A campfire is what many consider a favorite camping pastime and one of tradition, skill, warmth, romance, and safety. Unfortunately in the High Peaks Region camp fires are not allowed. But what do you do for food when you can’t use an open flame to roast a hotdog, have s'mores, or fry up that delicate trout you just caught? Well, that’s when you have to turn to your stove and your imagination.
Stoves have been used for years to cook food, but a similar pastime is using that open flame to do some of it for you. What I am about to talk to you about is no big secret and nothing that is overly difficult to do or figure out on your own, but it might just get you thinking about your next meal in the woods without having to rely as much upon freeze dried meals. You also might be surprised and ponder, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Freeze Dried MealsThese tasty morsels, well, maybe not all are what I would consider tasty, but some are pretty good; they usually contain a ton of salt and preservatives. I use the freeze dried fruits and vegetables to supplement some of the meals I prepare at home. For example; I will add a packet of freeze dried strawberries to my oatmeal, or a packet of freeze dried green beans to a cheesy potato soup. So keep that in mind as you read further. Also, don’t be afraid of adding these fruits and veggies to other meals once they are rehydrated, they taste similar to those you would by frozen in the supermarket.
The most important meal of the day, hands down. Many of you rely on the grand old standby of oatmeal, but if you are like me, sometimes you have to choke it down after years of the same old thing. Consider your favorite cereal in the back-country. Like Fruit Loops? Take a serving and dump it into a zip lock bag, then add powdered milk to the bag, seal it up. When you are ready for it, add cold water and mix, eat right from the bag. No mess, no clean-up, and you would have a hard time telling it was dried milk.
Hard boiled eggs; do it at home and save time on the trail, and you don’t have the worry of them breaking on the way in. They will last through the night and even a couple days if the temperatures are cool enough.
Pre-cooked bacon; it’s lightweight and tastes good cold. There is no need to heat it up unless you want to; bacon grease is a mess and it’s a perfect attractant for bears.
Your lunch is more of what you might consider trail food. Many campers in the High Peaks head out onto the trail right after breakfast and return back for dinner, me included. What I recommend is if you are going to be on the trail through lunch, do what you would normally and bring your snack bars, and such. Keep this in mind though: there are many foods you can bring that will last longer than you might imagine when in the back country. Cheeses, dried meats, salami, pepperoni, pickles, hummus, pre-cut veggies; all of these will last a couple days at camp without the worry of spoiling. Keep crackers, breads, and pretzels in a dry bag; they tend to collect moisture and go limp and stale if not kept sealed up.
A nice lunch can be a soup on the trail. Consider a Jetboil stove, they are self-contained, lightweight and very efficient. Pick up some Lipton Cup-of-Soup, Ramen, or Mrs. Grass soups for on the trail, just add boiling water, wait a bit, and you are ready to eat.
This is a big one - there are so many lightweight options outside of those high priced freeze dried meals, which you can get right in your supermarket. Here is a quick list of stuff to look into, but not a full list by any means:
- Packets of tuna or chicken – add to any dish for added protein and flavor.
- Tortilla/flour wraps – use to make tortillas or wraps when utilizing freeze dried meals like rice and beans or chili.
- Powdered milk – for premade soups in a bag. For cheesy potato soup add salt and pepper, dried milk, dried cheese, instant potatoes into a zip lock bag – just add hot water and you have a warm filling soup.
- Instant rice – just add water to rehydrate. Mix in some chicken, seasonings, and some freeze dried (rehydrated) veggies and you have a nice meal.
- Instant grits – have these savory or sweet. Add just a touch of some brown sugar for a sweet treat. Or, mix in some basil, grated parmesan cheese, black pepper and some dried onion (rehydrated) and you have a side dish that will stick to your bones.
- Instant potatoes – easy and fast. Add just about anything to potatoes and it tastes good!
- Rice meals in a bag – tons of different flavors to choose from. Spice them up with some pepper flakes, or even some pouches of meats.
- Soups in a box – add some dehydrated veggies and a bit of extra water and you have a hearty soup. Throw in small bits of jerky to add salt and flavor. The meat will rehydrate.
- Pasta - add tuna and dried cheese with some basil and oregano and you have a tuna casserole.
- Pasta meals in a bag.
- Cheese powder – works in a ton of different food ideas, best if rehydrated first unless used in soups.
- Zatarain’s meals – perfect as they are.
- Spices – buy a small kit of plastic bottles, or a box of snack-sized zip lock bags and have a full kitchen of spices for the trail to add flavor to any meal.
- Shake and Pour batter – perfect for breakfast too. But these work well if you add a bit less water and mix in a separate dish. You can have biscuits that can be baked in a fry pan.
- Crackers, cracklin’ breads – added crunch to the top of a casserole or as breads throughout your trip.
- Baguette – get right from your local bakery. They are long and narrow and fit in your bag or strapped to the outside. Hearty and they hold up to travel.
- Bear canister - don't forget these, you will need them in the High Peaks, it is a requirement.
So to recap a bit, you don’t need a fire to cook; all you need is a good stove and well laid out plan; and for the same reason you don’t need to rely on freeze dried meals to get you through a long weekend in the High Peaks. Stop by one of our local gear shops to find a camp stove, and be sure to talk to a guide to lead the way if you aren't quite ready to try this on your own just yet!