Tired of the same old stuff? It's time to set our sights on a few backpacking meals that aren't so bad.
Trail nutrition has gotten a whole lot better. When you find yourself planning a backcountry hiking trip or a boondocking excursion as a backpacker, you can now find some great choices for food in the freeze dried genre. Dehydrated meals have come a long way since the days of powdered milk, protein bars, and that same old dehydrated food that we all started out with.
When your backpacking trip calls for more than just a day's worth of nutritious refuel, you can now find tasty veggies, chili mac, or even tortilla soup that will not only satisfy your appetite but tickle your taste buds.
After a long day on the trail, meal ideas are usually limited to what you already packed in your backpack. The fact is that there are so many good choices now it will be tough to pick through them all. Maybe couscous or quinoa aren't your thing. But it isn't always easy to bring along salami or bagels when you're going deep into the wilderness.
That's where we want to help by providing some updated, enhanced dietary ideas to get you what you need when backpacking.
Backpacking Food Basics
First, a little info on what you can choose between. The difference between freeze-dried food and dehydrated food is the process. Freeze-drying removes nearly 100 percent of the water in foods, while dehydration removes about 80 percent, giving freeze-dried products a much longer life.
Freeze-dried food also typically retains close to 98 percent of its nutrition value since the process of "cold vacuum" used to extract the water leaves much of the food's original value intact. The difference is that the nutritional value of dehydrated food is generally around 60 percent that of fresh food.
Most hikers and backpackers feel that freeze-dried food tastes better than dehydrated, but that's for the individual to discover by themselves.
Here are some picks of our favorites that are easily found these days.
Chicken Pho, Good To Go
Yes, it sounds like the entire name of a product that's meant to make it better, but Good To Go is not just the clever name of the company. This Vietnamese style chicken noodle soup includes braised chicken thighs, cabbage, scallion and cilantro, but you have to provide the boiling water.
Cuban Rice Bowl, Good To Go
Infused with black beans, plantain, and a garlic crema sauce, this is another great offering from the folks at Good To Go. It has 15 grams of protein for a serious load of fuel.
Austintacious Tortilla Soup, Pack It Gourmet
The Austintacious tortilla soup features diced chicken breast, whole black beans, roasted corn, red ripe tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, and cilantro. It also includes some great traditional toppings like bits of corn tortillas, freeze-dried Monterrey-Jack cheese, plus packets of lime juice and Cholula Hot Sauce.
Deli-Smoked Roast Beef Wrap, Pack It Gourmet
This great meal is mesquite seasoned grass-fed roast beef, blended with "deli-style sandwich veggies (diced onion, green peppers, celery, spinach and ripe tomato) and a mayonnaise/mustard dressing." All you need is some hot water and an appetite.
Thai Curry, Good To Go
Loaded with broccoli, cauliflower, peas and green beans, this dish might fool you into believing that it doesn't have the bulk to fill you up. But this award-winning meal still packs a punch for hungry backcountry outdoorsmen and women.
What's the Best Backpacking Dinner?
Honestly, there are so many choices that trying to list them all would take a great deal of time, and since it's quite subjective, you'll just have to try a few for yourself. Whether you find yourself getting off-grid to camp or prepping a food stash, it still seems to be the consensus that freeze dried is the best course when choosing a backpacking meal.
When considering and planning an ultralight trip, the backpacker's pantry needs to be filled with protein and the right carbohydrates to fill their belly. Jerky can only go so far. Peanut butter granola, dried fruit, and trail mix are staples of the hiker, but not everyone can get by with only that.
These "just add water" meals can make the difference between filling you up and giving you the energy to carry on. Backpacking recipes can be dairy-free, gluten-free, and certainly help rehydrate you, but they don't have to be tasteless.
Snacking is one thing, but making your own meals on the trail shouldn't be an exercise in blandness. The choices are many, meaning you can find a good Pad Thai, burrito, beef stroganoff, ramen noodle, alfredo pasta, or what seems like an entire grocery store worth of options.
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