying about the food.