How to Plan a Backpacking Trip Food Menu

Breakfast: Hot cereals are a popular choice. Use one pot to boil water for coffee, hot cocoa or tea, followed by adding enough oatmeal, cream of wheat, etc. for a whole family. Or, to keep the pot clean, simply boil water and pour it over individual servings of instant oatmeal in each person’s bowl. For added carbohydrates and flavor, add raisins, dried fruit, brown sugar and cinammon, or other seasonings as desired. For added protein and vitamins, mix in dry milk powder.

If you like eggs, they can be carried in specially designed plastic containers, or cracked open and packed in wide-mouthed water bottles (but only if you plan to use them within a day or two). Otherwise, I’ve found dried eggs to be reasonably tasty substitutes for making omelettes and scrambled eggs. Bring along sun dried tomatoes and other seasoning powders to mix in for flavor. Just remember you’ll need a frying pan and oil for preparing them. For easy clean up, and to keep oils to a minimum, choose a pan with a non-stick teflon like coating.

backpacking food How to Plan a Backpacking Trip Food Menu

Complete pancake mixes are commonly available in supermarkets. They only require water to prepare the batter, and once again, fruits, chocolate chips and others goodies can be added for flavor.
Lunch: Since this often takes place on the trail, keep it simple. If you like sandwiches, make them with bagels or pita bread, which pack better than traditional sliced loaves. Ifyou like cheese, select the kinds that are wrapped in waxˇŞthey will keep for several days without refrigeration.
For children, the ever-popular peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a good choice. Use reusable plastic tubes (available in backpacking stores) which can be filled with a mix of the two ingredients. Then, simply squeeze the blend out onto the bagels or pita at lunchtime.

For short trips, fresh fruits and vegetables, such as pre-sliced carrot and celery sticks, are also healthy lunch snacks. They can be carried in the wide-mouthed water bottles. Spice them up with dips of hummous, flavored cheese spreads, etc. Leftovers can be diced up and added to the dinner pot.

Dinner: A large pot of pasta can be supplemented with a can of meat, various vegetables, or simply eaten as is. Use dried milk powder to thicken up sauces and add protein, vitamins and minerals.

For simplicity, dinner is one meal where pre-packaged backpacking food comes in handy. I like the quick-cooking freeze-dried Mountain Chili made by Alpine Aire. It has a good flavor on its own, and it’s vegetarian, as it contains a mix of pinto beans, soy protein and corn, making it a good source of protein and complex carbohydrates.

It used to be, when choosing between prepackaged freeze-dried foods and supermarket items, it was the old “time vs. money” trade-off. But now, there are many supermarket items that are quick and easy to prepare. Look for instant soup mixes that can be turned into a thick casserole or stew with the addition of quick-cooking pasta shells and a can of tuna.

I’ve also noticed more and more items in natural food stores that would be suitable for backpacking. These include dried hummous (ground up garbanzo bean paste) which turns into a tasty and nutritious spread when mixed with water. For vegetarians, I’ve even seen freeze-dried tofu!


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