The Fall's Best Backcountry Kitchen. Plus: Our Favorite Recipes and Trail Bars.

All the ingredients and gear you need for real meals on the trail

Aug 22, 2016
Outside Magazine

Time for a few real meals on the trail.    Photo: Alex Ruban/Unsplash

Fact: Even the most mundane food tastes better after a long day on the trail. But who wants lousy food after you’ve been huffing along for hours? To keep you fueled and your taste buds happy, here is a full day’s worth of easy but delicious recipes and the gear you’ll need to cook them.

Platypus GravityWorks Filter ($120)

  Photo: Platypus

Both my breakfast and dinner recipes require clean water. I like the Platypus filter because it’s a simple, gravity-activated system. You fill one pouch with dirty water, hang it from a tree, then let the water seep through a tube and filter into the clean pouch below. Continue setting up camp in the meantime. 

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Jetboil MicroMo Stove ($130)

  Photo: Jetboil

You’ll need heat for breakfast and dinner. The MicroMo is a sleek, efficient, 12-ounce stove that will boil 16 ounces of water in just over two minutes.

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Sea to Summit X-Set 31 Dinnerware ($105)

  Photo: Sea to Summit

This silicone set includes two cups, two bowls, and a 2.8-liter pot that all collapse into one neat package for easy packing. (Remember to bring utensils.)

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MSR Alpine Fry Pan ($25)

  Photo: MSR

This stainless-steel pan weighs 11.4 ounces, heats up quickly, and has a detachable handle for easy, seamless storage in your pack. It’s also as easy to scrub clean as a nonstick pan.

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Recipes below serve two people.

Breakfast: Walnut-Craisin Pancakes and Coffee

Instant pancake mix is top-notch in terms of calories:weight/volume. Dried fruit and nuts add flavor, texture, vitamins, nutrients, and fiber to an otherwise bland meal.

Pro Tip 1: Snag some syrup packets from a Denny’s on your way to the trail.

1 1/2 cups instant pancake mix
1 cup walnuts
1 cup raisins
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup water

Blend the pancake mix, walnuts, and raisins in a Ziploc before you leave. When it’s breakfast time, drizzle some of the vegetable oil onto a heated pan. Add water to the Ziploc and stir until it’s a pasty batter.

Pro Tip 2: Tear off one corner of the bag, and use it as a squeeze pouch to keep mess and cleanup to a minimum. Add oil to heated pan between pancakes or as needed.

Instant coffee usually sucks, but there will be a new option out there starting in September. Climber Matt Segal and his business partner, Alex Hanifin, just launched Alpine Start. It’s tasty and made from 100 percent arabica beans—perfect for those of us who don’t want caramelized sugars, acesulfame potassium, or artificial flavors in our instant coffees.

Lunch: Bars and Snacks

Don’t set up the kitchen when you get hungry on the trail in the middle of the day. Instead, bring a variety of snacks that hit the essential food groups to munch intermittently during your hike. Aside from trail mix, here’s what I took on my last trip.

Taos Mountain Energy Bars 

  Photo: Taos Mountain

These are more akin to dense pastry desserts and breakfast cereals than a lot of other nutrition bars. They’re crunchy, chewy, loaded with whole foods, and very tasty—particularly the toasted coconut bars, which have just over 300 calories each.

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Pressed by Kind Fruit Bars

  Photo: Kind

Everyone wants to bring fresh fruit on the trail, even though it’s more hassle than it’s worth. It’s water-heavy, bulky, and delicate, and you wind up having to pack out cores, pits, and skins. Enter Kind’s take on fruit leather. These bars are great sources of fiber—and delicious. Try the Apricot-Pear-Carrot-Beet and Pineapple-Banana-Kale-Spinach.

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Chef’s Cut Jerky 

  Photo: Chef's Cut

If you’re like me, you’ll crave (animal) protein on the trail, and jerky is a lightweight, zero-effort solution. Chef’s Cut offers turkey, chicken, beef, and bacon jerky in a variety of flavors. All are super-rich and moist.

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Zing Bars

  Photo: Zing

If you’re not into eating animals but want a protein fix, these are a nice alternative. Zing makes sweet, candy bar–style chocolate mocha bars that are nice as dessert, plus fruity and oatmealy bars that are chewy, sort of like PowerBars.

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Dinner: Chicken-Veggie-Grain Bowl

You’re gonna want a hearty meal at the end of the day—a lot of hearty meal. This is that in an easy-to-make form.

4 cups water
1 16-ounce bag Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend
1 1.48-ounce bag Mountain House Fire Roasted Vegetable Blend
2 12.5-ounce cans cooked chicken

Bring the water to a boil, then drop in the grain blend and cook for ten minutes. Add the vegetables and cook for another eight minutes. Drop in the chicken and cook for another three to five minutes.

Pro Tip: While wholesome and robust, this mini-feast can be a little bland on its own, so always keep some Taco Bell hot sauce packets in your pack. 

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