Four Backpacking Foods You Can Count On

Cheddar cheese on a shelf by Petr Kratochvil

In early June of this year, I completed a 5 day, 4 night adventure backpacking the Lost Coast Trail in Northern California. Prior to this trip, I had completed a couple of 2 and 3 nighters, but this would be my longest trip to date, and I was really focused on cutting down on food costs and weight.

As I sorted through the myriad of options available to me while planning my meals, I had one consistent concern; will this food last, and will it still be safe to eat by the time I get to it?

If you’re anything like me, you tend to rely on intuition and your body’s ability to handle pretty much anything you throw at it when addressing a question like this.

Having said that, I took a couple of chances with my backpacking foods on this trip that I hadn’t taken before, and I thought I would share my experiences with those choices here.

I took whole wheat tortillas on this trip because they keep well, pack tightly and offer a good dose of readily available calories, carbohydrates and protein. They were a part of my meal plan every single day on this trip, and held up well the entire time.

Almond Butter
I know, I know… why not take peanut butter? Well, because I believe almonds are a healthier option, and I found them in these nifty little single-serve packs of almond butter. Clearly, these things are built to stand up to the rigors of backpacking. No risk to the gut here, and they pack a ton of calories, fat and protein. So, yeah… almond butter tortilla sandwiches. I did it, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Summer Sausage
Might I just say, wow! Summer sausage is an amazing treat on the trail. I rolled a few slices up in a tortilla along with some string cheese each day for lunch. The only thing that was missing was wine. Once opened, the exposed end of the sausage goes bad fairly quickly. So every time I went to make myself a sandwich, the first thing I’d do is slice off the tainted end. Hidden within was a fresh slice of “meat” just waiting to be devoured. After days on the trail, the slices of summer sausage I was eating never let me down. They were tasty to the last bite!

Salami and pepperoni are also great options and will keep equally well.

Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Aside from being downright tasty, hard cheeses are a backpacking favorite because they are calorie dense and keep well. I prefer extra sharp cheddar cheese, but really any hard cheese will perform equally well.

A few tips to help keep your cheese fresh:

  • Wax or vacuum sealed hard cheeses are preferred.
  • If the cheese is not sealed, wrap it in a paper towel so that it can breathe. As the cheese dries, it will form a protective, hard outer layer that can easily be cut off to reveal the fresh cheese within.
  • Do not store cheese in a plastic bag. It will sweat and become slimy before eventually going bad and getting moldy.

So until I find a better alternative, here are my “cast iron stomach” sandwich recipes for when you’re on-the-go in the backcountry:

  • Almond butter and whole wheat tortilla sandwich
  • Summer sausage, cheddar cheese and whole wheat tortilla sandwich

Mmmm…. good!

What are your recommendations for lightweight, nutritious and calorie dense backpacking meals? Let us know in the comments.

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Now, Getgo Outdoors!

Robb Keele

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