Camp-stove delicacies

I knew you could truly get any food in a can when I saw the quail eggs on the shelf. In a can. Next to the canned crab paste, sardines, mackerel, fried catfish, clams, roasted eel, squid, pork meat, corned beef, pork liver paste and pork mince with mushrooms, among other delicacies.

Oh, and I also found this. What on earth do you do with it?!

Oh, and I also found this. What on earth do you do with it?!

I like to think I’m an adventurous eater but even I was squirming in the aisle of my local Asian grocer’s. Luckily, I didn’t want any of these foods in a can at all so they stayed right where they were on the shelf. I was searching for dried or vaccuum-packed forms of meat, trying to solve a dilemma that’s come up since Dan and I started planning for a couple of hiking and camping trips. What light-weight, fridge-free protein can two people, one lactose-intolerant and one mushroom-phobic, take on a hiking trip?

Without refrigeration or space to carry used cans, tuna in sachets is great (and I scored a heap for $1 each the other day – woo!) but surely there are other options. I’m looking into dried lentils and beans but worry they’ll take ages to cook and won’t replenish us carnivores quite enough.

On this weekend’s trip to Joanna Beach, part of the Great Ocean Walk, we’re only going to be camping away from the car for one night – its our first little practice trip – but on longer hikes we’ll need to carry lots of food. Lightweight carbohydrate options are easy – pasta, rice, noodles and the amazingly substantial “Deb” dried mashed potato. Mountain bread or long-life wraps serve as carbs for lunch and muesli bars for breakfast.

I’m trying to accept we’ll have to survive on only dried fruit and very few vegetables which won’t kill us for a couple of days.

But variety of protein is so far posing a problem. Long-life tofu, long-life cheese, vaccuum-packed Chinese sausages, dried bean-curd skin and dried eggs are some ingredients I plan to experiment with in the coming weeks.

Our planned dinner for this Saturday night is entirely dried or vaccuum-packed and weighs in at just under 700grams for two people, including an optional side-dish. I’m proud.

I chose angel hair pasta hoping it will pack and cook easily. We'll cook it, throw in some powdered soup mix and a couple of tuna sachets. Some sweet potato mash and dried peas on the side will top it off just nicely!

I chose angel hair pasta hoping it will pack and cook easily. We’ll cook it, throw in some powdered soup mix, a couple of tuna sachets and some Parmesan cheese. Some sweet potato mash and dried peas on the side will top it off just nicely!

I’m excited to get back into hiking which I haven’t really done in a hardcore, independent capacity since the glory days of high school outdoor education (hiking the Himalaya in India and the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu in Peru, both with porters, was adventurous and challenging but far too luxurious to count here). I’m pretty grateful for the outdoor ed camps and programs I did in years 9 and 10 because we really did learn lots of handy tricks like how to use a Trangia stove, waterproofing your gear, distributing weight around your pack, menu planning and the glorious art of scroggin making, among other skills.

It’s quite incredible really that one of the main reasons we decided to get into hiking was because it is a very affordable form of adventure – but so far we’ve spent about $1000 and the trip hasn’t even started! Of course most of this money has gone towards investment into gear that will last us many many trips but it’s all just a bit of a shock. I am rediscovering the pants, boots and pack I haven’t used in a couple of years, while Dan has a brand new pack, pair of boots, set of pants and sleeping bag. We’ve also bought a compass, a couple of hardcore Nalgene drink bottles (the best kind out there – but none of the chain brands stock them so we had to order them online) and a tiny lightweight hiking tent!

I can't wait to try out our cosy little army shelter!

I can’t wait to try out our cosy little army shelter!

Light-weight, dehydrated, pre-packaged food does tend to be pricey so that’s a slight issue I’m overcoming (although of course its nothing compared to the restaurants we’d be tempted by if we were staying in a town!).

So far its looking like we’ll be eating a lot of tuna sachets, a few of salmon just to mix it up, some lentils and beans, and maybe a bit of tofu.

Do you have any ideas for us of great fridge-free protein? What have you eaten on hiking and camping trips? 


14 responses

    • I reckon you have convinced me to try the quinoa even though it might take a while to cook. It’s quite amazing its a complete protein! What flavours does it go with or do you just eat it plain or with rice?

  1. Hi Michelle,
    Welcome to the wonderful world of hiking food!
    There is so much that can be dehydrated, that the sky really is the limit. When I was living down in Tassie, I picked up a dehydrator at a garage sale for about $20 and made tons of dried apricots, apple, banana, pineapple….
    I have had great success making my own beef Jerkey too, either using the dehydrator or using my electric oven. It’s a great lightweight and super tasty protein source when you’re out in the backcountry.
    Get some lean rump steak or similar, trim any fat off it, and slice it up fine like you would for a stir-fry. Then marinate it overnight in your favorite flavors, just with plenty of salt added. This helps to cure the meat and when you’re excercising heavily you can do with extra salt.
    My favorite was honey soy. I used some soy sauce, honey, salt and a little water if necessary to make it liquidy enough to be absorbed into the meat.
    Then after considerable marinating time, remove the meat and shake of the excess marinade an lay meat strips on a mesh cake rack or something, with a tray underneath to catch any drips, then turn the oven onto its lowest setting, so the fan is on, but basically no heat.
    It will likely take up to 24 hrs or so to dehydrate then id suggest storing it in the fridge until you go hiking. As long as there’s plenty of salt in the marinade, and most of the moisture is removed, the meat should be nicely cured and last a couple of weeks pretty easily.
    And there you have it, a super tasty protein snack for your trips!
    Good luck with it!

    • The other thing I’ve dehydrated successfully the same way, is fried rice. I made fried rice as I would to eat then an there, with egg, bacon, peas and corn and soy sauce, then spread it out on a tray and dehydrated it in the oven with the fan on just as I did the Jerkey.
      It only takes a couple of minutes to rehydrate with some boiling water when hiking.

      • Wow, this sounds proper hardcore – a whole new realm of food options. We’ll see how this weekend goes then start looking into a dehydrator – any idea how much they cost new if I can’t find one on eBay or Gumtree?
        I’ve bought a little bit of beef jerky we’ll have for lunch but its so expensive and probably not very healthy. Making it yourself sounds like an awesome answer to these dilemmas!
        Have you ever had any issues with dehydrating going wrong and food going off?

      • I haven’t had any issues with anything going off no. I probably consumed the jerky I made within a week cause it was so tasty! I though it was so much nicer than any variety I had every bought, and so much cheaper. If the food is prepared fresh (ie the meat is as fresh as you can get it) and you remove almost all the water, there is nothing for bacteria to grown in, and the salt content takes care of anything that might sneak in there. I do suggest that you make a trial batch, and then when you have a trip coming up, make it a few days beforehand so it’s nice and fresh. You could also try it with something a bit more gamey like Kangaroo, which has the added benefit of being extremely lean meat. I think that would make amazing Jerky!
        Really I think there is no need for a proper dehydrator. try the oven method on some apple slices and see how they go. To stop the apple going brown as it dries, coat it with some lemon juice immediately after you slice it up.

        Good luck with it.

    • Shouldn’t be a problem. Litterally turn the temperature dial on the oven to the lowest setting without turning the oven off completely, this is assuming that you have a fan forced oven. otherwise you might have to use the tiniest bit of heat.

    • That is correct, yes. It will probably help to jam a hand-towel or somthing in the door of the oven so that the moisture can escape.

  2. Pingback: Learning to walk | Cutting Corners

  3. Pingback: Some delectable hiking recipes | Cutting Corners

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