How does freeze-dried chili sound for dinner? After a long day of hiking with a 20 to 40 pound backpack, almost anything sounds good. Lots of the pre-made backpacking dinners on the market today are pretty tasty, but they can have gassy side effects. One reviewer on REI.com for Alpine Aire Black Bart Chili said, "I lay in the sleeping bag trying to sleep but the noxious fumes kept us up all night gasping for air."
While that's funny to read, it's not exactly the experience I want backpacking. When I planned my recent backpacking trip along the Metolious River, I asked my fellow backpackers if they wanted to try some non-dehydrated, freeze-dried food experiments.
Quick Grocery Store Backpacking MealA
my, co-owner of Bend's Sunny Yoga Kitchen, was in charge of dinner. She set out to recreate the MaryJanesFarms Lentils, Rice & Indian Spice backpacking meal from items you can easily find in the grocery store, combining a package of Mediterranean curry couscous and ready-to-heat spelt, green lentils and long grain brown rice with Tasty Bite Thai vegetable curry. The preparation was very simple. After adding hot water to the couscous, the other items only needed to be heated. She whipped up dinner in minutes and served it with crispy, whole wheat sesame crackers for texture. I was surprised at how flavorful the dish was. The vegetable curry had some heat and made the dish way more exciting than I expected. The original backpacking meal didn't have nearly as much spice. By using grocery store ingredients, Amy also saved some cash. The backpacking meal is $8 per serving; Amy's re-creation was $2.45 per serving. The only downside was that we had to clean the cooking pot. The backpacking meal heats in its own bag.
Backcountry From Scratch Cinnamon RollsI
've spent endless amounts of time scrolling through Pinterest for ideas. To decide what to make for our backpacking experiment, I looked through the pins I'd been saving to my "camping and backpacking" board. I was looking for something sweet for dessert and found a recipe for no-rise cinnamon buns in a pin about setting up a backcountry kitchen. I've never actually made cinnamon buns, but hey, why not use my time in the woods to learn? What could go wrong?
The preparation was pretty easy; basically dumping all the ingredients into a sealable food storage bag and squishing it with my fingers until it formed dough. The recipe said a small ball would form when the dough came together, but no amount of manipulation made this happen. Maybe this wasn't a big deal. The next step was to remove the dough from the bag and form it into a rectangle using another bag as a clean work surface. The dough was sticking to my hands, but I managed to flatten it into a rectangular-ish shape, sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar and roll it into a log. Cleverly, the recipe called for using dental floss to slice the log into individual rolls — a useful tip even for the home kitchen. The rolls looked legit and I placed them around the edges of a buttered pan.
It was time to place them on the camp stove and let them cook for 10 minutes. As the pan heated, the aroma of cinnamon and warm dough filled the air—but the delightful aroma didn't last long before it turned into the acrid smell of something burning. Damn! The white gas-fueled WhisperLite stove was set at the lowest temperature. Amy suggested we move it to her single burner propane stove because it might provide gentler heat. After a few minutes the cinnamon rolls began burning again. The only option was to keep removing the pan from the heat every couple of minutes to keep the temperature down. At the same time, I flipped the rolls. The recipe said our dessert would be done in 15 minutes. Thirty minutes later the dough was still raw in the center, but everything else was so burned it was time to throw in the towel. Chock this one up to a Pinterest fail!
Luckily, one of our experiments worked—and maybe there's a reason the cinnamon roll recipe is an illustration and not a photo. I believe backcountry cinnamon rolls are a myth. Can anyone prove me wrong?