Feeding Yourself in the Forest: Cooking Gear and Food for Backpackers

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If you’re car camping and don’t mind filling a couple of coolers with ice, you can pretty much bring whatever food you like, but once you venture into the world of backpacking, things get more complicated. For starters, you can’t bring anything that’ll spoil, so things like fresh meat and dairy will be tricky to impossible.

Additionally, most fresh foods are full of water, which is one of the heaviest things you can conceivably carry. So, you’ll usually want to leave the fresh tomatoes and oranges at home.

In terms of conventional foods, this pretty much leaves you with things like rice, nuts, seeds, and canned meats. Throw in some spices and a bit of olive oil and you can slap together some halfway decent dinners.

But an easier option is to purchase ready-to-make, dehydrated meals specifically designed for outdoor cooking. And because they’re dehydrated, you don’t have to worry about things like spoilage and water weight completely. And don’t worry, the good ones are actually pretty tasty. They’re not going to be confused with Michelin-star restaurant food, but they’re not bad. 

  • 1 to 2 dehydrated meals per day
  • 1 to 2 large snack bags per day (trail mix, nuts, chocolate, etc.)
  • Small container cooking oil
  • Salt, pepper, and any other spices want
  • Coffee, tea or hot chocolate
  • Sugar, creamer, honey or other warm-drink additives
  • Drink mixes
  • Condiments

Cooking Equipment

  • Matches, lighter or fire starter
  • Stove
  • Fuel for stove
  • Grill rack
  • Portable coffee maker
  • Paper towels or napkins
  • Pot scrubber
  • Cutting board
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • 1 mug or cup per person
  • Eating utensils
  • Cooking utensils
  • 1 large pot
  • 1 medium pot
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil
  • Cooking oil/Pam spray
  • 1 bowl per camper
  • Knife
  • Bottle opener, can opener, corkscrew
  • Dishwashing basin  
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Sponge
  • Dish towel
  • Mixing bowl
  • Potholders/oven mitts

Water Purification & Storage

  • Water bottle or canteen
  • Collapsible 5-gallone water container
  • Water purifier
  • Emergency water tablets

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