One of the main questions I receive about backpacking is, “What do you eat while on the trail for days on end?” Well to be honest, one reason I love backpacking is because cooking is so easy. I eat freeze-dried or dehydrated meals, and with those all you have to do is boil water. So what does my backcountry kitchen entail?
When eating in the backcountry you really want to focus on calorie dense foods. These give you lots of energy for the least amount of weight.
For my brother’s first backpacking trip, he asked me what I usually ate for lunch. I told him I didn’t usually eat lunch. He thought I was crazy. But when I am exerted I am not hungry, and when I’m backpacking I’m usually exerted all day. A simple Cliff Bar is a good enough lunch for me. I also snack on trail mix, which is full of high protein and sugar, throughout the day.
For dinner I eat a ready-made freeze dried or dehydrated meal. Some great brands to check out are Heather’s Choice, Good-To-Go, and Mountain House. Heather’s Choice and Good-To-Go are dehydrated meals, which makes them a little more heavy than Mountain House or other freeze dried meals. Either way you go you simply add boiling water, let it sit, and then you can eat it right out of the bag. And they all are extremely tasty. Eating out of the bag means one less dish to have to wash, which is right up my ally.
I’m pretty lazy and haven’t yet gotten into dehydrating my own meals, but someday I would like to. There are many great recipes out there.
Of course if you are going to have to add boiling water to rehydrate meals, you are going to need a way to boil it. Building a campfire will get you the heat you need, however some places do not allow campfires, some do not have enough fallen wood, and some are way to wet. So counting on a campfire to eat may not be the best option.
I use the Optimus Crux Lite Stove. You simply screw the stove onto a fuel canister, light it and the you have instant fire.
The Optimus Crux Lite Stove is probably one of the lightest out there. It weighs in at 2.33 ounces (72 grams). It also boils water quickly. It’s about $50 on Amazon if you buy it with the pot and pan. The pot, pan, and stove all together weigh about 9.6 ounces (272 grams).
Jetboil is the name I hear the most when I discuss stoves for a backcountry kitchen. It boils water quicker and is better in the wind, at higher altitudes, and other climate factors. But for me backpacking mostly in Arkansas, I chose the Optimus because it is lighter all around. It is also about the half of the cost of the Jetboil.
There are many other types of stoves out there, including some that use sticks and leaves as fuel in order to cut down on weight. But I like the reliability and quickness of a stove.
Even if you eat out of the bag, you still need something to eat your food with. I few years ago I bought a fancy backcountry GSI kitchen kit and petty much only use the spoons and forks out of it. It has all kinds of things in it, everything from a cheese grater to a whisk. However like I said, I only like things that are simple, so I’m not going to be grating cheese and whisking up stuff in the backcountry. I just want to boil water and have a a hot meal.
I do like using the light weight spoons and forks though. To tell them apart, I have color coded them with a Sharpie. So when I share with someone, we don’t mix them up and share germs. Things don’t get that clean in the backcountry.
I also love Sea to Summit bowls and cups. Sometimes the ready-made meals come in two person portions. These bowls are great when you are splitting the meal and don’t want to eat out of the same bag.
I do love some instant coffee in the backcountry, or hot coco. So the Sea to Summit cups and mugs are great for that.
They all are light weight and collapse flat so they fit wonderfully in your pack.
Like your kitchen at home, your backcountry kitchen is going to be tailored to you. I prefer light weight and less effort – I know a little ironic considered I’m usually walking 10 plus miles up and over mountains. Because of this, my choices are reflect that. What is your backcountry kitchen preference?
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