Camping on Shabbat 101
Sleeping in tents, roasting marshmallows over a fire, pointing flashlights into the starry night sky–these are some of the things that come to mind when we think about camping. But what if we wanted to have those same authentic experiences while observing Shabbat? With limitations like no cooking, using electricity, or even carrying, you might be wondering if it’s even possible.
Well, with years of experience on the subject, I’m here to tell you it is. Below, I’ll walk you through how to make it happen.
Cooking Authentic Shabbat Food
While the same no-cooking-on-Shabbat rules apply, you can still infuse that touch of smoky flavor into your favorite Shabbat dishes with these simple steps:
1. Start by getting a roaring campfire going. The larger the campfire, the more hot embers you’ll have to cook the food on.
2. As it gets closer to Shabbat, prep individual servings of your desired main course and sides. Simply place your food on two sheets of foil, add a touch of oil, and neatly wrap each serving. (Chicken, fish, and veggies work well and taste amazing with this method of cooking.)
3. Once the campfire is mostly white hot embers (and the flames are out), place your wrapped food on the embers.
4. Keep the food on the embers (flip as necessary) until both sides of the foil are dark brown.
5. Take the individual packs of food off the embers, carefully open the foil, and enjoy.
TIP- Eat straight from the foil for easy cleanup!
But what about the cholent?
I’m glad you asked. Before you place the individually wrapped packs of food on the embers, you can actually BURY your cholent in the embers! All you’ll need are the ingredients for your favorite cholent recipe and a cast iron pot. Place all the ingredients in the cast iron pot. With a metal shovel, carefully dig a hole in the embers large enough to cover the entire pot. By lunch time on Shabbat, the cholent will be ready for you to take out.
- Get a cast iron pot that is close to, if not the same size as, your crockpot at home. This will better ensure that the cholent is not under- or overcooked by the time you are ready to eat.
- It’s preferable to have a cast iron pot with a tall strong handle, which can be left uncovered by the embers, and makes it easy to pull the entire pot out. This eliminates the need for digging on Shabbat.
Lighting Up Your Campsite
It’s true that carrying out normal Shabbat activities like eating and davening would be difficult without enough light. To help brighten your Shabbat night, here are some easy and safe solutions:
- Electric lanterns – Not only is it compact and easy to use, but the light from electric lanterns cannot be affected by the outdoor elements, and are safer to use compared to gas lit lanterns.
- Glow sticks – If you’re worried about finding your way in the dark, glow sticks are a great option. Crack and shake them before Shabbat, and hang them in the desired areas to help you light the way.
- Buy glowsticks that last at least 12 hours so that they last throughout the night
- Hang a glowstick on each tent so you can find your way back when you’re ready for bed. And if you want to go the extra mile, hang a different colored glowstick on each tent to ensure that you don’t wind up in someone else’s tent!
Making Your Own Eruv
That’s right, you can build your very own eruv! Whether you’re camping in a wooded area or in an open field, there is a simple way to make an eruv that is strong enough, and more importantly, halachically acceptable.
I’ve built an eruv both ways myself and have never encountered any issues as long as I followed each step carefully. Click here for instructions on building an eruv for both types of terrains.
We all know how much goes into your typical preparations before you can finally relax on Shabbat. And while it may seem like more work, I can promise you that camping on Shabbat will bring new meaning to the words “Shabbat Shalom”.