Wouldn’t we all love to have a fully prepared meal with several varieties of fresh foods after a long day of backpacking? Unless we are only hiking in a few miles on a short trip, this really isn’t practical and certainly isn’t lightweight. However, eating well on the trail can be accomplished with a variety of methods and recipes. This article will outline three cooking methods, recipes for each method, how to prepare them, and when they are best used on the trail.
Even though you can purchase commercially prepared meals such as Mountain House that use this method, you can make meals more economically and cater them to your own taste. These recipes involve mixing ingredients such as proteins, vegetables, seasonings, and starches together in their dry state. They will then be blended together at camp when boiling water is added. There may also be “wet” ingredients, such as packaged meats, oils, sauces or peanut butter that you carry separately and add to the pot when you are cooking the meal.
These meals are cooked and seasoned on your stove at home, dehydrated, and then reconstituted on the trail.* They tend to be tastier than dry mixed meals. Many stews and saucy dishes that you regularly prepare for dinner, such as chili or beef stew can be made into camp meals this way with a few simple adaptations. For example, meats need to be fully cooked and finely shredded and vegetables finely diced and cooked until tender.
These meals require cooking at camp similar to at-home preparation, but with lightweight versions of some ingredients.
*a dehydrator is a great investment if you plan to make your own meals for the trail. For under $50 you can get a decent appliance. I started with a Ronco 5 tray and got good results. You could check EBay and other reselling sites for used equipment.