Cooking in the backcounty can be a blast if you have planned your meals accordingly. When planning your backpacking trip, the first rule of thumb is bring what you like. Why would you grab a typical freeze dried meal that you have never eaten or not even sure if you like? Then, start looking at weight. The biggest mistake I’ve ever made while planning a long backpacking trip was to stuff my food bag with food I normally didn’t eat.
There are plenty of food items that don’t need hot water poured in a bag for me to enjoy after a long day of hiking. In fact, many foods now come pre-cooked. Which is why I run to that section of the grocery store. Pre-cooked meals mean I only have to heat them up sometimes without boiling water to do it. For example: Pre-cooked bacon is amazingly good. Nothing like a small bagel with some cheese on it that makes a tasty breakfast.
The first thing I do is make a list of what I like to eat. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Things I would eat at home, but on a smaller, lightweight scale. I like cereal in the morning, but that doesn’t mean I bring a bowl and milk. However, I would bring a breakfast bar, or some powdered milk to mix with cold water. Make an extra 2 cubs of powdered milk, then make some hot chocolate at night.
Another way to avoid cooking during a backpacking trip is to have lots of prepackaged, ready-to-eat food such as fruits, trail mix, and energy bars. Dried fruit is an even better choice than fresh fruit if you plan to stay out for a long period of time. Individual boxes of cereals or raisins are also great, both as a quick breakfast and as mid-afternoon snacks. Most of these snacks also pack a good energetic punch, so they will provide a quick pick-me-up when you’re on the go. Dehydrated fruit by the way goes great with Oatmeal and some hot water. It’s also great to eat for electrolytes.
Be creative: Lots of meals can be prepared on the spot if you just bring along the right ingredients. A good example is burritos or wraps. Just pack corn or flour tortillas, some mayo or ketchup (small, individual packs are best, like the ones you can find in restaurants). Sometimes I have made a pizza wrap with shredded cheese, one small bag of tomato sauce, small package of pepperoni, in a pita bread. You can also make some awesome burritos with Knorr Meals, and pre-cooked steak strips.
What about emergency food when storms keep you stuck in your tent. For unexpected multi-day delays, snow storms or emergencies such as getting lost, high-calorie snacks are life-savers. High-calorie food also makes good meals for ultralight hiking. Some ultralight backpackers swear by peanut butter eaten straight out of the package, using it as their main source of food for days at a time. Jiffy makes small packaged Peanut Butter that are easily packed.
Then of course we have backpacking, or hiking food that’s freeze-dried or dehydrated. This can reduce weight by sixty to ninety percent. If you’re carrying a backpack or other hiking gear with a few days worth of camping food and supplies this can make a BIG difference. This is why I mix it up. I tend to eat my creative food (or dry food) first. I reduce the weight, then it’s on to the freeze-dried food my extended days.
TIP: DO NOT throw those freeze dried bags away. Recycle them. You can buy other dehydated foods like Knorr Foods that you can’t poor hot water in. But you can poor those Knorr Foods into a recycled freeze dried bags (like Mountain House bags) and boom.
Hiking food offers trade offs. While it isn’t usually gourmet that doesn’t mean it has to be bad. After all, a gourmet meal is in the eye of the beholder…or backpacker
TIP: Good to Go Meals offer a great alternative to those who need and want a special diet out in the backcountry. More importantly, they are really good.
Some extra items that help. Ziplock baggies. I can’t tell you how many of these I have gone though. Also, a waterproof food bag. You don’t want your food water logged. I found this out the hard way one time. Just remember planning is everything. Winter food should be different than summer food, but it should all be food you like.
On this episode we are going to share two of our favorite places to backpack to for the Holiday’s. It’s our personal trail traditions that we embark on every year. Swan Cabin and Donley Cabin are both located in foothills of the Smoky Mountains.
Both of these cabins you can Backpack to…remote! Both have no electricity or running water and both have outhouses and steeped in History as they are about 100+ years old. Which is why we love it so much.
Joyce Kilmer – acquired some fame as a journalist, serving on the staff of the New York Times from 1913 to 1918, but most people remember him as the author of the poem “Trees” (“I think that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree”). He died in action in World War I. The 3,800 acres of North Carolina’s Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest–perhaps the single most impressive growth of eastern virgin forest in the United States, with many trees hundreds of years old. Swan Cabin Is over 5,000 feet and was Built in 1931 by Frank Swan, this rental has absolutely no modern facilities. The cabin was the former home to district rangers for a number of years before entering service as a rustic lodge for travelers seeking solitude.
Donley Cabin – Jack Donley was trying to evade serving in the Confederate Army, so he constructed a small cabin deep in the mountains of southeast Tennessee. Like many Southern mountaineers during the 19th century, he squatted on property that suited him, built a dwelling and grew corn and other crops.
Sometime after the War, Donley moved to Montana where he met and married an Indian woman. He later moved back to the upper Tellico River area with his bride. Donley died in the 1940’s, asking in his final days to “be carried back across the river” to his old homestead. He is buried in the Coppinger Cemetery in Tellico Plains.
In 1916, 50,000 acres in the North Bald and Tellico River drainage’s were purchased by the Babcock Lumber Company and aggressively logged for several years. Seven years later, this entire acreage, including Donley’s log cabin, was purchased by the Forest Service. During most of the 20th century, a family was permitted to use the cabin as a summer residence and apiary for producing honey.
Have a special “back in time” place you backpack to? Share with us!