On a multi-day backpacking trek, the food you pack and eat is very different than when you go camping. Hiking food must be lightweight to carry and very portable without need for refrigeration. There is no ice chest and driving to your perfect campground. You have to haul your food and means of cooking it in your hiking backpack. You should choose calorie-dense and quick-cooking foods to conserve your fuel. After a long hike, a hot meal just seems to hit the spot. Here's a few great ideas for hot meals in the wilderness.
Backpack Hiking Burns Calories
Backpacking is hard work and utilizes many calories and nutrients. It's important for the food you eat to replace those nutrients and calories in order to refuel your body. Even if you aren't a cook at home, some simple preparation can produce a happy belly when you settle in for the night. This may mean buying a few specialty foods but many times can find these items in your local grocery store. One investment that is worth ten times its weight in gold, is a backpacking stove.
It's Small But Mighty
The backpack stove you'll find in my hiking bag is the MSR Rocket-Pocket2. It's an ultra-compact cook-and-eat kit for minimalist solo backpackers. If it's just you on the trail or one other, this little stove is perfectly sized to make hot water for a one pouch meal or a cup of coffee. The nesting design of the stove and pot saves precious space and slips easily into my smaller backpack. Its pot doubles as your eat-and-drink vessel and nests the stove and a 4 oz MSR fuel canister. The entire thing weighs less than 10 ounces and can boil1 liter of water in just 3.5 minutes. There are other backpacker's stoves on the market that work great, depending on your needs. It's worth exploring some options.
Why Cook On The Hiking Trail?
When you're on a backpack trekking excursion you may think, why would I want to cook something when I can have bagels or granola bars and beef jerky? Because hot feels better in your belly after hiking and climbing for miles, and it is proven to be more satisfying as a dinner meal both physically and psychologically. It's really not all that complicated, but it's always nice to get ideas from fellow hikers, so let's examine some ideas using pre-made or homemade meal packets that only require some boiling water to hydrate the starch and veggies. You can buy these in places like Trader Joe's, REI, Amazon or Whole Foods stores, plus other online stores. Google search boil-in-bag dehydrated backpacking meals. You'll be amazed at the variety.
You Can Make Your Own Hiking Dinner
Backpack hikers don't have to be kitchen chefs. It's easy to make your own flavor combinations and combine proteins with carbs. You'll work with a base such as protein-packed buckwheat soba noodles, which are usually found in the Asian section of your grocery store. I like that they are protein packed and keep me full longer. You can also use couscous, instant rice or thai peanut noodles. Keep in mind that thinner pastas cook faster and conserves fuel. I personally don't care for Ramen noodles because they are bleached noodles with an overly salted preservative flavor packet. You can just as easily mix the following:
1 tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. of toasted sesame oil
1 tsp Sriracha, for a bit of spice
I have made bigger batches of this (just quadruple the recipe) as a broth to flavor my food. Separate portions into small salad dressing plastic containers. You can cook your choice of starch for 4-5 min, then add whatever protein you are in the mood for, such as a packet of chicken or tuna, add some dehydrated veggies you brought in a ziploc bag, and you have a nice hearty and tasty hot meal. I have also added beef jerky to rice with the above-mentioned homemade "dressing." I have also used Stove Top Stuffing or Idahoan instant potatoes, hydrated with boiling water, and add dehydrated veggies and chicken for a quick and easy dinner that sticks to your ribs.
Backpack Hiking Food
The possibilities of great hiking meals are endless when you start with a starch base and add veggies, a flavorful "dressing" and protein of your choice from packets. Another flavor for dressing could be olive oil in place of sesame oil and garlic powder and ginger, instead of sriracha(but only use 1/8 tsp. each instead) You can also buy packets of salad dressing, which make for yummy additions to a cooked meal. I love adding Italian dressing to cooked couscous and pepperoni. Explore some flavor options of your own. I would love to hear what you come up with and try some new recipes myself! I welcome you to share your ideas and concoctions. Happy Hiking!