I divide my summer free time fairly evenly between gardens and sailboats. But before I became hooked on sailing, I spent many summer days in hiking boots. I returned to those on-foot adventures last weekend, spending 3 days in Glacier National Park covering 19 miles while climbing and then descending 4,500 feet.
Besides a return to gorgeous vistas and sore muscles, the weekend brought me back to the enjoyment of eating well even at 6,000 feet. I’ve always been convinced that meals out of a pack, kayak, canoe, car, camper, or sailboat don’t have to feature Ramen, instant rice, or even ever-improving yet increasingly expensive pouches of freeze-dried dishes. When I plan an outdoor adventure, I start with what’s in my garden and how I can bring it fresh, dehydrate it, or otherwise process it so that it can be incorporated into a woodland, mountain, or ocean meal plan.
This summer, I began teaching a new set of workshops focused on eating well outdoors. I’ve taught adventurous women how to upgrade their front-country meals and sailors how to cruise in style. With last weekend’s backpacking trip, I’m returning to old ideas for fresh, delicious, yet lightweight meals.
Whether you’re counting every ounce or trying to cram a couple of weeks’ worth of food into a car or boat, eating well outdoors revolves around organization. Larger adventures may call for prepping a little at a time over several weeks. Short jaunts may call for last-minute at-home prep of foods that goes straight into a cooler, hatch, or pack. By thinking ahead, you’ll take the exact ingredients—and the tools—you need to pull off each meal.
For our 3-day backpacking trip, we were primarily carrying food for 2 people but sharing a couple of meals and special treats. Campfires were out, so no grilled sourdough pizza. Food had to be prepared in the eating area and hung at night to protect it from bears, so no long-term glacial lake storage, plenty of bags and containers squeeze into a pack while limiting compression, and all heating powered by a JetBoil.
The details of your adventure dictate what you will eat and when. What’s your party size? Where are you going? What’s the season—will it be hot or cool, dry or wet? How long will you be traveling? Will you be able to resupply, and when? And what are the dietary needs or food preferences of your crew?
Our weekend hike was low key by local standards; we know plenty of people who do the entire route in a single day:
- Day 1. Drive a couple of hours. Load up, transferring food from the ice chest to packs. Catch a boat across Two Medicine Lake. Hike a couple of hours to camp at No Name Lake, arriving in plenty of time to enjoy a relaxing afternoon and dinner.
- Day 2. Hang in camp for a real breakfast before the big hike: Climb, covering 2,000 feet in about 2 miles, to Dawson Pass. Break for lunch. Cross several miles of windy ridge to Pitamakan Overlook and then Pitamakan Pass before dropping another couple of miles down to Old Man Lake, ready for an easy meal and early night.
- Day 3. Eat down the pack, setting aside a trail lunch, and then spend several hours hiking out, mostly downhill, to the trailhead, the car, and a dinner stop with hot food and a cold beer.
With such a short trip, cool weather, and an easy first day, it was a no-brainer to pack a fresh, unheated meal for the first night and an easy hot meal for night 2. The schedule left plenty of time to enjoy breakfast in camp, and the weather made it easy to carry fresh and pickled veg and home-smoked cheese for lunches.
We’re old hands at transporting ingredients for rolling sushi on our sailboat, the Blue Mule. For the backcountry, we went down a similar trail, preparing poke bowls for night 1. It’s an easy meal to prep and carry for a short distance in cool weather: fish that was fully frozen when we lifted on our packs still needed to be defrosted by the time we sat down for dinner, and garden-fresh cucumber, carrot, bell pepper, and basil just needed to be sliced and tossed over precooked seasoned rice. We even stumbled on wild chive leaves and blossoms to sprinkle over the top. A backcountry meal never looked or tasted better.
We also pulled out all of the stops for breakfasts. A little sourdough starter mixed with flour and water capped our hanging food bag overnight; by morning, it was ready for Sourdough Pancakes with freshly foraged huckleberries, Roasted Raspberry Syrup, and goat cheese. The feedback from a fellow hiker: “Seriously the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten—outdoors or in.”
We knew we would be tired night 2, so it was a perfect time to rehydrate a fish stew prepared and dehydrated at home. The technique, easily adaptable to your favorite stew or chowder, will be the backbone of my upcoming Fine Dining: Backcountry workshops.
Twice as Tasty
Ultralight hikers will likely complain about the weight involved with fresh backcountry meals, but a kitchen scale reveals numbers that are more reasonable than you might think. Add in the lack of single-use packaging that dominates the freeze-dried food industry, the adaptability, and the superior freshness and flavor, and it’s hard to turn up your nose at eating well in the backcountry.
It’s not too late to learn about planning well for your next outdoor adventure in a Twice as Tasty workshop. Each workshop is customized to you, your needs, and your crew. You can get the full scoop on learning with Twice as Tasty here. Here are just a few of the workshops ideal for eating well outside and indoors:
- Fine Dining: Front Country or From the Galley. Upgrade your next outdoor adventure to first class, whether your mode of transportation is car or boat.
- Fraternal Twins: Making Lemon Cheese and Yogurt. Homemade lemon cheese works as well as goat cheese on morning pancakes in the woods. Or take your outdoor lunches to a new level with fresh, homemade mozzarella.
- Dehydration for Everyone. From day-hike snacks to backcountry dinners, a food dehydrator can put a new spin on your outdoor menu.
- Creative Cocktails: Syrups and Shrubs. Homemade fruit syrups can be adapted for backcountry pancakes or back-deck cocktail parties.
- Starting with Sourdough: Starter and Baking Basics. Once you make a sourdough pancake in the woods, you’ll never go back to Bisquick. And that’s before you fold in foraged wild berries.
- Grilled or Baked Sourdough Pizza. Grilled pizza has a place on every cruising menu I put together. A portable grill or even a grill grate over a campfire can make this meal a winner on camping trips too.
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