Backpacking Recipes for Body and Soul
November 15, 2019
When out on the trail, especially during a camp, hot food is essential, but great food is a luxury. Boil in the bag meals may be easy and mainly nutritious, but they are also quite bland and overly expensive.

Note: This article is a collaboration between Trev from Summit or Nothing and Restless Backpacker and Thom from Off the Beaten Pot.

Thom trained and worked as a chef from the age of 17. Disenchanted by the profession, he hung up his chef knives and ran away to sea. Here, he spent over a decade sailing on old ships.

Often finding himself in foreign lands, he would escape into the nearest wilderness as soon as the ship was tied to the quay. Fed up of instant trail meals, Thom dusted off his dad’s old Trangia with the aim of cooking ANYTHING.

Inspired by the Youtube Channel ‘Summit or Nothing’, Thom decided to turn on his camera and share his journey with the world and in the process met up with the man behind the channel, your very own Trev.

TREV

When out on the trail, especially during a camp, hot food is essential, but great food is a luxury. Boil in the bag meals may be easy and mainly nutritious, but they are also quite bland and overly expensive.

Why not have great tasting food, with all the goodness you need for fuelling your walking, but with mouth-watering flavors that you would expect from a restaurant rather than a campsite? My fellow hiker and YouTuber Thom, from “Off The Beaten Pot” showed me exactly how to do just that.

I first noticed Thom when I saw a video that he made in which he cooked a roast dinner on a Trangia Stove. A Roast Dinner!

I had already started to grow tired of packet meals, so I was instantly intrigued. I decided that I needed to meet up with this outdoors culinary genius and learn what else could be prepared on a Trangia stove.

The first time we went out, he showed me that tasty food can be prepared in the outdoors and for less than the cost of a pre-packaged processed meal. His meal ideas may take a little preparation, but the rewards of eating freshly cooked, tasty food whilst hiking is well worth the effort.

THOM

Stepping out to spend a night or more beneath the stars is often a pleasure. We take the time to prepare our gear, excited to try out new items and confidence with our old, faithful, ‘must haves’.

We plan our routes with anticipation of what we might encounter. We dream of getting the camp ready to relax after a good day. Then, for some reason, we buy a single-use plastic bag full of mediocre food and head out. To me, this is unnecessary and we’re about to change that.

Below are some recipes that are simple to prepare, lightweight, nutritious, and damned tasty! I have offered a couple of alternatives to each meal. One for multi-day hikes where weight is more important than freshness and another where you have a bit more time and possibly the inclination to indulge.

Backpacking Breakfast Recipes

Coconut and fruit porridge (multi-day)

This is an absolute treat for starting any day. It will kick start your body from the inside out and keep you going until it’s time for a spot of late lunch. I start most days with this recipe, whether out in the wilderness or at home.

The beauty of this recipe is that all of the prep is done at home. Then when you’re out, you just add water, some heat and let the warming smells rouse everyone in the camp.

Ingredients

  • 60 grams (2.1oz) of jumbo rolled oats;
  • 80 grams (2.8oz) of mixed dried fruits (I like using dried cherries and blueberries);
  • One heaped teaspoon of Maple Sugar (or demerara sugar);
  • One heaped tablespoon of Coconut Milk Powder (Or and dried milk powder if preferred);
  • One teaspoon of Cinnamon.
  • All placed in a paper bag (or a compostable/ biodegradable bag).
  • On the trail, you will need to add 120 ish ml (half a cup ish) of water.

What you’ll need

  • A pot;
  • A fire (or stove);
  • A spoon for mixing (or a stick/ tent peg etc.)

Method

Add the entire contents of the bag into your pot.

Add your pot to a low heat. You can either use the regulator on your stove or hold the pot slightly higher over the flame.

Stir the dry mixture as it heats until you can smell the oats beginning to roast. This part of the method can be done at home on the hob or disregarded entirely, however it does make a lot of difference so I recommend keeping this stage in!

Add the water in slowly, making sure it doesn’t splash and then as it cooks, keep stirring. The more you stir then the creamier the porridge will be.

When it starts to bubble, remove the porridge from the heat, give it one last big stir and leave it to one side with a lid on to let it sit for a couple of minutes.

If you don’t have a lid then use your saucepan to cover the pot. This is only to aid with heat retention, if you don’t have a lid at all, don’t worry, it’ll be a dreamy breakfast none the less!

Melted Cheese and Ham Croissant (Day Hike)

Unless you have all the hours of the day to laze around, I like to make breakfasts quick, easy and, of course, tasty! This one is no exception. You can either prep it all at home or take the ingredients out of your bag when you’re at your favorite spot.

It has everything you want in a warming wilderness breakfast. A crispy, buttery shell and a gooey middle!

Ingredients

  • A pre-cooked croissant (easily available in most stores)
  • 2 slices of cheese (I like using Port Salut)
  • A slice of ham, or pre-cooked bacon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Drizzle of olive oil

What you’ll need

  • A frying pan
  • A flame, be it from a trangia, a gas stove or a fire.
  • Something to turn a flip the croissant. I use my spoon, you can also use a stick.

For a vegetarian option, use sliced tomatoes and basil. Or get creative and let us know what you’d use instead.

Method

Open the croissant lengthways, place in a slice of cheese then the ham and season with salt and pepper. Then put in the other slice of cheese and close the croissant. Place it in a paper bag, put it in your backpack and get yourself outside!

Set the burner to low heat (or find a cooler spot on your fire).

Add the olive oil to the pan and heat until it sizzles. This makes sure that the croissant will seer rather than soak up all the oil.

Place the croissant onto the hot oil, flatten it a bit and keep pushing it around the pan, lifting the pan from time to time to make sure it’s not too hot.

After a minute or so, flip the croissant and start cooking it from the other side. Keep doing this until the cheese begins to melt from the side. By this point, the croissant will be a nice brown colour.

Be careful when you bite into it, especially if using tomatoes as they can get quite hot! Also, they are incredibly addictive so you might want to pack two. Or three.

Backpacking Lunch Recipes

Cold Soak Vegetable Couscous (multi-day)

I love this recipe for its simplicity. You get it ready at breakfast, put it in your backpack and when you stop for lunch it’s ready to go. This is great for multi-day hikes and when you can’t afford a lingering lunch and have to keep going to get some big miles in.

You can play with this recipe, add things you want (biltong for example) and get the flavor you want.

Ingredients

  • 75 grams (2.6 oz) of couscous
  • Two Tablespoons of dehydrated vegetable. I buy these in bulk from a local shop, I favor courgettes and peppers.
  • One teaspoon of dried garlic.
  • One teaspoon of dried onion.
  • Half a teaspoon of cumin.
  • Sprinkling of chili flakes.
  • Dried mint.
  • Half a crushed lime leaf.
  • A glug of olive oil (yup, a glug – You might translate this to about a tablespoon)
  • Water (enough to just cover the ingredients in the container).

What You’ll need

  • You can buy super-duper titanium tins for cold-soaking. Or, you can use an old plastic peanut butter jar. Or a ziplock bag (double bag it). Any container that is roughly two times the size of the dry ingredients (or expandable).
  • A spoon/ fork/ spork

Method

At home, get all the ingredients together in your container (except the oil).

On the trail, at breakfast add cold water to the mixture and the olive oil. Give it a good stir. It’s important to make sure the ingredients are covered with water, but only just.

If you have boiled a pot of water for your morning brew, you can use hot water. However, let it cool before putting it in your pack. Also, make sure your container won’t melt or warp if it gets hot.

The great thing about using cold water is that you can make this meal when you pass a water source if water is low at camp. It just needs a couple of hours to fully ‘cook’.

Place the lid (or seal) the container. Put it in your pack and have a great morning. Find a nice view and sit down to some fluffy, flavorsome couscous.

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Chilli Chorizo Calzone (Day Hike)

I cooked this meal for Trev on our first time out. Since then, it’s all he ever eats. It’s a great recipe for kids to get creative with. It uses readily available ingredients and is packed full of flavor. It’s a real soul-feeding winner of a meal.

I have it here for lunch, but it could easily hold itself as a fancy breakfast or as a main meal. I like to have two of these, it makes for a substantial lunch that won’t leave you feeling bloated and will get you through until the evening meal. So the below ingredients list is to make 2 pizzas for one person.

Ingredients

  • 2 small, soft tortilla wraps.
  • A big handful of pre-grated mozzarella cheese.
  • 50 grams (1.8 oz) of diced chorizo sausage. Feel free to use any cooked or cured meat here. If you’re vegetarian, Spinach or olives works well.
  • One pouch of powdered tomato soup.
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Chili flakes
  • Dried Oregano to taste.

What You’ll Need

  • A frying pan
  • A flame, be it from a trangia, a gas stove or a fire.
  • Something to turn a flip the croissant. I use my spoon, you can also use a stick.

Method

At home

Open the tomato soup sachet. Add the salt, pepper, chili flakes, and oregano into the sachet. Fold over the sachet and pack it in a paper bag with the other ingredients.

I keep the cheese separately but it’s not essential.

On the trail

Empty the contents of the tomato soup sachet into a pot. Add a small amount of water (2 tablespoons) to the powder. Add the water slowly. I say it a lot in my videos. It is easier to make things thinner first than it is to make them thicker again!

When you end up with a runny paste, spread the mixture onto the wrap.

Add the cheese to cover the wrap and sprinkle over the chopped chorizo.

Fold your wrap in half and place it in the pan. These are often small enough that you can cook two side by side (depending on your pan).

Put the pan onto a low-med flame and every minute or so, turn the wrap. When the cheese is melting out of the edges and the wrap is golden brown, it’s ready! Let it cool a bit first. You can easily open the wrap to see how much the cheese has melted in the middle.

Best served with a dreamy vista and good company.

Spinach and Coconut Dal (Multi-Day and Day Hike)

This is a real treat. Not only because it packs a flavorsome punch. But also because it is deceptively simple to prepare. While on a multi-day hike you can make your own bannock bread to mop it up (recipe below). For day hikes, I use soft tortilla wraps and just give them a quick blast on the heat to make a ‘lazy man’s’ chapati.

Ingredients

  • 70 grams red lentils
  • Tablespoon dried onion
  • 3 sun-dried tomatoes chopped (can substitute for any dried vegetables)
  • 1 teaspoon dried garlic
  • Half teaspoon of garam masala (or curry powder)
  • Heaped teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Two tablespoons of dried coconut milk (or a tablespoon of desiccated coconut)
  • And for the dayhike, a handful of spinach leaves. If I’m on a longer trip and can’t keep the spinach fresh I will just add more dehydrated vegetables.
  • Water (roughly 100-125ml)

What You’ll Need

  • A pot
  • A fire (or stove)
  • A spoon for mixing (or a stick/ tent peg etc.)

Method

At home

Add all the ingredients into a paper bag. Keep the fresh spinach in a separate bag if using it.

On the trail

Put all of the dried ingredients into a pot. Add enough water to cover and put the pot onto a medium heat. Stir well.

Keep adding the water to keep it at the consistency you want it. Bring the mixture to the boil and then reduce the heat and cook for 5 minutes longer.

Remove the pot from the heat, add in the spinach and give it a stir. When the spinach has wilted and turned a dark green. The Dal is ready.

This meal is best enjoyed in the comfort of your sleeping bag with the curious cool air playing in the mountains below.

Conclusion

Depending on your hike, there is an infinite amount of choice as to what culinary delights you can create.

Sometimes the weather and terrain make life a slog, the last thing you want to do is stop for lunch and fight the elements to create an opulent meal to not enjoy it. IT HAS TO BE FUN!

It also has to be nourishing and it has to add to your experience and not detract from it.

When you start to learn about what ingredients can do for not only your soul but your body, you can create actual miracles while on the trail.

All of the above meals can be found on my channel. And just to prove ‘impossible is nothing’ when it comes to camp stove cooking I made a roast dinner on a trangia triangle. You can see all of the recipes above at the Off The Beaten Pot YouTube channel.

If you have any questions about cooking and eating on the trail. I’m always more than happy for you to reach out.

Trev Lewis

Contributor

About the Author

"I am so glad that I found walking and would recommend it to anyone who is in need of a little direction."

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