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Trail Food Ideas, Methods, and Recipes


Breakfast has staples. The oatmeal. The coffee. The hot cocoa. The Bagels. And all those work, but what I liked to carry was food that could be versatile in any meal. Couscous is one of them. Take raisins from your gorp and cinnamon and sugar that you carry in a mixture and combine them with hot, steaming couscous for a wonderful awakening meal. Couscous is good with honey in the morning, butter in a grits style, or even Strawberry Carnation instant breakfast for a fruity, carb fest. Consider about 1/4-1/3 cup of couscous per person and add spice, raisins, or other concoction to couscous however you like it.

The cinnamon and sugar mixture again comes into play in the use of hot beverages. I like the hot cocoa and others like the coffee. Add the cinnamon and sugar to the hot chocolate. I even experimented with a vanilla extract in my drink. I was sometimes at a loss as to how to use it for anything else, but the point is I tried it.

My favorite meal on the trail was my mom's pasta sauce (sorry can't give you the recipe), but I can tell you how I enjoyed it and enjoyed many homemade meals. Mom made the sauce and I made the spaghetti. We prepared the entire meal just like we were going to eat it then. I then dehydrated the cooked spaghetti and dehydrated the sauce separately. When done I packaged in a vacuum-sealed bag and stored. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to enjoy home-cookin' in the bush. A dehydrator is really your best friend. You can do so much with it. Entire meals, meats, fruits, veggies in any number of combinations.

The most ingenious cooking award definitely went to Skittles who figured out a way to make pizza on the trail. Skittles had a non-stick pot (which is definitely recommended if you want to get crazy in the kitchen) and he purchased pizza dough, sauce in a bottle, cheese (brick is fine), and pepperoni slices. He mixed the dough with water and spread in pot. It rose and he added sauce, cheese, and the meat. It was awesome. You could even use the last three ingredients in a tortilla for a snack. I also got thinking about the pizza dough. If you carry jelly for PB&J (I always did. A great snack!) you could add the pizza dough to the pot and spread a thin layer of jelly with some cinnamon and sugar. Roll the dough up into a log and when done, cut segments off for a kind of breakfast hot bun.

In backcountry cooking proportions and cooking times are really irrelevant for yourself. You're going to eat as much as you want and you're going to eat it any way you want. Sometimes you have minimal fuel or you have no simmer/ boil control and you just have to cook it any way that works and you're going to be okay with. Also, you've got to vary your meals. I did this by experimenting. Food gets old quick and most times that's the highlight of your day. Use your judgment as you find stuff, mix it up, and cook it. You're on a diet on the AT anyway, no matter how much you eat you can never seem to get enough and you're losing weight, so try new things. Concoct things and try them out! But stay away from things that just don't sound good. I remember someone put an Oriental Shrimp Ramen packet in the their hot chocolate. Now, why would you do that?

Our thanks to Iron Chef Connecticut, 2003 Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, for submitting this article about food on the Trail.

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