WAmbassador Blog: Culinary Considerations in the Backcountry
Hi all! My name is Sarah Heller (she/her/hers) and I am a current junior in Albany, New York. Last summer I went on the Grand Teton trip with WA and this upcoming summer I will be embarking on the Great Northwest adventure! When thinking about hiking and backpacking many are quick to jump to the conclusion that the food available will be suboptimal. However, upon your arrival to your Wilderness Adventures trip you will quickly find this is not the case. You will soon realize that the food situation is what you make it. I have a few tips from my past experience that you can take on your WA trip and on any backpacking trip you may embark on in the future to make your backcountry dining experience top tier. Although there may be certain limitations, such as pack weight and lack of refrigeration, there are definitely some various recipes and snacks that will take your trip eats to the next level.
Ramen Ramen Ramen!!!
If it isn’t already, for the duration of your trip ramen will become a staple in your diet, and there are reasons for its popularity. First, it is extremely light and takes up nearly no space. If you are looking to save room in your pack but want a solid well liked dinner, ramen is your best friend. Worried it won’t fill you up after a long day hiking? Simply add powdered mashed potatoes to the broth and you will be all set. If anyone ever mentions “ramen bombs” this is what they are referring to. Additionally, if you want to spice it up a bit, bring some sriracha or any hot sauce you love and drizzle it on top.
If you are unfamiliar with MiO, it is basically a drink sweetener that you add to water. MiO is perfect for if you have purified water with a funky taste, however, it is also perfect if you have to wake up at 3 AM to summit a peak and you need a little energy boost. MiO has an absurd amount of caffeine, about 60 mg per serving which is one squirt, needless to say after you have MiO you will have you energized for hours. If you do not want to add the MiO to your water bottle and you are brave enough to palate the extremely concentrated flavor for a few seconds you gotta try the infamous MiO shot. Simply open your mouth, tilt your head back and squirt the vibrant juice into your mouth and enjoy. There are various flavors available, personally my favorite is definitely the strawberry pineapple smash.
Although the cans definitely add weight to your pack fast, it is worth the extra effort. Canned chicken makes the perfect addition to almost any hot meal. Some of my favorites to add canned chicken to are chili, quesadillas, fajitas, ramen, and pesto pasta. It adds extra protein to the meal and makes it that much more filling. Pro tip: make sure to add all the chicken juice into whatever you are cooking (pasta sauce, beans, ramen, etc.) and let it boil off, otherwise be prepared to drink the chicken juice right out of the can so as not to attract unwanted guests to your campsite.
Make sure your snack bag is easily accessible to you at all times!! Nothing is worse than making a quick pit stop for some trail mix and realizing that it is at the bottom of your pack. Some good places to store your snacks could be in your hip pockets and the brain (top compartment) of your pack.
On that note, I can’t mention snacks without giving some of my favorite hiking pick me ups. Of course GORP is always a classic, however, it is also nice to add your own touch to this trail snack. I like to add M&M’s, dried fruits (apricots, cranberries) and banana chips. When your group is grocery shopping it is critical that you put in a word for the snacks you want. Definitely get a good variety of salty and sweet; goldfish, pretzels, candy (be careful with chocolate as it tends to melt if it is in the hot sun all day) and granola bars are all some of the best in my opinion. Also definitely be sparing with your personal food. Depending on how long you will be backpacking for you may need more self control. Whatever you do **do not eat all your snacks the first one or two days you are in the backcountry, you WILL regret it**.
The frontcountry is the perfect place to make more intricate meals that wouldn’t be possible in the backcountry. Some of my favorites from my trip were fried rice, tacos, chili (and cornbread) and breakfast burritos. Some frontcountry meals are pictured below.
Hopefully this gave you some insight to what the food situation will look like on your WA trip. Some of my best memories were made cooking and enjoying meals with my friends after a long day hiking. I hope this helped to combat any nervous feelings you may have regarding meals on your trip and at the very least I hope I provided some tips you can put into use on your upcoming adventure!
Sarah Heller 🙂