Trails for everyone, forever

Home Get Involved Volunteer Five Tips from WTA for Gourmet Meals in the Backcountry

Five Tips from WTA for Gourmet Meals in the Backcountry

Customize your meals and get more calories-per-ounce with these tips.

When backpacking, it's important to eat throughout the day and being properly fueled means bringing more than a zillion Clif bars. This is even more important on backcountry volunteer trips, since you're both hiking and doing trail work. Luckily, WTA's volunteer community is resourceful, and rarely do you see more creativity than at dinnertime.

Each volunteer brings their own culinary preferences, and WTA staff have learned a lot over the years from seeing what volunteers bring as fuel for their trips. Here are six tips we got from our communtiy of volunteers - try them on your next backpacking trip!

oatmeal_cynthia peterson.jpg
Your morning meal can be savory, too! This one includes grits, powdered onion and garlic, crispy onions and powdered cheese. Photo by Cynthia Peterson


Customize Your Oatmeal (and your soups)

For Oatmeal: Measure out enough plain, quick-cook rolled oats for as many breakfasts as you need, then get a bunch of different add-ins, and measure out about a quarter to a half cup of each. Here are some ideas:

  • Seeds (for protein and fiber): chia, hemp, flax
  • Freeze-dried fruit (high flavor, light load): raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries
  • Dried friuts (fiber and flavor, though they can be heavy): cranberries, figs, apricots, peaches
  • Nuts (for protein and crunch): walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc
  • Nido powdered milk. It's full-fat, and that makes all the difference. Also good in coffee or tea, as long as you pre-mix it. 

Bonus: Combine any leftover fruit and nuts to make a trail mix for the hike out. 

For Soups: Mix together minute rice with dried veggies and spices for a soup or stew. The consistency depends on how much water you add and how long you cook. Many groceries carry a selection of dried veggies, and if you're in Seattle, Uwajimaya has a good selection if you're looking for a source.

Love these ideas? Check out our Backcountry Kitchen for more backpacking recipes


Make your own Mountain House meals

Assembling your own in-bag meals can reduce plastic waste. Using heavy-duty, gallon-sized plastic bags allow you to make custom meals, and they stand up to washing with soap and water so you can reuse them.

When dinnertime comes around, pour hot water into the bag of your meal ingredients (we recommend double-bagging, just in case), wrap them in a shirt for insulation, and let them soak until it's ready to eat.


Class it up

Take this opportunity to treat yourself. A hard cheese like parmesan or romano and dry salami (if you eat meat) will last a few days without refrigeration (thank you alpine nighttime temps). They can enhance your meal, or be a good snack all by themselves. Veggie jerky has come a long way too, if you need a plant-based substitute.

salami and cheese_cliff rossen.jpg
OK, this would be a huge amount for a backpacking trip but you get the idea. Photo by Cliff Rosson. 


Make it count

Let's be real. Backpacking requires cramming A LOT of stuff needed to keep you functioning into a relatively small pack. Dense foods are usually smaller, sturdier, and filling. Try:

  • Pita bread instead of sandwiches or tortillas
  • Chocolate covered espresso beans. Coffee and dessert covered.
  • Dried mashed potatoes. High calorie meal and ALSO binding agent for leftovers. Combine with ingredients from leftover stew and stuff into a pita pocket. Consume. 

Stay on target

By day three, you may not quite remember what you brought each ingredient for. (To be honest, we've forgotten on Day 1 before). Write a meal plan for your trip and tape it to the inside of your bear canister, or package your meals and label them according to day and which meal it is.