Read on for backcountry tried and tested meal-planning advice and delicious camp recipes.
If you're going into the backcountry for several days, eat heavier, more perishable items for the first day or two. Go gourmet the first night with fresh veggies, bread, and even meat. Freeze the meat ahead of time, it will defrost in your pack during the day. Five days in, your left shoe tastes good; enjoy the fresh stuff while you can!
Dehydrated food is a valuable weight and FUEL saver for backpackers; when it's time to eat, just boil water and stir. Precooked, dehydrated foods are not only lightweight, but also simple to prep. The decreased cooking time conserves fuel, requiring you to carry LESS. Stores such as Mountain Equipment Co-op, or your local outdoor store, sell great packaged meals. I recommend, for adventurers who love food, consider investing in a dehydrator. The options are endless. You can take any recipe you love at home and adapt it for the trail. In preparation for the Appalachian Trail I made 6 months of dehydrated food, making 14 different recipes for supper. Precooked and dehydrated vegetables, fruits, ground meats such as beef or chicken, sauces, and noodles were the main ingredients. To make it easier to determine portions you can place entire meals in the dehydrator. Once dehydrated, use the nutritional information to break the recipe into individual serving sizes.
When you're going backcountry, you have to carry OUT everything you carry in, so weight and garbage are big challenges. When planning a backpacking menu, start off with meals that you like to make at home. Add and substitute ingredients that will be quick cooking, lighter, or more compact. For example, Mr Noodles instead of spaghetti; foil packets instead of cans of tuna; couscous and angel-hair pasta are also great options. Spend the time to nix excess packaging. Never carry tin cans, combine ingredients for one meal into a single ziplock, or remove excess cardboard and plastic. It is amazing how much extra packaging is out there. Purging it at home will save valuable ounces on the trail.
Pack a few light ingredients (such as garlic and jalapeños) for freshening up meals. Garlic weighs nothing and adds so much flavour. Dried herbs and spices are ideal for camping. Cut down on packaging and add them directly to other ingredients for that meal. Raid your local fast food restaurant; a great source for packets of olive oil, ketchup, mustard, soy or hot sauce, salad dressing, and even peanut butter. These are great ways to add kick to a meal!
The two most common types of camp stove are liquid fuel and canister. The basic concept is the same but each one is operated and lit a bit differently, so be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions. Spend some time practicing outside with your stove before hitting the trail. Raw noodles never taste good!
The backcountry code is "leave no trace," meaning you should haul OUT anything you bring in. This INCLUDES all food and any packaging. Leaving behind food is a big faux-pas! It attracts animals and makes beautiful campsites dirty and grungy. It should be avoided at all costs. This means planning and not packing more grub than you need. Portion control is a bit of an art. Try keeping notes on trips and modify as needed from trip to trip.
It may not be the lightest thing, but cheese is delicious in the backcountry. Hard cheeses do not have to be refrigerated and will liven up lunches and dinners. Most cheeses can keep for a few days, and the stinky ones get better!
More to be added
Have a recipe you love? Send it in and I'll post it on my site!