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  • Corey Green

Backpacking Food

Updated: Sep 8, 2022

For any backpacking trip I create a menu for myself and write down what I will have for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for each date.


Keep in mind that on the first day of your trip you could have breakfast at home and on the last day of your trip dinner at home (or takeout on the way home).


Let's talk about fresh foods vs dehydrated foods:


Fresh foods obviously taste better, but they come at a price. Fresh foods are often heavier and take up more space in your pack. Also, if you're going on a longer trip fresh foods will often rot in your bag before you get a chance to eat it.


With this in mind I pack a combination of fresh and dehydrated foods. I will eat the fresh foods on day one or two of the trip. I also own a food dehydrator and I dehydrate fruits and vegetables.


Dehydrated foods-


Today there are a lot of pre-packaged dehydrated meals sold at outdoor stores. I’ve had quite a few of these and while convenient, I have been unsatisfied with the taste, bulkiness with excess packaging, and the cost of the meals. Also I eat a lot when I backpack and I could easily eat two of these pre-packaged meals for dinner. Thats a lot of money and bulk packaging.

One quick solution I found for this is buying these pre-packaged meals in bulk. Some of these meal companies sell their food in large cans with around 9 servings in them. You can buy one large can for around $30 and pre portion your meals into a ziplock bag. This eliminates my two biggest complaints with pre packaged meals which are price and bulkiness.

However, unlike the individually packed meals which come in a hot water safe container your ziplock bag is not safe. You have two options here:

1) Fill your ziplock bag with as much food as you think you'll need for the trip. I usually go a little over and end up having a big feast the last night to eat what I over-packed. I don't want to carry leftover food any farther than I have to. To cook the food from the ziplock bag simply pour the food into your boiling pot of water and let it sit until cooked, stirring occasionally.

Note that you will now have to clean out your pot unlike with the pre-packaged meals and you will need to try your best to make sure it doesn't stick to the pot.

Review Leave No Trace Principles before attempting to do your dishes in the wilderness.

Despite the dirty dishes this is still my preferred method of cooking in the wilderness.


Option 2) buy a pre-packaged meal, eat it, save the packaging and wash it. You can now re-use this packaging to cook in.





Breakfast


I am pretty basic when it comes to breakfast in the backcountry. I want something quick and light so that I can start walking.

I really only have one thing for breakfast while backpacking and that's oatmeal.

But I make it special and make an oatmeal mix.

In a gallon sized zip lock bag I fill it with however much oatmeal I feel I will eat. I then add dehydrated berries, cinnamon, nuts, raisins, vanilla powder, chia seeds, goji berries, and dehydrated soy milk.

Shake the bag and voila. Breakfast for the whole trip in one zip lock bag.


Lunch


Similar to breakfast I only have one thing I will eat for lunch while backpacking. I don't like to stop for very long to take a lunch break and in the past I have eaten lunch while walking. I couldn't imagine stopping to get out my cooking gear to make lunch.

I have nut butter sandwiches.

whole wheat bread or a bagel

nut butter- either peanut, cashew, or almond

fresh berries

fresh banana

honey

cinnamon

vanilla powder

Goji berries


I premake these sandwiches the night before my trip. I have found that the fresh fruit on the sandwiches stays good for up to 14 days.


Dinner


My old go to for a long time was the Mountain House Rice & Chicken which I would buy in a bulk can. This past year due to the pandemic I had to get a little more creative because all of the dehydrated meals were sold out from panic buying.

I was able to order a large can of dehydrated chicken off of Amazon. I add this chicken to all my dishes to add protein.


This past summer I discovered the world of Bob's Red Mill Potato Flakes. These potatoes have been a game changer for me. I have not found any food that is as light and calorie dense as these potato flakes. They also cook instantly. These potatoes are good with any style meal. Be sure to add seasonings like salt and pepper as they come un-seasoned.


My go to meal now is potato flakes, dehydrated chicken, dehydrated veggies, dehydrated powder cheese, and seasonings.

I have also made potato flakes, chicken, veggies, with a miso soup seasoning packet. This meal comes out surprisingly well. The potatoes pick up the miso seasoning and absorb all the water. It tastes like a creamy miso soup minus the broth. You don't want to make this into a soup, that’d be gross.

Another combo with these potatoes is: potatoes, chicken, veggies, and olive oil mixed with seasonings of your choice. I usually go with everything but the bagel seasoning, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder.


I pack the potatoes premixed with the chicken and seasoning in a gallon sized zip lock bag.

The cheese, miso, or olive oil will be packed separately. This allows me to have my potato mix and have cheesy potatoes one night and then miso the next. Having one large zip lock cuts down on weight and space in my pack.


I try to mix up meals so that i'm not eating the same thing every night. Other meal ideas are:


Boxed Macaroni and cheese (make sure you pack this in a sandwich bag instead of packing the

cardboard box).


Tacos- dehydrated chicken, rice, beans, tortilla, cheese, and taco seasoning.

This used to be a meal I would have on the first night of a trip as I would pre-make the rice and black beans and freeze it. I would also take some fresh shredded cheese and freeze it. By the time I made dinner it was no longer frozen, but still cold and fresh. Sometimes I would pack an avocado too.

In my opinion most non-instant Spanish rice takes too long to cook so I have made this with couscous instead. Couscous has worked as a great substitute, is lightweight, and cooks fast.


Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo- A few years ago I found some dehydrated fettuccine noodles online. They cooked faster than regular noodles. I made the noodles, added dehydrated chicken, and a dehydrated packet of alfredo seasoning. This was tasty but the cleanup was a mess. My cooking pot would often reek of alfredo after this. I learned if I was going to eat this it had to be on the last night of the trip.


There is a lot one can do with dehydrated foods. For me discovering the bulk cans of dehydrated meat has opened up a world of possibilities with my backcountry cooking. It feels like all I have to do for a healthy meal is take the meat, add a lightweight quick cooking carb, and throw in some vegetables.

There are vegetarian/vegan options for this as well. One can find dehydrated lentils, beans, etc for protein and dehydrated nutritional yeast can make any dish taste better.


I encourage you to go out and try some new backpacking recipes and see how it goes!

If you find a recipe that knocks your socks off let me know!


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