My Guide to Backcountry Cooking Part 2 – Easy Meal Ideas

Following up on my post about how to plan your menu, I thought I’d share some ideas of what to put on the menu. I get my meal ideas from backcountry cook books, friends and, of course, the internet. When I first started out I always used recipe ideas from somewhere else, but now I’ll experiment with different things (dehydrated lasagna is one of my favourites!). While I love my dehydrator (and think that every backcountry enthusiast should have one) it is possible to prepare a weekend of backcountry meals without it. Here are a few menu suggestions that don’t need a dehydrator.

Breakfast

Breakfast is my least creative meal of the day but options include:

  • quick bread (banana bread, birdseed bread, etc) with cream cheese and jam. Cream cheese will keep a couple of days when backpacking in the mountains, and a loaf, when wrapped in tin foil and bagged, will survive your pack for a few days
  • porridge or instant cream of wheat – protein powder, extra dried fruit or powdered whole milk can spice it up a little.
  • granola and powdered milk
  • muffins – put them in your 1L rehydrating jar and they will stay fine for a day or so
  • cliff bars and dried fruit for mornings when you don’t want to cook, or can’t cook
  • english muffins and PB – have a toaster for my stove which I bring sometimes on a canoe trip for the days when you want toast

using the toaster (402 x 600)

Snacks

On every trip I plan for two snacks – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Almost anything works as a snack, but my favourites include:

  • Fruit leather/dried fruit – Sometimes I will make my own but the stuff that you buy at the store (Fruit to Go) is nicely packaged
  • Cookies – things like Oreos hold up well
  • Pepperoni sticks
  • Candy
  • Gorp (trail mix)
  • Chocolate bars
  • Granola bars
  • And so on…

Lunch

I know some people just snack on the trail, but I like a proper lunch break. It gives me a chance to take off my pack, drink some water and take in the scenery. Things that we will take are:

  • Pita bread and some sort of spread (humus, cheese, etc) – Baby Bells are already packaged and fresh hummus keeps for a few days. You can also buy dehydrated humus mix at the store and rehydrate it on the trail.
  • PB and jam/honey and some sort of bread (I make my own dense hiking bread, but you can use crackers, wraps, rye bread or english muffins).  We used to store our PB and honey in a squeeze tube but we’ve found a small plastic container to be less messy.
  • Instant soup – if you want to haul out the stove and cook
  • Cream cheese and savoury spreads (like roasted peppers) on pita or naan
  • Dehydrated tabouli – you buy the package at the health food store and just add water. Serve with naan bread and cheese

You could add some dried sausage, baby carrots or packaged tuna (in the foil packages) on your first day as a treat.

lunch break (402 x 600)

Enjoying a pita with cheese and humus on my lunch break

Dinner

Dinner is where I put in the most effort – I love having a delicious meal after a long day and cooking up something super yummy can make even the worst day that much better. This is where I think the dehydrator makes the most difference, but things that can be assembled without one include:

  • Soup with dumplings – Buy a hearty dried soup mix and bring along a small ziploc bag of Bisquick (about 1 cup). While the soup is coming to a boil, mix in enough water with the Bisquick to form a thick dough (knead it in the baggie to mix well). Drop the Bisquick into the boiling soup in heaping spoonfuls, cover and simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes until the “dumplings” have cooked and the soup is rehydrated.
  • Pastas – you can buy a packaged pasta and sauce (like Sidekicks), bring fresh sauce in a foil package or prepare your own quick sauce recipe. One of my favourite pastas and something that comes on every trip is Gada Gado – a tangy pasta dish.

Gado Gado (one hearty serving) –  At home: put 4 oz of orzo pasta into a small ziploc bag, in another bag combine 2 tbsp crushed peanuts, 2 tbsp dried onion, 1/4 brown sugar and 1 tsp garlic powder. In a small bottle, put 3 tbsp olive or vegetable oil, 2 tbsp soy sauce and 1/4 cup rice vinegar. On the trail: boil enough water for the pasta and cook. While the pasta is cooking, pour the wet ingredients into the ziploc with the dry ingredients to make the sauce. Squish to mix. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it. Add the sauce to the drained pasta and enjoy!

Gado Gado (600 x 402)

Delicious and filling Gado Gado on the West Coast Trail

  • Indian Kitchen – these are foil packed dahls and curries (buy at Safeway or Super Store), you just put them in boiling water and then serve. A bit heavy, but delicious with instant rice and naan bread for a first night out dinner. Jon and I will share one package with bread and rice.
  • Tacos – use “ground round” (a soy product found with the tofu at the grocery store) instead of real meat since it just needs to be reheated, not cooked. Bring tortillas, salsa or hot sauce packages, cheese and some peppers. Best done as a first night dinner.
  • Pita pizzas – a classic backpacking meal. Use pitas for the shell and heat up some pizza sauce on the stove. Spread the sauce on the pita, top with cheese and pepperoni.

On our last few trips I have started to bring “cup-a-soups” to eat before dinner. Boil water and sip on a hot soup while the main meal cooks! This is great way to warm up, stop the serious hunger pains, or stretch out a thin meal. You can buy the pre-packed cup of soups, or make your own by mixing a heaping tbsp of bouillon (beef, chicken or veggie) with a tbsp of dried veggie flakes and either a couple of tbsps of instant rice or a small handful of thin egg noodles.

Fresh veggies are also an amazing treat. When we hiked Northover Ridge, our friends brought a carefully wrapped tomato (they stuffed it into a cup so it didn’t get squished) and served it sliced with salt, pepper and a little balsamic vinegar!

Eating on the Trail (600 x 305)

Enjoying a well deserved dinner on the Juan de Fuca

Dessert and Drinks

I love having a sweet after my main meal – especially if you’re sitting on the beach watching the sunset over the ocean! Ideas include:

  • Baked goods – brownies and cookies travel well
  • Chocolate bars
  • Home made “eat more” bars – solid homemade chocolate bars that can survive anything. Great for long trips because they do not squish. Any recipe that includes marshmallows will yield a nice, chewy bar.
  • Instant pudding or no bake cheese cake with Oreo cookies or chocolate covered graham crackers – buy the dry powder, repackage into a ziplock bag and add enough milk powder for the required liquid at home. When you’re ready to eat it, just add water equivalent to the amount of milk and shake. Either chill in an alpine stream or just eat!
  • If canoeing, and bringing a cooler, a “Deep and Delicious” frozen cake will survive the first day to be eaten that night. You must eat it all so it is best if you are out with friends.
  • Hot chocolate (with Bailey’s) – I used to always bring the individual packages of hot chocolate but last year my mom just brought a zip loc bag of it and that is a much better way!
  • Tetra pack of wine
  • Crystal Light juice packages
  • Instant flavoured coffee/herbal tea/regular tea

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Many of the options I’ve listed for breakfast, lunch and dinner aren’t going to be super lightweight. I like to bring a mix of ideas from these lists, plus things that I dehydrate. If you are going on a longer trip it is still possible not to dehydrate your own stuff but later I’ll share some of my favourite dehydrator meals which may tempt to you to at least try borrowing that dehydrator from your friends for your next trip!

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