You’ve got a grounding in your cooking gear so here’s some idea of what you can cook with it.
Food will add up to at least 500g per day, probably nearer a kilo (which is an often quoted figure for daily food weight) as not all food will be dehydrated. A single Mars bar weighs 60g so it soon mounts up. If you can eat seeds and dried fruit, then this is the best trail food, but I can’t stomach it. I need proper, cooked food and it is the one thing I both won’t and can’t compromise on. The next article explains a bit more on the kind of foods you can take with you on your first wild camp but with all the possibilities open to you it’s certainly just a taster (sorry!)
I personally think this is one of the most important aspects of the whole trip. If you’ve had a foul day, slipping in mud, soaked to the skin and frozen along the way, then a decent meal will help lift your spirits. A little tot of whiskey might help too (but remember it lowers body temperature, so don’t drink alcohol if you feel cold, or a possible hypothermia victim), as will a decent brew or both.
The easiest and most convenient option is to buy specialist backpacking food. That means pre-packaged foods such as Wayfarers and dehydrated options. The First Choice Expedition website has an extensive choice of food as do Reiter. Wayfarers do a wet food that’s meant to be quite good, but heavy. I tried the chocolate pudding and wasn’t too impressed. The main drawback with the above options is price. A main meal can cost over £4 so if you need 3 a day then it starts looking expensive for long trips, or if you overnight often. The dehydrated ones are obviously lighter than the ready to eat varieties and the best advice is to try a few out and see if they please you.
An alternative is the Look What We Found range that’s available in the supermarket. These are probably some of the tastiest ‘ping’ meals that you can get and on the hill and are a taste of absolute luxury! The meatballs are my favourites as you can take a few of these with you on a multi night trip and bulk up with dried pasta, so you get a meal that’s not too heavy, but of the highest quality.
Dehydrate your own? The option that solves this is to get a dehydrator to make your own dried meals. They aren’t cheap, or easy to find, which means you need to be camping often to get your money back. Though once bought, you just need to make an extra portion of your meal and then bag it ready for your trip. The thought of a proper Beef Madras on the hill makes this a tempting but expensive option.
Cheaper than this, and ideal for trips of a couple of nights, is to just bag and freeze your portions of food. It should usually last fresh from morning one to evening 2. Remember, you only need to bag your ‘sauce’ and then you can boil up your ‘stodge’ separately. By this I mean dried potato, rice, pasta, noodles or cous cous. It is a method I always use overnight, and is a cheap compromise. These meals are still lighter than ready to eat boil in the bag meals, as you carry the bulk of the meal in a dehydrated form. I’ve been known to take a tinned curry for a 2nd night’s meal when I’ve not been able to organise myself. Not much heavier than a regular wet meal, just make sure it’s got a ring pull!
Finally, there’s the option of buying dried supermarket foods to make up a meal. These are just some of the dried staples you can get off the shelf.
- Boil in the Bag rice. Whack it in boiling water and leave it for 15mins while you cook the sauce. Worth its weight in gold.
- Egg noodles cook quicker than pasta, but both are great additions to your meals.
- Beanfeast. Various flavours, so there’s bound to be one that pleases. Bolognese flavour with pasta and parmesan is almost good!
- Smash. Various flavours available, Ideal with minced beef beanfeast.
- Pasta n’ sauce is a bit bland, but convenient to carry.
- Super noodles and pot noodles are an ideal snack if you can stomach them.
- Vesta make a couple of different meals, certainly very retro.
- Cous cous comes in an instant variety and is an ideal camping food.
- Oats So Simple can be made with dried milk for a warming breakfast or use the pot version.
Nowt wrong with a bit of luxury now and then! In fact, it’s to be encouraged!
Tesco Instant custard is surprisingly good! This stuff used to taste like licking lino, but somewhere in the last fifteen years they’ve cracked it! Put a cake bar in there and you’ve got a proper pudding. That goes without mentioning dried milk, dried soups and many other options.
If you see an instant product in the supermarket, it’s worth giving it a shot. You can always pep it up with some chilli or herbs.
The biggest problem is daytime foods, with the only option I’m able to take is either primula or tinned pate with oatcakes, perhaps with warm soup, but I’ll munch down on my other snacks before eating these. Some can live on seeds and berries during the da; gorp or trail mix as it’s called. Not to my taste though, my stomach would be complaining rather loudly over that one. Bread is awkward to carry, but pittas are more practical. We’ll be looking soon at baking bread on the trail, including making trail pizzas, so keep an eye out for that one!
Wash it all down with sachets of hot chocolate or coffee that already come with milk. If you’re a tea drinker then you’ll need whitener (yuck!) or powdered milk and make up some milk in a small bottle in the morning. If you want proper coffee, click here for more information.
Lunch – usual packed lunch
Supper – Soup, Pouch meal and pasta/rice. Instant custard
Day 2 –
Breakfast – Oats so simple pot.
Lunch – Oat Cakes and Tuna Pate, soup.
Supper – Soup, bean feast, egg noodles and parmesan. Instant custard.
And so on… You’ll need to bulk up with your usual day walking snacks and as much coffee, tea or hot chocolate as you’ll need.
Easy! Bag it all up into days and meals so only what you need is to hand and keeps you from drinking all the hot chocolate on the first night, though you’ll need willpower to ration the single malt. If you want to get really inspired, there’s a free cook book for backpackers at this link, and keep an eye on this site as we’ll be posting more adventurous (mainly oven based) recipes over the coming months.