• Homemade backpacking food

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  • What's the best guidebook for homemade backpacking food?

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    Question by kevin kelly

Freezer Bag Cooking by Sarah Kirkconnell is a guide to making your own just-add-water backcountry meals. Most ingredients are available at your supermarket. Compared to pre-packaged freeze-dried meals, these have twice the food and cost half as much. Read carefully, though, some of the recipes serve two people and some serve only one.


The Back-Country Kitchen by Teresa Marrone covers every kind of back-country cooking from dressing up instant grits with cheese and egg to Cajun Venison Tenderloin. She also has a great description of how to cook planked fish. Just reading this book makes me hungry, but the essential part is the chapter on how to dry food at home. With home-dried ingredients, you are ready for these tasty recipes or the simpler ones in Freezer Bag Cooking, your choice. I made a non-dehydrated version of the Lentil-Bulgur Chili at home and the family declared it a keeper. That’s high praise.


NOLS Cookery is the best book for working from bulk food. This is a different style than planning each meal, but effective for larger and more frequent expeditions.


Answer by wunder

The Complete Trail Food Cookbook: Over 300 Recipes for Campers, Canoeists and Backpackers by Jennifer MacKenzie, Jay Nutt, and Don Mercer. Nearly all of the recipes for our 10-day backpacking trip last summer came from this book.

Answer by kelly

Kelly, can you say a little more about how the techniques in the COmplete Trail Food cookbook varies or improves on the many other ones?

Answer by kevin kelly

I just got suggestions for three other books: Trail Food; Lipsmacking Backpacking; and Backpack Gourmet.

Can anyone compare these to the ones already mentioned here?

Answer by kevin kelly

One caveat with all of these books: you need to know whether you are a "boil water and pour it over something, wait 10 minutes, then eat" kind of backpacker, or you are a "prepare food by mixing ingredients and using a lot of fuel and time to boil/bake/fry it" kind of backpacker. Both are valid approaches.

Both kinds of backpacker are out there, and each approach has its pros and cons, including eating the same thing over and over, eating vegetarian or not, food as fuel vs. food as nourishment, washing more or fewer dishes, carrying and using more or less fuel, and much more.

Different backcountry cookbooks will take different approaches. It helps to understand which approach you're after (you may take one approach on some trips and another on other trips) when you go in search of "the best" backcountry cookbook.

Answer by jonesey

Personally, I am of the "eat as soon as possible" type of backpacker. I don't mind doing prep work before hand, but on the trail I don't like to fuss around.

Answer by kevin kelly

The entrees in Lipsmackin' Backpackin' are yet another style, where you combine and cook ingredients at home, then dehydrate the results. I have the book, but I don't think I've ever cooked anything from it.

Contrast this to the freezer bag cooking style, where all ingredients are supermarket-available, mixed at home without cooking, and rehydrated on the trail. In a quart freezer ziplock bag, thus the name.

Also contrast to the style in Back-Country Kitchen, which mixes supermarket-available and home-dehydrated ingredients for rehydration or minimal cooking on the trail. "Minimal cooking" means simmering for 15 minutes to cook the lentils, for example. Back-Country Kitchen includes many other styles, like planked fish held down with bacon (yum) or cabin cooking with a can of cherries to season the venison.

If you do not want to dehydrate at home, I recommend getting some samplers of dehydrated vegetables from Harmony House (http://www.harmonyhousefoods.com/). That will get you through most of the trail recipes in Back-Country Kitchen. Most recipes only need a tablespoon or a quarter cup, so a one cup bag will last a while. The sampler makes a nice Christmas present, too.

NOLS Cookery uses a fixed set of staples with a few extras for a wide variety of meals which are combined, prepped, and cooked on the trail. No at-home prep, just flat-out cooking on the trail. Be prepared to by a Banks Fry-Bake, NOLS loves those things.

I'm not familiar with The Complete Trail Food Cookbook, though it appears to use the same approach as Lipsmackin' Backpackin', that is, cook then dehydrate.

I have a pretty good collection of camping cookbooks. You want Bradford Angier's opinion on moose muzzle? I got it. It is even tastier than bear.

Answer by wunder
  I haven't tried any other book, I'm a pescaterian who only does one or two short 2-3 day backpacking trips a year, but my amazing wife got me Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpackin' http://www.amazon.com/Lipsmackin-Vegetarian-Backpackin-Christine-Conners/dp/0762725311 maybe six years ago and I love the book and recipes. Around 1/3 are use a dehydrator (which I don't have and haven't tried any of these recipes), around 1/3 are for making in pots or pans at the campsite, and 1/3 use the freezer bag method. I've mostly tried the freezer bag recipes and had really good results. 
   My buddies  (who eat meat) and I do an annual snow camping trip and I plan the meals from the book and they give rave reviews of the food I've made. There are sections for snacks, breakfast, lunch and dinner. I've made burritos, pasta with pesto, whopper bribe hot chocolate (which is my favorite recipe), smoothies, cheese coins, mud, energy balls, mashed potatoes and gravy, cous cous, soups, and various desserts and everything has been tasty (the first year one of my friends (doubtful of eating vegetarian on a backpacking trip) brought some store bought dehydrated beef stew that he opened, smelled, put away and then gladly dug into the food I made from this book. 
   The biggest drawback of the book is that the ingredients often aren't found in the same store and can be difficult to find. The burrito recipe I like calls for fantastic foods dehydrated refried beans, black bean soup mix from a cup, corn chowder, a specific cheese sauce, textured vegetable protein, spanish rice mix, and tortillas (but they taste great). I typically end up going to at least three grocery stores to get the stuff for my trips (which, if planned ahead and incorporated into your normal grocery shopping, isn't too bad, but if you start the week of your trip, will be a pain in the butt).
   At least one other random stranger saw the book which was in a mesh pocket of my backpack and told me how much he and his girlfriend loved the book (I hadn't tried the recipes yet, and was a little freaked out, but afterward, I understood). The books lists the calories, protein, fats, and carbs from each serving and total recipe and weight and while most recipes are a bit complicated, some are more simple than others.
Answer by roll on you matt
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