Meal Idea: Backpacking Dinner Staples

Because my backpacking trips are often multi-month endeavors, I tend to know about them quite awhile in advance.  As a result, I usually get a chance to plan out my dehydrated meals carefully and cook big batches of each dish, which I then divvy up among the weeks of the trek.  However, most hikers and backpackers take shorter trips and might decide to head into the woods on a whim, when vacation days pile up and inspiration strikes.  This meal idea is for those hikers.

Preparing a delicious, rehydrateable meal — or a week’s worth of the same — after work on Thursday night before heading out for a trip on the weekend is simple.  You just need to spend a bit of time in the supermarket and utilize some very-American microwaveable packaging.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A packet (or two or three or five) of Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice — Feel free to experiment with flavors and spices.  My favorite used to be Thai-style rice, but I haven’t found that packet for a year or so.  I think I prefer Spanish-style and teriyaki these days.
  • A packet (or two or three or five) of microwaveable vegetable mixes — Again, it’s fun to experiment with combinations and flavors.  I have a soft spot for the Asian Medley by Bird’s Eye, but I can’t really think of one that I don’t like.  It’s hard to go wrong with vegetables.  (Except water chestnuts.)
  • A can (or two or three or five) of beans — I tend to go for black beans, dark red kidney beans, or garbanzos, and I select the variety by considering what might pair well with the rice and veggies I’ve selected.  As a vegan, I also love using strip-style meat substitutes (or vegetarian steak tips) for this category.
  • Tortillas

Shopping for ingredients is actually the most difficult part of the process.  Once you’ve gathered all your supplies, simply microwave the rice and veggies (and meat substitutes, if that’s the route you chose to go).  Then, chop any large vegetables into small pieces to ensure that they will dehydrate quickly and completely; drain and rinse the beans; spread the rice, veggies, and protein onto dehydrating trays; and let them dry for 5-8 hours.

Once your food has dehydrated, assemble quart-size Ziploc freezer bags with a serving or two each of rice, vegetables, and protein and toss them, along with several tortillas, into your pack.  Then, you’re ready to hit the trail!  After each day of hiking, just rehydrate the mixture in a bag, wrap it in a tortilla, and enjoy a warm dinner burrito.

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