DIY Trail Food: Eating Healthier and Homemade for Backpacking, Survival, and Travel

Do you want to eat healthier on the trail without breaking your budget?  Have a hankering for beefing up your Bug Out Bag (BOB) but can't stand the thought of MRE's?  How about having a taste of home when on the road in hotel rooms?  If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, but don't know where to start, then this post is for you!

Freeze Dried Backpacking food
Craig with his dinner
When backpacking with a group, dinner time around the fire is like show and tell for grown ups.

Frequently heard at meals: "What are you having?" usually followed by "do you want to try some?"

Also heard: "Yours looks better than mine?" or  "how much salt is in there, anyway?"

Much more rarely heard: "Yuk, this is nasty!" Because everyone knows that any meal on the trail is:

  1. Flavored by hunger so everything tastes better than at home.
  2. This stuff is expensive and you carried it, so you might as well eat it.
  3. You don't have anything else to eat because you planned out each meal before leaving home, so you either eat it or starve.


After setting up camp and gathering fire wood, everyone sits around the fire and pulls out their food bags.  The requisite blue foil of Mountain House, the tan paper of Mary Jane Farms, the clear plastic of Packit Gourmet.  Except me.  I am one of those who beat to a different drum. Living on the fringes of society. Walking the line of sanity.  What can I say, I am a hammock hanger :)

DIY Trail Food: Building a better backpacking meal, Step One - Base

My first post in this "DIY" series on how to make your own trail meals introduced how making trail meals at home can be a cheaper and more nutritious alternative to store bought trail foods, and discussed why outdoorsmen or preppers should make our own dinners. This article begins the actual "how" to put your meals together, and is the second in a  series of how-to articles...

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Start Your DIY Meal With the Right Base

DIY Trail Food: Building a Better Backpacking Meal, Step Two - Meat (or Meat Substitute)


Like I mentioned in my little ramen rant from Step One, some people rely too heavily on simple carbohydrates and junky food for calories on the trail, and forego nutrition for taste.  Step One  provides the simple carbohydrates for your meal.  This post is the second in the series, focusing on how to add adequate protein to your DIY trail meals.

Adding Protein to Trail Meals is Easy and Delicious


Read more by clicking the "Read More" link below!

DIY Trail Food: Building a Better Backpacking Meal, Step Three - Veggies

Now that you have your base and protein picked out, we will add some color, flavor, and nutrition with veggies!  Backpackers and survivalists are not interested in counting calories to lose weight.  Just the opposite is true: backpackers count calorie per gram of food in order to get the highest calorie content from the lightest amount of food.  Packing nutrient dense food in your BOB or backpack will give you the most calories but with a pack that weighs less, which is helpful whether you are hiking up a mountain or running away from zombies :)

Fruit and vegetables are often sorely lacking from trail food bags for several reasons; fresh, they are heavy (most fruit is ~80% water weight), they bruise and spoil easily, and they provide few calories per gram of weight.  This article focuses on:

  •  why we should include veggies in our trail meals,
  •  ideas on easy ways to add them to our meals, and
  •  tips for home dehydrating  
Fruits will be touched on, but I will cover fruits more in depth in future articles about breakfasts and snacks.


DIY Trail Food: Building a Better Backpacking Meal, Step Four - Sauces and Fats

While I love to dabble in the kitchen, I continue to be confounded by sauces.  No different for my dehydrated dinners. Perhaps because I am a firm "meat and potatoes" kind of girl who thinks cheddar cheese sauce from a can is the perfect condiment, I have never mastered the talent of good sauce making.  Not to say I haven't been inspired to try; I do make a decent hollandaise from scratch, which methinks is something to brag about.
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Homemade Pesto

Using sauce to pull together all the elements of a dish is no different whether eating rehydrated food from a freezer bag in the wilderness or eating fresh ingredients at home. This article is the fifth in a series of posts on making your own dehydrated meals at home, from scratch, using ingredients found in your pantry or grocery store.

Earlier articles covered:
  • Why You Should Make Your Own Trail Meals
  • The Base of the Meals, or the carbohydrate portion
  • Adding Meat and Protein to your Meals
  • Using Vegetables to Boost Nutrition


DIY Trail Food: Building a Better Backpacking Meal, Step Five - Spices, Toppings, And Putting it All Together

"He who controls the spice, controls the universe." ~Frank Herbert, Dune



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Bags of Spices in a Market
Now that you have made a new trail dinner masterpiece, it's time to spice it up and top it off!  Herbs and spices can feed the senses as well as the body: changing the flavor profile of a dish in a jiffy, while also adding protective nutrients to food. Toppings can add crunch or texture to any dish that lacks that "something extra."

How to Travel the World in a Freezer Bag

Dehydrating Your Own Vegetables to Use in Trail Meals and Long-Term Storage

Living on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay,  we have growing conditions perfect for some of the best tomatoes, squash, watermelons, cantaloupe, and corn, that are so good other folks in the Mid-Atlantic drive hours to pick up local produce.  I used to have a large, time intensive garden, but over the years so many friends and neighbors give away boxes and bags of their garden's bounty that I would find myself swimming in more produce that I could use, let alone can and dehydrate, before the stuff went bad.  I gave up the garden years ago to pursue my foraging hobby, but without a loss of those great veggies; just a few days ago, my neighbor brought over another flat of huge, beautiful tomatoes that were going to be ruined with the first frost.  Score for Demeter!!

Drying veggies in season is a great way to take advantage of the earth's bounty!  Buying or growing in-season local foods are more fresh, and the cost less money than out of season foods, and decrease fossil fuel usage from produce that is transported across the country or world.  The benefit of dehydrating produce is that hundreds of pounds of fresh vegetables can be stored in a few dozen mason jars once the water is removed, freeing up lots of freezer space.  Dehydrating also makes seasonal produce available year-round for recipes and snacks.

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Drying Fresh, Seasonal Vegetables is Easy and Saves Money