While out on a multi-day trip in the backcountry, one of the greatest pleasures can be getting into camp, setting up your home for the night, and cooking a warm meal.
T and I subscribe to lightweight backpacking, and part of keeping our pack weight down means we cook all of our meals in one pot and eat out of that pot (we don’t carry dishes; we bring only one cup and spoon each and a multi-use knife). One pot meals can be tricky to make, they require some forethought and practice, but they can be very yummy.
Here are a couple of our tried and true favorites. Most of these recipes involve saving your cooking water. You can use a nalgene or aluminum drinking bottle to reserve this water and the water can be used for making hot chocolate, tea, or instant pudding after dinner. And because this is leftover cooking water, it contains carbohydrates and nutrients leached from the food during cooking. Using this leftover water is a good way to get as many of those into your system as possible, since both are in short supply on backpacking trips. Lastly, a wise person turned us on to carrying oil. Adding a tablespoon to each meal adds much-needed fat, calories, and nutrients to your dinner.
When packing for your trip, all meals should be re-packaged individually in Ziploc bags. The Ziploc bag reduces the size and weight of your food bag by getting rid of excess packaging, and the Ziploc serves as a garbage bag to carry out your trash or uneaten leftovers (these should never be left in the backcountry). Put indivudal Ziploc trash bags into a larger Ziploc bag that can carry multiple days worth of trash. All of this double-bagging helps to insure trash doesn't leak out on the inside of your pack.
Thanksgiving Dinner: Ingredients – dehydrated mashed potatoes, dehydrated seasoned stuffing mix, turkey or chicken in a small can or foil pouch, dried cranberries. Bring enough water to boil to re-hydrate the potatoes and stuffing; bring the water to a boil and then reserve boiling water in a nalgene or other drinking bottle; turn off stove; put the potatoes and stuffing into the pot and add water slowly until rehydrated to avoid adding too much water; add a little extra water, put pot back on the warm stove with the lid on, and let sit; when the potatoes and stuffing are at the desired consistency and moisture, stir in the meat and dried cranberries (adding as many as you like). If using a can, crush it and carry it out with you in your trash.
Sweet and Sour Rice: Ingredients – boil in a bag rice, chicken or salmon in a foil pouch, dried pineapple, packets of duck or soy sauce from a Chinese restaurant. Cover the bag of rice with water and boil, reserve boiling water in a nalgene for another use (use this carbohydrate-laden water to make warm drinks after dinner, allowing you to absorb the carbs in the water, too); stir in meat or fish and pieces of dried pineapple; drizzle duck or soy sauce over the dish.
Burritos: Ingredients – package of dehydrated bean soup or chili, tortillas, hard cheese like cheddar (hard cheese will keep for a week or more without refrigeration), salsa or taco sauce packets from Taco Bell. Prepare soup or chili with just enough water to rehydrate – you don’t want this to be soup, but rather just rehydrated beans; once cooked, turn off the stove and spoon beans into tortillas, sprinkle with chunks of cheese, and drizzle salsa or sauce over the top; roll up and enjoy! This tends to be a big meal, with a lot of beans, so this is a god one to share with friends or other hungry hikers.
Mac-N-Cheese: Ingredients – your favorite mac-n-cheese (Velveeta is nice because the cheese is already rehydrated; for dehydrated cheeses, you can add dehydrated milk, water, and oil to reconstitute the cheese sauce); tuna or salmon; dehydrated vegetables (purchased or made at home in a commercially-available drier or your oven). Boil the noodles and dehydrated vegetables until done and reserve extra water in a nalgene for warm carbohydrate drinks; add cheese (plus milk powder, water, and oil if using dehydrated cheese) and continue cooking for another minute or two to allow the noodles to abosorb the cheese (this is especially important for dehydrated cheese, otherwise it will be like mac-n-cheese soup); turn off the stove; stir in fish.
Please use the comments section below to post some of your favorite recipes - we're always looking for new ideas! ~Happy trails!