I've grown to hate oatmeal. Even the sugary instant Quaker oatmeal, and even with a little added trail mix. I used to love it, but after many a backcountry trip where I (wrongly) believed oatmeal was my only breakfast option, I just can't make myself eat it anymore. I'd force myself to eat it anyway, thinking, "I'm camping; my food shouldn't taste good, it should just fuel me for the day." I've since started bringing things like dehydrated bacon and eggs from Mountain House, particularly on trips where minimizing weight is important. But I've also learned a lot about the endless possibilities for preparing meals I'll actually enjoy, even when I'm far from the comforts of home. The Paddling Chef and Camp Cooking in the Wild are two great resources for recipes, meal planning ideas and preparation tips for making food worth eating in the backcountry.
The Paddling Chef: A Cookbook for Canoeists, Kayakers and Rafters
The first time I went on a backcountry adventure that involved a canoe, I couldn't believe the freedom the boat offered with respect to carrying extra food and gear. Author Dian Weimer knows that backpackers and other land travelers are limited in the amount they can carry, but as a paddler, she's perfected a set of recipes that make the most of the extra space in a boat. With over 100 expedition-tested recipes in addition to valuable packing and transportation recipes, The Paddling Chef is a great addition to any paddler's collection.
Dian begins The Paddling Chef with a list of symbols applied to each recipe, including one for the number of pots or pans you'll need, the timing and if the recipe is vegetarian. She mentions the importance of menu planning and takes into account criteria like party size, the length of the trip, your weight limit and if you'll be adding freshly caught fish to the menu. Dian instructs readers on the importance of disposing of grey water properly, on how to transport meat, on types of breads that will travel well and which fruits and vegetables will last the longest.
Though all of the instructions are well and good, when I'm reading a recipe meant to be prepared in the backcountry that takes significant planning, it better taste good! Many of the recipes Dian provides are meals I'd be glad to cook and eat at home, including the sample salmon frittata recipe on Dian's website. It's obvious that the Vancouver-born paddler has a nack for cooking and eating well on water borne adventures.
Camp Cooking in the Wild: The Black Feather Guide to Eating Well in the Great Outdoors
As we learn and grow in our outdoor pursuits, many of us look to experienced guides who make their living playing outside for wisdom and advice. When it comes to good eating during any backcountry adventure, the Black Feather wilderness adventure team definitely has guidance to provide. With over 50 years of combined experience leading outdoor trips, authors Mark Scriver, Wendy Grater and Joanna Baker provide over 60 tried and true recipes for adventure enthusiasts in Camp Cooking in the Wild. They believe that food should be one of the highlights of the day and that each meal should be both delicious and nutritious.
The book begins with a chapter on kitchen equipment and considerations for different trips in addition to a later chapter on menu planning. Black Feather guides rafting, canoe, sea kayaking and hiking trips, all of which might require a different combination of equipment. Then, it's on to cooking tips like controlling the heat of a fire, using tinfoil and how to handle really wet weather complete with detailed photo instructions. Of course, managing and disposing of waste properly in the backcountry is an important piece of the puzzle and the Black Feather team provides strategies for that as well. The amount of space in the book given to all of the variables associated with eating in the backcountry, all 92 pages of it, are sure to teach you something.
When it comes to the recipes, Black Feather provides recipes I'd never even considered an option on a hiking trip, including apple crisp, chocolate mousse, yeast bread and sushi. Beautiful photographs of preparation and finished product make every single recipe look appetizing. Though I'm not sure I'd take the pots and pans some recipes require on a backpacking trip with a partner, if you have enough people in your group to divide up the gear, the possibilities are endless.
...A glossy, lavishly illustrated, fill-color what-to-eat for backpackers and paddlers...
The author's advice includes pointed suggestions that inexperienced people would not be able to supply themselves using common sense.
Recipes for food so varied you'll never want to buy those packs of freeze-dried, stewed stuff ever again...