Favorite Backcountry Food Hacks

10:59 a.m. on July 19, 2015 (EDT)
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As I've grown older (I'm now 56) and my body becomes more susceptible to wear and tear, I've begrudgingly aligned more with the UL movement.  I routinely carry half the weight I did at age fifteen when I first became serious about backcountry travel.

One of the areas I've cut a meaningful weight from my pack was the switch to titanium, minimalist cookware and the use of freeze dried (FD) food.  But as an admitted foodie, it was hard to make the switch to FD ... I've just never enjoyed the flavors of the FD food in it's basic state.

I've tried many things over the years, but my three favorite hacks to "doctor up" FD meals (other than spices) are as follows:

  1. Sun Dried Tomatoes - julienne cut, they can be added to many different types of meals and can also be munched as a trail snack. Very versatile.
  2.  Fresh Green Onions -  I wrap them in a damp paper towel and within a ziplock bag.  Another versatile ingredient that travels well for about a week.
  3. Bacon Jerky - can be chopped/diced to flavor anything from pasta primavera to chili ... I mean, what doesn't taste better with bacon?

Anyway, what are your favorite trail meal hacks for freeze dried foods or in general?  Cheers !

Chimney Rock


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3:31 p.m. on July 19, 2015 (EDT)
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Extra virgin olive oil. Since oil and water don't mix, dried foods typically are lacking in fats and thus flavor. Not only that, after a big day on the trail your body needs some fat. So a splash of EVOO in every lunch and dinner.

4:30 p.m. on July 19, 2015 (EDT)
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Tabasco in a tiny dropper bottle..... its about the only thing that makes freeze dried egg dishes palatable.

Olive oil is always great to have around. A little nalgene bottle of that is perfect.


Its much easier in winter when its sub zero (C), because you can pack in fresh pasta which only takes 2-3 minutes to cook and tastes really good!

3:54 p.m. on July 20, 2015 (EDT)
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A few of my favorite dried spices: (other than salt and pepper)

1) Tex-Mex 2) Lemon-Pepper 3) Curry Powder 3) Bay Leaves 5) Cajun Seasoning (I like Slap Ya Mama) 6) Red Pepper Flakes 7) Dried Basil 8) Cumin 9) Bouillon 10) Onion Dip Mix

A few of my favorite dried fruits and vegetables: (may require access to a dehydrator or up-scale grocery store)

1) Bell Peppers 2) Jalapenos 3) Onions (green onions are a favorite!) 4) Mushrooms 5) Minced Fresh Garlic 6) Tomatoes ("fleshy" tomatoes like Roma work best 7) Beans (great thickener) 8) Cranberries (great snack and combos well with instant stuffing + sunflower seeds + dried celery and onions) 9) Strawberries and Mango (I use frozen fruit mixes since most fresh fruit is made for travel and not flavor...plus frozen fruit is cheaper) 10) Instant Potatoes (another great thickener)

A few of my favorite "add-ins": (I use these to add crunch and texture to mushy re-hydrated foods)

1) Corn Chips 2) Oyster or Goldfish Crackers 3) Sunflower Seeds 4) Peanuts and Nuts 5) Dried Salad Toppings 6) Sesame Seeds 7) Biscotti (great addition to re-hydrated fruit sauces) 8) Stuffing Mix

* crumbling and breaking add-ins into smaller pieces will lessen "crunch" to desired degree

5:25 p.m. on July 21, 2015 (EDT)
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I like the idea about the Biscotti.  Hope you won't mind my shameless theft of a good idea  *wink*  Thanks for sharing!


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6:27 p.m. on July 21, 2015 (EDT)
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Greg...I like my "cobbler" like desserts with a little allspice + cloves + lemon juice (I like the sauce really tart). You can dehydrate your fruit leathers with all these flavors infused into them if you add them to your sauce before you dehydrate (just cook the fruit like you would normally for such a dessert and then turn the sauce into leather in the dehydrator). Of course...you could always do it in the field with a few lemon juice packets and a little of the spice...but I like the fire-and-forget convenience of doing it before I dry the sauce.

Also...dried olives and collard greens are a personal favorite of mine that are not on the most popular of flavors list (why I didn't list them above). However...if you like the brine taste of olives they pack a lot of flavor for very little effort and weight (get pre-sliced olives...they are cheaper and dry faster)...and the collard greens dried into "chips" are a great dried snack (better than nori)...and add a lot of "awesome" to soups and stews (get the canned cooked in turkey broth and add red pepper flakes before drying).

11:08 p.m. on July 22, 2015 (EDT)
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I have always perceived Freeze-Dried food as a poor substitute for real food in small packets located at large supermarkets.  Freeze-Dried always tastes and feels like flavoured cardboard, and the amounts of sodium are really high. Burying a small block of cheese deep within the pack will keep it from liquefying and you can get two days with that method.  I always reward my hiker-friends with a dessert...Biscotti, lemon-puffs, strawberry truffles, or other cookie-type snacks without chocolate which tends to melt and to end up messy. The 'reward' is offered as an incentive to finishing an otherwise bland or highly-salted entreé. One can force down a MRE-type meal, but these are properly re-named 'meals rarely eaten'.  Some folks do melanges of beans, rice, and other stuff in a pot but the result is not appetizing. I think that pleasant food is important to the psyche; some of my friends start the meal with an Ethanol-based beverage and find that whatever they eat works adequately.  Reward yourself at a local pastry shop at the end of the hiking adventure. Ice cream works well, too!

9:10 a.m. on July 23, 2015 (EDT)
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My favorite go to fd meals are by Packit Gourmet. I really don't need to do anything to them, and everything I have had from them has been excellent.

10:59 a.m. on July 23, 2015 (EDT)
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I gave up on fd a long time ago. Breakfasts, packaged oatmeal and cocoa and a few fig newtons. Lunch, cliff bars and peanut butter from a squeeze tube. Dinners, Lipton cup-of-soup, macaroni and cheese or spaghetti (break up the noodles in small pieces or else they will pierce a zip loc bag, half a package of spaghetti seasoning from a grocery store and parmesan cheese in a small container. Use a little extra water to boil the noodles, pour a little of the extra water into a cup and stir the sauce into it) and a no bake chocolate or vanilla pie. Wylers for a drink.

Three years ago, I visited relatives in Israel and saw they kept their stick butter out of their fridges on all but the hottest days. After seeing that, I began taking cubes of butter to add to my mac and cheese. It REALLY improves the taste. The butter is soft but it keeps for two days. ( I usually hike solo and can't carry more than 3 days worth of food.)

I usually hike solo so I haven't tried this backpacking because its too heavy for one person but a group of 2 or more may want to try it. Boil-in-the-bag brown rice with a package of Tyson's chicken which you can buy at Walmart. Add a package of beef or chicken gravy. Use extra water to boil the rice and pour the excess into a cup to stir in the gravy. Or, instead of chicken, you could use bacon bits or bacos.

Walmart also carries tomato paste but the tube is too big for one person for one meal.

If anyone knows of a decent ground beef which comes in a foil package, PLEASE let me know the brand name and where to get it. I've tried salmon and tuna in foil packages with boil-in-the-bag rice but didn't care for it.

I'm a fussy eater and I try to keep my meals as simple as possible. At the end of the day when I'm tired I want something that's quick and easy to make so I choose simple meals.

   

11:18 a.m. on July 23, 2015 (EDT)
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Greg, 

We also carefully weigh our packs and overpacking food is usually a culprit of excess weight. We know the FD  and dehydrated foods we like and stick to those as much as possible. Love Mary Jane Farms spicy black beans with a single serve package of Fritos. We also like the Enertia Foods brands of some meals. We have a food dehydrator and make our own trail mix. I dry my own banana chips, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, peaches, apples, etc. Have also tried tomatoes, but need good quality garden ripened romas to make good  ones. We have also found the bacon and ham jerkys to be good, but in order to add them to foods we try to chop them into smaller pieces at home. We buy packages of FD veggies and make our own soups, etc. Amazing what a handful of FD peas will do to some tuna noodle stuff or a handful of corn to some of the bagged Mexican meals. Usually buy the vegies at Sierra Trading Post. One bag will go a LONG way if you mix them. They are also just good mixed together as a side dish in a plastic freezer bag and extremely light. 

Janet

5:02 a.m. on July 25, 2015 (EDT)
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Wait 'til you hit 76!!

7:12 p.m. on July 27, 2015 (EDT)
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"Freezer Bag" cooking (with dehydrated food when possible)

EX. "Thanksgiving Dinner" for One

1. 1/2 cup dehydrated cooked turkey or chicken

2. 1/2 packet chicken gravy mix (water req'd. written on snack bag container)

3. 1/2 or 1/3 packet instant buttery mashed potatoes (same water directions on snack bag container)

>Put chicken in 1 qt. ZipLoc freezer bag. 

>add 1/4 cup boiling water

>Put bag in insulating cozy (or your stocking cap). Let sit 10 minutes

>Add the gravy mix and the mashed potatoes to chicken and put in amount of boiling water needed for BOTH. Let sit 5 minutes.

>Put snack bag of Craisins in their own 1 qt. freezer bag and add 1/2 cup of boiling water and let sit in a cozy for 10 minutes. Eat as side dish or dessert.

11:32 p.m. on July 27, 2015 (EDT)
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Thanksgiving on the trail, that sounds great!

9:00 a.m. on July 29, 2015 (EDT)
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Smoked trout

9:31 a.m. on July 31, 2015 (EDT)
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I want to go hiking with Howard.

3:28 p.m. on August 21, 2015 (EDT)
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I recently backpacked the AT from Neels Gap to Rimrock, and back to Woody. I was testing out some new gear and some new food items for an upcoming trip out West.


For lunch/trail snacks, I took something new for me. Powdered Peanut Butter mixed with Powdered Honey.  Got the PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter at Costco, the powdered Honey on Amazon.

Into several snack-size ziplock bags, I placed premixed, dry powder (3 parts Peanut Butter Powder : 1 part Powdered Honey). In one I added  a dash of Cinnamon ... yummy for my after dinner sweet-tooth.

On the trail, I simply added 2-3 Tb. water to the bag, resealed it, then massaged the water into the powder to form a typical peanut butter consistency.

I found I could use my knife to slice a small corner off of the bag, and squeeze the mixture out directly onto a cracker, or directly into my pie-hole.

Not bad. It tastes slightly less-moist than jar peanut butter, I suspect due to the lack of oil.  But it did the trick, was really lightweight, and I didn't go hungry.


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5:27 a.m. on September 23, 2015 (EDT)
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JRinGeorgia said:

Extra virgin olive oil. Since oil and water don't mix, dried foods typically are lacking in fats and thus flavor. Not only that, after a big day on the trail your body needs some fat. So a splash of EVOO in every lunch and dinner.

 I fully agree, I always use olive oil when I go camping (and at home too for that matter).

4:17 p.m. on September 29, 2015 (EDT)
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Coconut Oil. It's like olive oil but hard to accidentally spill and generally less messy under 80F. 

7:40 p.m. on September 30, 2015 (EDT)
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Favorite lunch over the last couple of years is dehydrated hummus in tortilla or pita bread. I think it rehydrates as well as any food out there if you give it 10 minutes.

7:50 p.m. on October 14, 2015 (EDT)
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Not sure if this is truly a hack or not, but a table spoon of peanut butter in a beef broth/beef based soup.  I love soup and eat it afield because it's so easy, cheap, fast, and filling and compliments any meal.  Beef based soups though were never a favorite until I dined with the Ugandans in Iraq.  Seems all of them added a table spoon of peanut butter to a cup or bowl of hot beef based soup.  Yes, it sounds odd, but as with any other food you really ought to try it before you say you don't like it.  It's wonderful.  Good enough I can't imagine going a field with soup but without a tube of peanut butter.  Just one of life's simple little pleasures.

2:51 a.m. on November 4, 2015 (EST)
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Bill Hudson said:

Not sure if this is truly a hack or not, but a table spoon of peanut butter in a beef broth/beef based soup.  I love soup and eat it afield because it's so easy, cheap, fast, and filling and compliments any meal.  Beef based soups though were never a favorite until I dined with the Ugandans in Iraq.  Seems all of them added a table spoon of peanut butter to a cup or bowl of hot beef based soup.  Yes, it sounds odd, but as with any other food you really ought to try it before you say you don't like it.  It's wonderful.  Good enough I can't imagine going a field with soup but without a tube of peanut butter.  Just one of life's simple little pleasures.

 That sounds really nice actually! I should try it as well. Though I think just about anything tastes great when I'm outdoors. 

9:48 p.m. on November 4, 2015 (EST)
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Anthonie Barkman said:

"..I think just about anything tastes great when I'm outdoors."

Not true at all Anthony!

A friend tried enhancing a marinara sauce with tobacco sauce and smoked oysters. The result highlighted all the bad attributes of the ingredients while muting the good ones.  His cook group had only desert that night.

Richmore Pilot Biscuits with Zippy Cheese Spread is nasty by design.  I know two people who broke teeth gnawing on the Frisbee like biscuits, and the florescent yellow cheese spread was more suitable as a hack to attract SAR than something to put in your belly.

More than once weather forced what should have been a nice multi course meal to be cooked as one-pot-glop.  Some food combinations simply offend the pallet.

My fav:  Kendal Mint Cake.  It's a drive-in movie size candy bar of candy cane-like sugar candy.  Several trips I was on in my youth required each member to consume one of these bricks each day.  That grows old real quick.  It has been decades since, yet I still can't stand mint flavor in anything (makes Christmas and buying tooth paste a challenge).

Ed

    

5:01 a.m. on November 5, 2015 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

Anthonie Barkman said:

"..I think just about anything tastes great when I'm outdoors."

Not true at all Anthony!

A friend tried enhancing a marinara sauce with tobacco sauce and smoked oysters. The result highlighted all the bad attributes of the ingredients while muting the good ones.  His cook group had only desert that night.   

 That's why I tell people never to try a new recipe or experiment with an old one first in the field.  Just like you should never try a new stove for the first time afield.  Supper after a long day is not the time to realize one or the other won't work.  Try new recipes at home first.  Learn your stove at home first.  If neither works right, no real loss as you won't be in the sack with your stomach grumbling from hunger or worse.

Which reminds me that I won't go afield (or travel anywhere) without tums.  I rarely use them, but when you need a couple, you just need a couple.

11:41 p.m. on December 7, 2015 (EST)
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Home dehydrators knock the socks off commercially packaged freeze dried meals!  

As a self-professed "foodie" you could take any meal you really like, dehydrate it, take it into the woods, reconstitute it.

Dehydrators are not that expensive, especially when compared to several foil pouches of Mountain House.

Chunks of beef (beef stew) can be a little slow to rehydrate.  I sometimes get impatient and eat them a little chewy.  But ground beef is much faster.  Homemade chili is easy, and just as good as it was at home.

9:36 a.m. on January 11, 2016 (EST)
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I'm always packing coconut oil because it's easy to carry and not liquid. It help give much needed taste to my dehydrated aliments

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