If you equate backpacking with freeze-dried food and trail mix, it’s time to update your backcountry menu. Lightweight fry pans, stoves that simmer, and innovative packaging all make it possible to cook diverse, nutritious meals without adding to your pack weight. With the right equipment and a little planning, it’s even easy to make pizza and cinnamon rolls from scratch.
The foundation for every good backcountry kitchen is the stove. There are a wide variety of backcountry stoves, and choosing the right stove will give you more flexibility in terms of what you can cook. Some stoves are optimized for boiling water, making them the best choice for when you want to travel really light and mainly rely on dehydrated meals and items that you can cook in hot water. If you want to bake in the backcountry, invest in a stove that will accommodate a pan and that has an adjustable burner. Be sure to buy the right type of fuel when you get the stove.
Once you have the right stove, you’ll need to get a pan. In the past, people would carry cast-iron fry pans and pots into the backcountry. Thankfully, much lighter pans designed specifically for backpacking are now widely available. If your pan doesn’t come with a handle, invest in a pair of pot grips, which clip onto the edge of a pan and allow you to handle it without getting burned. In addition to a pan, you will need cookware. A spatula works well because you can use it for stirring, flipping, and even cutting. For a dish, a plastic sealable container is the most versatile choice because it can be used to carry leftovers during the day. A pocket knife is really handy, especially if you bring vegetables that need to be chopped up. Another lightweight item that makes cooking a lot easier is a plastic cutting board that you can roll up. The final item you will need is a spoon to eat with.
When it comes to packing food, plastic two-ounce containers with screw-on lids are perfect for small ingredients, such as spices, salt, and baking powder, because they are lightweight and reusable and they seal well. The slightly larger versions are great for liquids such as honey and hot sauce. Pack flour and other dry ingredients in a sturdy plastic bag, which you can also use to mix dough and which won’t add a lot of weight to your pack. In addition to measuring all your ingredients at home to ensure that you have the correct amounts, consider pre-chopping any vegetables you’re bringing.