Our son, Peter, is the outdoorsman in our family. He hikes, rock climbs, skis, canoes, and anything else that will get him into the outdoors. When all the rest of us have opted for a motel room, he will choose to sleep outside in a bag on a ground cloth. He was excited, then, when he was selected in a lottery to bow hunt for elk in one of the wilderness regions of the Jémez Mountains in New Mexico. He drove to our house in Santa Fe almost non-stop from his home in Northern California, stopping for a few hours’ sleep in the Mojave Desert.
We helped him pack food for his expedition, and in a few hours he was off for what turned out to be a five-day adventure. He went to the San Pedro Park Wilderness with much of the trip over dirt roads. When he got to the trail head, he loaded up his back pack and went for a two-mile hike to his campsite. There were no other hunters, and he had planned the hike so that it would not be too far back to the car in case he bagged an elk and needed to pack out the meat. He wound up hiking another two miles to find a good hunting spot.
Map of the San Pedro Parks Wilderness
Hiking can be a strenuous activity, especially with a 50-60 pound pack. It’s fairly easy to use up 400 calories an hour, and even possible to use up 1000 calories an hour, never mind the fluid loss. Thus, it is very important to stay well hydrated and to have a good supply of food. Even if you had pure calorie sources – carbohydrate, protein, and fat – at 4, 4, and 9 calories per gram, respectively, you would need at least a pound of food a day to stay in balance. Of course, these days you can buy elaborate dehydrated meals at the outdoor sporting goods store, but they are very expensive and they also take away some of the fun of planning and packing for a wilderness trip.
Using dehydrated or low-weight foods available at the grocery store, we worked up a menu for the expedition. All you need is a good backpacking camp stove and a reliable source of water. Remember to cut instructions off the sides of boxes and drop them in the zippered plastic bag with the food. Put individual dry ingredients in zippered sandwich bags and drop them in the bag of the main dish.
Also pack a small squeeze bottle filled with cooking oil and another small container of butter or margarine. Bring small salt and pepper shakers.
Gorp, more commonly known as trail mix, is a hiking standby. These days you can buy any number of varieties with a wide range of different nuts, dried fruits, and candies. Some of them are extremely expensive and – in my view – not very good It’s just as easy to make your own, and that way you can include ingredients that you like.
Soup made from a packet of dehydrated soup is good while waiting for the main dish to cook.
Macaroni and cheese, especially the boxed kind, is an old-time kids’ favorite. It is nothing but dried ingredients. Add a little dry milk powder and some Spam lights, and you have a dish that can be cooked in just a few minutes. At the end of a hard day of hiking it will please everyone, kids and grownups alike.
Tuna casserole is another standby. With the new packaging of tuna in foil pouches, this becomes even more light weight. Instant or fast-cooking pasta makes this an easy effort even with just a backpacking stove.
Salmon and rice casserole becomes another possibility with the advent of dry packaging of salmon just like tuna. A can of salmon would weigh over a pound, while the “dry” pack weighs 2.5 ounces
Dried fruit – banana chips and apricots make good desserts, along with chocolate bars.
Energy bars weigh only about 2 ounces each and pack an impressive 250 calories, about 1/3 of it from fat
- 10 ounces sunflower seeds, roasted (880 calories)
- 16 ounces dry roasted peanuts (2560 calories)
- 7 ounces “runts” or other candy-coated chocolate candy (715 calories)
- 6 ounces walnut pieces (1100 calories)
- 6 ounces whole almonds (935 calories
- 9 ounces dried cranberries (780 calories)
- 8 ounces raisins (775 calories)
- If the sunflower seeds are raw, roast them by spreading them out in a jelly roll pan and placing them in the middle of an oven preheated to 300° F (177° C). Bake for 15 minutes, turning them frequently. Remove from the oven and cool before adding to the remaining ingredients.
- In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix well.
- Place in zippered plastic bags. This makes enough gorp for 4 or 5 bags, one for each day of the trip.
Macaroni and Cheese with Spam Lights
- 1 box commercial macaroni dinner, including cheese packet
- 1½ tablespoons powdered milk
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 pouch Spam lights
- Place all of the dry ingredients in separate packages in a larger plastic bag
- In a camper’s cooking pot, bring 2 cups of water to the boil. Add the dry macaroni and cook until tender.
- Pour off all but about ¼ cup of water. Stir in the contents of the cheese packet and the powdered milk. Add butter.
- Drain and stir in the pieces of Spam lights. Cut them up a bit if you wish.
- Mix well and serve immediately. Serves one or two hungry hikers.
- Place all of the dry ingredients in separate packages in a larger plastic bag.
- In a camper’s cooking pot over a camp stove, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the pasta and mushroom soup. Cook until tender.
- Stir in the dehydrated mashed potatoes and the tuna, drained.
- Eat. Should serve one or two .
Salmon and Rice Casserole
1 cup instant rice
- 1 envelope dehydrated vegetable soup
- 1 2.5 ounce pouch salmon
- 2 cups water
- Place all the dry ingredients in separate packages in a large plastic bag.
- In a camper’s cooking pot over a camp stove, bring water to a boil. Add the instant rice and dehydrated soup and stir until cooked and the water is absorbed.
- Drain the salmon and stir into the mixture.
- Eat. Should serve one or two.
For breakfast, be sure to bring tea or instant coffee and packets of instant oatmeal. For lunch, if you want to pack the extra weight, dry Italian salami, Parmesan or other hard cheese, small cans of Vienna sausages or Kipper Snacks, along with hard tack or crackers are perfect. Just remember you will have to pack out the cans, and Kipper Snacks can be smelly. Remember, too, if there are bears in the area, the smells will be a magnet. Be sure to secure your food appropriately.
The hunter and some of his elk meat
The end of this story is that Peter hiked in two miles, set up camp, and then hiked another 2 miles in stocking feet (!!!) to the spot where he got his elk with one arrow at a range of 45 yards. Then he spent a whole day cutting up and packing out the meat in three separate 4 mile (8 mile round trip) hikes to his car. He had a long sleep when he got back to our house.
Raw sunflower seeds ready to be roasted
Nuts and sunflower seeds for the gorp
Runts or other candy-covered chocolates go in the gorp
Raisins go in the gorp
Dried cranberries go in the gorp
A big pan of gorp ready to be put in individual plastic bags
Light weight pouches of fish and meat
Quick-cooking rice and pasta are good bases for main dishes
Dehydrated soups come in a variety of flavors
All of the dry ingredients for three main dishes put in individual bags
Banana chips make a great dessert or you can put them in the gorp
Dried apricots are also good for dessert
Parmesan or other hard cheese is great because it won’t melt in a backpack