When you travel with Wildland, our guides take care of meal planning and pack the necessary gear so you can approach your upcoming trip worry-free. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to know what goes on behind the scenes so we’re going to let you in on a few of our secrets.
Venturing out on your own? If you want to re-create your Wildland culinary experience, the following info is for you too! Let’s talk cook kits and menu planning…
Backcountry Cook Kit:
The poet Rumi said,
“Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.”
When I pack and purchase gear for backpacking, this is a philosophy I strive to achieve. Bring the necessary gear plus a few creature comforts, and let go of excess. Extra items increase pack weight, bulk, complexity, and expense. My cook kit fits within Rumi’s simple framework. I want to eat well without a heavy, complicated cooking kit. You too? Great. Let’s delve deeper…
The following 4 categories and Pro Tips will help you select the gear you need for your cooking style.
My favorite stove (and the one we use at Wildland Trekking) is the MSR Pocket Rocket. I hiked the entire 2,185 Appalachian Trail with mine and never had an issue.
Pros and Cons:
The advantage of canister stoves like the Pocket Rocket is that they vary their heat output better than a JetBoil or other stoves so simmering and boiling options are more within your control. They are also reliable, easy to use, and lightweight.
A drawback is that the canisters are not environmentally friendly. They are often single use so you cannot bring the exact amount of fuel you need. They also don’t have a particularly large base so large pots can tip over easily if you are not careful.
Overall, I believe the benefits largely outweigh the drawbacks.
Pro tip: Always bring 2 lighters! A match and lighter combination will work too. I store them in different places so if one fails, or gets wet for example, it’s not cold soaked pasta for dinner, yuck!
Pots and Pans:
Do you want more than one? Are you going to use a frying pan or do you only need pots? This is all a matter of personal preference and cooking style.
On 1-2 person backpacking trips, I recommend you bring just one pot. Find recipes for 1-pot meals, there are lots of tasty ones out there. This keeps it light, simple and satisfying.
Bring a frying pan for these trip types: lower mileage, car camping, or larger groups. In these scenarios, the weight/bulk isn’t so impactful and the options for meals increase exponentially.
GSI, MSR, and Titanium Evernew are examples of brands who make quality cooking gear.
Take a moment to think about your cooking style and decide if bringing a spoon will suffice or whether you might need additional utensils. For example, if you’re bringing frying pans, a spatula for stirring/flipping is super useful. On the other hand, stirring a boiling pot with an ultralight titanium spoon gets quite hot!
Wildland Trekking uses folding GSI Camp Spatulas which are compact and very useful with frying pans. Otherwise, a simple Lexan spoon should do the trick for everything you need.
Pro tip: GSI’s Compact Scraper is amazing! It’s basically a handheld spatula to scrape your bowl/pot clean, making cleaning easier and eliminating extra food waste when cleaning dishes.
Option 1: Preseason all your meals at home. Bring a small bottle of hot sauce if desired – done!
Option 2: In small, snack size plastic baggies, place a few pinches of the spices you need for your meals. This creates a lightweight spice kit and these smaller containers can be placed in a larger sandwich bag for easy storage.
Of course on our trips, we do 100% of this for you so you can relax, take pictures, chat with friends new and old and enjoy your vacation.
3-day Backcountry Cooking Guide
Looking for inspiration for your next outdoor adventure? Check out this menu from my last Wildland backpacking trip. The emphasis is on tasty, lightweight and simple meals that will sustain you throughout your adventure. Note how I try to reuse ingredients without sacrificing variety. Pack just what you need to keep it light.
Pro Tip: You can separate meals into large ziplocs containing all of the items you need for easy organization. Grab the ingredients and hit the trail!
Breakfast: If you’re getting an early start, I recommend bringing breakfast from home. Favorite combos:
- Fruit, yogurt, and muffin
- Bagel with cream cheese and jelly
- Smoothie with protein powder and toast
- 2.5 oz. flavored tuna pouch ex: lemon pepper
- Box of hearty crackers ex: Mary’s Gone Crackers (GF) (enough for all lunches)
- 8 oz. block of cheese (used for all lunches and optional for dinner)
Dinner – Cheddar Broccoli Soup
- 1 precooked sausage ex: Aidell’s Cajun Style Andouille
- 1 handful precut broccoli florets
- ¾ – 1C Bear Creek Country Kitchen Cheddar Broccoli soup mix
- Cheese from lunch block (optional)
- 2-3 C water depending on desired consistency
Bring water to a boil, add soup mix reducing to a simmer for 5 minutes. Stir consistently to avoid burning. Add sausage and broccoli and simmer another approx. 5 min.
- ¾ C granola
- Additional dried fruit and nuts
- 1-2 T powdered milk
- 1 small package pepperoni or salami (used for Lunch 2 and 3)
- Crackers (remember, you packed enough for the full 3 days!)
- Block of cheese (should still have plenty from Day 1’s 8oz block)
- Dried mangos or other fruit of choice
Dinner – Chicken Mac and cheese
- 1 can chicken
- ½ box mac and cheese plus a few T powdered milk
- Handful dried mushrooms, crushed
- Cheese from lunch block (optional)
Bring water, pasta, and mushrooms to a boil and cook completely. Drain leaving a small amount of water for moistening the cheese and powdered milk packets. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
- 2 packets of instant oatmeal
- Dried fruit and nuts for topping
- 1-2 T powdered milk
- 1 individual pouch peanut butter or almond butter (Jiff & Justin’s brands make single serve packets)
- 1 small package pepperoni or turkey pepperoni (used for Lunch 2 and 3)
- 1 handful banana chips
Dinner – Salmon mashed potatoes
- 2.5 oz. pouch salmon
- ½ – 3/4 packet Idahoan brand Butter and Herb instant mashed potatoes
- Handful of broccoli and/or dried mushrooms
- Cheese (optional)
- 1-1.5 C water
Bring water and broccoli/mushrooms to a boil and simmer until cooked. Add potatoes and salmon, stir and let stand 1-2 min.
- 3 granola/protein bars
- 2.5 cups trail mix
- 1 package jerky
Drinks: tea/coffee/hot cocoa as desired, electrolyte drink mix packets
There’s nothing like a hearty, delicious meal at the end of a long day of exploring the great outdoors, but who wants to spend hours cooking?! It is possible to eat well without exhausting yourself in the process; it just takes planning and preparation ahead of time so you can spend more time star gazing and less time worrying about dinner.