Cooking in the Great Outdoors: Backpacker Food

There’s nothing better than enjoying a hot, home cooked meal when out on the trail. Just because you’re carrying everything you need on your back doesn’t mean you have to skimp on flavor. And you don’t have to spend big bucks outfitting your portable kitchen with freeze dried this and that. With ingredients readily available at your local supermarket (or foraged from your corner fast food joint—you can find honey, ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, lemon, mayonnaise, etc. in single-serving packets) you can put together some excellent meals in minutes. I’ve included my favorite dishes below.



— Farina or oatmeal with brown sugar


— Granola or granola bars


— Home made peanut butter cookies


— Pancakes with maple syrup (The pancake recipe listed in another post on this site can be modified to be a just-add-water batter by replacing the egg with an additional two tablespoons of water. Serve warm with maple syrup packets.)


— Scrambled Egg Whites (Add water to dehydrated egg whites and scramble.)


Lunch or Dinner:

— Honey Mustard Chicken (One package of vacuum-sealed chicken mixed with a couple of honey packets and mustard packets and heated through.)


–Turkey with Gravy and Stuffing (Heat one package of vacuum-sealed turkey in one package of just-add-water gravy mix. Then cook the stuffing.)


— Macaroni with Mariana Sauce (Macaroni cooks the quickest; then cook just-add-water powdered marinara sauce.)


— Rice Noodles or Ramen Noodles (They are both available in several different flavors.)


— Bean and Rice Burritos (Cook some just-add-water refried beans and then spread on a tortilla. Then cook some quick-cooking rice and mix with the beans in the tortilla. You can season your burrito as you wish, but I like it just salted.)


It’s worth noting that instead of using single serving size packets of condiments, you can buy a set of mini plastic bottles that you can refill as needed. This will also allow you take a wider variety of condiments with you if you wish. In addition to the above basic meals, our camp kitchen is also outfitted with salt, pepper, sugar, tea, instant coffee, nuts, powdered lemon Gatorade and beef jerky. For cooking and cleaning up, we have two mess kits (which include a plate, frying pan with handle, small pot with lid, cup with measurements marked onto it, and cutlery), one large pot, two travel mugs with lids, a small slotted spoon, a small spatula (the cookie-sized one), biodegradable dish soap, a small sponge (a regular-size one cut in half) in a plastic baggie, a small towel (a hand towel cut in half- it’s useful as a pot holder or drying dishes), plus a backpacker’s stove with fuel cartridge. When you’re packing for your trip, it’s a good idea to portion out each meal and put all the ingredients together. This will minimize surprises due to forgotten ingredients on the trail. So, make up some menus and plan your next hiking trip—it’s more exciting when you know you’ve got some excellent trail food to keep you energized!