On Backpacking

4 Comments » | Posted by Dirty Girls on Friday, November 5th, 2010

Backpacking

Backpacking is one of the ultimate outdoor adventure activities. It can take you to some of the most remote places in the world, and it is often the only way to gain access to these locations. The feeling that comes from successfully making it to a breathtaking destination after several days/weeks/months on foot is incomparable. Everyone should go backpacking at least once.

When it comes to defining “backpacking”, there are many different interpretations of the activity. We thought we’d take some time to explain the differences in backpacking styles, and give you an idea of what we mean when we label a recipe as backpacking friendly.

First of all, backpacking basically means going on a trip that lasts at least one night, and requires you to carry anything you’ll need for the duration of your trip in a backpack. It doesn’t technically have to be a wilderness trip, since many people backpack through countries and enjoy cities and hostels/hotels the whole time. It doesn’t even technically require that you wear your own pack, if you consider taking pack animals with you acceptable. It should, however, have something to do with you being able to sustain yourself for a certain amount of time. Some backpackers go the ultralight route, cutting down the weight they take with them to a minimum so they can move through the trails ultrafast. Less weight-conscious backpackers choose to bring more comfort items, and are willing to take 12-packs of beer, chairs, books, and other surprising items. Dirty Gourmet backpacking usually fits somewhere in between.

The three of us have backpacked a good amount in our lives. The longest trips last around two weeks (unless you count the 4-month bike tour), and we’re not opposed to a quick overnight trip on a weekend. None of us focus too much on the ultralight mentality, since we are mainly recreational with the activity, rather than hugely goal-oriented. We also don’t need too many luxuries, since we understand the beauty of being able to walk back out of the woods instead of limp at the end of the trip. We aren’t opposed to difficulty. This is often the major factor that guarantees you get away from people and see magnificent places. We backpack up mountains and through snow storms with enthusiasm. It’s worth it. Remember, you’re getting away from your normal everyday activities to have an adventure!

Backpacking North Palisades

So, we classify backpacking recipes broadly enough that all groups of backpackers will be happy to include them in their packs. Our main philosophy with food is that it is possible and often easy to incorporate delicious creative meals into any trip. Here are the specific rules we follow as closely as possible:

  • Few perishables. You should be able to take our backpacking recipes with you on any length trip, and in any climate. Some ingredients are included that should be eaten on only short trips, or within the first few days. In Dirty Gourmet terms, perishables are anything that cannot last outside the fridge for more than a day. These include items like most dairy and fresh meats. We do include items including hard cheeses, summer sausages, and fresh vegetables sometimes, because these items will last up to a few days. If you are taking an extended trip (longer than 5 days), you should try to eat recipes including these items within the first few days, and move on to completely non-perishable meals by the end of the trip.
  • Light. As we explained, the Dirty Gourmet philosophy allows for some luxuries, but we are still weight-conscious while still trying to create a fulfilling food experience.
  • No mess. We try to write the recipe so you dirty the least amount of dishes possible. Sometimes we’ll include techniques like cleaning with snow or mixing ingredients in a disposable baggie. Leave No Trace ethics are really important to us, and the less waste you create, the easier it is to avoid littering the forest with human impact.
  • No waste. We try to pay attention to normal amounts of things, and create a recipe that uses the whole thing. For instance, if we call for a can of something, we try to avoid using 1/2 can or something like that. We also try to focus on using the least amount of water possible, since we know water can be hard to part with in many places.
  • Few ingredients. No one wants to carry a bunch of ingredients for each meal. Even if they are light, this will cause a significant increase in weight. We try to pare down recipes to the least amount of ingredients possible. Sometimes we’ll suggest pre-mixing things at home to help.
  • Creative Meals. A big thing to keep in mind is how hungry you get when backpacking. We try to offer filling options that incorporate a good amount of protein and/or carbs that will keep you going. We also try to fulfill some of the cravings that many people feel while backpacking.

Seven Lakes Loop

So, if you are looking to go on a backpacking trip, I hope this gives you a sense of what to consider when planning your meals. I also hope that you find us a useful resource for this activity. If we’re missing something, let us know and we’ll try to focus more on it on future trips. We are getting the itch again now that its finally cooling off.

We also hope to post a few more articles related to meal planning and your backcountry pantry soon. If you have any questions or comments that you’d like included, let us know about those too!

4 Responses to “On Backpacking”

  1. emily says:

    Glad to hear it Kim. I know the feeling of occasionally not being excited to leave for a trip, but you NEVER regret it once you’re out there. Especially when you’ve got Jalapeno Cheese bread with you! Have fun!

  2. kim says:

    Stumbled on your blog while looking for breakfast backpacking ideas and I love it. I am leaving in a few hours for a two night trip and have the jalapeno cheese bread in oven now (smells delicious) and this article got me so excited to go. I have been kind of not wanting to go, but now I am super excited thanks so much. Love the pics too.

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  4. Casey says:

    Totally agree with you on getting the perishables in the first few days. I’ve taken a heavily smoked sausage and kept it for 5 days. The cheese always ends up getting rather funky though.

    I also find that it works well to pre-package all the meals, stack them in your pack in the order you’ll eat them and stick to one container hot water soaked meals. A simple example would be a baggie of oatmeal mixed with cranberries, brown sugar, and a few dried apricots. All would get dumped into your bowl / cup / eating vessel and boiling water poured over. The dishes are minimal, and the time is even less.

    Bring on the recipes too!

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