To be fair, this blog could also refer to a canoe or kayak expedition, horseriding or cycle touring too. It’s really about the ideal foods for when you only have limited cooking facilities, no refrigeration, limited space for transportation, and usually want to keep the weight down because you’re having to carry it all too. But don’t stop reading now if this all sounds too ‘wild’ for you. If you go camping with your family, there will be some tips in here that might help you out too.
I’m going to assume that you have one stove. A trangia or an MSR pocket rocket style of stove, plus a couple of cooking pans.
If you’re hiking with a full rucksack you’re likely to need between 3,000-4,000 calories per day which is much higher than usual.
We recommend you practice cooking at home before your expedition, and think creatively about the foods you usually like to eat – is there a way of making them or a version of them on your expedition?
Rules that we like to stick to…
No glass containers – these are heavy and pose a risk if they get broken
No large tins – these are heavy too
No food that needs to be kept in a fridge
Only bring the amount of each food that you need for your meal i.e. don’t bring a 500g bag of pasta if you’ll only need 100g of it.
No deep frying – this is a health and safety risk
Keep the washing up to a minimum
Not only is it a chore, but it also pollutes water courses. So food and drink where you can just add hot water to cook is great. You can buy packs of dehydrated expedition food but these can be expensive and they vary in quality. We’ll talk about these a little more later.
Pretty much anything with oats is good as they will release their energy slowly and keep you fuelled well into the morning. Instant porridge pots are great. They are really quick and easy to make and they’re tasty. Their only downside is that the cardboard pot can be crushed easily in your rucksack and they take up a fair bit of space, so play around and see what works for you.
Alternatively measure out a portion of your favourite breakfast cereal or granola into a food bag. Add dried skimmed milk powder (probably about a tablespoon) and seal the top. Then you only have to add cold water in the morning and eat it straight from the bag – less washing up! I often add dried fruit, extra nuts and a shake of cinnamon to mine to make it even tastier. Top tip: Double bag it just in case – you don’t want to open your rucksack and find milk powder all over your sleeping bag!
Slightly less conventional breakfasts, but that also work well – Pitta bread and chocolate spread or peanut butter. Just look out for the portion packs of spread so you don’t have to carry a big container. Or you could have malt loaf, flapjacks or something from the huge selection of cereal bars that are now in the supermarket. If you do go down this route, take a look at the calories and protein levels on each one as they’re not necessarily that filling and often have high sugar levels, meaning you might feel a ‘crash’ mid morning.
Remember that lunch on your first day might be a number of hours after you set off from home – so think carefully about your choice of filling if you’re considering taking sandwiches with you.
Oat cakes and crackers are now sold in handy individual portion packs. You can top them with a pouch of fish or peanut butter. Or have them with a lunch pot on the side.
We love the new John West Creations pouches of fish and grains. You can eat them straight from the pouch, and they roll up small afterwards for stashing in your bag.
Don’t forget to include some fruit – bananas and apples both work well (although you might want a banana guard to protect it from getting squashed in your rucksack).
Pepperami are a great source of protein that doesn’t need refrigeration. And Mattessons sausage doesn’t need to be in a fridge until the pack is open, so you can either share with your walking buddy or just have a feast all by yourself!
Malt loaf and flapjacks work well at lunchtime too.
Evening Meal ideas
Pasta with sauce is the go to meal for most DofE expeditions, and is a pretty easy meal. Take a good look at the shelves in the supermarket and see what packaging might work best for you. Remember, you’ll often be carrying your rubbish with you for the whole expedition too so you don’t want bulky plastic getting in the way.
Dried pasta can be weighed out into a plastic food bag at home 100-200g per person per meal. Sauces can be bought in single serve pouches.
Read the cooking instructions when you’re choosing your foods. Pre cooked rice can be reheated in a saucepan in just three minutes – regular rice could take 25mins of boiling before it’s ready. A lot of the microwaveable pouches are fine to heat up by standing them in boiling water for 5 minutes. Practice with your chosen one at home just to make sure though!
If you’re feeling ambitious, you could make a cottage ‘pie’ with a pack of Beanfeast and a packet of instant mashed potato, but this will require some washing up…
I really like the Tilda pulses and rice pouches. They’re flavoured really well, and again can be boiled in the bag for 5 minutes. You will probably need two pouches to be enough for a meal or have something else with them but the ingredient list is clean and they taste pretty fresh. There’s at least one of your ‘five a day’ in each one and a good amount of protein which will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
For a warm snack I take the Mugshot pasta or noodles. I make them up in my Lifeventure flask and they stay really hot with the lid on while you leave them for 5-10 minutes to cook.
Or you could be more creative with dried onions, split peas, noodles, chilli powder and bouillon measured out into a plastic food bag ready to be rehydrated with hot water when you get to your campsite.
Individually portioned and wrapped treats like cake bars, biscuits or flapjacks are the obvious choice.
Raisins or sultanas with mixed nuts and chocolate chips in a food bag (leave out the chocolate chips if it’s going to be hot weather) are great for nibbling on while you’re walking. Popcorn is great too – it’s lightweight and full of energy, but does take up a bit of room in the bag.
Don’t forget the drinks!
You’ll probably have been drinking water all day so when you get to camp you’ll likely be ready for something different. Fruit and herb teas don’t require milk so they are a great option. Or choose regular tea and bring some skimmed milk powder, or milk sticks – we bought a big box online for a reasonable price. Hot chocolate individual sachets are good too. There’s something about cosying down in your sleeping bag at the end of a long day with a mug of something hot and sweet.
Have a think about your favourite foods at home – many can be adapted to be cooked on a camp stove. Lentil daal, vegetable curry