Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Secrets of Backcountry Cooking

Illustration by Luke Hampton

“Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew.”

One of the most quoted lines from the beloved “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is Samwise Gamgee raving about the many uses of potatoes. Sam and Frodo had been on the trail for months, and it’s no wonder they began lusting after some of their delicacies from home. Just as Sam dreams of ‘taters, I find that it’s not uncommon for people to start talking of favorite foods they miss a few days into a backpacking trip. They get hungry and frequently prioritize the ease and efficiency of their meals over taste. I’m here to give you my two cents on backcountry cuisine, which varies a bit from a hobbit’s.

While you may just want a good recipe or two, I find that half of the joy of backcountry cooking is experimenting, being creative and making the most out of what you have; I’d hate to take that away from you with step-by-step directions and a recipe list. However, here are some of my favorite suggestions for you to keep in mind that I expect to both please your taste buds and your wallets:

  1. Mix your own GORP –– Trail mix, a.k.a. GORP (Good Ol’ Raisins and Peanuts), is the perfect go-to snack. But don’t just settle for the pre-made mixes or you’ll end up with a bounty of GORP dregs a few days in once you’ve picked all the peanut M & M’s out and left the raisins behind. Go to a bulk section and pick out exactly what you want.
  2. Spice Kit –– Especially if you frequently find yourself in the backcountry, you will want to build a spice kit. Fill some small containers with salt, pepper, curry powder or any spice you’re fond of, and you’ll have flavor-packed meals on all your future trips.
  3. Fry-bake –– A fry-bake is the perfect universal cookware item. Pick one of these up in the OP, and you’ll be able do everything from baking cakes to cooking stir-fries and can do away with all your other pots and pans.
  4. Nalgene sauce –– Pasta is an obvious go-to meal in the backcountry; it’s light to pack, not fragile and universally loved. What you might not have thought of is making your own sauce and bringing it in a Nalgene. Two of my favorite backcountry meals are pesto or a Thai peanut sauce over pasta.
  5. Bread –– Despite its bulkiness, bread has many key uses. First, sandwiches for lunch is most often the best option. A classic PB&J or hummus, veggies and meat are two easy options for a quick, portable, protein-filled lunch.
  6. Salami –– A roll of salami is the tastiest option for something that is filling, calorie-dense and easy to pack. It makes an easy snack and makes a sandwich or dinner hardier.
  7. Hot drinks –– Practically a necessity on any backpacking trip, hot drinks can make it considerably more enjoyable to stay up talking on a cold, dark evening. Hot cocoa around the campfire sounds like a dream come true (and it often is), but here’s why I go for tea instead: It’s easier to clean, and you don’t do hot chocolate the injustice of having it without milk.

With my go-to items for backcountry cooking, you’ll find the options are limitless and the obstacles of backcountry cooking not as limiting as they seem. As those of you who have backpacked know, everything tastes better in the wild.

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