Knowing what to eat when out bush walking (hiking, tramping) can be a problem for those just starting out. I know it was for me. I spent a long time speaking with others I met out walking, asking what they found works for them.
Of course, it wasn’t hard once I’d thought about it. I’m not an ultra lightweight bush walker, although I do appreciate the lessons from that philosophy, and incorporate some of them into my menu planning. I try not to carry anything wet – so no tinned food (well, I sometimes carry the smallest tin of baked beans — see Maria Island Goulash), and no pre-packaged sauces for flavour (although I have also carried those at times).
What food we carry really depends on what we are doing. I have found that when we are out for a night or two, we sometimes carry heavier fresh food items because we are carrying less than we would when out for longer. And I usually carry fresh food for the first night of a walk regardless of the length of the walk.
There are a few options for food. Pre-cooked dehydrated backcountry meals that most camping shops have cost around $10-$12 for single serve meals, and $16 for a double serve meal (for instance, see Bogong Equipment in Melbourne). These are nutritious and tasty and may be augmented with extra pasta. The issue for us is that there are very few vegetarian options available, at least in Australia.
Another option is to buy pre-packed dehydrated meals. These have not been pre-cooked, so they take more time to cook. And that means more fuel will be used in the cooking process. Here in Hobart, Tasmania, where we live, Strive Food in Sandy Bay sells pre-packed dehydrated meals for very reasonable prices.
We have recently chosen to make our own pre-packed dehydrated meals. It’s cheaper, fun, and we can create more variety.
There are many lightweight options available to us these days. A simple trip to Coles or Woolies (or both!) reveals dehydrated peas, beans, corn, potato (Deb); two-minute noodles; one cup soups; pasta; lentils; nuts; muesli bars; and more. A trip to a health food shop (for those of you in Hobart, try Eumarrah, and Unpacked is in Kingston) reveals many more options for dehydrated vegetables.
So, finding basic dehydrated food is not hard. The hard part is combining the ingredients together into something that is healthful, nourishing, tasty, and satisfying. Given that we are two vegetarians, this presents specific problems around protein.
We have a commercially available dehydrator, and we dry our own vegetables. Zucchini, broccoli, onions, beans, mushrooms, carrots, capsicum. We have a store of them that we use to make up meal packs. We need more than just vegetables though. We add protein with lentils and TVP, and we use pasta and noodles for carbohydrates. And, because we have a variety of recipes to choose from, we can ensure that we look forward to the food we have to eat at the end of a hard day’s walk!
Please use the recipes we have made available here. They are here for our own use as well, so we don’t forget them. If you see us on the track please say hi!