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Thread: Backpacking Meal Ideas

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Backpacking Meal Ideas

    Been doing a lot more overnights so far this year and have an 8-9 day hike planned for my August vacation. I find I've very rapidly become bored with the Knorr Rice Packets I've been eating and am looking for some ideas on creative, light weight meals for the trail. Everything I generally eat when I car camp is too heavy or not possible due to refrigeration. I know there are a lot of prepackaged dehydrated meals out there but I find them to be very expensive and quite small, especially for my enormous appetite. Curious if anyone has a "go to" filling meal for extended trips or can recommend a good recipe site. Thanks in advance.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

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    Senior Member sierra's Avatar
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    When I did backpack, I fished. Before you discount this, I assure you, Its both easy and rewarding. A small pack rod and some powerbait or locally dug bugs or worms can yield a lot of small fish. Dry river, Little River, Gale River, Sabbaday brook, not to mention the backcountry ponds, I camped by. Most of the fish are native and small enough you don't even have to remove the bones.

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    Senior Member weatherman's Avatar
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    I don't know, I'm usually so hungry after 2-3 days that I'll eat tree bark. I typically have gone with varieties of noodles-n-sauce or rice-n-sauce, with different proteins (tuna, chicken etc) in sealed containers that won't spoil, or cheese/sausage the first couple days. Then gorge out if there is a restaurant near a road crossing. Your palate may vary. One time I tried a whole weekend with only peanut protein and was thoroughly sick of it after 48 hours.
    --would rather be hiking than typing.

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    I like pasta with various types of canned meats and sauces.

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    Senior Member TJsName's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    Been doing a lot more overnights so far this year and have an 8-9 day hike planned for my August vacation. I find I've very rapidly become bored with the Knorr Rice Packets I've been eating and am looking for some ideas on creative, light weight meals for the trail. Everything I generally eat when I car camp is too heavy or not possible due to refrigeration. I know there are a lot of prepackaged dehydrated meals out there but I find them to be very expensive and quite small, especially for my enormous appetite. Curious if anyone has a "go to" filling meal for extended trips or can recommend a good recipe site. Thanks in advance.
    For our 100 mile wilderness trip we bought a can of Mountain House and divided them up into cooking pouches (each to order various sizes - they are cheap). There were two of us, so we got a couple different meals and shared them (mac and cheese and beef stroganof). Also, biscuits and gravy (just bought a 10 pack of the regular bags) for brunch. Some people get fancy, but that was enough variety for me - just just boiling water is pretty simple, which I like.
    | 63.0% W48: 19/48
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    Senior Member Nessmuk's Avatar
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    Get a dehydrator and you can have a huge variety of camping meals that you cook at home just the way you like.
    "She's all my fancy painted her, she's lovely, she is light. She waltzes on the waves by day and rests with me at night." - Nessmuk, Forest and Stream, July 21, 1880 [of the Wood Drake Canoe built for him by Rushton]

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    Senior Member nartreb's Avatar
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    I'm not a fan of prepacked meals (e.g. Mountain House) - every one I try is too salty, and most are too small.

    For an extended hike in Alaska (bear cans mandatory) I made a spreadsheet of non-refrigerated foods and ranked them according to calories per gram and per ml, plus things like protein content and vitamins. As I recall peanut butter ranked very high, and so did dry salami. Cooking oils also scored very well on cals/ml and cals/gram, though not so great in protein. I portioned out all my meals in advance, with a goal of 3000 Kcal each day, not counting snacks. A typical lunch or dinner would involve some starch (freeze-dried potatoes or instant noodles or instant rice), mixed in with some protein (dry salami), and liberally sprinkled with extra fat (corn oil). Breakfast might include oatmeal with powdered milk and sugar, or eggs (from powder), or pancakes (flour, powdered milk, powdered egg, oil, water). Snacks would include peanut butter in a squeeze tube. (It doesn't taste great after a day or two, but after a week of hard hiking with a heavy pack you will be truly hungry, and you will crave it. I also had a smaller tube of fruit jelly, which made a fine accompaniment for the peanut butter while it lasted.)
    Note: powdered eggs were usually disappointing - either soupy or burnt or both. There's an art to getting the proportion of water right and applying the right amount of heat. But we were too hungry to mind.
    I carried salt and pepper; feel free to bring a variety of spices to suit your taste.
    When not quite so space-limited, cheese is a favorite - can be eaten raw as a snack, or as an ingredient in dinners. Hard-boiled eggs should last several days, if not cracked, and are similarly versatile. Beef jerky is an enjoyable snack, though hard to chew, and salty.
    I usually carry something salty (e.g. salted peanuts) in an accessible pocket, in case of hyponatremia. I also carry some kind of candy, as a quick pick-me-up.

    I'm not a huge fan of tortillas, but they do fit into a bear can quite nicely. Add some cheese and some freeze-dried meat, maybe some dried onions and peppers, and you've got a quick and tasty meal you can prepare on a campfire-heated rock.

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfb View Post
    I like pasta with various types of canned meats and sauces.
    Aren't the cans heavy, especially on multi-day trips? Spaghetti and meatballs my wife makes in vacuum sealed bags (the sauce and meatballs) is one of my go to car camping meals. But they are heavy pouches and I have a cooler.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TJsName View Post
    For our 100 mile wilderness trip we bought a can of Mountain House and divided them up into cooking pouches (each to order various sizes - they are cheap). There were two of us, so we got a couple different meals and shared them (mac and cheese and beef stroganof). Also, biscuits and gravy (just bought a 10 pack of the regular bags) for brunch. Some people get fancy, but that was enough variety for me - just just boiling water is pretty simple, which I like.
    Are they big? I can do some serious eating. I mean serious. Do you know if they just make dehydrated sauces and stuff that could be added to your own pasta/rice/noodles? I'll check out their website.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nessmuk View Post
    Get a dehydrator and you can have a huge variety of camping meals that you cook at home just the way you like.
    I have a dehydrator but I've mostly made jerky with it. I tried dehydrating a soup my wife made once and it didn't work (I no doubt did it wrong). I'm not much of a cook myself.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

  11. #11
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nartreb View Post
    I'm not a fan of prepacked meals (e.g. Mountain House) - every one I try is too salty, and most are too small.

    For an extended hike in Alaska (bear cans mandatory) I made a spreadsheet of non-refrigerated foods and ranked them according to calories per gram and per ml, plus things like protein content and vitamins. As I recall peanut butter ranked very high, and so did dry salami. Cooking oils also scored very well on cals/ml and cals/gram, though not so great in protein. I portioned out all my meals in advance, with a goal of 3000 Kcal each day, not counting snacks. A typical lunch or dinner would involve some starch (freeze-dried potatoes or instant noodles or instant rice), mixed in with some protein (dry salami), and liberally sprinkled with extra fat (corn oil). Breakfast might include oatmeal with powdered milk and sugar, or eggs (from powder), or pancakes (flour, powdered milk, powdered egg, oil, water). Snacks would include peanut butter in a squeeze tube. (It doesn't taste great after a day or two, but after a week of hard hiking with a heavy pack you will be truly hungry, and you will crave it. I also had a smaller tube of fruit jelly, which made a fine accompaniment for the peanut butter while it lasted.)
    Note: powdered eggs were usually disappointing - either soupy or burnt or both. There's an art to getting the proportion of water right and applying the right amount of heat. But we were too hungry to mind.
    I carried salt and pepper; feel free to bring a variety of spices to suit your taste.
    When not quite so space-limited, cheese is a favorite - can be eaten raw as a snack, or as an ingredient in dinners. Hard-boiled eggs should last several days, if not cracked, and are similarly versatile. Beef jerky is an enjoyable snack, though hard to chew, and salty.
    I usually carry something salty (e.g. salted peanuts) in an accessible pocket, in case of hyponatremia. I also carry some kind of candy, as a quick pick-me-up.

    I'm not a huge fan of tortillas, but they do fit into a bear can quite nicely. Add some cheese and some freeze-dried meat, maybe some dried onions and peppers, and you've got a quick and tasty meal you can prepare on a campfire-heated rock.
    Some good ideas to build on in there. Thanks. I do like tortillas but never could think of what is back-packable that I'd eat in it. Most burrito ingredients are perishable.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

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    Senior Member Nessmuk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    I have a dehydrator but I've mostly made jerky with it. I tried dehydrating a soup my wife made once and it didn't work (I no doubt did it wrong). I'm not much of a cook myself.
    When I paddled the Yukon 1000 mile canoe race, we (my voyageur canoe team of 7 people), following the race rules had to be totally self-sufficient from the start to the finish. The first running of the race required 20kg (44 pounds!) of food on board per person. Weight of water to make dehydrated food edible did not count. The race officials wanted each boat to have enough to last for potentially 2 weeks to finish, plus a week of emergency rations, and by regulation it all had to be carried in bear resistant containers. I home dehydrated and packaged all main breakfast and dinner meals for the entire team. Enough variety to rotate menus only 3 times. Daytime snacks were individual paddler's responsibility. During the race the paddler in seat #5 (not me) was our designated galley chef. While everyone else continued paddling, he boiled water and portioned out in mugs food for everyone. In the end we finished the race in just 6 days, with 3/4 of all the dehydrated food still remaining untouched. No one went hungry and no one lost weight. Two years later we repeated the race, but race officials had dropped the ridiculous food weight requirement. I repeated the dehydration process but this time we carried only 10 days worth of food. Still too much for 6 days, but it was all good.


    By the way, nartreb mentioned eggs. i agree that commercially dehydrated eggs are difficult to prepare, and don't usually taste very good, although the quality has much improved over what it was a few years back. if you want eggs, the best way to prepare is to home bake them in some kind of casserole, such as with potatoes or pasta, then dehydrate.

    I can recommend a couple of good books to get you started. Both available on Amazon

    "Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook" is kind of the "Bible" of getting into the idea of dehydrating regular home food. Lots of good ideas to get you started.

    Linda Yaffe"s:"Backpack Gourmet: Good Hot Grub You Can Make at Home, Dehydrate, and Pack for Quick, Easy, and Healthy Eating on the Trail"
    This book has some odd sounding recipes, but most are very good and will show you the way to design your own creations by experimenting with variations.
    Last edited by Nessmuk; 05-23-2019 at 06:52 AM.
    "She's all my fancy painted her, she's lovely, she is light. She waltzes on the waves by day and rests with me at night." - Nessmuk, Forest and Stream, July 21, 1880 [of the Wood Drake Canoe built for him by Rushton]

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    If you're not into dehydrating your own (I don't have time for it) you can give companies like Harmony House and Packit Gourmet a look to assemble your own things. I've been on a shepherds pie kick with potatoes and different meats and veggies. Something to add into the Knorr's rotation. For wraps I like to make burgers. Dried ground beef, bacon, cheese, and onion and all those extra condiments from Wendy's. Breakfasts lately have been these prepacked Liege waffles with a little syrup, cream of wheat (more use for the syrup), or rarely I'll dehydrate some corned beef hash because it's hard to mess up what's already mush.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    Aren't the cans heavy, especially on multi-day trips? Spaghetti and meatballs my wife makes in vacuum sealed bags (the sauce and meatballs) is one of my go to car camping meals. But they are heavy pouches and I have a cooler.
    The pasta is dry and the cans are small. You can also get meats in foil pouches and dried sauce mixes.

  15. #15
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nessmuk View Post

    I can recommend a couple of good books to get you started. Both available on Amazon

    "Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook" is kind of the "Bible" of getting into the idea of dehydrating regular home food. Lots of good ideas to get you started.

    Linda Yaffe"s:"Backpack Gourmet: Good Hot Grub You Can Make at Home, Dehydrate, and Pack for Quick, Easy, and Healthy Eating on the Trail"
    This book has some odd sounding recipes, but most are very good and will show you the way to design your own creations by experimenting with variations.
    Thanks. I'll check these out.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

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