When you are planning a backcountry camping trip, you must pack foods that will take up the least amount of space, require simple preparation and provide you with enough nutrients and energy. Select a variety of breakfast foods, trail snacks, beverages, dried beans and grains, dehydrated meals, meats and fish, and flavorings to sustain you while camping in the backcountry.
Select easily digestible, instant carbohydrates and vitamin-rich dried fruits for breakfast. Cook instant oatmeal or farina in a pot over a fire or camp stove and add dried fruits and some sugar for an energizing breakfast. Other options include muesli and protein bars.
Snack on salty foods that are high in carbohydrates to help sustain your energy while hiking. Pack granola bars, cookies, trail mix and nuts. Put them in an easily accessible compartment so you can grab them throughout the day without stopping or digging through your pack.
Always carry at least two 32-oz. water bottles or a large Camelbak with you. Plan on drinking about 8 oz. of water every 30 to 60 minutes while hiking. Invest in a portable water filtration system so you can refill water from any water source and safely drink and cook with it. Besides water, bring hot chocolate mix and powdered milk as supplemental beverages to provide warmth and extra calories.
Dried Beans and Grains
Dried beans and grains provide protein and fiber. Boil your beans in water for 5 minutes then cover. Soak the beans in the hot water for 45 minutes to an hour before cooking. Beans, rice and lentils can take one to two hours to cook after soaking, so start cooking as soon as you set up camp for the night. For a faster alternative, try instant rice and dry, powdered beans.
A wide variety of dehydrated soups and meals are available for camping trips. Carefully read the instructions for preparation before buying; choose meals that require only one pot and limited ingredients. Buy dried soup and pasta mixes that only need water. Sporting good stores often carry a wide range of dehydrated meals, such as chili, mac and cheese, stroganoff, and chicken teriyaki, that are special formulated for hiking trips. Eat large meals at the end of the day when your body has time to sufficiently digest them.
Meats and Fish
Eat meat and fish sparingly and only at night because they require a significant amount of energy to digest. Eat canned tuna, sardines, spam and chicken immediately after opening. Choose beef jerky or other dried, lean meats for protein. Fresh meat will spoil quickly, so don’t take it into the backcountry. If you know how to hunt or fish, however, prepare wild game as you catch it. Try catching trout, walleye and rabbit for small meals. Eat them the same day.
Pack a selection of spices and other flavorings to improve the taste of dried foods. Bring salt, pepper, mixed herbs, sugar and bouillon cubes packed in small, airtight containers, such as film canisters or sandwich bags. You can also find small containers with twist-off caps at craft stores.