7 Backcountry Cooking Hacks to Use This Weekend

We’re in the full swing of Summer and you’ve likely (hopefully) gotten in a few backcountry trips. We put our collective experiences to use with some of the brightest camp cooking hacks around. The goal? Avoid standard freeze dried packaged meals and spark your creativity.

Dining in the backcountry brings people together and it’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors just a bit more. Show your friends some love by cooking an outstanding backcountry meal. Don’t be afraid to try new things, be creative and of course enjoy!

1. The Spice of Life

Too often camping and backpacking means settling for a package of ramen noodles and calling it good. But even ramen can be significantly improved with a couple easy and lightweight spices.
Consider packing fresh garlic, cayenne pepper, dried herbs, nutritional yeast, fresh jalapeno, red chili flakes, Chinese Five Spice, curry powders and custom seasoning blends.

Suggested Meals:

  • Five Spice Instant Ramen with Dried Wild Mushrooms
  • Indian Spiced Quinoa with Chicken (foil packaged)
  • Garlic + Tuna Mac with Chives and Cholula
  • Angelhair Pasta + Spicy Red Sauce

2. Condiments Ahoy!

When was the last time you went to a convenience store and turned your nose up at the sea of condiments for that awkward giant hot dog? Think again. Getting creative with condiments can make a bland pasta or rice dish seem extravagant. Plan ahead and grab what you need on the way out of town.  Want the gourmet route? Stop by a local Cost Plus World Market to score some tiny hummus packs, olive tapenade and other savories.

Look for:

  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Cholula
  • Mayo
  • Soy Sauce
  • Cream Cheese
  • Peanut Butter
  • Relish
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Dipping sauces such as spicy mustard
  • Hummus

Suggested Meals:

  • Chicken Salad Wraps
  • Wasa Crackers with Cream Cheese + Relish (trust me)
  • Instant Oatmeal with Peanut Butter and Raisins

3. Enjoy Your First Days Out

The first few days of a long trek are a good time to pack in fresh foods that you may miss later. Treats like smoked salmon, lox, and definitely lots of fresh produce. Plan to eat these heavier items early. Apples make a great traveling companion, though bananas get squished you can always throw them on a sandwich. Another splurge heavier item is pre-cooked foods such as indian curries, rice packages, etc. There are a ton of options, but you have to be willing to carry it!

Suggested Meals:

  • Tortillas with anything:
    • Lox, Arugula, Cream Cheese and Capers
    • Banana + Peanut Butter
    • Veggies + Hummus
  • Box Soup with a Handful of Blanched Spinach Leaves

4. Hard Cheesin’

Consider bringing your favorite hard, dry cheese to add to a meal or use with crackers and salami. To prevent oils from leaking, fold a chunk of cheese in a clean section of paper bag, then seal in a ziplock. Grate your cheese ahead of time and prepare exactly what you need to save on weight.

Cheeses That Work Well:

  • Aged Goudas
  • Aged Cheddar
  • Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Baby Belle Individually Wrapped Snack Cheeses

Suggested Meals:

  • Smoked Gouda Grits
  • Tortellini with Cherry Tomatoes and Parmesan
  • Campfire Grilled Cheese

5. Go Wild (ish)

Foraging for wild plants is great, but be realistic about what you can find, the places you’re planning to travel and what might be available. It helps to have a backup plan for any unseen scenario—stove doesn’t light, those mushrooms should have totally been there, that trout looked me right in the face, etc. This is a good use for that freeze dried meal in a bag.

6. Dehydrate Your Own Food

The art of dehydrating your own recipes is probably one of the most fulfilling backcountry cooking feats. Practice makes perfect here. Do a lot of experimenting to see what works the best and record your results. There are some meals you can dehydrate all together and some that you want to dehydrate separately. Try dehydrating ground meats and reconstituting on the trail (or at home in experiments). One important note: don’t forget to season!

Suggested Meals:

  • Ground meat – beef, chicken, pork
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Fresh Veggies
  • Egg

7. Sprouting Love

Sprouts are a tasty and healthy addition to almost anything. The good news is that they can come backpacking with you while they grow! Start some alfalfa sprouts between wet paper towels the day before you leave and sprinkle them on your food as you go. They continue to sprout if you take care of them throughout several days.  Another favorite is sprouted mung beans which keep well while backpacking and add delicious protein to almost any dish or snack. Soak a bowl of mung beans overnight, drain and take with you to munch at mealtime.

Suggested Meals:

  • Quinoa, Mung Bean, Raisin + Parm Pilaf
  • Cream Cheese, Tomato + Sprout Tortilla Wrap

What are your backcountry cooking hacks? Add them in the comments!