We are just a couple of days back from our first overnight backpacking trip, so it’s a good time to review the foods and drinks we consumed. Before we start, let me share some important background information: I love cooking and baking, I love a great meal shared with friends, I prefer healthy/organic ingredients. I have car camped since I was a toddler (usually for 3 weeks each summer). My parents would always make great, healthy meals, with fresh local ingredients, on their camping stove, that’s how I roll…What is shared here, is the food we ate during our overnight trip in the Shenandoah’s. We didn’t hike a long distance or with a huge elevation, it was around the 40-ies during the day (low 30-ies at night), with snow in the forecast.
There are many blogs and vlogs about food and cooking while backpacking, but each of them contains a little gem. For example, the video from Wondering Dot, she showed her preferred thru-hiking foods and even though this video was several years old, I got a few great tips from her (especially on small package condiments to enhance flavors).
Each hike filmed by David Gray, he always eats his favorite appetizer, a cheddar cheese spread. I brought it on this trip. I’ll describe it later in this post.
From Jason at Outdoors Adventures, I learned a more organized approach where you pack one day of food in one bag. Since we were just doing a two-day hike, I had all my food in one bag, for more days I can see it’s handy to split it up. This also helps prevent overeating, you don’t want to run out of food! Jason also pointed out to look at the calories per portion. Again, we were not doing high mileage days, but it can become important to keep an eye on this. There needs to be a nice balance between weight, calory density, and of course taste!
It is a little bit of a challenge to find healthy and organic food for backpacking. There are a few organic brands like Mary Jane’s Farm and Backpackers Pantry. This can become expensive, so either I’ll start putting together my own meals and perhaps dehydrate food myself, or I eat a little less healthy while backpacking. I think I’ve found a nice balance between these options. Below is what we consumed during this trip with our 9 and 13-year-old daughters. One vegetarian and a gluten-sensitive included.
I liked Trader Joe’s oatmeal, I added some Butter Buds and Bonne Maman honey. The Bonne Maman packages come in a mixed package with honey, strawberry jam, orange marmalade, and raspberry jam. The Tex-Mex breakfast taco from PackitGourmet was good (no meat in it, but instead a few veggies, a good option for vegetarians), however, you need to heat this in a pan, which makes it a messy clean up. We rolled it in our soft tacos from Trader Joe’s. The Mountain House Scrambled Eggs with Bacon were tasty, no clean up as you make it in the bag, just make sure to drain the water out well otherwise it may be a little soupy. Next time I’ll add some olive oil to improve the mixture. They do sell a version without bacon, you could add some veggies to it and flavoring to make it more interesting.
We took our time to make lunch on the trail. Our daughters enjoyed finding a good spot with a level area for our stoves, it provided them something to look forward to while hiking (walking is sooooo boring!) LOL. We made instant miso soup from Trader Joe’s, Knorr Cheddar Broccoli Rice (cook for 7 minutes) and tacos with tuna. Great tip from my friend Tessa (the AT thru-hiker): get the flavored tuna, as the regular tuna tastes pretty bland. We added mayonnaise or spicy mustard to the tuna and wrapped it in a taco et voila! We ended our meal with a hot drink of choice.
As some meals need time to re-hydrate or boil, it’s great to have some quick appetizers ready while you’re waiting for the main course. We tried the cheese spread from PackitGourmet (I brought Trader Joe’s rice crackers), but maybe due to the low temperatures (40-ies) it didn’t come out as well as I thought. The cheese didn’t become spreadable, it stayed loose and chunky. I’d suggest using lukewarm water when you’re camping in colder temperatures and I also like the idea of adding mayonnaise, or perhaps a small package of cream cheese, to make it more of a spread. Adding some hot sauce is not a bad idea either! It is a high-quality product but needs some (seasonal) tweaking. From the same company we had the Chorizo bean dip, that you make by adding hot water. This was a winner, we all loved it! Just one tiny negative, it comes in a tall bag, even reaching in the bag with our long sporks created messy hands, so we decided to squeeze it out of the bag into a bowl.
Dinner time is certainly a highlight of the day. Once we set up our camp and ate some appetizers, it was time for a hearty main course. My daughter’s favorite meal is the MountainHouse beef stroganoff. Actually, we all like it a lot! I made Trader Joe’s mashed potatoes, added olive oil and butter buds, and we enjoyed a nice warm, filling meal. My friend made a MountainHouse Beef Stew, but this needed more time to “cook” (re-hydrate with hot water), some pieces were still a little hard, but tasty nonetheless! Tip: use an insulated bag to keep your “cooking” foods warm! The warm mulled wine (gluhwein from Trader Joe’s) was a nice touch to this dinner.
We all had some sort of bar in our pack buckle pocket during the day. Trader Joe’s has nice fruit bars, the Nature Valley crispy nutbars are nutty, sweet, and salty. Lärabars are great too (Apple pie is my favorite). I’m not a big fan of large bags with trail mixes and nuts, it can be heavy, bulky and if you don’t put them in small portions, you can easily overeat it. I’ve tried making nut and fruit bars myself and I’ll make them for our next trip. The dried baby bananas and chocolate covered berries from Trader Joe’s are great and I will bring some next time.
Water, water, and more water, we all carried at least 2 Liters. Depending on the weather you adjust your drinks, just like your foods. Water can get a little boring, so I got some Macha tea, flavored packages that you just add to your water bottle, not cheap, but good stuff. There are cheaper flavor packages available or you can make your own with dehydrated fruit powders, sugar, and a tiny salt. I loved my Trader Joe’s instant coffee, I had Starbucks as well, but I’m not a big fan of the Starbucks coffee flavor, I think it’s bitter and acidic (besides very expensive!). Not a bad product, just not my taste. The Starbucks cinnamon hot chocolate is very nice, just needs milk powder or a creamer to make it a little better. I think I got it on sale at Big Lots, a great place to check for food deals! Hot chocolate with marshmallows from Trader Joe’s was our daughter’s favorite drink. I brought tea as well. Adding a teabag to your water bottle providers a nice flavor. We also brought the mulled wine and a flask Captain Morgan rum (after dinner treat).
Would you consider us gourmet ladies? We think that great food and beverages make hiking so much more enjoyable! What do you think?
Next: I’ll talk a bit more about kitchen “appliances” (stove), pots and pans, cups, plates, etc. Check my YouTube channel MountainMuse, as I’ll be posting the next video covering these foods soon.