I love following Instagram accounts that produce absolutely beautiful meals over open fires and bushcraft stoves in front of equally beautiful mountainous landscapes. And I've always thought that I would do something very similar on my first over overnight backpack trip. However, now that I am planning a trip, my ideas for food have been shrinking down to a much shorter goal:
Keep myself from going to bed hungry.
I turned to an issue of TrailGroove Magazine for inspiration. They had an article in issue 46 about ultralight food options. Now, I'm not going to be "ultralight" backpacking. I have Wal-Mart and Acadamy Sports not so light equipment that will get me through the journey with relative comfort. I'm even considering taking my not so light external frame backpack for the sole reason that I love it. It is huge, old, and bulky but it was my first camping purchase from a thrift store. The zippers barely work. The main pouch has two tears in the bottom. I've had to install velcro to help keep the top flap down. It is a mess, and I have a new internal frame pack, but I'm still tempted.
So, anyway, it won't be an ultralight overnighter. I do, however, want as much food as possible while keeping the weight low. Between running, lifting weights, and skateboarding activities I need calories to maintain my 200 pound frame, and I eat a lot. I mean a lot. I'm sure hiking over five miles will make me pretty hungry too. Some of the ideas I'm using from the TrailGroove article involve instant oats for breakfast which is kind of a no-brainer as I always do instant oats for breakfast when camping. Much like I already do when camping, I add dried fruit and instant milk for added calories and protein.
For lunch they have rehydrated salsa with chips listed, but that doesn't really sound like a lunch to me. for dinner they suggested a ramen with parmesan. It was another meal that got me thinking that wouldn't really satisfy me. I know when I eat ramen at home I am a little picky. I like a boiled egg, some scallion, carrots...sometimes even a little drizzle of truffle oil (try it sometime, it is amazing). In a pinch I'll put some frozen veggies in it. I just don't care for ramen noodles in broth by themselves. So, I went to the grocery store, started looking around for some new ideas, and found a few interesting things in the soup aisle.
Here are the first three combos I have come up with:
1. Bear Creek Vegetable Beef Soup (with reduced sodium Beef Jerky)
I chose this soup because it has dehydrated vegetables and a larger variety of ingredients from other dehydrated soups. It has pasta, lentils, rice, carrots, and peas in a beef broth. Because of the sodium amounts in the soup I chose reduced sodium beef jerky. One packed of soup says it makes 8 servings but really it makes 4 (16 oz) servings. Add a few ounces of beef jerky crumbled into bite sized pieces and it packs a good protein punch as well. The real downside of this soup is that it takes fifteen minutes of simmering to be ready. Not a deal-breaker, but other soups cook in a third of the time.
2. Idahoan Creamy Potato Hearty Soup (with Spam)
This one has a better flavor than the beef soup and, because it is thick and hearty, it gives a more full feeling. One package makes two (16 oz) servings, and the spam is easily diced up and added to the soup as it cooks. One serving with one pack of Spam. I will say I was pleasantly surprised with the Spam. I have only tasted Spam one other time in my life and I remember not liking it at all. I really enjoyed the flavor in this soup. The one thing needed to make this soup just right is some hot sauce. I'm looking around for some portion controlled packs of sriracha for the hike.
3. Idahoan Cheddar Broccoli Hearty Soup (with Chicken)
The third soup I chose to try works pretty well with Spam or chicken, but I put chicken on the list for varieties sake. It is another potato based soup, but does have a different flavor from with the addition of cheese and broccoli. Don't expect it to be overflowing with broccoli, but the bits of broccoli are dispersed evenly throughout. Like the creamy potato soup, this is screaming for some hot sauce (or buffalo sauce).
All of three of these make for a good entree option for my overnight backpack trip at Devil's Den. Since this trip is just an overnight, and I don't want to unpack my stove to cook lunch, I will probably opt to only take one of these with me. My money is on the creamy potato soup with Spam. I think it was probably my favorite. I'll keep the beef jerky as a high protein snack option during the hike, and I might find a way to incorporate chicken at room temp for lunch. In fact, next up on my agenda is figuring out lunch.
David Thornton is a two time national award winning writer, chef, husband, father, and fitness enthusiast.