Tips for Homemade Backpacking Meals

Tips for Homemade Backpacking Meals
Planning your meals for the backcountry is an exciting task. You get to decide what delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinners you will eat while backpacking, which sometimes sets the mood for the trip. Sure, there are packaged, just-add-water meals you can buy for camping, but planning your own rations opens up a world of culinary opportunity. You won't be sorry if you take a few extra minutes to plan out some homemade backpacking meals.

Nutrition for Backpackers

When taking part in more exercise than normal, such as when you are hiking, you need to have one to three servings (1/2 to 1 1/2 cups) of grains or starchy vegetables a day. These happen to be quick and easy to cook and include things such as pasta, rice, potatoes, couscous, bulgur or bread. These all mix well with beans, nuts, seeds and veggies, of which you should have five to eight servings (1 cup fresh or 1/2 cup dried) per day. When available, one to two servings of meat, eggs, poultry or fish (1 oz. cheeze, 8 oz. milk, 3 oz. fish or one egg) is excellent to add to your backpacking diet. Combine proteins when you can. Easy combos are rice and beans, peanut butter and bread or granola with nuts and seeds.


Ration Planning

Plan out each meal you intend to have on your backpacking trip, looking up simple recipes from sources such as "NOLS Cookery, 5th Edition." Don't just throw a bunch of ingredients into your pack, hoping it will work out to make the right number of meals. If you are going on a four-night, five-day trip, you will probably need to plan five lunches, four dinners and four breakfasts, with enough servings for the number of people in your group. It's not a bad idea to pack an extra meal in there just in case. You may wish to pack all the ingredients for each meal into separate plastic bags, marked "Dinner 1," "Dinner 2" and so on, or you may wish to tally up how much flour or oatmeal, for example, you will need for all the meals combined, and put single ingredients in each bag.

Spice It Up

Packing a spice kit for your meals provides your own backcountry pantry right in camp. Use small, travel-size (1 to 4 oz.) Nalgene bottles for your spices. Salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, curry powder, basil, oregano, baking powder, cumin, dill, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, soy sauce, vanilla and oil are just a few suggestions. Place all of these in a small stuff sack to keep them from getting lost. Label everything with a black permanent marker and pack all of your food bags in one large, zippered, mesh or nylon duffel to keep it separate from all else in your backpack.

Dehydrate Ingredients

Food adds enough weight as it is, so decrease as much weight as you can by using dehydrated and powdered ingredients. This also is important for the longevity of your ingredients. Dehydrated potato flakes, powdered milk and dried banana slices aren't going to go bad, whereas all the fresh ingredients will. Many things can be bought at your local grocery store ,but you may want to purchase an at-home dehydrator and dry out whatever foods you want to use in your backcountry kitchen. Keep in mind that you will need to rehydrate some ingredients (such as dehydrated hash browns) in a pot of water before cooking.


Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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