Thursday, September 4, 2014

Backcountry Eats - Tips for Eleven Easy, Lightweight, and Inexpensive Prepackaged Foods from the Grocery Store for Backpacking and Paddling Expeditions

Mama's family loves camp eats!
Recently a friend looked at me incredulously, and asked, "What do you eat when you're in the wilderness for a week?" After I ran down my list of go-to pack foods, he made a confession. When he does weekend kayak trips with his buddies, they fast 2 ½ days at a time to avoid carrying food. Really?

Mama’s reaction – bad idea! When blood sugar gets low, tempers get edgy. More importantly, we need fuel for hiking, portaging, and paddling safely.

Heavy coolers filled with ice, bottled drinks, and fresh perishables work for car camping. For back country expeditions, compact, lightweight, nonperishable foods fit the bill. Also, in some wilderness areas, there are restrictions on packaging. Often, foods and beverages may not be packaged in metal cans or glass containers. Given these constraints, check out my 11 tips for easy and inexpensive foods and beverages you can pack to eat and drink in the back country.



Kids love pasta.
   1. Knorr Pasta Sides require boiling. Mama's tip for fuel conservation - do so while stirring for two minutes over a low flame, and keep warm in a cozy for 12-15 minutes to allow the noodles to completely soften before serving. Kids love these noodles. For adults they are more palatable than the same old mac ‘n cheese. No cozy? The package instructions work fine provided you use a low flame and apply continuous, and I do mean continuous, stirring. If not...scorch!

2. Ramen noodles, Lipton Cup-a-Soup, and minute rice cook up like a breeze. Just add boiling water. Prefer to top your own pasta? Angel hair pasta and egg noodles also make up fast in boiling water.


Precooked meats.
3. Meats labeled as not requiring refrigeration such as precooked bacon, chicken and tuna (as well as other seafood) in a pouch, spam in a pouch, and pepperoni or a stick of sausage travel well. However, as the packaging indicates, once these have been opened they require refrigeration. Buy the package size you can consume in one sitting.

   4. Dehydrated Hungry Jack cheesy hash browns taste great. You can find them on your grocer's shelf near the prepackaged boxed potato meals. Don’t forget to bring a bit of cooking oil. Dried mashed potato flakes and packaged gravy (just add water) provide a second option for serving potatoes. However, due to ease of clean up and personal palate, I prefer the hash browns. How do I make my hash browns shine? Serve them with a few take out ketchup packets.

Camp spuds.
5. Tortillas, bagels, and English muffins resist destruction in the pack more so than bread and other baked goodies. Of these, flour tortillas are Mama's personal “go to” bread. They take up less space, last longer, and are versatile. They can be used to make wraps, quesadillas, calzones, burritos, and more.

    6.  Hard cheeses or cheeses in wax will last most trips. Blocks of semi-hard cheese with a hand shredder will last longer than pre-shredded cheeses, but it is recommended to use them over the first several days of the trip. Soft cheeses will not travel.

International flair.
Precooked pouches of Indian curry (found in the international aisle at most grocery stores) served over minute rice add welcomed variety to trip. Note, if you are worried about pack weight, these are not dehydrated. However, falafel mix is dehydrated and makes for good international variety. Note, falafel requires a small amount of cooking oil. I carry cooking oil in a small bottle designed for filling with travel liquids and keep it in a baggie to prevent leaks from spreading.


Granola bars, protein bars, trail mix, jerky, dehydrated fruits, nuts, hard candy, skittles, and M&Ms (if it’s not too hot) make great trail snacks.

    9.  The little packets from your fast food bag you planned on tossing (jelly, ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, honey, taco sauce, barbeque sauce, etc.) add welcomed flavor to otherwise bland camp meals.

10. Prepackaged single servings of oatmeal satisfy and prepare easily, just add boiling water. For a balanced breakfast mix oatmeal, powdered milk, dehydrated fruit, and nuts.

11. Not a water drinker? Tea, instant coffee packets, powdered flavored drink mixes, powdered milk, and bouillon add variety. If you easily lose electrolytes, consider sports drinks such as powdered Gatorade. I carry options, but consume mainly water.



Convenient freeze dried meals from gear shops didn't make the inexpensive prepackaged grocery list. Why not? They're not inexpensive, and not sold in grocery stores. Yet, meals like Mountain House and Backpacker’s Pantry deserve mention.

Mountain House Meals.
What could be more convenient? You just add boiling water, wait a bit, then eat from the pouch. Some hiking buddies find the convenience worth the price and a special trip to the gear shop. In addition to being light weight, the meals can be eaten directly from the pouch, and they stay hot longer than food in a thin walled pot due to their engineered packaging. They also stay fresh for years in storage.

If you don't enjoy cooking pots of food in advance and dehydrating them, easy prepackaged foods are the way to go. I prefer home cooked, dehydrated foods for the day's main meal with splashes of grocery store foods from my list of eleven mixed in for breakfasts and lunches. Check out the easy to prepare and inexpensive backpacking recipes I prepared for our 2014 Boundary Waters Trip. For more information on getting your protein and veggies on back country trips using inexpensive grocery store foods, click the links. 

Do you have suggestions for compact, lightweight, nonperishable foods for the pack based on inexpensive prepackaged food from the local grocer?

I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below.



I do not receive compensation for products mentioned or reviewed in this post. All products mentioned or reviewed were purchased by me. All comments made are based on personal use and experience with products. Most importantly - always apply safe and hygienic practices when preparing and storing foods.

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