organic vegetarian meals for the trail

Eating on the Playa: Food options for Burning Man

Many are preparing for the journey to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada to be part of the temporary community called Black Rock City. Organizers describe this event as an experimental community centered on radical self-expression and art. Participants must bring and prepare their own food. To make it easier, we’ve made a list of suitable foods for eating on the Playa.

1. Use Backpacking Food for Quick Meals

Freeze-dried backpacking food is ideal for Burning Man because it requires no refrigeration, is portable, and simplifies the task of cooking. Most backpacking meals are “one pot,” which means all the ingredients are pre-cooked and assembled. To prepare a hot meal, you simply reconstitute it by adding the contents to a pot of boiling water for a few minutes. Subsisting entirely on backpacking food for burning man can get costly, however. We recommend purchasing a few entrees when you need something quick.

Less time preparing meals means more time to enjoy the event.

burning man

2. Get Quick Cooking Grains from a Grocery Store

To save on food cost for Burning Man, buy instant staples from your local grocery store, or nearby the event in Reno. Bulk bins are generally the most economical option and use the least amount of packaging waste. Some good options include instant quinoa, pasta, instant brown rice, couscous, grits, granola, and oats. Once you have purchased the food, dispose of any extra packaging waste before you get back on the road.

3. Get Dried Fruits and Vegetables Online

Substitute any fresh ingredients with dried vegetables and fruits. You don’t want the hassle of monitoring an ice chest for raw perishable foods.

chili lime crunchies
Freeze dried vegetable mix. Extracting all that water weight during the drying process means a small amount will go a long way.

Besides boosting the nutrition to your grains, dried veggies impart color and flavor. Freeze dried fruits and vegetables is a specialty item and isn’t readily available in most stores, so you’ll need to plan ahead and get these online. When searching for suitable freeze dried brands, look for companies that market food for eating in the present era rather than long-term storage. Food sold for emergency storage should be for that: as a last resort in a crisis. While this food will be edible, it is primarily intended for survival. Taste and freshness will be secondary.

    • Food intended for storage is packaged in #10 cans and mylar bags, while food meant for eating within the next year or so will have minimal packaging (generally plastic pouches). Most backpacking food companies sell food for near-term consumption, although some larger brands market dual purpose. Outdoor Herbivore specializes in producing vegetarian backpacking meals made from organic crops. Our food should be consumed within 1 to 2 years after ordering.
    • Freeze-Dried versus Dehydrated? There are some differences.

4. Liven up Cooked Food with Sprouts

To satisfy your craving for fresh foods at Burning Man without the hassle of carrying a cooler, try sprouting! Sprouts are easy to grow with either a mason jar or sprout bag and hold up well in dry climates with frequent waterings. We recommend using easy to grow seeds such as alfalfa, clover, mung bean, broccoli, and radish. Make sure to keep your sprouts hydrated in the dry heat by misting them with water several times in the afternoon. More information about sprouting.

Sprouts are excellent with hummus and a tortilla.


Sharing Food

Keep these principles in mind when making food for yourself or your group on the Playa:

  • Support responsible farming by purchasing organic, local ingredients.
  • Encourage fair labor practices by buying fair-trade for foods coming from far away places, such as coffee, tea, and chocolate. Note: chocolate is probably not a good idea unless you plan to eat it right away.
  • Keep extra coffee to trade with others. Coffee is like currency; everyone wants it and it tends to go fast. Instant freeze-dried coffee dissolves in water, eliminating coffee ground waste.
  • Eliminate perishable food to avoid having to take a cooler and deal with melting ice. If you must take perishables, consider bagging up ice in several gallon size freezer zip lock bags and using the melted ice for drinking, splashing on your face, and clean up. 
  • Use a refillable water bottle to save on packaging waste. Purchase the largest container of water you can find and refill your water bottle as needed.
  • Stay hydrated by making no-cook meals made with cold or outside temperature water. Some good choices from Outdoor Herbivore include Cool Down Gazpacho, Pacific Crest Vinaigrette, Waldorf Slaw, and Chia Seed Puddings.
  • Share food with your group by making large portions and save cost by buying in bulk sizes. If you are sharing food in a small group (2 to 3 people), we recommend purchasing Outdoor Herbivore’s hungry double size. Larger groups will benefit from our bulk option.
  • Practice ‘Leave No Trace’ principles by eating all of the food you make and packing up all waste.
  • Eating something unfamiliar? Don’t wait until the Playa to experiment with food that might give you digestive issues. Sample any new foods at home first to make sure it agrees with you and tastes good!

Outdoor Herbivore and Burning Man

Our customers purchase the following food items for the playa.

  • Bulk Organic Instant Quinoa – fast cook quinoa.
  • Bulk Instant Organic Peanut Butter Powder – Add a few drops of water to a tablespoon of powder and mix.
  • Bulk Organic Cocoa Nutty Chomps – a sweet & salty banana snack to replace lost electrolytes from sweating.
  • Coconut Chia Peel – chia seeds are excellent for digestion and filling!
  • Instant Hummus – spread on crackers or tortilla pieces; tastes even better when topped with sprouts.
  • Instant Organic Soy Milk Plain –  dry non-dairy milk for cold cereal and smoothies.
  • Chili Lime Crunchies – these seasoned veggies are perfect for adding flavor to noodles or eating as a snack.
  • Ginger Berry Fusion – a sweet and flavorful fruity snack mix that also soothes the stomach.
  • Toasted Sunburst Muesli with Instant Soy Milk – a hydrating cold cereal.
  • Pacific Crest Vinaigrette – premixed broccoli salad, just add water.
  • Switch Back Burrito Stuffer – burrito mix or a chip dip (try tortilla chips).

It’s Dusty! Drink plenty of water!! You won’t feel as hungry in the desert heat, so plan on taking less food. You will feel better by eating light meals that are also hydrating (cold soups, pudding, freeze-dried salad mix) and snacking on dense foods, such as mixed nuts and dried fruits.

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Creating trail-worthy foodstuff and playing outside.
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