Backcountry Cooking: Meal Planning

While you’re out on the trail, planning for meal time is crucial to ensuring a pleasant trip through the wilderness. For a rundown of general planning steps for backcountry cooking, click here.

Menu planning, though, is an undertaking that warranted its own post. Laurie Ann March, author of A Fork in the Trail (Wilderness Press, 2008) and Another Fork in the Trail (Wilderness Press, 2011), calls menu planning “one of the biggest challenges facing anybody learning to cook in the wilderness.” She advocates a simple menu plan, consisting of three meals and two snacks per day (3 snacks, in cold weather). Below is an example of a 3-day menu plan for a short trek through the backcountry.

(Photo Credit: Laurie Ann March)

IN GENERAL: Print a small copy of your menu and take it with you so you can refer to it each morning and plan accordingly for the day. Make notes about what ingredients you may need to rehydrate at breakfast time for consumption at lunch. This preparation saves you from digging through the packs, which is especially helpful in inclement weather.

Three-Day Menu Plan

Breakfast: Maple Pecan Quinoa
Snack: Raisins
Lunch: Apple Peanut Salad Wrap
Snack: Beef jerky
Dinner: Salmon Cakes
Dessert: Dark chocolate

Breakfast: Orange Cranberry Pancakes
Snack: Blueberry Banana Energy Bar
Lunch: Cream of Potato & Roasted Garlic Soup
Snack: Spicy gorp (good old raisins & peanuts)
Dinner: Linguini with Red Clam Sauce
Dessert: Mocha Moosey Mousse

Breakfast: Franola
Snack: Mixed nuts
Lunch: Curried Tuna & Couscous Salad
Snack: Dried mixed fruit
Dinner: Treat yourself to a restaurant on the way home.

All of the dishes listed in the menu plan have recipes available in A Fork in the Trail. But, you can also adapt the line-up or the individual dishes themselves, to your own liking! Some things to consider when adapting recipes from home:

  • Dehydration is a generally solid strategy. Meats that are not ground will dry and rehydrate better if you shed them after cooking. Stews, chili, and spaghetti also dry incredibly well.
  • Replace dairy products with powdered equivalents.
  • All vegetables dry ver well except lettuce and most salad greens. Swiss chard and spinach dry nicely for use in soups and pastas. Or, you can thinly slice veggies such as zucchini, carrots, and parsnips, and dry them to make your own vegetable chips.

For even more info on backcountry cooking, check out Laurie’s books here!

Tanya Twerdowsky

I am a Jersey girl living in Alabama who loves to run far and eat lots.

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