10 Rules for Cooking in the Backcountry

10 Rules for Cooking in the Backcountry

10 Rules for Cooking in the Backcountry


Cooking great meals in the backcountry is never an easy task. Most commercially available trail food isn’t exactly stellar. To make your backcountry bites more enjoyable, there are certain guidelines that most trail cooks follow. Here are our top 10 rules to make cooking in the backcountry simple, healthy…and delicious.

Be Prepared

Be sure to take time to shop early. Don’t wait until last minute to go shopping or shop on your way to the trail. Plan ahead and make a list of the grocery items you need. If you are going with others on the trail, don’t take on all the burden – divide the shopping list amongst one another.

Prep Your Meals Beforehand

Instead of waiting until you hit the trail, try prepping your meals at your home. This will help save you time and effort when you are on the trail. This is particularly important if you’ll be dehydrating your own food. You’ll obviously need to take the time to cook it and dehydrate it before you go but remember that you’ll also want to rehydrate at least one serving of each meal to make sure that you know the right amount of water to use.

Limit Your Cookware

Remember, you’ll be carrying your cooking gear on your back. The less gear you bring with you the easier and more pleasant your hike will be. Plus, you can use the extra space for fresh ingredients.

Delicious Food is Essential

Being out on the trail doesn’t mean you just throw a bunch of old ingredients together and have at it. Even if you are making simple food like Ramen noodles, spice it up a bit by adding spices, herbs or a little meat. These small additions will make a huge difference and really please your taste buds.

Eat Fresh and Healthy Food At Least Once Per Day

It’s tough to keep food fresh on the trail and if you’re out in the heat for a number of days before your next cache drop, it becomes even harder. That said, try to bring some small fruits or vegetables with you. Be mindful of weight, of course, but if you can fit it, your stomach will thank you.

Split Up the Kitchen Duties

To put it frankly, taking on all of the kitchen duties – cooking and cleaning – sucks. Unless you’re out on your own, there’s no reason you should have to take it on all by yourself. Try splitting KP duty up with your trail buddies to make it a bit easier on yourself.

Keep Your Food As Simple As Possible

Cooking with a lot of ingredients can get complicated. Don’t take the fun out of cooking on the trail by over complicating your recipes. Keep them as simple as possible – besides too many ingredients can weigh you down.


It’s important to keep your kitchen organized – it’s just as true on the trail as it is at home. Lay out your utensils and ingredients before you start cooking and get plenty water before you start, this will help save time.

Reward Yourself

Just because you’re out on the trail doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself after dinner. There are plenty of ways to make up some coffee and dessert out on the trail with the right kind of preparation.

Last but Not Least, Enjoy

Don’t get ahead of yourself. Enjoy the food you just took the time to prepare and cook up. Granted as the cook you always eat last but, when you do, take your time to enjoy it. Remember – someone else is doing the dishes.

Ian Campbell Ian Campbell is the founder of Love the Backcountry and a long time lover of adventure travel. When not writing about the backcountry, he can typically be found hiking, backpacking and camping in the mountains and looking to lay his head beneath as many trees as he can find.