When setting up camp after a full day of backpacking, I’m ready to get food in my mouth as quickly and easily as possible. But I also want a hot meal, and I’m not into the price tag of dehydrated backpacking meals. Solution: DIY backpacking meals prepared with foods already in my pantry that only require boiling water and a few minutes of cooking time. Here’s my menu for an overnight backpacking trip; we made dinner and breakfast at camp, and brought plenty of snacks along to eat while hiking. Look for a bonus snack recipe at the end of the post!
Dinner is a twist on peanut noodles; since the long noodles usually used in this dish wouldn’t travel well, I substituted with couscous, which also cooks faster. I added sliced carrots to get some veggies in and a pouch of tuna for extra protein.
Breakfast is a camp standby, oatmeal. I switched it up a little by adding smoky spices to the traditional brown sugar and cinnamon. Top with pecans and butterscotch chips. I guess you could substitute dried fruit for the chips if you wanted, but trust me – if you haven’t tried butterscotch chips in oatmeal, you need to.
Oh, and if you’re looking for photos of the finished dishes…well, we were hungry. Sorry. I’ll try to remember next time.
Couscous with peanut sauce
For the peanut sauce:
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp sriracha*
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1.5 tsp honey*
- 1/4 cup peanut butter*
- 1 cup couscous
- 2 small carrots, sliced
- 2 pouches tuna*
At home: Whisk all peanut sauce ingredients together and store in a portable container (I used small plastic food storage containers with tight-sealing lids). Put the couscous in a ziplock bag or other container and the sliced carrots in a separate container.
At camp: Bring ~2 cups of water to a boil. Divide the couscous between two bowls. Once water is boiling, pour roughly 3/4 cup into each bowl – water should completely cover the couscous. Cover the bowls and let stand for 5 minutes. Check that couscous is cooked, then stir half the peanut sauce and one pouch of tuna into each bowl.
- I prefer a drippy natural PB for the sauce. Any type will work, but if it’s not drippy you may need to melt it a bit to get it to incorporate into the sauce.
- These amounts of sriracha and honey make for a pretty spicy sauce with just enough sweet to cut the acidity – adjust the sriracha and honey amounts to your preference.
- Omit tuna to make vegan.
Sweet and smoky camp oatmeal
Ingredients (per serving):
- heaping 1/2 cup regular or quick-cooking rolled oats
- 1-2tsp brown sugar, to taste
- 1/2tsp cinnamon
- 1/4tsp smoked paprika
- pinch chipotle powder (optional)
- 2tbsp pecans
- 1tbsp butterscotch chips
At home: If using regular rolled oats, pulse a few times in a food processor – the end result will resemble what you get in an instant oatmeal packet. No need to process if you’re using quick-cooking oats. Combine oats, brown sugar, and spices in a ziplock bag or other container. Combine pecans and butterscotch chips in another container.
At camp: Boil ~1 cup of water per serving. Add the oat mixture to a bowl and pour over ~2/3-3/4 cup water – oats should be completely covered. Cover the bowl and let stand for about 2 minutes. Check that the oatmeal is cooked to your liking, and add water if necessary for your desired texture. Stir in pecans and butterscotch chips.
Bonus! 3-ingredient trail mix recipe: Combine roughly equal amounts of roasted salted pumpkin seeds, slivered almonds, and dried cranberries. That’s it!
If you try any of these DIY backpacking meals, let me know how they turned out for you!
What’s your favorite backpacking food?
Do you snack along the trail or stop for a full lunch?