NOLS enthusiast Dan Innamorato saw the blog we posted about unusual ingredients to enhance backcountry recipes, and has a little cooking wisdom of his own to offer. An avid hiker with a close connection to the Appalachian Trail and the Northeastern U.S., Dan first learned about NOLS when he started a correspondence with NOLS founder Paul Petzoldt after meeting at a workshop.
Here are Dan's thoughts on eating well in the backcountry.
Spices to Make Your Meals Delicious
Most backpacking food is glop; not in a bad way, but just because it’s mostly one-pot meals that are either soup consistency or stew consistency. So, a varied menu of spices and herbs can defeat the sameness.
In addition to the spices suggested in 4 Unusual Ingredients to Enhance Any Backcountry Recipe, I’d also add:
- Grains of Paradise: Similar to a peppercorn and used in the same pepper grinder, but with a unique taste.
- Rosemary: Terrific on roasted veggies.
- Cilantro: Tasty for many different dishes.
- Dried or fresh Mint Leaves: Peppermint, Spearmint & Chocolate Mint is superb. Put chocolate mint in your vanilla pudding dessert!
Tips to Be More Fuel-efficient When Cooking
The NOLS Cookery stepped away from the glop concept in order to present backpacking meals as a highlight of the day rather than just a chore, but I think a lot of today’s Ultralight hikers believe they must sacrifice nutrition and taste for light packs. Inexperienced hikers will go for the S & R Diet (Snickers and Ramen), which won't sustain them for long-term trips (like thru-hikes).
My backpacking cuisine experience is spartan, but what I stress to others is to be efficient. For example, you can carry less fuel by being more efficient with how you use boiled water.
- Don’t waste fuel by pouring boiling water on the ground if it can serve a second or third purpose. For instance, instead of draining water out from pasta, place the pasta in a mesh bag to cook. When the noodles are done, the bag can be lifted out for serving and the hot water can be used to heat a ready-to-eat meal pouch. When that’s done, you can even drop in some teabags. You boil one pot of water and get three uses out of it.
- You can boil extra water for breakfast oatmeal and tea, and then use the surplus hot water to pre-soak veggies, rice, lentils or legumes in a screw-top container during the day. They will cook faster at suppertime, plus the fuel burned at breakfast has served three purposes.
Give some of Dan’s tips and tricks a try the next time you hit the trails, and don’t forget to bring the NOLS Cookery with you for a little inspiration!
Dan Innamorato is a NOLS enthusiast with extensive experience backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, in Bryce, Zion, and Grand Canyon National Parks, and in the German & Swiss Alps. He recently addressed backcountry nutrition in a Practical Considerations for Long-Distance Backpacking presentation I gave last week at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Biennial Conference at Shenandoah University (Winchester VA). He is currently a member of the Appalachian Long-Distance Hikers Association, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Green Mountain Club, the Mid-Atlantic Hammock Hikers Association, and the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.
The leader in wilderness education.