Winter food planning for camping adventures

Are you considering going winter camping for the first time, or are you looking for new food ideas to make your winter camping trips easier?

Check out my guest blog post on the Algonquin Outfitters blog, “Winter food planning“.  I give tips for simplifying and pre-trip planning.

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Menu review: Hiking the full length of the Coastal Trail at Lake Superior Provincial Park

Curious to see how the planned menu for my hike of the full length of the Coastal Trail at Lake Superior Provincial Park compared to our actual menu, whether we were satisfied with the food we brought or had constantly rumbling tummies? Read on!

The planned menu is posted just below, but additional information can be found in my original post on the menu.

Where we planned to use a recipe, you’ll see a (F), (L) or (T) after the recipe name (and the corresponding page number). The books are as follows:

  • A Fork in the Trail by Laurie Ann March (F)
  • LipSmackin’ Backpackin’ by Christine and Tim Conners (L)
  • The Trailside Cookbook by Don and Pam Philpott (T)

PLANNED MENU

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All changes to the planned menu are indicated in red text in the table below. We made a few changes before the trip:

  • naan bread replaced corn bread and bannock, because it weighs less and required us to bring less fuel (to bake the bread) – however, there is something to be said for warm, freshly baked bread on the trail!!
  • store bought trail mix replaced pizza gorp and honey mustard gorp because Cheryl ran out of time to prepare them
  • homemade energy bars replaced Harvest Oat Squares because Cheryl’s daughter made them and saved her time!

ACTUAL MENU

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My favourite meal was Thanksgiving on the Trail, which is essentially turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries and gravy. I would definitely make it again!

Our most memorable meal may be our egg veggie/bacon/cheese wraps… as soon as I added boiling water to our dehydrated eggs, they turned bright orange… we tasted them, and they weren’t eggs, but Kraft Dinner cheese powder!!! Not sure how that happened. I’ve never intentionally bought Kraft Dinner cheese powder before. Must have been a mix-up in a bulk bin!

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Pasta Alfredo with dehydrated veggies and sauce, and topped with Parmesan cheese.

The only meal that needs adjustment in the future was our rice cereal on day 5. It wasn’t filling enough as is, and could have used more fruit or nuts.

Overall, we were happy with our food choices! We did come home with some leftover trail mix, and some of the food from day 8.

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How to plan a menu for backcountry camping

Are you considering going on a backpacking trip or a canoe trip, but aren’t quite sure what you would eat?  There are lots of things to keep in mind when you’re designing your menu, but really, it’s not that hard! You can buy everything ready to eat from the grocery store, or do like I do and prepare, cook, and dehydrate everything myself. If you’re looking for sample menus, look here.

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Fresh banana, dehydrated strawberries, kiwi and mangoes, and fresh cooked chocolate chip pancakes.

Things to consider:

  • How many people will be on the trip?
    • Some meal ideas, like individual pizzas, might work for 2 or 3 people, but not for 5 or 6 because of the length of time it takes to cook each pizza (unless you’re bringing multiple stoves or are cooking on a grill over a campfire).  Pasta, on the other hand, scales up nicely.
  • Will you be bringing food just for yourself, or sharing meal prep and cooking?
    • Be prepared to compromise on the food you eat.
  • How many days is the trip?
    • For a 2-day, 1-night trip, you could bring frozen meat for your dinner (e.g. steaks or chicken breasts), but if your trip is longer than this, you’ll have to bring other sources of protein (such as beans), or bring freeze dried or dehydrated meat or eggs. Food safety is really important. Don’t let your frozen food get warmer than fridge temperature (at or below 4 degrees Celsius or 40 degrees Fahrenheit) before you cook it.
    • Consider how long that fresh pear will last in your bag before it’s a mushy mess! Some fruits and vegetables last longer than others, such as apples, carrots, and peppers.
  • What time of year are you camping?
    • If you’re camping in the snow, you don’t have to worry about food spoiling, but remember that everything will freeze – frozen peanut butter doesn’t spread very well!
    • Will you want a hot beverage to warm you up?

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      Warming up with a bag of rehydrating fruit.
  • How many main meals a day will you have?
    • Will you have main meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner, with snacks in between? A main meal at breakfast and dinner, eating frequent snacks in between? A quick snack at breakfast and bigger meals later? I have main meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a morning snack, afternoon snack, and evening snack.
  • Will your main meals be hot meals, or will some be “cold”?
    • I always have a hot breakfast and dinner, but a no-cook lunch, which means I can eat it wherever I happen to be when I’m out exploring.
    • If you want to get going quickly in the morning, you might want to consider having a no-cook breakfast.
  • Do you want to prepare food to eat while you’re out exploring?
    • Cooking is one thing, but do you want to have to assemble meals, chop vegetables etc., or would you prefer a ready made meal?
  • Do you want to be able to eat without stopping?
    • Will you be happy to sit down and take a break from hiking or paddling, or do you want to eat something without stopping, such as trail mix or an energy bar?

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      Sometimes I pre-make this at home, wrap it up, and on the trail all I need to do is eat!
  • How much variety in your menu do you want?
    • Are you happy eating the same thing for breakfast every day, or do you like to change things up? Are you sick of oatmeal by the third morning, or is it comfort food for you? For a multi-day trip I may bring the same snack for a couple of days, but otherwise, every meal is unique.
  • Are there special dietary needs or restrictions?
    • For example, is someone on a low salt diet? Celiac? Allergic to nuts? Can’t get through a camping trip without s’mores?
    • Some meals and snacks are easy to customize for individual tastes – for example, individual pizzas can be loaded with veggies – or not! Trail mix can be heavy on the nuts – or goldfish!
  • How can you incorporate healthy foods like fruits and vegetables into your menu?
    • Dehydrated fruits and vegetables can be snacked on as is, or rehydrated to go along with meals. For example, I love eating dehydrated bananas first thing in the morning, and having rehydrated strawberries and other fruits in my hot cereal.
    • Look for prepackaged meals that include vegetables, or buy them on the side.

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      Fresh cooked pasta with rehydrated green and red peppers and tomato sauce.
  • Consider favourite snacks as a pick-me-up when the going gets tough.
    • You’re likely expending a lot of calories on your backcountry trip! A bit of junk food may be just what you need to push through a tough afternoon – or day!
  • Are you backpacking or canoeing? How much food weight do you want to carry?
    • If you’re trying to lighten your food load, consider adding freeze dried or dehydrated foods to your menu.
  • How many calories do you need each day?
    • It’s a good idea to know how much food is enough to keep you happy and energized (it may take some trial and error)! I have learned that I burn far more calories hiking than canoeing, so I need to plan accordingly.
  • What cooking equipment will you bring with you?
    • Will you be cooking on a campfire with a grill, or using a portable stove?
    • Will you have a single pot, or are you bringing a frying pan or a 2nd pot?
  • Do you plan to simply boil water to rehydrate things (such as prepackaged dehydrated meals), or will you be baking fresh bannock?
    • If you’re just boiling water, you’ll use less fuel, but there’s something to be said for freshly baked bread on the trail!
  • How much food prep and cleanup do you want to do at your campsite?
    • After a long day of hiking or paddling, will you want to assemble a complicated meal? Do you want to deal with cleaning up messy pots or pans filled with bacon grease?

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      Shelf-stable pepperettes and cheese sticks.
  • What is your budget?
    • Can you afford to buy prepackaged dehydrated meals, or will you stick to basics like oatmeal, beans, pasta and rice dishes?
  • Are you able to dehydrate your own meals?
    • Not only can you control what goes into the food you eat, but you can lighten your load too!
  • Are there things you can’t bring into the backcountry?
    • For example, at Ontario Parks, you’re not allowed to bring cans or glass bottles.
  • Is there a fire ban?
    • If fires are prohibited due to a high forest fire risk, your menu will have to change radically!
  • What will you eat if your trip runs longer than expected?
    • Plan to bring an extra meal or two, just in case!

dsc05808Examples of the food you can easily find in a grocery store or bulk food store:

  • oatmeal
  • dehydrated eggs
  • dried fruit (e.g. raisins, cranberries)
  • dehydrated fruit (e.g. apples, mangoes)
  • nuts
  • shelf stable (unrefrigerated) pepperettes
  • hard cheese (lasts for days on the trail – wrap in cheesecloth or parchment)
  • tortillas
  • crackers
  • peanut butter and other nut or seed butters
  • granola bars
  • energy bars
  • pasta
  • rice side dishes (e.g. rice and beans, or rice and veggies)
  • instant mashed potatoes
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Energy square (with a view)!

Look for a post soon on how to organize and pack the food for your backcountry trip, so that you aren’t rifling though a big bag or barrel of food each time you go to eat something, don’t take up any more room in your pack than you need to, and reduce the weight as much as possible.

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Menu for 3-day Spring Solo Backpacking Trip

Looking for ideas on foods to take backpacking or canoeing? You might find some inspiration in the meal plan for my latest trip. I recently set out on my very first solo backpacking trip, a 3-day hike at Point Grondine Park in the Killarney area. You can read the trip report and watch the trip summary video here.

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I prepared all of my food myself, using lots of fruit, vegetables, nuts and whole grains. The least healthy bits were penguin crackers, M&Ms, Reese’s pieces, pepperettes and gatorade. I dehydrated many things, and portioned everything into single serving sizes.

Here’s what my menu looked like!

Day 1

  • Afternoon snack: pizza gorp, hot chocolate
  • Dinner: curried butternut squash soup with homemade crackers
  • Evening snack: dehydrated fruit and chocolate

Day 2

  • Breakfast: oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit, dehydrated banana, gatorade, tea
  • Morning snack: honey mustard gorp
  • Lunch: tomato and toasted almond spread, homemade crackers, dehydrated vegetables
  • Afternoon snack: fruit leather and dehydrated yogurt, hot chocolate
  • Dinner: ginger mango chicken with cashews, mini pitas
  • Evening snack: dehydrated fruit and chocolate

Day 3

  • Breakfast: couscous with dried fruit, dehydrated banana, gatorade, tea
  • Morning snack: fruit leather and dehydrated yogurt
  • Lunch: roasted eggplant spread, rye crackers, dehydrated vegetables
  • Afternoon snack: pizza gorp
  • Dinner on the way home: hummus, homemade crackers, dehydrated vegetables

I also brought an extra meal of oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit, dehydrated apples, and gatorade, just in case I was delayed for any reason.

Breakfasts and dinners required me to boil water, while lunches were no-cook (however spreads needed to be rehydrated and could be done at breakfast and then carried along with me).

What are your favourite lightweight meals?

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Menu for 4-day early May hike of Western Uplands Trail at Algonquin Provincial Park

One thing I love about planning for a backpacking trip is planning the food! My friend Cheryl and I decided on a menu for this trip, then split up who would prepare what. We cooked, baked, dehydrated and then froze everything. Finally, Cheryl brought her food to my house, where I verified that it was all there, and organized it all into Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4. Our trips always start after lunch, so we pack all our food away in our bear bag except for our afternoon snack on Day 1.

For breakfast, we boil 2 L of water, using it for tea/coffee and hot cereal, and the remainder, if any, for warming up the little bit of dish water we use in our pot.

For lunches, we always have no-cook meals.

For dinners, we sometimes bake fresh bread like bannock or corn bread, or cook something like eggs, but otherwise we usually just boil water to add to something like pasta or soup.

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Food ready to go!

This trip though, we didn’t exactly follow our menu! What started out as a 4-day backpacking trip turned into a 3-day trip because of the cold and wet conditions. You can read the trip report here. Below you will find our planned menu, and then what we actually ate!

Planned menu for 4-days for 2 people

Day 1

Afternoon snack: trail mix

Dinner: spinach quinoa soup with bannock

Evening snack: dehydrated fruit and chocolate

Day 2

Breakfast: oatmeal with dried fruit + tea/coffee + gatorade

Morning snack: pizza gorp

Lunch: leftover bannock from Day 1 dinner with cheese, nuts, jerky, dried fruit

Afternoon snack: harvest oat squares

Dinner: pasta Alfredo with bacon, veggies, parmesan

Evening snack: dehydrated fruit and chocolate

Day 3

Breakfast: granola + tea/coffee + gatorade

Morning snack: trail mix

Lunch: apple peanut salad wrap

Afternoon snack: energy squares

Dinner: egg wraps with bacon, veggies, salsa

Evening snack: dehydrated fruit and chocolate

Day 4

Breakfast: strawberry peach muesli + tea/coffee + gatorade

Morning snack: harvest oat squares

Lunch: tomato flatbread, hummus and cheese

Afternoon snack: pizza gorp

 

Drinks

gatorade

tea and coffee

hot chocolate

Actual menu for 3-days for 2 people

Day 1

All meals as planned + hot chocolate before dinner

Day 2

Breakfast as planned

Morning snack as planned

Lunch as planned

Dinner (at this point, we decided that we didn’t want to spend any more time outside in the freezing cold under a tarp in the pouring rain to cook our dinner): wraps with dehydrated veggies and dehydrated salsa (not rehydrated – a little hard to eat!)

Evening snack: harvest oat squares

On Day 2, we organized all our food into stuff we would eat, and stuff that would require cooking and we would bring home.

Day 3

Breakfast (knowing that we had to hike 20 km to cut our trip short by a day and get back to our vehicle, we opted for an early start and a no-cook breakfast): Day 4 harvest oat squares + gatorade

Morning snack: Day 2 evening snack dehydrated fruit and chocolate + Day 3 morning snack trail mix + Day 4 afternoon snack pizza gorp

Lunch: Day 4 Tomato flatbread and cheese (no hummus) + gatorade

Afternoon snack as planned

Dinner: Day 3 apple peanut salad wrap

Leftover food

Day 2 pasta Alfredo with bacon, veggies, parmesan

Day 3 granola

Day 3 egg from wraps

Day 4 strawberry peach muesli

Day 4 hummus

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Menu: 4-day canoe trip for 5 people (2 adults, 3 kids)

Later this month, I will go on a 4-day canoe trip at The Massassauga Provincial Park with my daughter, my friend Cheryl and her two daughters. We planned the menu months ago, divided it in half, and have been preparing for our adventure. (Last year’s girls only canoe trip at Algonquin Provincial Park was tons of fun.)

We dehydrated many things for the trip, baked others, and assembled all the meals ourselves.

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Some of the yummy stuff we dehydrated! Top to bottom: apples, canned pineapple, red peppers, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, yellow zucchini, tomato sauce, bananas. (BEFORE DEHYDRATING)
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Top to bottom: apples, canned pineapple, red peppers, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, yellow zucchini, tomato sauce, bananas. (AFTER DEHYDRATING)

Day 1

Breakfast/morning snack/lunch – at home/packed from home

Afternoon snack – oatmeal squares

Dinner – hot dogs and raw veggies

Evening snack – s’mores

Day 2

Breakfast – egg wraps with bacon, veggies, salsa and cheese

Morning snack – energy squares, with chocolate, nuts, and condensed milk

Lunch – pepperettes, cheese strings, veggies and naan bread

Afternoon snack – trail mix and fruit leather

Dinner – pasta with veggies and tomato sauce

Evening snack – banana melts, with dehydrated bananas, chocolate chips and marshmallows

 

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Top to bottom: mixed fruit leather, applesauce leather, salsa.

Day 3

Breakfast – oatmeal and fruit

Morning snack – homemade beef jerky and fruit leather

Lunch – mud (chocolate, peanut butter, nuts etc.) and bagels

Afternoon snack – energy squares

Dinner – mini tortilla pizzas with veggies, cheese, pepperoni and sauce

Evening snack – trail mix

Day 4

Breakfast – apple crisp

Morning snack – oatmeal squares

Lunch – peanut butter wraps (with seeds, nuts, dried fruit)

Afternoon snack – trail mix

Beverages

gatorade

tea

hot chocolate

coffee

lots and lots of water!

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All ready to go! 4 days worth of food for 5 people.

Look for a trip report in the coming weeks!

Updated Aug 14: trip report.

Menu review: 8-day, 90k hiking trip along the entire length of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail, Killarney Provincial Park

In March I posted the menu for my upcoming 8-day hiking trip at Killarney Provincial Park. My friend Cheryl and I planned to hike the entire La Cloche Silhouette Trail, and prepared all of our food months in advance. For us the food is an important part of the trip! We enjoy getting together to plan out the menu, and to decide who is going to bring what. Then it’s time to buy what we need, prepare it, get it all together, sort it into meals/days, and put it in the freezer until our trip! The original post I did on the menu drew lots of feedback. Many people were interested in how it all worked out. I can now tell you that it worked out great!! At the last minute, Cheryl added 6 or 8 instant coffee packets, as well as 8 electrolyte tablets to add to her water bladder.
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One of many delicious snacks.
Day 1: We both started our hike with a granola bar in our pocket, one that wasn’t part of our original menu! Consequently, we didn’t eat our bedtime snack. We started a bag of “leftover food”. Day 2:  At lunch, we only ate a few of the nuts, as we had enough food without them. We put the nuts into our leftover food bag. We also had a very small amount of bannock left over from lunch (31g, weighed at home), which went into the same bag. That night, my stomach was a little “off”, but Cheryl ate about 1/4 of the 1st night’s bedtime snack. We put day 2’s bedtime snack with the leftovers. Day 3: We both felt that there was too much oatmeal for breakfast, but later on we were happy to have eaten it all. We had a tiny bit of cornbread left over at lunch (36g), but ate everything else as planned.
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I forgot to pack dehydrated veggies for this one, which we both felt would have made dinner better! It was the only thing we forgot to pack!
Day 4: Everything eaten as planned. Day 5:  Everything eaten as planned. Poached leftover chocolate treat from a bedtime snack to make “specialty coffee”. Day 6: Everything eaten as planned. I had my first night’s bedtime snack as well. Poached leftover chocolate treat from a bedtime snack to make “specialty coffee”. Day 7: Everything eaten as planned. Poached leftover chocolate treat from a bedtime snack to make “specialty coffee”.
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One of 7 delicious bedtime snacks!
Day 8: Added leftover fruit from bedtime snack to apple crisp at breakfast. We arrived at our vehicle with our afternoon snack not yet eaten. We did, however, eat them on the way home! So in the end, the only thing we didn’t eat was the nuts from lunch on day 2, and Cheryl’s lunchtime gatorade from day 8. We did wonder, however, whether we should have packed a meal or two extra, in case we were delayed for any reason and had to spend another night. Do you pack extra meals? Finally, we used about 6 L of water per day, a combination of water that we drank in our water bladders, water used to make gatorade, tea and coffee, and water used to rehydrate or cook our food. With the exception of cooking eggs twice and baking bannock and cornmeal once each, all of our meal preparation involved simply boiling water. We estimated that we used approximately 597 ml of white gas in our MSR Dragonfly stove. We were happy with all of our meals and snacks! There wasn’t a single one that we wouldn’t want to have again. A few of my favourites were our day 4 dinner (pasta hit the spot!), our day 7 breakfast (apricot granola) and our pizza gorp! Yum! Related posts: Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

Trip planning: Menu planning for an 8-day spring hike along the La Cloche Silhouette Trail at Killarney Provincial Park

Are you looking for new ideas for things to eat while backcountry camping? Take a peek at my menu for an upcoming 8-day hike along the entire length of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail at Killarney Provincial Park. I’ll be going in early May with my friend Cheryl. We’ve done two 4-day hiking trips at Killarney now, the first time hiking 2 days in counterclockwise, then hiking back out, and the second time hiking 2 days in clockwise, then hiking back out. It was on that second trip that we realized we need more food when hiking compared to what we need for canoe trips! On a canoe trip to Killarney, we paddled from our campsite to the trail and hiked to Silver Peak (and saw a bear). What a beautiful park. For our last couple of hiking trips, including last fall’s 38.6 km hike along the Highland Trail at Algonquin Provincial Park, staying at Faya, Harness, and Provoking Lake East, and this February’s 4-day snowshoe adventure again along the Highland Trail, we’ve been able to estimate very well our energy needs! We’ve arrived back at our vehicle with only our last day’s lunch and afternoon snack. So, we are confident that the amount of food we’ve packed will be just right – however, I’ll be reporting back in May after the trip!
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Dehydrating a variety of fruits and vegetables (top to bottom: pear, red pepper, carrot, zucchini, sweet potato, kiwi).
Cheryl and I got together a few months ago to plan this trip, setting out our menu and dividing up who would prepare what. All of our food was assembled at home meal by meal, and labelled with instructions if needed (e.g. add 1 1/4 cups of boiling water). We packed lots of our favourite meals, but are also trying some new things this time! Given that we will be carrying 7 days worth of food on our backs, we wanted to pack nutrient dense food that didn’t weigh a ton (it’s an 8-day trip but we’re not carrying the 1st day’s breakfast, morning snack or lunch, or the 8th day’s dinner and evening snack). We each used our Excalibur 9-tray dehydrators to remove as much weight as possible and keep things fresh on the trail. Where normally we may have used skim milk powder, we used whole milk powder instead to have extra calories for the same weight. I added coconut oil to some things, more cheese and bacon than I might usually, etc. However, we’re not willing to eat bars for every meal, or pre-packaged store-bought meals. We want to eat real food, healthy food, and a variety of things! All told, our food weighs 23.6 pounds. The recipes we used come from the following books:
  • Backpacker Backcountry Cooking by Dorcas Miller (B)
  • A Fork in the Trail by Laurie Ann March (F)
  • LipSmackin’ Backpackin’ by Christine and Tim Conners (L)
  • The Trailside Cookbook by Don and Pam Philpott (T)
Where a recipe was followed, you’ll see a (B), (F), (L) or (T) after the recipe name.  The weight of each meal is also included in brackets.
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All of our food ready to go! There’s a column for each day, with day 1 on the far left, and day 8 on the far right. Breakfast for each day is up high, and the evening snack down low.
Day 1:  Breakfast: at home Morning snack: in car en route Lunch: picnic lunch en route Afternoon snack: peanut crisp (T) (151g) Dinner: quinoa spinach soup and bannock, including bannock for lunch the next day (F) (502g) Evening snack: dried fruit and chocolate treat (e.g. dehydrated banana + mini turtles) (97g) Day 2:  Breakfast: strawberry peach muesli (F) (277g) Morning snack: honey mustard gorp (F) (142g) Lunch: bannock from night before, cheese, nuts and dehydrated fruit (276g) Afternoon snack: peanut butter chocolate squares (117g) Dinner: minestrone soup and cornbread, including corn bread for lunch the next day (F) (569g) Evening snack: dried fruit and chocolate treat (88g)
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Food for day 2.
Day 3: Breakfast: oatmeal with nuts and dehydrated fruit (344g) Morning snack: trail mix (144g) Lunch: corn bread from the night before, pepperettes and cheese sticks (168g) Afternoon snack: beef jerky and applesauce (115g) Dinner: huevos rancheros (F) (237g) Evening snack: dried fruit and chocolate treat (83g) Day 4:  Breakfast: apricot/pecan cream cereal and dehydrated fruit (B) (518g) Morning snack: quick energy bar (T) (130g) Lunch: hummus, dehydrated veggies, naan bread (374g) Afternoon snack: beef jerky and applesauce (117g) Dinner: pasta with tomato sauce, dehydrated veggies and parmesan (280g) Evening snack: dried fruit and chocolate treat (71g) Day 5:  Breakfast: Canadian maple blueberry granola (F) (287g) Morning snack: pizza gorp (F) (140g) Lunch: peanut butter, dehydrated apple, sunflower seed, blueberry tortilla wraps (369g) Afternoon snack: peanut butter chocolate squares (121g) Dinner: chili and mini pitas with parmesan (324g) Evening snack: dried fruit and chocolate treat (92g)
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Big river apricot granola.
Day 6:  Breakfast: maple pecan couscous and dehydrated fruit (F) (290g) Morning snack: quick energy bars (T) (117g) Lunch: black bean dip, veggies and bread (278g) Afternoon snack: honey mustard gorp (F) (140g) Dinner: egg, bacon, cheese, and dehydrated veggie wraps (T) (302g) Evening snack: dried fruit and chocolate treat (85g) Day 7:  Breakfast: big river apricot granola and dehydrated fruit (L) (380g) Morning snack: peanut crisp (T) (155g) Lunch: tomato and toasted almond spread (B), cheese, pitas, dehydrated veggies (276g) Afternoon snack: trail mix (148g) Dinner: pasta alfredo with dehydrated veggies, bacon bits, parmesan cheese (277g) Evening snack: dried fruit and chocolate treat (95g)
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1 ziploc for each day’s food (except for 2 days, which required 2 bags)
Day 8:  Breakfast: apple crisp (190g) Morning snack: pizza gorp (F) (139g) Lunch: carrot raisin peanut salad (F) (416g) Afternoon snack: trail mix (164g) Dinner: on drive home In addition to the above, we packed gatorade to have at breakfast and lunch (516g), tea and whole milk powder for breakfast and 2 mugs of hot chocolate for each of us over the 8 days (325g). Sometime soon, I’ll take all the bags out of the freezer, open every ziploc bag and make sure I squeeze out as much air as possible so we can actually fit all this in our packs! And speaking of ziploc bags, a concerned facebook reader noted (when I posted a picture of all our food) that we were using an awful lot of plastic bags, and that we should try to find an alternative. I agree. While we do use some of them to store our garbage during our trip, the vast majority are brought home. Some are thrown out (e.g. greasy ones) and some are washed to be re-used. But that’s a lot of water and soap to clean them. In any case, I did a quick google search and found this idea – wrapping food with wax paper using masking tape and a stapler. I will definitely consider doing this to cut down on the amount of plastic. Thanks Michelle D S for raising the plastic issue! After the trip, I’ll do another blog post on the food, noting how far we hiked each day, whether we had the right amount, too little, too much, what we loved, what we wouldn’t make again, what we forgot to pack (hopefully nothing, unlike one particular canoe trip at Algonquin or another trip where someone forgot to pack utensils!!), etc. Stay tuned!! UPDATED May 2016: Menu review here. Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego

Menu and cooking tips: Winter backcountry 4-day snowshoe adventure at Algonquin Provincial Park

Part of the fun of planning a camping trip is planning the food! For this 4-day trip along Algonquin Provincial Park’s Highland Backpacking Trail, my first winter backcountry trip, my friend Cheryl and I wanted to keep things simple.

Given the frigid temperatures of last February’s winter car camping trip (-17 degrees Celsius, feeling like -29 with the wind chill), we planned to do as little cooking as possible this year, while still having warm foods and beverages! Why? Cooking takes longer in the winter, burns more fuel, cold fingers don’t work as well and standing around is, well, chilly! The easiest hot meals are ones that only require you to just boil water, then add it to something and let it sit for a few minutes (e.g. oatmeal and dried fruit).

We cooked exclusively using an MSR Dragonfly stove, which thankfully worked for this winter trip (last year, it was just too cold to get our stoves going – somehow the fuel would not go through the pump). We did use the campfire to heat up our cheese buns one night!

It took nearly an hour for us to heat up our frozen solid stew and chili. In future, we would freeze the meal in the shape of the pot, so that we could easily place it into the pot and have more surface area of the food touching the heat to speed up cooking! We would also move our cooking spot around – the snow melted and a “pit” formed, so much so that on our last morning, there was so much water in the pit that it extinguished the flame!

We made everything from scratch, preparing and cooking the meals at home, so that all we had to do while camping was thaw or re-heat things. For spring, summer and fall trips we dehydrate as much as possible so that we’re carrying less weight, but given that we would be pulling all our gear in sleds, the weight of our food (17.4 pounds) was less of an issue. We did dehydrate some of our food – the fruit for our breakfasts and for our evening snacks.

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Most meals were packed in individual bags, labelled by day and meal (e.g. Saturday breakfast). It makes finding things in the food bag really easy!

Day #1: Home to Algonquin Provincial Park’s West Gate to Mew Lake Campground – hiked along Track and Tower Trail to Highland Trail to Provoking Lake West, pulling 70 pound sled (3.99 km)

Breakfast – at home

Morning snack and lunch – packed lunch

Afternoon snack – chocolate nut energy square

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Chocolate nut energy square

Dinner – minestrone and cornbread (prepared at home) [Note: we somehow lost this on the trail, so for dinner we ate hot chocolate, and pilfered the dehydrated bananas and chocolate from Day #2, as well as some of the chocolate chip granola bars from Day #2.]

Evening snack – dehydrated banana and chocolate treat [See comment above – lost!]

Day #2: Day hike along the Highland Trail (6.2 km)

Breakfast -oatmeal and dehydrated fruit, gatorade (very cold!) and tea

Morning snack – trail mix

Lunch – bagels, pepperettes, cheese strings

Afternoon snack – chocolate chip granola bars, hot chocolate

Dinner – stew and cornbread (prepared at home and re-heated at camp)

Evening snack – none – eaten the day before

Day #3: Day hike along the Highland Trail and Old Railway Trail (7.1 km)

Breakfast – granola and dehydrated fruit, gatorade (using water that we had in Nalgene bottles overnight as hot water bottles – so, not ice cold!) and tea

Morning snack – chocolate chip granola bars

Lunch – apple peanut salad wrap (prepared at home) [Note: thawed out by carrying in our coat inside pockets for several hours]

Afternoon snack – trail mix, hot chocolate

Dinner – chili and cheese buns (prepared at home and re-heated at camp)

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Warming the buns up on the campfire

Evening snack – dehydrated banana and chocolate treat

Day #4: Hiked from Provoking Lake West to Mew Lake Campground, pulling sled (3.6 km)

Breakfast: cranberry walnut couscous porridge and dehydrated fruit, gatorade (not freezing! and tea [Note: the hot cereal wasn’t hot enough for me, because we boiled water, added it to the bowls, and let the couscous absorb it – next time, I think I would actually cook the cereal]

Morning snack: – chocolate nut energy squares

Lunch: carrot raisin peanut wrap (prepared at home) [Note: thawed out by carrying in our coat inside pockets for several hours – we ate this back at the van at the end of our last day’s hike]

Afternoon snack: peanut granola bar [Note: we ate this on our way home]

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Meal prep (we used 1 tarp from the top of a sled as a food prep area, and the other as a mat just outside our tent door)

Despite losing our first day’s dinner and evening snack, we had the perfect amount of food! We are getting good at food planning!

Notes on Melting Snow for Drinking Water

  • Avoid snow crawling with snow fleas!!
  • Be prepared to keep adding snow to the pot as it melts.
  • Bring a coffee filter, or be prepared to drink lots of little bits of wood and other things found on forest floors!
  • If you do it over a campfire, as we did at times, keep the pot lid on at all times, or you’ll end up drinking very smoky tasting water (with lots of floaty bits) as we did – yuck!

Favourite Backcountry Cookbooks

In case you’re interested, some of my favourite backcountry recipes come from the following cookbooks:

  • A Fork in the Trail by Laurie Ann March
  • The Trailside Cookbook by Don and Pam Philpott

My new favourites are:

  • Backcountry Cooking by Dorcas Miller
  • LipSmackin’ Backpackin’ by Christine and Tim Connors

Related posts for this trip:

Trip report

Packing list

Gear review: snowshoes and poles

Sled review