How to Cook a Gourmet Dinner in the Backcountry

The beauty of backcountry camping is in its simplicity—you have everything you need to survive on your back, you walk until you’re tired, and then you get to kick back and relax and enjoy the scenery. Meals can be simple as well—a dehydrated meal, a meal bar, a slightly-squished sandwich from home, some bread and cheese and salami (my personal favorite).

But if you’re backcountry camping, you’ve likely covered a fair amount of miles over some difficult terrain carrying a heavy pack. And you’re famished. Which is all the more reason to cook a large, delicious, calorie-laden meal!

We believe in backcountry gourmet cooking. Here are some tips on how to put together your own feast in the forest.

Plan your menu

The more you can simplify ahead of time, the easier it’ll be to cook a big meal after a long day on the trail. Take some time to organize your meal at home. Measure out your ingredients in advance, write the cooking instructions down on an index card, plan your meals so that you eat the perishable food first.

Pack properly

Packing ingredients so that they don’t get jostled around in your pack is an art form. Sturdier fruits and vegetables with thicker skin tend to fare better over the course of a longer trip. Hard food storage containers are great for things like crackers and tortilla chips. Perishable foods, like meat and soft cheese, need to be wrapped tightly and eaten as soon as possible.

Compile your kitchen

Look at what your recipe requires to cook the meal, then think about what you are willing to carry. Do you need two pots? Can you cook over an open flame, or do you need to carry a camp stove and fuel?

Distribute the weight

Carrying in some heavier luxury items (potatoes, cans, meat) isn’t as much of a hassle if you share the weight with your backpacking buddies. You can draw straws for who carries the food and who carries the tents!

Set the table

A gourmet meal deserves a nice dinner setting. Take some time to create a nice dining area—use sleeping bags as seating, set out the plates and sporks with a bandana as a napkin, add some battery-operated string lights for ambiance. Bonus—your meal will be worthy of all the Instagram likes!

For more tips on how to create delicious backpacking dinners and for backcountry recipes, check out A Fork in the Trail and Another Fork in the Trail by Laurie Ann March, and the Backcountry Kitchen by Teresa Marrone.

Tanya Twerdowsky

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

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