Step Up Your Trail Grub: DIY Backpacking Meals and More
Trail food can make a lot of people pull their hair out. Pre-packaged meals are often expensive and can cost hundreds of dollars for what is essentially a salt bomb. It is quite simple to make your own backpacking meals. Trail food doesn’t need to be complicated. Here a few DIY backpacking meals, how to get started, and tips on taking your trail grub to gourmet status with minimal effort.
Get a Food Dehydrator for your DIY Backpacking Meals
Before we get started on the mouth-watering possibilities of food on the trail, invest in a food dehydrator. Choosing a food dehydrator and getting started with one is easy business. I saw a return on my investment within the first few months of use. Dehydrators can make snacks, meals, and even dog treats! It’s well-worth the money and easy to use, even if you don’t know how to cook. The only requirement is time. Once you get the ingredients prepped, it’s simply a waiting game before culinary magic unfolds.
How to Make Your Own Backpacking Meals
After collecting an arsenal of ingredients, it’s time to work on creating a few meal staples. I gave away recipes for the best backcountry meals in a post over at TETON Sports. Backcountry burritos, loaded ramen, and homemade Italian red sauce anyone? But it doesn’t stop there. I’ve dehydrated some amazing curried lentils, salsas, and even experimented with some potato mashes.
I’ll let you in on a little secret, I started by using The Dehydrator Bible. This book not only taught me how to dehydrate various foods, but it gave me a springboard for most of my recipes. Most of these recipes require the addition of spice mixes and flavorings, but it’s an excellent resource for those looking to really dive in.
Add Some Luxury to Your Backpacking Menu
Consider bringing luxury items like hard cheese or durable fruits. Fruit goes a long way in providing your body with a sugary boost. Pick fruits with thick rinds, like an orange and eat it early on. Always pack out your trash, even organic waste. These foods should be consumed in a timely manner, to avoid having to deal with a rotten mess.
Don’t be afraid to be a bit of a pig. Backpacking requires a lot of effort and you burn through tons of calories so go ahead, eat that extra candy bar and put butter in your hot chocolate if it pleases you! Great calorie-packed snacks are chocolate, high-calorie bars, fruit roll-ups, cheese, peanut butter and trail mixes.
Simple Backpacking Lunch Ideas
Lunch is tough. You don’t want to stop and whip out the stove, but you need a bit more than a Cliff Bar to fill you up. I’m a huge fan of what I like to call the hobo burrito. Essentially I combine granola or trail mix with peanut butter, some hard cheese, beef jerky, maybe an apple and whatever snack I have laying around and roll it into a burrito. On particularly tough days, the combinations become creative. This backpacking lunch is easy and lightweight. It’s also a great way to see who can come up with the best flavor combinations on the trail.
DIY Backpacking and Hiking Snacks
That dehydrator is really going to pay off when you use it to make your own snacks. Beef jerky is relatively simple. Google around and find a seasoning mix you like. I like teriyaki, but to be honest with you, we’ve never used the same recipe twice. Next, buy a prime cut of skirt steak. Put it in the freezer for about 30 minutes. This helps the meat stay firm when you cut it. Cut into thin, 1/8″ thick slices, marinate then dry until the meat is flexible, but dry throughout.
Alternatively, you can dry your own fruit. Create your own supply of nature’s candy by simply slicing fruit and drying it. I’ve had great success with everything but bananas. For items such as apples, spritz a little lemon juice on the slices so they don’t turn brown. The thinner the slices, the quicker the fruit dries. I recommend 1/4″ slices at the thickest. For strawberries (yum) be sure to hull them first. The best dried fruits are:
Choose the Best Hiking Snacks for the Season
You’re out and about in a winter wonderland. All the sudden your tummy is rumbling and you stop for a snack. You pull your favorite flavor of Cliff Bar from your bag, except it’s frozen solid. Nothing is worse than gnawing on a Cliff Bar in the dead of winter. Alternatively, no one likes a glob of melted chocolate on a hot summer’s day. Pick seasonally appropriate snacks to avoid any hungry heart-ache on the trail.
Great winter snacks include:
- Honey Stinger Waffles
- small niblets of chocolate
- Trail mixes and granola
- Hot soup
- Fruit leathers
- Cheese-its, Goldfish, and Triscuits
Summer favorites are:
- Chocolate covered fruit with a waxy coating to avoid melting
- Trail mixes
- Cliff Bars, Luna Bars, Honey Stinger Waffles, and power gels
- Fruit leathers
- Dried fruit
- Granola bars
- Gummy worms and other deliciously fake candy
Now you’re ready to up your food game with these delicious backpacking food and meal ideas. What are your favorite trail foods?