Backpacking for a couple of days or more usually brings to mind a lot of granola bars and freeze dried meals. These are quintessential backpacking foods, but there are cheap and quick meals you can buy at the grocery store that will pack a little variety on that next weeklong trip on the trail.
1 – Ramen Noodles
A throwback to the years you were in college, these definitely aren’t the most nutritious meals in the world. They are however, delicious and cheap. They are also very easy to cook out on the trail, three minutes of boiling and you are done! The secret ingredient and most important part to this meal is the flavor packet, as these are conveniently small and made for single servings. This meal can also be enhanced with a few dehydrated vegetables, thrown in while cooking the ramen. The way I prepare my meals involves me buying about five packages of ramen, opening all of them and emptying all the noodles and packets into one plastic baggy; this helps with cutting down on waste out on the trail. When it comes time to cook, I just eyeball the amount of ramen that I need and I add one flavor packet. Easy as pie!
2 – Cous Cous
If you thought it couldn’t get any easier than cooking ramen noodles, think again. Cous cous involves emptying cous cous into boiling water and letting it sit for ten minutes. You don’t even have to let it heat over the stove, it just absorbs the hot water. This is ideal as it saves on fuel and you don’t have to tend to the stove to make sure it doesn’t boil over. Most grocery stores carry boxes of cous cous complete with flavor packets, thereby enhancing the cous cous experience. It’s a great filler and is a welcoming warm meal after a hard days hike out on the trail.
3 – Instant Rice
I always take a large resalable baggy of instant rice every time I go hiking. It is an awesome filler to any boilable meal that I might have and even does well on its own, coupled with a dash of your favorite seasoning blend. Instant rice usually only takes a couple of minutes over the stove and is good for a very long time on the shelf. It is also extremely light and it won’t matter if it gets smashed underneath the weight of all your gear.
4 – Pasta
These take a little longer to boil, and in my opinion require heavier sauces to be edible. They also crush and break apart easily under the duress of backpacking. There are some varieties of pasta that cook in four minutes, thereby making it a lot easier to cook by just soaking it in boiling water. Simply add dried parmesan cheese and you have yourself a cheesy pasta blend!
5 – Prepared freeze dried meals
These are definitely easier and the most convenient. They are most delicious and come in a number of different varieties. These do take up a little more room, but I find these best to eat as a treat on the trail, something to eat every couple of days, and it gives me that much more to look forward to at the end of the day. Of course, you can make your own but it takes time and some people’s time is better spent out on the trail!
All of these meals can be supplemented with numerous different dried ingredients and spices, making them into full-fledged multi-ingredient recipes. It all depends on how much work you want to put into it and how much you really enjoy food on the trail. Some people are satisfied with granola bars for every meal, and people like me really enjoy the time it takes to cook up a delicious hot meal and consuming it. Bon appetite!