Making your own backpacking meals can be an easy, cost effective way to enjoy the outdoors, your favorite foods, and learn new skills. The main challenge that overwhelms some backpackers is balancing weight, easy preparation, nutrition, and perish-ability with great taste. Discover 10 favorite backpacking recipes.
A few years back after getting tired of eating expensive prepackaged meals on the trail my wife and I decided to start experimenting with making our own. Making your own meals can be an easy cost effective way to enjoy the outdoors, you’re favorite foods, and learn new skills. The main challenge that overwhelms some backpackers is balancing weight, easy preparation, nutrition, and perish-ability with great taste. My recommendation for planning and preparing your own meals is to select some recipes below then be creative and substituting your favorite ingredients. As you gain confidence and experience you can apply principles to your favorite foods. Here are my top 10 favorite meals when I’m on the trail and reasons why I like them:
1. Oatmeal and Blueberries for Breakfast
Why I like it: Lightweight and easy to carry, fast and easy to prepare (just add hot water) especially for a warm breakfast which helps retain energy, nutritious and tastes good. I especially like hot oatmeal on summit days when mountaineering or spending time in the Arctic. When waking up early I don’t have a lot of prep time and can get ready while the water’s boiling. Having something warm at 3AM on a cold morning also helps retain energy for the climb rather than the body wasting it on digestion (body heating up something cold before digestion system kicks in) and staying warm.
2 packets serve 1:
¼ cup of dried blueberries
¼ cup of crushed walnuts
4 packets of instant oatmeal or about 170 grams or just under 1 cup of oatmeal
You can also substitute dried cranberries, strawberries, chocolate chips, or add other nuts.
Combine blueberries and walnuts in own zip lock.
Follow instructions on package. Add water to individual cups or bowls of oatmeal, stir and mix. Add additional water as needed. Add blueberries and walnuts.
2. Cashew Chicken Noodles
Why I like it: Taste good, lots of carbs, and ramen noodles are cheap.
Curry Noodles Serves one: 6 oz.
2 serving of Asian cellophane noodles (you can also use several top ramen packaged noodles)
¼ cup Jerky or 6 oz. of packaged chicken (found in tuna section of store)
¼ cup dehydrated mixed veggies
1 Tbs. curry you can also use curry paste and avoid some of the spices below.
1/2 tsp of cumin
½ tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 Tbs. coconut powder
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons of cashews
2 tablespoons of pre-chopped cilantro (optional)
Note if your short on spices you can also use the flavorings in the ramen packages, although I prefer to use my own.
Combine all the seasonings and coconut powder in one container.
On trail add about 1 ½ cups boiling water to baggie. Mix it around and let it
sit for 10 minutes, or until everything is soft. Add cashews and cilantro before serving.
3. Cuoscous and Tempeh
Why I like it: Easy to prepare, lightweight, packed with energy.
1-2 cup of couscous (about 1/2 cup per person)
2 carrots chopped
2 stalks of celery
1 cup of cherry tomatoes
1 teaspoon of curry seasoning
Couple pinches of paprika, salt, pepper, oregano.
1 teaspoon of olive oil.
8-12 oz. of Tempe (leave in package till ready to prepare)
Chop the vegetables and mix spices into their own zip locks. Keep Tempeh in sealed container and freeze till your ready to pack.
On the trail:
Add oil, vegetables, to pot over medium heat for 5 min, remove from pot and add enough water for couscous (refer to package instructions) then boil the water, add the tempeh and turn down the heat, boil for 2 more minutes. Add couscous, spices, and veggies to boiled water, mix, cover and let sit for 5 minutes.
4. Mediterranean delight
Why I like it? Tasty, very little field prep and cleaning involved, hummus is a good source of protein and nutritious. Although this takes some home preparation (cutting the veggies) you can forgo carrying a stove or fuel on shorter trips. Because of the space of fresh veggies I tend to plan this meal on the first or 2nd day of the trip.
1 cup of Powdered Hummus
2 medium size zip locks of fresh veggies (baby carrots, cut celery, cut bell peppers, radishes, or olives)
1-2 packages of Pita Bread (about 2-3 pita’s per person)
Optional cooked sausage (for meat lovers, can heat on a stick next to a camp fire)
Pre-wash, dry, and pre-cut the veggies. Measure and pack the hummus (adjust portion for party size) in its own zip lock (large enough to add water to later) and write down how much water to add on the zip lock.
On the trail:
Follow instructions for dehydrated humus. Add the correct amount of cold PURIFIED water to the zip lock, close, and mix well. Let sit for 5-10 minutes and it’s ready to eat with pita and veggies.
5. Ant and Dandelion burrito
Why I like it: In a time when most of us are not in tune with where our food comes from, this will help you get close to nature, overcome food aversions (if you can eat bugs you can eat almost anything), practice survival skills, and it’s packed with high energy protein not to mention the cool factor for impressing others in your group or at least giving them something to talk about. Most of all it tastes pretty good. Although you don’t have to carry a protein source the cons are you can spend extra time looking for your food source, need to consider your environment, not recommended if arriving in camp near dark, and you might not be able to procure enough ants. Note: For inexperienced survivors in the outdoors insects and fish are your best protein source.
8 Burrito shells
12 oz package of shredded cheese
6 oz of salsa (if you don’t want to carry a jar put in a zip lock-the spicier and higher the citrus (lime) content the less perishable it’ll be)
1-2 plateful of dandelion or wild mustard leaves (make sure you’ve identified these and/or other edible plants)
4 handfuls of ants or ant larvae (1/2 handful per burrito more if you can procure it)
In the field, on the trail keep a small bag easily accessible and as you pass dandelions, wild mustard, or other edible plants as your getting close to your campsite keep an eye out for dead stumps or ant mounds. I prefer the rotted stumps cause they’re easy to spot, there’s plenty in most Pacific Northwest forests, and almost always contain a plethora of ants or larvae (even in winter). Kick, rip, or pry the stump till you expose the ants. Use a stick to scoop them up, place the stick in a zip lock and squeeze them into the bag. If you can’t find enough ants you can substitute worms, you’ll have a good chance of finding them by turning over and looking under rocks that cover a 12” or larger diameter area. Once you’ve procured enough protein, wash your plant source, place the protein in a pan and fry for a few minutes or until brown. Heat the burrito shells, add, cheese, salsa, protein, and edible plant before wrapping and enjoying.
Here’s a picture of a bear enjoying a meal of ants:
6. Gouda breakfast burrito
Why I like it: Eggs and Gouda, if you plan this with other burritos in your meal plan you can use similar ingredients and leftovers saving on space and prep time, while adding variety.
3-4 ounces Gouda (cheese)
½ cup Powder Eggs or Egg Beaters (if used on 2nd day-Pre-freeze ahead of time at home and store in cooler during drive)
4-6 ounces of salsa
8 Burrito shells
Slice the Gouda, into 6 slices and place in a zip lock, add salsa to zip lock, and egg beaters or powdered eggs to another zip lock. Before packing freeze the egg beaters if not using powdered eggs.
On the trail or base camp:
Mix powered eggs with water according to instructions. Add eggs to pan and stir over low heat as they start to cook add the sliced Gouda and cover to melt cheese. Cooking time will depend on your pan and amount of eggs so keep a constant watch. Once cooked dish up onto a tortilla with salsa and eat. Most of the time this takes me less than 10
minutes to make.
7. Swiss, Ham, Apple Bagel
Why I like it: This is a quick and easy lunch and adds variety to your normal sandwich, it’s damn good!
3-4 slices of ham
1 slice of Swiss
2 slices of caramelized onions
3 apple slices enough to fit on sandwich
On a stovetop cook apple slices until brown; if you like onions fry them until caramelized. Add the ham, apple and/or onions, then Swiss to one bagel slice then place both bagel slices face out under the broiler. As soon as the cheese melts close the sandwich and place in fridge.
On the trail:
It’s ready to eat cold but the melted cheese will still hold things together and taste good. If you have the time and fuel recommend heating up your sandwich on a frying pan with cover.
8. Fusion Spam sliders.
Why I like it: Spam is easy to store and carry on the trail and now comes in an aluminum package vs. canned. If you don’t think this can taste good stop by Marination Mobile in Seattle to be proved wrong, where I got this idea from.
Note: I’m not following Marination’s recipe exactly which is probably a secret.
Recommend 3 sliders per person, recipe makes 1:
2 tablespoons or ½ handful of Bagged Slaw (found in salad section)
2-3 thin slices of fresh Ginger,
1 Soy packet or ½ teaspoon.
1 Hawaiian roll
1 slice of Spam to fit into the roll.
On the trail cut spam into slices and fry until crispy (realize it’s already pre-cooked but frying will make it taste better), place on bun Hawaiian roll (which you’ve been careful not to smash), and add other ingredients.
9. Tofu Shepherd’s Pie
Why I like it: Lots of flavor and hearty, helps me sleep warm in colder environments.
14-18 ounce package of baked tofu
14 ounces of instant mashed potatoes
1 packet of powdered mushroom sauce or gravy
1 cup of dried mushrooms
½ cup of dried mixed vegetables like peas, carrots, and corn.
½ teaspoon vegetable bouillon
¼ teaspoon of sage
¼ teaspoon of cumin
Dash of salt and pepper
¼ teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon olive oil
Combine all dry ingredients except potatoes in a quart sized zip lock bag. Using a pen write “add one cup of water” on bag. Add potatoes in their own quart sized zip lock and write “Add two cups of water” on it. Store oil in small leak proof container. Dice Tofu, put in separate zip lock and freeze till last minute before packing. Can also leave in sealed package and freeze to dice in camp.
Dice Tofu; bring 3 cups of water to rolling boil. Add 2 cups of hot water to the potato bag and one cut to the vegetable bag. Close both bags well. Squish the potato powder and set bags aside. Heat oil in a pot and sauté the tofu for two minutes or brown on all sides. Remove from heat and add vegetables (do not drain fluid) to tofu. Stir well, Add mashed potatoes, and stir again.
10. S’mores, High Altitude Version
Why I like it: Good easy dessert, if you have time you think you’ll have enough time you can forego the foil and just bring ingredients to make them in field and heat on camp stove although it’s harder to do mountaineering.
Generously coat a graham cracker with peanut butter. Drop a handful of mini-chocolate chips into the peanut butter, add a small marshmallow. Then lightly coat another graham cracker and close sandwich. Wrap in foil or place in a baggie.
On the trail drop the foil into a pot and cover for 2-3 minutes on med heat or into coals of a fire for 2 min.
Realize the above recopies are to help you learn. Once you get comfortable cooking outdoors I recommend you modify these and be creative to find what you like. Sample multi-day backpacking meal plans from FitClimb are available here.