Backpacking Gourmet Cooking

Backpacking Gourmet Cooking
Love to backpack but sick of the same dehydrated, just-add-water food? You no longer need to be doomed to boring backpacking food. Just because you take to the trail, doesn't mean you should leave your taste buds at home. Gourmet backpacking cooking is easier than it sounds and can make meals on the trail just as exciting as cooking at home. When planning your next backpacking trip, leave the dehydrated bags of food at home and follow these simple tips.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Abandoning Prepackaged Dehydrated Meals

Things You’ll Need:
  • Backpacking stove or oven
  • Fuel
  • Sealable plastic bags
  • Lightweight cookware
Step 1
Abandon your old mind set that backpacking food has to be bland and dehydrated, and come in a bag. Many great backpacking meals can be made from items in your pantry---those you bought intending to cook at home. Be creative when coming up with new recipe ideas for the trail.
Step 2
Create your own recipes. Think of your favorite meal at home and then adapt that same meal for the trail. Want chicken primavera? Buy a packet of primavera pasta and a packet or small can of chicken. Put additional spices in a small sealed plastic bag. This dish can easily be made using one pot.
Step 3
If you have trouble stewing up unique recipes, ask your friends. Backpackers always seem willing to share their favorite recipes. You can also check out backpacking cookbooks (i.e., "Chef in Your Backpack: Gourmet Cooking in the Great Outdoors" by Nicole Bassett, "The Well-Fed Backpacker" by June Fleming, or "Lipsmackin' Backpackin': Lightweight Trail-tested Recipes for Backcountry Trips" by Christine Conner, to name a few) or look for recipes online.

Planning Ahead

Step 1
Planning ahead and premixing all your meals and their ingredients, spices, etc., will make cooking easier and your pack lighter. Don't settle for oatmeal straight from the instant packet. Mix your own oatmeal concoction using your favorite dried fruits, sugar, cinnamon, or other desired spices. Premix the ingredients in a small Ziploc bag for easy toting on the trail. Treat dinner the same way. Premix your dinner ingredients so there is no measuring required on the trail and you are only taking what you need.
Step 2
Plan group meals. Summer sausage, kabobs and Thai red curry are all possible meals in the back country. Collaborating with the group will make preparing such meals a breeze. If everyone is pitching in and sharing the weight of such fancier foods and beverages, all backpackers can reap the benefits. Kabobs make great cooking for a short backpacking trip, where they will be eaten the first night. Use all your favorite kabob ingredients including meats, veggies and potatoes, season as normal, and wrap the kabobs (minus the skewer) in aluminum foil. Place two or three kabobs in large Ziploc bags (for individual servings) and freeze overnight. If you have a long drive to the trailhead, store the kabobs in a cooler in the car. Once at the trailhead, distribute the kabob packages to each backpacker to carry his or her own share. Cook them on the fire that night. If using raw meats (especially chicken) be sure that the meat stays cold during the car ride and hike to prevent food-borne illness.
Step 3
Accessorize your meals to increase the gourmet feel of a meal. Add wine and dessert to bring meals up a notch on the gourmet scale. Wine can easily be packed in using a plastic bottle or flask. You can even find plastic wine glasses that come apart to take up less room. Dessert can be premade and packed in, such as homemade cookies or brownies.

Using Technology

Step 1
Today's technological advancements have make cooking in the backcountry easier (and lighter) than ever. Consider investing in an oven designed for gourmet backpacking cooking (i.e., Outback Oven) or a set of lightweight cookware. Your meal options will expand endlessly when you can bake on the trail and you are not limited to cooking in one pan. Use a skillet to fry summer sausage in the morning. You can even put omelets on the breakfast menu if you pack in a skillet instead of just a pot to boil water. Having an oven on the trail can make every meal more gourmet. Look for recipes specifically designed for backcountry ovens. If you plan on many long backpacking trips, an oven may be worth the investment.
Step 2
Dehydrated food is not all bad. Buying your own dehydrator will allow you to customize your meal options to just about anything your mind can cook up. Dehydrators are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. If you aren't interested in purchasing one, try using a conventional oven to dehydrate your meals (by placing your oven at low heat and leaving the door open). You might find the wasted energy and extra time invested in using your conventional oven to dehydrate food makes a dehydrator worth the expense.
Step 3
Even if you don't want to invest in all these items, or can't afford to, consider borrowing such items from your backpacking buddies. Borrow and barter with your fellow backpackers so that you will all enjoy your meals more fully when on the trail.

Tips & Warnings

Use caution when trying to pack in raw meat. Keep meat under 40 degrees Fahrenheit before cooking to avoid food-borne illness.

Article Written By Jessica Linnell

Jessica Linnell is a published author, blogger and freelance writer in the Atlanta area. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications and has been writing for 10 years. She has been published in Atlanta magazine, Cherokee Living, and North Fulton Living, as well as on numerous websites.

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