In order for my backpacking trips to be successful, I need to work on eating enough to fully replenish my body. At home, I don’t have any problem eating enough, but when I’ve been exerting a lot, especially during prime alpine backpacking season when it’s hot and my energy is easily depleted, I have a hard time wanting to eat. And I’m a picky eater, so that makes it even harder! I need food that I’ll want to eat every day, so I make a lot of my own breakfasts, dinners and snacks.
Before each trip, I get out all of the food that I think I’ll need and lay it out on a table or countertop, with one row for each day. This way, I can visually see how much food there is. It helps to package snack items into individual plastic bags so you can tell how much you’ll need for each day. To cut down on waste, I wash the plastic bags when I get home and re-use them.
Here is food for a four night trip:
Surprisingly, I don’t get tired of eating the same thing for breakfast every day. For backpacking, I love instant oatmeal. By itself, though, it’s not enough to sustain me for long so I add sliced almonds, hemp seed, milk powder, and freeze-dried berries. I also bring tea to drink with breakfast, usually a Breakfast Blend or Chai tea that I add sugar and milk powder to.
- recipe: almond berry instant oatmeal
Lunch is usually snacks to be eaten while hiking:
- crackers (pita crackers tend to not get smashed as easily as others)
- jerky or salami
- cheese sticks
- trail bars
- roasted & seasoned chickpeas or broad beans (a great protein source in a salty snack)
- Black Forest Organic Gummy Bears (fruit-based and without food coloring!)
- Trail Butter (besides the great flavor, I love the easy to dispense and easy to close container)
DYI Trail Bars
I’ve been trying out recipes for trail bars from the Power Hungry cookbook. I especially like the recipes that replicate Kind Bars and Larabars. While they take time to make, they cost much less than purchasing from the store. Plus I get to customize the flavor for exactly what I like. My favorite so far is a recipe I modified by adding candied ginger, ground ginger, and cardamon to a crunchy nut bar. Mmmm. I also made a PB&J bar using dates, almonds, and dried cherries. These bars aren’t too sweet and they stay soft, which is a nice change from crunchy bars.
Dinner: make your own dehydrated meals
So far, I’ve only tried a couple of commercial freeze-dried meals but haven’t found much that I like. Plus, I’m not used to eating food with preservatives or additives, so I’ve been making my own food for backpacking dinners. When I first started, I made curries, ramen, and other spicy Asian dishes. But my stomach doesn’t like anything even slightly spicy when I’m backpacking, and my taste buds crave something simple and home style. Especially starchy foods like rice, pasta, and potatoes.
To prep for this year’s trips, I’ve been working on several new recipes over the winter months. I’ve been taking my backpacking stove on hikes and cooking a hot lunch to test the recipes. So far, I’m really liking these meals and think that I’ll want to gobble them down each night instead of pawning them off to my campmates. I’ll be adding a few of these recipes to this website after a bit more testing and tweaking (and remembering to take photos before I finish eating). : )
My dinner recipes:
- Chicken Piccata with Pasta
- Loaded Mashed Potatoes
- Stuffing with Chicken and Vegetables
- Thai Red Curry Rice Noodles with Chicken
- Garlic-Basil Linguine with Chicken and Sun-dried Tomatoes
- Yellow Curry Chicken with Rice & Veggies
Recipes I’m currently working on:
- Cheesy Broccoli Rice with Chicken
- Lemon-Ginger Lentils and Rice
- Bean and Cheese Burritos with Salsa
- Spaghetti & Parmesan with Meat Sauce
- Jerk Quinoa with Chicken
- Mushroom Stroganoff with Pasta
- Garlic Pepper Chicken Ramen
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Queso & Bean Dip with Tortilla Chips
- Chia Pudding with Matcha
- Rice Pudding with Cardamon and Ginger
Sourcing the ingredients
- instant mashed potatoes: from Bob’s Red Mill (no additives, just potatoes!)
- freeze-dried mozzarella cheese: from Packet Gourmet
- butter powder: from Packit Gourmet
- sour cream powder: from Packit Gourmet
- powdered chicken stock: from Packit Gourmet
- crystallized lemon: from Packit Gourmet (or you can use a small packet of lemon juice)
- freeze-dried chicken: I buy Mountain House freeze-dried chicken in a large #10 can and split it up amongst my recipes. I keep the unused portion in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer so it will keep longer.
- pasta: for better rehydrating, use a pasta that cooks in 5 minutes or less. I used pasta that needed a longer cooking time, so I cooked it and dehydrated it for use in this recipe. This way, it will fully rehydrate better and not need to be cooked separately from the other ingredients in this recipe.
Packit Gourmet is a small family-run business in Austin that sells dehydrated, freeze-dried and ready-made meals for backpackers. They don’t use additives or preservatives in their dried ingredients, which is much preferred over products typically found in grocery stores.
It’s easy to dehydrate ingredients at home! I use a Nesco Snackmaster dehydrator with temperature control. I purchased additional fruit roll trays for every tray in the dehydrator so food doesn’t fall through the standard trays. It usually takes 6-8 hours to dehydrate chopped vegetables, longer for foods with more liquid or for meats.
It’s important to thoroughly dry everything until there’s no moisture left. To help food rehydrate faster, cut foods into small equal size pieces before dehydrating.
I regularly dehydrate green onions, mushrooms, pasta, and rice for use in my recipes. To dehydrate pasta or rice at home, cook as normal, then spread in thin layers on plastic dehydrator trays used for fruit roll-ups. Dehydrate for 8-10 hours until all moisture is removed. I usually turn the rice or pasta partway through the drying process. If it sticks together after it is dried, break it apart before storing. Store dehydrated ingredients in a glass jar or plastic bag in a cool and dry location.
After assembling individual meals, I use a vacuum sealer and store the meals in the freezer until I’m ready for a trip. To help keep track of how much I’m eating, I like to package all of the food for each day into a separate gallon-size plastic bag. I pack all of my snacks for lunches into individual serving bags, then place one days worth into a quart-size bag. This way, I can find all of the snacks that I intend to take on a day hike and know that I still have enough for the remaining days on a trip. And I can easily track to make sure I’m eating enough each day. At camp, the gallon-size bags can also be used to do laundry or store trash.
On most trips, I take a waterproof sack for hanging food from a tree, but I also take a bear canister on trips where bears are more likely. When using the food sack, I place all of the food in an odor-proof plastic bag and then put that in the food sack. This helps to keep animals from smelling your food and messing with it. Bears aren’t the major concern… it’s the small critters like mice and chipmunks and marmots that are much more frequently trying to get into backpacker’s food.
Backpacking food cookbook
I’m currently working on a “How to Get Started” backpacking book, and after it is published, I’m starting on a backpacking cookbook. I’m teaming with a friend who is a great cook, so look for more info coming soon.
I’d love to hear about backpacking recipes you’ve tried and liked!
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