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Eating Better in the Backcountry

September 8, 2009

A. and I are about to embark on our first, and only, backpacking trip of the season. Though it feels like summer is over – I’m sitting in front of the fire as I write this, with rain coming down outside – September is a perfect month to backpack in central Oregon. The weather is generally beautiful, dry, and not too hot, and the summer crowds on the hiking trails have subsided somewhat. We’re looking forward to enjoying the beauty of the mountains and the desert for a few days before A. begins his whirlwind internship year at acupuncture school.

I love the early human feeling I get from backpacking. Traveling by foot with all of my possessions on my back, assembling my own shelter each night, searching for water and collecting it from streams and rivers – it’s a simpler life, a far cry from the usual complications of cars, computers, and credit ratings.

Preparing food on the trail is a natural part of that simpler life, for me. Cooking and eating a delicious and nourishing meal after a long day of hiking is deeply restorative, and introduces an element of luxury that is not unwelcome when you’re going without showers and sleeping on a Thermarest. Pre-made, dehydrated meals can’t remotely compare.

Both A. and I are NOLS alumni, and on our expeditions, we learned some invaluable lessons about backcountry cooking. But NOLS food left a lot to be desired – our rations were high in refined starches, and low in protein, fiber, and other nutrients. After I finished my course and began planning my own backpacking trips, I knew I could do better.

In this series of posts, I’ll share with you all I’ve learned about cooking nutritious, tasty meals in the outdoors, from  equipment to foolproof recipes and cooking methods. If you live in a place where fall comes early, it may be too late for you to use the information this year, but file it away for next time. Your trip will be happier, and healthier, for it.

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