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A Backpacker’s Obsession with Food – Part II

It’s no secret I love food. I LOVE food. I wake up in the morning, eat food, and start thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner. This is an entirely privileged way to think about food, but circumstances have made it my experience so far in life. While backpacking, this love increases ten-fold. I become ravenous. Through particularly tough stretches I focus on my future dinner. I think about savory, creamy ramen… spicy, chunky chili… or creamy banana pudding… while I try to forget the pain in my toe as I just stubbed it for the fourth time that afternoon.

However, in the backcountry, your kitchen is lacking. In the middle of nowhere–carrying only what is on your back–you can’t exactly whip up a meal worthy of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Or at least, I can’t. As much as I would like to be Samwise Gamgee, I’m not willing to carry an entire kitchen set on my pack.

I appreciate your priorities, dearest Sam, but I think I appreciate my spine more.

Realistically, I have seen other hikers sporting frying pans, spatulas, pancake mix, etc, etc, etc… I don’t know if anyone thru-hikes bring those… but… dang. That’s commitment. Maybe the only thing scaring me away from getting more creative in the dirt kitchen is cleaning up the mess of more complicated cooking methods like sautéing and boiling. At the end of a long day of walking, the last thing I’m going to want to do for more than a minute is dishes. Fuel is also a concern, I need to stretch it out as far as possible.

HOWEVER, comma, while a backwoods foodie I am not, I’d like to toot my little horn and at least say I think my meals are better than some of those pre-packaged, freeze-dried meals you can pick up in sporting good stores. Y’know, the ones with overly huge bags, small portions, and pictures of happy, smiling faces of campers on the front?

Y’all look TOO clean to be eating outdoors. You’re missing out on the wonderful taste of sweat and dirt.


I created a menu of 15 different ‘meals’ and made 10 each for this thru-hike. I define a meal as anything that requires heat, hydration, or is more than 500 calories per serving. I tried to pick foods with a wide variety of flavors, textures, and nutrients; the last thing I want is to get bored of eating the same thing over and over again. Since we have 15 resupply boxes to be mailed out, each box gets (about) one of each meal. It’s unlikely we’ll be eating the same thing twice in a week unless it’s by choice.

Tortilla Soup Chili (3 different recipes) Chix Noodle Soup
Spaghetti Red Lentil Curry Curried Rice
Lentil Stew Cheezy Baco-bit Mashed Potatoes Chili Mac
Yellow Thai Curry Ramen Hot n’ Sour Ramen Curried Couscous
Veggie-tomato Couscous Oatmeal (5 different flavors) Pudding (5 different flavors)

Can you tell I like curry? Also, fair disclosure, I follow a plant-based diet, and all the foods I made are vegan.

Dehydrated meals aren’t as terrible as they sound, honestly. The texture is different, but it’s not horrible. Pasta is dehydrated, so are macaroni & cheese packets, and instant soup. I did dehydrate my own rice though, which actually has a different texture than Minute Rice, and I’m okay with that! It’s chewy and is less likely to become mushy.

Speaking of which, there are few things that turn me off food more than bad texture. If my jaws get tired while chewing it or it feels like I’m just gumming it, I won’t eat it. I don’t care how hungry I am, I will probably never eat instant hummus again. I also have chronic dry mouth, so anything that dries up my saliva glands will not make it past my teeth.

My camp kitchen: A 1 quart Imusa aluminum mug with a DIY cozy to keep it warm forever, and handle wrapped in paracord. A Light My Fire double-ended spoon/fork (because honestly, sporks suck). A Snow Peak Giga stove. A lighter, and a typical bag of food. 

Anyways! Food! I promised a recipe, didn’t I?

I’ve made this recipe for all of my backpacking trips to date, and it gets better every time. It’s a version of a soup I make the day after taco night, and it’s spicy, savory, and goes great with tortillas.

-Hiker’s Taco Soup-

2 servings


  • 1 Cup instant/dehydrated brown rice
  • ½ Cup dehydrated beans, any variety.*
  • ¼ Cup Textured Vegetable Protein
  • 2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 Tbsp dehydrated red enchilada sauce
  • 1 Tbsp tomato powder
  • 1 Tbsp dehydrated chopped bell peppers
  • 1 Tbsp dehydrated sliced cabbage
  • 1Tbsp dehydrated corn kernels
  • 1 cube vegetable bouillon
  • 1 tsp dehydrated minced onion
  • 1 tsp chili powder and granulated garlic
  • 1 packet Lime flavor crystals (optional)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds (optional)**
  • 4 tortillas (optional)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (on trail)

*Any variety EXCEPT instant refried beans.
**Chia seeds will add 60 calories per tbsp, as well as fiber, calcium, and iron, but are not required.Ingredients:

At Home: Place everything except for the tortillas and olive oil in a Ziploc bag. Pack with tortillas and your bottle of oil.

On Trail: Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add mix (remember to unwrap the bouillon, and set aside lime packet), stir, and remove from heat. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Stir in lime to taste, and add oil. Enjoy with tortillas!

Do you have any favorite trail recipes? Share them in the comments if you got ‘em! And happy trails (:

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