Cooking on the Trail: Tips from a Veteran Backpacker
Planning to backpack the world or hitting the road in your camper? There are a few things you should know about cooking good meals while camping.
With a little time and a lot of imagination, you can create some truly amazing meals while camping. Combine a few basic dry ingredients with fresh produce you can buy on the road, and you can create a surprising array of tasty epicurean treats. Because cans of baked beans are fine occasionally, but your taste buds will demand variety when you’re out exploring the world.
I’ll give you a couple of camping cooking tips which I’ve learned along the way. For some easy-on-the-trail recipes, see my post with camping recipes.
Dehydrated meals have their time and place – There’s a very good reason dehydrated meals are popular with backpackers, campers, and hikers. They weigh next to nothing, need only a two-minute soak in boiling water to cook and are relatively filling. If you’re off on a multi-day hike in remote wilderness, dehydrated meals can be a (literal) lifesaver. However, unless you are that desperate for food and out in the wilderness on foot for many days on end, then forget dehydrated meals. There are plenty of healthier camping recipe options out there, which only require a few extra minutes to prepare.
Keep it simple.
My daily staple camper recipe includes one vegetable, be it an aubergine, a zucchini or a bunch of fresh spinach, one protein source (fresh meat, one piece of fish or a can of lentils or tuna) and one carbohydrate, which is usually one potato, a serve of pasta, half a cup of rice or one bread roll.
Go fresh as often as possible.
Shopping at wet markets for daily fresh ingredients is one of the things I love most about traveling the world. I discover weird and wonderful new produce, mingle with locals and ensure I load up on my daily dose of vitamins. Although you can carry a few days’ worth of fresh veggies, it is best if you can buy one a day, as it saves you space in your backpack and any squishing problems. When buying meat or fish, I prefer to buy them frozen in the morning (pack in 2 plastic bags) and by the time dinner comes around they’re perfectly defrosted and ready to be cooked.
Spice up your life.
My entire camping recipe repertoire would cease to exist without my extensive array of exotic spices. From Moroccan to Italian, Indian, Mexican and Chinese All Spice, my ‘mobile spice rack’ is my ultimate cooking savior and creator. There’s not a dish in the world that can’t be improved with garlic salt, dried onion flakes and one exotic spice of sorts. Rotate daily and you can seriously eat the same meal everyday (chicken, vegetable, and couscous, for example) and feel like you’re enjoying a varied and exotic culinary itinerary.
Love thy cheese.
Tasty, filling and a great source of both calcium and protein, cheese has become a staple in my backpack over the last few years. This is especially true of stinky cheeses, which keep well outside of the fridge and actually get better as the days pass. A good sprinkle of pecorino cheese or chunk of gruyere in your dinner stew and your taste buds will be jumping for joy.
Ready to fire up the camp stove? Here are a few fantastic camping recipes to try next time you hit the road.