If cooking on the trail invokes images of freeze dried food and boiling water you need to become more original! Just because you are carrying your own food does not mean you are limited — strictly speaking. Lets assume you are traveling for 7 days or less, since after that it becomes a little more tricky using fresh products and produce.
Remember, you have endless options! One of my college friends used to boast of his backpacking-pancake-making skills, but let’s start with something a little more simple.
When trekking we all want our packs to be as light as possible, right? Therefore our primary concern boils down to weight. Being aware to the nutritional value and caloric intake of food will help you decide what to pack. Foods rich in calories can be worth the space since you will need to eat less of it, even if it is heavy. For example, cheeses. I know, please do not call the FDA on my, but let’s face it, many cheeses are aged. If you are not hiking in a desert mid-summer, but a cooler environment and properly wrap it, your cheese should last a few days. Skip the soft cheeses (e.g. Bre). My rule of thumb, the cooler the days and the harder the cheese the longer it lasts. I will eat Manchego for the first 2 – 3 days of a fall trek, while at the end of the trail I can still be shaving Parmesan into my pasta with my trail knife. Cheese offers the necessary salt you will be craving while exercising, calcium, protein, fat, and a high calorie count.
Around the world most people receive the majority of their caloric intake through grains. If your worried about space, tortillas pack better than bread and can even be rolled! Tortilla and peanut butter became Tzachi’s favorite snack on the Appalachian Trail. You can also pre-measure cups of rice or pasta, seal in small bags (per day, not person) and cook nightly. The same goes for oatmeal for breakfast. Chop up celery, carrots, onion or other hearty vegetables and add for a complete meal (fruit, 1 tbsp. of peanut butter, and/or almonds if it is oatmeal).
A hint about cooking pasta or rice: If you are worried about using too much fuel but have plenty of water, pouring your pasta/rice into a water bottle and letting it soak throughout the day, will cut down the cooking time. Be sure to use a water bottle with a wide mouth, like a Nalgene, to make sure you are able to get the pasta pieces out of the bottle.
Just pasta and vegetables can be a bit bland. Personally, we like to pack light but splurge an ounce or two for these seasonings (small quantity in a light shaker): pepper, chili flakes, rosemary or basil, and Tabasco.
The nice thing about using fresh produce over cans (though you might want to avoid sitting on your pack) is that once you have consumed the food you have no remnants to keep carrying. This is extremely helpful with the respectful Leave No Trace policy.
If you are going to pack a jar of something our first recommendation is peanut butter! Full of good oils, rich nutty flavor, protein, and a high calories count — this is a standard.
For more ideas, check out this list of trail favorites:
- Tahini paste… just add water (and lemon — if you have it)
You only need a little, but it will still need to be in a small piece of tuperware. However, it makes a great salad dressing and is extremely high in protein (per ratio), has vitamin B which boosts energy, vitamin E, along with magnesium, iron and calcium. Best part, does not expire… but will dry out in hot sun.
A hearty fruit that stands up to most beatings (especially green apples), is packed full of fiber, and contains potassium, phosphorus, calcium, along with vitamins A and C.
- Cliff and/or Kind bars
I didn’t say you have to cook everything. Both of these companies make great nutrious bars that are perfect for mid-morning or afternoon snacks. Cliff bars can be a bit filling and hold up on their own. We prefer the Kind bars when energy is getting low and you really need a natural sugar rush.
- Olive Oil
Okay, you know the small kid waterbottles that hold only a cup or so of liquid. Fill this up (or less) with olive oil. You will not be able to saute your vegtables or create marvalous salad dressings… I know, we are getting fancy, but we cannot help that olive oil is so marvalous (and trans-fat free)!
All information contained here is based on personal research and experience. Grab The Backpacks is not responsible for the personal health of any reader.