Trail Cooking: How to

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If you're going out on the trail for longer than a day hike, you'll want something more than peanut butter sandwiches during the trek. Learn the trail cooking supplies and techniques you'll need to cook up a great meal at camp whether you're in California or anywhere in the world.

Trail Cooking Supplies

A camping stove and fuel will help you prepare hot meals. You'll also need a bowl or plate, utensils (sporks are multipurpose) and a lidded pot. These are the minimum supplies you'll need to create simple meals.

It's a good idea to estimate 1.5 to 2.5 pounds of food per hiker per day; this should give you a little extra, but not bog you down with weight. Lightweight carbohydrates and protein are your best bet for hiking foods. While you may find trail snacks or catch a fish when camping, don't count on this for your meal - you may go hungry.

Spices are a nice add-in to flavor food, and they don't take up a lot of weight.

Finally, bring along a rescue laser. If your group splits up to look for firewood or gather wild berries, the laser can help everyone reunite at base camp.

Trail Cooking How-to

One of the simplest ways to cook food while camping is to use the soak or the boil-soak method, depending on the food. The longer you run your camp stove, the more fuel you'll consume.

Soaking allows you to rehydrate dried foods, such as couscous or oatmeal, without using fuel. Soak food in cold water until it's rehydrated to the proper texture.

With boil and soak cooking, boil water needed for the recipe, put the food in the pot, cover the pot tightly, and keep it warm by insulating it with a jacket or a pot cozy. The steam from the water rehydrates and cooks the food, and you conserve fuel by using it only to boil water. Foods that boil and soak include pasta, quinoa, rice and other grains.

Another easy method is to use dehydrated, prepackaged foods or dehydrate your own foods. For instance, you can make beef jerky using a dehydrator, then add it to meals.

For breakfast, lightweight and simple backpacking foods include pancake mix, dehydrated eggs, oatmeal, or dry cereal.

For lunch, snacks or cold sandwiches (using cured meats or nut butters) add protein. For snacks, think cheese, dried fruit, nuts, or energy bars.

For dinner, additional options include instant ramen or instant soup. Fresh produce will last typically one day inside your pack. Canned goods, from tuna to beans, are heavy. They aren't recommended unless you're car camping and going on day hikes.

To reduce the odds of something going wrong on the trip, practice setting up and using your camp stove before your trip. This way, you'll be able to troubleshoot it on the trip. Familiarize yourself with how to use your safety laser as well. Finally, develop an emergency plan with your team so everyone knows what to do in an emergency. 

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