There are a lot of food staples that we all reach for when we are planning a backpacking trip: trail mix, instant rice, bags of strange shriveled meats and veggies, and jerky. However, while planning for our longest trip yet, I’ve discovered some non-typical options that can add some excitement to your usual repitoire! While some of these foods normally require refrigeration, all of them are adaptable for backpacking because they won’t spoil during a week-long outing.
1. Udon Noodles
These thick Asian noodles don’t require refrigeration, and come in backpack-friendly vaccume packs in small servings. Commonly found on buffets everywhere, you can use these noodles in soups, toss them with veggies and meat for a trail-side stirfry, or just fry ’em up with some garlic and soy sauce for a quick snack.
Preparation Suggestion: I find it easiest to remove the packaging and toss the whole lump into boiling water, which will help the noodles pull apart, and cook them quickly. After that you can give them a brief saute in oil and soy sauce or sesame oil. Or just toss them immediately in whatever sauce you want, and add any meat and veggies you want.
2. String Cheese
Cheese can be difficult to backpack with, especially in hot weather, but you can never go wrong with string cheese. It’s packaged in small quantities, so you don’t have to worry about exposing a large chunk of cheese to air (and bacteria) and it lasts a looooong time, so if you load up at the beginning of the season (maybe while it’s on sale) you can take what you need all summer long.
Preparation Suggestion: Shred it over hot chili, trail tacos, and morning eggs. Or eat it as a quick snack.
3. Miso Paste
Miso is a thick paste made of fermented soybean, and while it’s recommended that you refrigerate it after opening, like hard cheese and dry salami, it won’t spoil for a long time. It’s been around since well before refrigeration, and while it may darken slightly in color, it won’t go “off” for ages. It’s not light-weight, but a little goes a really long way, so you need not carry a whole bunch. There are many kinds available, so you are sure to find one that you like best.
Preparation Suggestion: Most commonly known for it’s use in miso soup, which is easy to make on the trail (recipe to come). Add enough water to liquify it, then stir it into your meat and veggies for added depth. It loses aroma and healthful enzymes if boiled, so try to add it after you’ve heated your soup/main dish.
4. Smoked Tofu
Unlike regular tofu, this smoked variety isn’t packed in water, so it’s lighter and more manageable. Since it already has a smoky flavor, it’s delicious added to all sorts of dishes, and doesn’t require a whole lot of extra seasoning. It’s also awesome dehydrated! I would recommend you don’t re-package smoked tofu, unless you plan on dehydrating it, as the vaccume packaging is already perfect for backpacking, and exposing it to air will speed spoiling.
Preparation Suggestion: Chop this up and fry it with eggs and veggies for a tasty breakfast scramble. Or slice it up, and brown it on both sides for a quick and protein-packed snack.
5. Rice Noodles
Unlike most wheat pastas, rice noodles cook up very quickly. They still pack a load of calories, but almost no fat, which is ideal for long treks. They taste delicious with a variety of meats and veggies, and are available in all kinds of thicknesses. Plus they are extremely light.
Preparation Suggestion: Backcountry pad thai anyone? Most of your favorite recipes can be modified for backpacking. You can substitute these noodles for rice in curry dishes and other entrees, to keep things from getting too boring.