4 Simple Backcountry Dinners

This is the last post in my backcountry meal series. I’ve talked about hot dinners to make with a dehydrator, but I recognize not everyone has the time or money for dehydrating. Fortunately, there are lots of options for hot, lightweight meals that you can get directly from your local grocery store. You can also try freeze-dried meals from any outdoor store, but these run up to $15 a serving. My first dehydrator was only $75 (and is still available for ~$100) and worked great for 4 years, so I’ve never been able to justify the cost of freeze-dried meals. But we’re not here to talk about dehydrating today, so here’s some of my favourite cheap and easy meals:

DSC06268

1. Ramen

Ramen is a classic for a reason. There are so many options on the market – personally I stick with the classic 99cent noodles packets, but there are lots of other yummy just-add-water options available at Superstore and Costco, just browse the International aisle and pick your favourite. For protein, I’ll add an egg, pepperoni sticks, dehydrated soy (available at most outdoor stores) or Korean BBQ pork (from Costco).

2. Sidekicks

You could build an entire backpacking menu around Knorr Sidekicks. They’re ~$1.50 a packet from any supermarket and I find them to be the perfect size for backpacking. There are so many pasta and rice options that I alternate back and forth between. The trick is that a lot of them call for milk. You can easily substitute water and not worry about it, but if you still want to capture the creamy taste of a fettucine alfredo, then buy a bag of powdered milk and just bring as much as you need for the meal. That way you still only need to add water, but it’ll be much tastier! Same as above, add egg (or powdered egg), pepperoni, soy, or jerky for protein, plus I will often pick up some dehydrated veggies from Bulk Barn to add to the mix.

3. Thanksgiving in a bowl

This is another recipe that I got from Fresh of the Grid that mostly involves grocery store staples. Instant mashed potatoes, stovetop stuffing, and gravy sauce powder can all be easily purchased, the only challenge is the freeze dried chicken. I’ve never been able to find it anywhere in Canada, so I’d recommend substituting soy or jerky for your protein. Alternatively, you could bring a small can of chicken or spam if you don’t mind carrying it!

4. Soup and Salad

This one will vary depending where you’re from, but if you’ve ever been to a farmer’s market, odds are there’s been someone there selling soup and salad mixes. I’ve seen a ton of different brands and they’re so popular in Vancouver I regularly see them at grocery stores or specialty stores as well. The ideas is that all the dry ingredients and spices are all consolidated and you just need to cook them and maybe add a few other ingredients. Some of them are easier than others and just require water and maybe a few other dry ingredients like craisins or nuts. So just check the back before purchasing to see how adaptable to the backcountry it is. This are naturally more expensive than options 1-3, but at least they go back to the local economy (and are still cheaper than freeze dried). The only thing is they are often meant to serve up to 4 people and require some soaking for the beans, so just plan ahead when you get to camp and immediately start soaking the mix so that it has time to soften before you cook. Here are a few of the companies I’m aware of: SimplyDelish, Mitchell’s Soup Company, Soup Girl.

20210627_191203
Advertisement

5 Dehydrated Backcountry Dinners

Continuing the trend from my cold soak post, I want to share some of my favourite hot meals for dinner! I’ve decided to do a 2-part post, focusing first on hot meals I make with my dehydrator, and second on simple meals that you can easily pull together with grocery store ingredients (no dehydration required). I’d say that the at-home dehydrated meals are tastier, but require a lot more effort, so sometimes it’s nice to just run to the store and be good to go. Here’s a few of my favourites:

IMG_0347

1. Curry and Rice

Curry and rice is really a staple backpacking food for me. It can be kind of tricky to get right though because a lot of curries are oily or have chicken in them, neither of which dehydrate well. Since Emily is vegan and Carolyn avoids dairy, I found that a vegetarian coconut curry is a great compromise on all fronts. There are lots of recipes for vegetable curries that use coconut milk for the base and chickpeas for protein. I like to use butternut squash, yam, and carrot in mine because the squash boils down into a thick sauce and it dehydrates really well. My recipe is an adaptation of these two recipes from Trail Recipes and Fresh off the Grid. Once I’m finished making the curry, I dehydrate it for 8 hours and then add rice when I cook it at camp.

Another option is to just buy a curry from your local Indian restaurant and pop it in the dehydrator, but like I said, it can be hard to avoid oils this way. I was successful once by mixing a vegetable curry with the rice (to absorb some of the oil) and then putting the whole thing in the dehydrator. But I still had to let it sit on paper towel for a day to absorb the residual oil and I stored it in the freezer until my trip.

2. Macaroni and Chili

In my opinion, this is as easy as it gets when it comes to dehydrating. You can make your own chili from scratch and then pop it in the dehydrator for 8 hours, but 90% of the time I just run by the grocery store and pick up my favourite canned chili and pop it straight in the dehydrator. Most chili is made with ground beef or beans, so it dehydrates really well. Once at camp, I rehydrate and heat with dry macaroni noodles until the whole thing is cooked.

3. Stew/Soup of your choice

What’s your favourite soup to eat at home? Mine are minestrone and peanut stew, so whenever I make one, I always set aside a serving or two to run through the dehydrator. I’m all about turning my day to day meals into backpacking meals rather than looking for new recipes. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can check out my next post about easy grocery store meals, otherwise my recommendation is to focus on dehydrating meals as a whole rather than piecemeal. I think a lot of people focus on dehydrating each component separately and then putting it all together, but I’ve found that to be a lot more work. If you don’t have go-to soup recipe, try picking up your favourite canned soup from the store and see how it dehydrates.

4. Pasta of your choice

I’m sorry if you came to this post looking for actual recipes, but I’m not a chef and there are tons of resources out there already, so this is meant to be more about meal ideas than concrete recipes (although it probably tells you a lot about the slapdash way that I usually cook). I’m always adapting recipes to make them vegan or vegetarian, so I see them more as a guideline anyways. But if you don’t know where to start, check out Fresh off the Grid, which is one of my favourite resources for backcountry cooking. Like with the soup, pick your favourite pasta recipe and pop it in the dehydrator. For me, it’s a penne bolognese that has a tomato and soymeat base, with lots of veggies added to it. But there are other options out there, like pasta primavera, penne alfredo, or even a peanut butter based pasta like I shared in my cold soak post. The key is to use smaller pasta noodles that dehydrate easier, although I’ve never actually tried dehydrating a spaghetti and I’m sure it is possible.

5. Mexican or Fried Rice

This is another recipe that I shared in my cold soak post, but which works great for a hot supper. For Mexican Rice, I fry up onion and pepper with salsa and taco seasoning and then add tomato, corn, carrot, black beans and sometimes spinach. For my fried rice, I rely more on vegetable stock and traditional spices for the flavour. I usually add lentils for protein and I might throw some powdered egg into the final dry mix. But if you have another favourite rice dish, give it a try in the dehydrator! Dehydrating is all about experimenting!

DSC04767

6 Simple Backcountry Lunches

As discussed in my last post, I’m a big fan of dehydrating! If I cook something that I think can be dehydrated, odds are I’ll try it in the dehydrator. But I didn’t always have a dehydrator and I recognize that it is a lot of time and money to get into dehydrating when there are lots of other options available. Fresh foods are inevitably a little bit heavier than cold soaking, but make alternatives for quick, easy lunches. Here’s some of my no-cook, no-dehydrate lunches that are ready-to-eat:

HOP_5937

1. Meat and cheese wrap

This is a classic. There are lots of meats that keep well in the backcountry and can be eaten un-refrigerated for a few days. I’ll usually buy a roll of salami and eat it over the course of 2-3 days. Likewise, there are several cheeses that can handle a few days without refrigeration. The best are babybel and laughing cow, but aged cheeses will often do okay for a few days, so sometimes I’ll bring an aged cheddar wrapped in wax to eat early in the trip. If I don’t mind eating it dry, I’ll bring some crackers in my mug, but most often I bring a tortilla wrap and a little hummus container (from costco or superstore). If it’s the first day, I might bring an avocado and a bit of bell pepper, in the photo above I even had cucumber!

2. Egg salad wrap

This one isn’t as long lasting as the meat and cheese wrap, but I still love it. I like to live on the edge, so I’ll hard-boil my eggs before a trip and eat them for the first two days. If you’re lazy, eggs on their own are filling and have lots of protein, but I’ll smash mine on a tortilla with some hard cheese for a wrap. I used to bring a little container of mayo, but more often than not these days I just eat it dry. A few sundried tomatoes can really add some flavour though, and don’t forget salt and pepper!

3. Chickpea wrap

This was one of my go-to recipes when I was first figuring out how to be vegetarian. It’s so simple, you mash up a can of chickpeas at home and throw in some mayo, lemon juice, and dill. You don’t want to whip or mix it because then it will just become hummus; I like to keep mine nice and chunky and will usually throw in some diced pepper and green onion for more substance. I recommend eating this one on the first day though. It keeps okay if it’s cool, but it does deteriorate pretty quickly on a hot day. Eat with tortilla and hard cheese.

4. Tuna wrap

I can’t lie, I’ve never actually made this one because I’m not a tuna lover, but it’s such a classic backcountry lunch that I wanted to include it anyways. Similar to all my other options, bring a small can or packet of tuna and slap in on a tortilla with some hard cheese.

5. Ramen Bomb

Another lunch I’ve never eaten myself, but is popular among the backpacking community is the Ramen Bomb. It basically consists of cold soaking a pack of ramen noodles with instant mash potatoes and your protein of choice (spam or tuna work well). All of these things are cheap to buy at the grocery store and can rehydrate with cold water (though I’d imagine it’s quicker and tastier with hot water). I can’t stomach spam or cold potatoes, so this one is a no from me, but lots of people love it!

6. Cheese and jerky

This is the real low budget option – just grab a handful of your favourite jerky or pepperoni sticks (Brandon favours the Korean BBQ pork from Costco) and your favourite cheese (moon cheese, whisps, babybel, or laughing cow) and make a meal out of it. As you can see, I rely heavily on tortilla wraps for my no-cook lunches, but there’s nothing wrong with loading up on snacks for lunch instead. Lots of people just eat protein bars and trail mix, but I like having a proper lunch, so these are the things I rely on.

DSC04703