Backpacking Cookery 101.


Goals – Light, Quick, Cheap, GOOD!

Light – Keep it simple. Dehydrated as much as possible. Minimum packaging.

Quick – Minimize cooking and cleaning. If possible just boil water. No cooking at lunch.

Cheap – Obviously! Freeze Dried is expensive, but light and flavorful. If cost is an issue, use sparingly. Bulk foods are less costly, but heavier.

GOOD! – Good means both nutritious and tasty. This is a challenge. Eating the same thing every day gets boring. Add variety with occasional treats like exotic freeze-dried dinners or desserts. Think about different textures – soft, crunchy, chewy. Include lots of water (or powdered drinks) to stay hydrated. You’ll sweat a lot while hiking, so salt loss is sometimes a problem (if you feel lightheaded and have a headache, try eating something salty).

Tools – In addition to your backpacking stove and fuel, just a small pot to boil water for the group, a cup to hold your food (metal is good so you can quickly heat up your food over the stove if it gets cold), and a spoon to eat. You’ll have a pocketknife too, of course. And you’ll want a nylon bag to hang your food at night. Not just for bears. Mice love this stuff and can eat through a backpack. Finally, bring a toothbrush.

Breakfast – You’ll want to eat fast and get walking, so keep breakfast simple. Stop later for a trail-side snack -- you’ll want to stop anyway! But before you start walking, drink lots of water (beats carrying it).

The Breakfast Bag – In a plastic ziplock bag, mix together granola, raisins, and powdered milk. Just pull out a bag, add water, shake it up, and spoon out your breakfast. Variety?

Something chewy. How about some dried fruit? Apricots? Apples? Prunes?

Cold morning? How about powdered hot chocolate?

Warm morning? Water is great, or mix it up with Tang or Kool-Aid?

Lunch – This is usually by the trail, so keep it simple. Basically, lunch is a bigger snack. Our lunch-time motto is "Anything tastes good when it sits on a Ritz".

Crackers (sturdy ones that won’t turn to powder in your backpack, a few kinds).

Something on them – for variety.

Something chewy? How about beef jerky? Or dried fruit?

Stay hydrated! Drink LOTS of fluids. Powdered Lemonade?

Trailside Snacks - Everyone needs a break, and a small snack can boost your morale as well as your energy. Remember to drink lots of water too.

Dinner – You’ll have time for a bigger meal, and a good dinner is a big morale booster. But still keep it simple. You won’t want to wash dishes in the dark.

"Glop" – the basic dinner. This is the name for stuff mixed together. You can make a new glop every night. Operating with no recipe guarantees variety! The method is to boil water, and mix up the rest in your cup (no pot to scrub). Three basic ingredients (I mix them together ahead of time in a ziplock so bits don’t get lost in my pack):

    1. The stock – could be water, or add dried onion soup, a bouillon cube, or dried "miso".
    2. The starch – "quick" rice is good. Dehydrated mashed potatoes works too. If you want noodles, try "angelhair" pasta or asian "cellophane" noodles (cooks almost instantly).
    3. The stuff – This is stuff you add to the basic glop. Could be meat (canned or vacuum-packed chicken or beef) or fish (canned tuna, dried shrimp) or vegetables (dried mushrooms, seaweed, peas, pre-cooked soy beans). Bring some spices. Cayenne pepper can make the most bland meal exciting. Powdered garlic goes a long way.

Sick of glop? OK, splurge and get a fancy freeze-dried dinner. They are expensive but throw in a few that you really like for a long hike.

Drinks – At night-time, minimize the high sugar drinks as you won’t need the quick energy. How about caffeine-free tea? (tea bags are light – dry them and pack them out after use).

Dessert – For a fun addition, instant pudding can be great. Crumble some graham crackers on top and you’ve got a special dessert. Mix with snow to make "ice cream" (well, sort of). Hot chocolate is great after dinner.


Other Stuff – Did I forget to mention drinking lots of fluids? Stay hydrated! Keep a bottle of water (just plain water) near you when you sleep. You may get thirsty. Did you brush your teeth? Your hiking partners will thank you.

The discussion above is just for ideas. As long as you bring food that you like, that is light weight, and won’t rot, it will get you where you’re going. Sharing with others makes for new taste treats. Experiment and have fun!

Backpacking Cookery 101 – THE QUIZ

NAME __________________________


  1. What are FOUR GOALS of backpacking cookery?
  2. _________________________________






  3. What cooking/eating/cleaning gear will you bring?


  1. Personal gear ______________________________________________________


b) Shared gear _______________________________________________________



  1. Design a GLOP for dinner.


a) The Stock ______________________________________


b) The Starch ______________________________________


c) The Stuff _______________________________________