Trail Food

We all have to hike our own hike. For me that means a vegetarian diet on and off the trail. Actually in addition to vegetarian fare, I do eat a little diary (mostly small amounts of cheese and butter), eggs from free range chickens, and fish. Here are some ideas for simple, lightweight, meatless trail meals.Most of us are are not total carnivores so take a look, even if you are not a veg head, you may find something you can use.

When I said simple and light weight, I meant just that. My cook kit, for example, typically consists of one .6 L titanium pot (lid cut from an aluminum pie plate), a Lexon spoon, a titanium Sierra cup, and a Trangia 28 alcohol burning stove. Hey, you're out for a hike not an experience in fine dining.

I really get a lot of use out of my Excalibur Food Dehydrator. With its nine 15" X 15" trays I can dry lots of fruits, vegetables, and even tofu. Drying is a great way to save extra produce from the garden and to take advantage of those in season lower prices. If I'm out for just a weekend, however, I eat a combination of fresh and dried food.


Here is my recipe for cereal. I make it in big batches and eat it almost daily on or off the trail:

Ingredients Directions
2 cups rolled oats (oatmeal)
2 cups rolled rye
2 cups Post Grape Nuts
2 cups sunflower seeds
2 cups dried cranberries
2 cups raisins
2 cups date pieces
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup walnut pieces (about 20 halves)
1 Tbsp. (rounded) unsalted dry soy nuts
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 Tbsp. ground flax seed (grind at home w/a coffee grinder or purchase pre- ground)
powdered milk or powdered soy milk.

Mix all the ingredients through sesame seeds together in a very large bowl or bag. Add one serving; 3/8 - 1/2 cup (depending on your appetite) of the mixture to a plastic sandwich size bag, then add the walnuts, soy nuts, ground flax, cinnamon and nutmeg. On the trail, boil 2/3 cup of water, add the mix, cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Finally add water to powdered milk (or powdered soy milk) to make a cup of milk and add part or all of this to the cooked cereal. At home I cook the cereal for 2 minutes in the microwave.

I add the walnuts, flax seed, and soy nuts to each days serving rather than to the bulk mix because I consider them important nutrients and I want to be sure to get my daily portion. (Flax and walnuts for Omega 3 fatty acids, soy for its many health benefits). Also, I store the flax seed and walnuts in the refrigerater until ready to add to the mix.

There are variations you can also try. The dried fruits and nuts can, of course, be varied to your taste. For a no cook breakfast use quick oatmeal and Grape Nuts and skip the rye, or stick with the original mix and add water in the evening to soak overnight.


Breakfast Bars

Here is a recipe that appeared in Backpacker Magazine (May 2000). These would be good for rainy mornings or quick start days when you just want to grab a bite as you walk.

Daniel Bars

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 - 1/2 cup each of raisons, dried cranberries and chopped nuts

Mix all and press into an microwaveable pan. Microwave on high for 5 to 7 min. or ‘til mixture starts to turn brown. It should be soft to the touch. Cool, cut into squares and wrap in plastic. Yield: 8-9 bars.

I do these in the oven. Grease the bottom of the pan. Heat the oven to 350 and bake about 30 minutes or until the mixture starts to turn brown. Cut into bars before completely cooled. I have also tried olive oil instead of butter. The taste is fine but they tend to fall apart when cutting the bars. If that is okay with you, go for it.

Cranberry-Orange Cereal

3/4 cup bulgur
6 tbsp dired cranberries
3 tbsp orange powder
4 tbsp toast chopped walnuts
Home: Place all ingredients except nuts in a plastic bag
Trail: Add 11/2 cups cold water to the bag and let stand overnight. In the morning, add walnuts.
Serves 2


Every time you take a break (about 5 minutes every hour or so for me) have a little snack. Here are a couple of ideas:
GORP: I mix chocolate covered raisons with cashews, brazil nuts, etc.
Bars: Health Valley Blueberry and Raspberry Tarts. Newtons - Fig, Raspbery, Blueberry etc., Tyler's Energy Bars (recipe below)
Dried Fruit & Veggies: Homemade fruit roll ups (also called fruit leather), dried pineapple, grapefuit, apples, pears, mangos, parsnips, turnips, tomatoes

Tyler's Energy Bars
Mix in a food processor:
4 Tbspn orange juice
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbspn lemon juice
20 dried figs (add one at a time)
5 dried dates

Mix separately:
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbspn oil
1/4 cup molasses
2 eggs or egg substitute
Optional: 1 tsp dried ginger , 1/4 cup slivered almonds

Combine the two mixtures into a sticky dough.
Roll into golf sized balls (makes 20-24)
Optional: coat with 1 cup oat bran

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, Store in fridge or freezer. These will be soft, not crunchy and dry like most energy bars. Delicious!




A quick cooking Moroccan pasta. To prepare Bring water to a boil. add couscous, oil and salt. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Use one and one half times as much water as couscous. Add re-hydrated veggies (broccoli, peas, beans, corn, onions, tomatos etc.) and you have a meal. I have discovered a whole grain version which I now use exclusively.

Lentil Dinner

dried split peas
onion soup mix
white rice
Take a handful of lentils and twice as much dried split peas and boil in 2 cups of water. Add some onion soup mix if available. Fresh onions are preferable. Then add one or two cloves of garlic (crushed or sliced) and enough rice to feed you. Add extra water if necessary, more if you like some sauce left over to dip your stale bread in. This dish retains its heat very well in cold conditions

Potatoes and Black Beans

I cook mashed potatoes at home, then dry them, but you can buy dehydrated potatoes. In camp, prepare the potatoes, then rehydrate dried black bean soup, but don't add the full amount of water. Pour the beans over the potatoes. You can use a tortilla as a plate. Some people may want to add some parmason cheese.


Soup: Most of the dried single serving soups in a cardboard cup are thin and not worth the bother. Dried pea soup, however, is thick and hearty. I found some really good squash soup at our food coop and it dried perfectly in our Excalibur.

Lipton Dinners, angel hair spaghetti etc. place contents in a freezer bag or your cooking pot, add boiling water, let stand 15 min., add a little more boiling water to heat it up and serve.


0.5 cups bulgur
2 one-cup containers of instant black bean soup
3.5 cups water
At home: Empty the contents of the soup containers into a zip-lock bag along with the bulgur. On the trail: Add the dry ingredients to boiling water, turn off heat, cover, and let sit 10-15 minutes. A slice of cheddar cheese or a few corn chips sets off the flavors of this dish nicely. It doesn't matter if the corn chips get crushed in your pack, since they'll still add crunch. Add a packet of salsa if you want even more zip. Serves 2.


Smoothie: Mix equal parts of vanilla instant pudding, orange powder (Tang is okay), and soy milk powder. Add water to the disired thickness, stir and enjoy.

Rehydrate fruit leathers or dried fruit.