Tramping Food

Uncle Wacko, our opinionated Wanderlust magazine columnist reckons he knows what the best tramping food is, and how much it should weigh.

We've repeated his column from June 2020 below as a potential guide for helping you decide what food to take on your next tramp.

Warning: Uncle Wacko has strong views and may challenge tramping assumptions and sensibilities!

For more general pointers on tramping food, refer to our multiday tramp info page. And click the tabs above for: 

- superb dehydrated food recipes our members recommend
Uncle Wacko

- how to still get your caffeine fix when out in the hills. 

What food to take on a multiday tramp

On a multiday tramp your food will be the heaviest item in your pack. That’s why most trampers work hard to keep their food weight down. 

So what’s a reasonable amount? Most come in between 500 and 700 grams a day. Under 500 grams is impressive, over 700 is excessive. 

Here’s what they eat to do that.

Breakfast

Sensible trampers have muesli. The less sensible have oats or porridge, to which they’ll add dried fruit and the like to make it vaguely edible.

One (oddball) tramper swears by semolina, milk powder and dried apricots. Takes all sorts I suppose …

Don’t copy the Germans – they’ll lug around slabs of barely digestible bread, colossal blocks of cheese and masses of dried meat. The weight!

Other unfortunates might have soup or noodles or some other such nonsense. Geez!

For something different try Radix’s Mixed Berry Breakfast, it’s stunning.

Add tea or coffee and you should be no more than 170 grams.

Lunch

The problem meal.

For decades people hauled blocks of cheese to slice up and plonk on teeth-destroying crackers so dense and unforgiving even a Tasmanian Devil would struggle to bite through them. Gourmands would add salami.

For many trampers, not a lot has changed. These days the crackers are slightly more digestible and invariably get crushed to a pulp in your pack. The adventurous might add sachets of tuna or salmon for variety.

Then along came One Square Meals to revolutionise lunch in the hills. Wow, chewy carboard with bits of fruit and chocolate! – this concoction was not only supposed to be nutritionally sound but taste good too.

Funny, OSMs aren’t so popular any more – I wonder why.

And who could forget that other wonderful cardboard-based fad – tortilla wraps. Super light, adaptable and tasted like … well nothing at all actually.

So to make them vaguely palatable, enthusiasts would add peanut butter. You really do have to be kidding! Funny, also not popular any more … 

So what do you have for lunch if you’re sick to death of crackers?

Maybe some combination of cheese, salami, a snack bar, dried fruit, nuts or fruit leather. Truth is Uncle Wacko isn’t too sure, so if you’ve got some good suggestions, let us know.

Anyway, you’d want lunch to weigh no more than 140 grams.

Dinnerdehy meals

Now this one’s more straightforward, with most trampers following something like this:

1. Start with rehydration – a Nuuns tablet, Raro powder or cups of tea.

2. A snack – Uncle Wacko swears by beef jerky and dried mango (try it!)

3. A soup – wonderfully reinvigorating after a hard day’s slog (just as long as it doesn’t have bloody seaweed in it - we ain’t fish!)

4. A dehy meal. A few keen souls with way too much time on their hands make their own, the rest of us buy them. Back Country used to be it, but nowadays you can get great meals from several other companies.

Try these: Tom Kha Gai and Chili con Carne from Absolute Wilderness, Wild Alaskan Salmon from Radix, Kumara Chickpea Curry from Local Dehy. If you’ve only ever had Back Country, these’ll knock your socks off. 

5. Finish off with a desert bar, and another hot drink.

This lot should weigh in under 250 grams.

Snacks

You’ll need 2 or 3 snack bars for extra energy during the day.

You can bulk buy cheaper stuff at the supermarket or … go for the massively hyped up and ridiculously expensive individual bars that proliferate in outdoor shops, on supermarket shelves and online.

Buy whatever you like the taste of and you’re sure will give you the fuel you need. 120 grams a day is tops.

Want to know more ? Read my in depth snack bar study.

Now these weights are pretty damn generous! You should be less than this really - many multiday trampers are at 450 grams a day. And the difference between 500 and 700g is 2kg on a 10-day tramp. 

So take what you need, but don’t be gluttonous.

Spot ya.

Uncle Wacko


Dehy Tips and Recipes

Several people in the Club make their own dehydrated tramping meals. So we’ve decided to share some of their best recipes, plus tried and true dehydring tips.

Quick Links

Dehydrating in a Fan Oven

Dehydrating in a Dehydrator

Beef Regu

Harissa Chickpeas

One Stop Pot

Potato / Kumara Bake

Saucy Mincey Pasta Thing

Survival Biscuits

Dumplings

Do you have your own favourites? Then send on through to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Dehydrating in a Fan Oven

From Chris Ashton, September 2020

Any favourite recipe will do. Suggestions:

- Mexican beans with mince

- Beef stir-fry meat with soy

- Pickled (or any) pork and dried apple, rice, mince.

General principles

- Keep ingredients finely cut to reduce drying times.

- Fry the meat, spices, garlic and onion first.

- Cut all fat from the meat if possible.

- You can add good nutrition by including beans, lentils, chickpeas etc.

- Use oil, eg olive oil in the frying, not butter.

- Keep moisture to a minimum.

Method

When the dish is well cooked, reduce the heat and try to make as dry as possible by slow cooking, stirring well to prevent sticking.

Try to remove surplus fat by tilting and using paper towels. Fat can go rancid over a long time.

Spread out as thinly as possible on non-stick surfaced oven trays. Baking paper, or silicon sheets are useful. Failing that, oil the trays. Spread to less than 1cm.

Set the oven on the lowest temperature, 65°C is common, and use the fan function. Stir at times.

Prop open the oven door with a wooden spoon.

Leave for 6-8 hours, or until the food is dry and brittle.

Do as many dishes as possible in the one oven. 3-4 trays are quite OK.

Break up and double bag. I often freeze it at this stage just to add to the safe keeping. Use within 3-4 weeks after removing from the freezer to be safe.

In camp, rehydrate with equal quantities of water. Soaking lessens the  cooking time, which should only be about 10 min.


Dehydrating in a Dehydrator

From Christine Major

Beef or lamb mince based meals or vegetarian meals made from lentils, beans, quinoa and chickpeas are usually the most successful. If using larger pieces of meat you should cut into small pieces and chickpeas are best mashed a bit. The meal should have as little fat or oil as possible as this tends to go rancid so use premium low-fat mince.

The meal needs to be well flavoured as some flavour is lost in the drying process. Cook as much liquid out as you can on the stove and place on the tray of the dehydrator no more than 1cm deep. Turn the dehydrator on to high and check the food every 2-3 hours. 

About 3 hours into the drying process, when the food is starting to look dry, turn heat down to about 2/3 full power. When the food looks totally dry, place in a plastic bag and place in a warm place for ½ hour – if any steam is present put back in the dehydrator. Total dehydration times vary from hours for rice and other grains, to overnight or longer for meals.

To rehydrate you place the meal in your pot, add commercial dried vegetables (if you are using them) and cover with water. Leave for an hour stirring occasionally and adding more water as required. Bring up to boiling, leave 5 minutes and serve.

Also good to dehydrate are:

  • Sliced zucchinis
  • Cooked white or brown rice, barley
  • Canned beans – reduce liquid on stove first and grease lightly as sugar in sauce tends to stick
  • Fruit – either sliced or stewed (add sugar after rehydrating)

Because the dehydrator operates at lower temperatures than cooking in an oven, hygiene and food safety are very important.

  • Clean the trays (not the metal parts) with a diluted bleach solution before use
  • Use a paper towel to smear a very thin layer of oil on the tray for meals
  • Cook food thoroughly before beginning dehydration
  • Begin dehydrating immediately after cooking the food when it is hot
  • Do not turn the dehydrator off for more than a few minutes (when you are checking progress) during the dehydration process
  • Store dehydrated food in the freezer or a cool dry place until you leave on your tramping trip

 

Making dehydrated foods does take a little practice – if your first efforts are disappointing then do try again. 


Beef Regu

Wendy Graham has kindly supplied this recipe.Beef Regu

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

800g Osso Buco (or Beef Shin)

2 Tablespoons butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 teaspoons dried oregano

3 Tablespoons tomato paste

2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

1 cup red wine (or extra beef stock)

2 cups Beef Stock (Campbells - no added salt preferably)

1 Bay leaf

Method

Preheat Oven to 150deg C.

1. Season beef with a little salt & pepper. Heat a dash of oil in a large frying pan (or large ovenproof casserole dish, saves on dishes) over a very high heat and sear the beef to brown all over. Set the beef aside.

2. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the butter and another dash of oil to the pan and cook the onion, garlic, celery, carrot and oregano for about 7-10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add the tomato paste and the anchovies and cook for another few minutes.

3. Add the wine (or extra stock), turn up the heat and let it bubble for 30 seconds. Add the stock and the bay leaf. If you pan is ovenproof, add the beef and it’s juices back into the pan and cover with the lid, or transfer everything to a covered casserole dish.

4. Bake in the oven for 3 hours, stirring a couple of times to ensure the beef stays mostly covered with liquid.

Remove the meat with tongs, and place on a clean board. Remove and discard the bones (which should just fall off) and pull the beef into chunks – or for dehy purposes pull apart and keep meat small and evenly sized.

The sauce should be reasonably thick, if not you could simmer the sauce in a saucepan on the stovetop to reduce further (I don’t normally have to do this). 

Add meat back to sauce, season to taste.

Serve with hot pasta (pappardelle or tagliatelle) and sprinkle with parmesan cheese & chopped parsley. 

I usually make this for a family dinner and dehydrate the leftover meat sauce. It’s better to put the meat sauce in the fridge overnight so it’s thickened up and is easier to spread out on the dehy trays without spilling everywhere. You can also dehy any leftover cooked pasta as well on a separate tray.

Once dehydrated, pop meat sauce & pasta into separate small ziplock bags. I freeze them until required.


Harissa Chickpeas

A treat from Catherine Doyle

Cooking Pot

Ingredients

- Onions

- Garlic

- Olive oil

- Canned diced tomatoes

- Chickpeas – either soak and cook yourself or use canned chickpeas

- Harissa Paste

- Preserved lemon (optional)

Method

Fry diced onions and garlic in minimal oil until tender. 

Add tomatoes and chickpeas. 

Flavour to taste with harissa paste and chopped lemon. 

Cook out as much liquid as you can on the stove before spreading the meal on the dehydrator trays. 

I squash the chickpeas with a fork when they are on the tray to ensure they dry and rehydrate well.


One Stop Pot

Thanks to Catherine Doyle for this recipe.

Bean mixture

- 2 onions finely chopped

- 3-4 crushed cloves of garlic

Gently fry in a small amount of oil.

Add whatever vegetables you have on hand, but everything must be finely chopped or grated to dehydrate easily – carrots, pumpkin, parsley, and frozen spinach, etc.

Now into the pantry for some CANS.

- 2-3 cans of chopped tomatoes – any flavour

- 1 small can of tomato paste with a teaspoon of sugar added

Now whatever you fancy ….  cans of kidney, chili, cannelloni and/or mixed beans, chickpeas etc.

- salt and pepper

If I use a lot of chilli beans then I don’t really need to add much more flavouring but otherwise I dive into the spice drawer and throw in whatever I like.

Gently simmer until it has reduced. The idea is to take out as much liquid as possible.

When cooked, mash the bean mixture a little to make for a more even dehydration.

Slather the brew thinly onto baking paper and dehydrate until it’s as dry as cardboard – 7-9 hours.

Grains

Then I cook brown short grain rice, buckwheat, pearl barley, orzo (a small pasta) or any grain that you love, and dehydrate till dry.

Measure out 120 grams per meal – this fits nicely into a small zip lock bag. Add the ratio of:

- Protein (bean mixture) 75g

- Carb (grain) 30g

- More veg (dehydrated peas shop bought) 15g

I freeze the zip locks until I need to use them.

Not sure how many servings this makes – sorry!

To use, soak an hour or more before eating in hot or cold water. Cook again if desired.


Potato / Kumara Bake

This cracker recipe is from Rae Coppins.

Prepping

Get as many potatoes and/or kumara that you can eat either for a side or main meal, then add a bit more.

Pop a pot part full of water on to boil.

Peel & halve or quarter the veggies depending on how big they are, add to pot of hot water with a pinch of salt.

Boil gently till cooked enough to eat. Resist eating them.

Slice thinly, approx. 3 mm so they don't take too long to dry, or rehydrate.

Place on your dehydrators tray. Add some salt & pepper but don't forget and think they've gone mouldy ...

Set timer for possibly 7 hours at maybe 60 deg. I just leave them overnight so they may not take that long.

When cool, pop in ziplock bag/s. Pop in fridge.

Buy some potato bake mix - Maggi is around 24g.

On the trail

To save cooking time, when you arrive at camp, add some water to your carb bags, leave to soak for however long you can wait – 1-3 hours. 

Mix your PB mix with a bit of water and add a splash to the bottom of your pot, layer your veggie slices with the rest of the mix, add any manky left over cheese. Use just enough mix to cover the potatoes and/or kumara. Add more water later if necessary.

Cook slowly over a low heat, making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom, when nearly done take off the heat & leave aside with the lid on to congeal.

Eat.

Bacon or salami (aye Wendy) can be added as well as other veges such as mushrooms, tomatoes etc. Kumara takes less time to rehydrate & cook.


A Saucy Mincey Pasta Thing

Frrom Rae Coppins, August 2020saucy mincey pasta thing

Ingredients

- 500g jar of pasta/tomato sauce

- 1 onion finely chopped

- 2-6 cloves of garlic (depending on whether your tenting or hutting)

- 2 carrots grated (you could also use courgette)

- 1/8 ish cup of cream

- 1 cup grated cheese

- 1 pack of Quorn "mince"(300g) or you can use actual mince

- salt & pepper to taste

cooking oil

Preparation

Add a glug of oil to a medium heated frying pan.

Fry the onion till soft then add the grated carrot & chopped or minced garlic, fry for a further 5 minutes, add salt & pepper.

Stir through the pasta sauce, cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally then add the quorn or mince.

Add the cream, stir through, then the cheese – stir till melted & combined.

Spread onto dehydrator tray mats or baking paper.

Dehydrate for around 6 hours at approx. 60 degrees till dry. After a few hours break it up with a fork to help dry evenly.

Place in ziplock bags in the fridge till needed.

Bung it on some pasta.


Survival Biscuits - a step up from Tararua biscuits

By Chris Ashton

This makes a large quantity, so the recipe can be halved.

Check the end of baking as they can become very hard, but they keep very well.

You can substitute dried fruit for the Milo if desired.

Melt together:

- 400gm butter

- 200gm malt

Mix with:

- 500 gm wholemeal flour

- 520 gm rolled oats

- 3 eggs (more if you like)

- 2 teaspoons salt

- 600 gm raw sugar

- 3 Tablespoon Milo (or to taste)

Bake in a slow oven at 120°C for 2-2½ hours.

Variations on crunchy biscuits, sweet and savoury, are as many and varied as their names, e.g. Crunchies aka ‘Reinforced concrete’, ‘Dentist’s dream’, etc.


Dumplings

Thanks to Chris Ashton for this recipeCooking Pot

For trampers, especially families who are a bit ‘over’ rice, pasta, and instant potato. They work particularly well in a flatter billy with a larger surface area.

Ingredients
  • 1 cup (125g) flour
  • 1 Tablespoon (Tbsp) shortening eg butter
  • 2 teaspoon (tspn) baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp milk powder
  • ½ tspn salt
Preparation

Mix dry ingredients together and pack in a double layer of plastic bags.

To mix when cooking – add approx. ½ cup water.

Cooking

These go on top of stew-like dishes or, to make a more complete meal from soup, put on top of the boiling liquid. Putting chunks of cheese in the mixture makes them yummy and nutritionally sound.

Mix dumplings. Drop spoonfuls on top of boiling fluid. Put a well-fitting lid on top. Reduce the heat to simmer.

After 15 mins of closed lid cooking take one out to check the centres are cooked. Firmly resist the temptation to look before, as you let out the steam in which the dumplings are being cooked.

An easier (untried) idea is to just pack in scone mix for the dry ingredients.

Enjoy!

Getting your caffeine fix in the hills

by Martin Woodhead, December 2020

If water or tea isn’t your thing and you gave up on instant coffee years ago, here are some suggestions on how you can get your fresh coffee fix.

First up is the humble coffee bag. Comes in different strengths, packet is vacuum sealed for freshness, drop into a cup of hot water and wait a few minutes and it’s done. 

Most people will read no further. However, if you yearn for a Jamaican Blue Mountain or Tanzanian Peaberry, you’re going to need some coffee brewing equipment. 

Caffeine 01Left to right: humble coffee bag, 2 stainless steel Vietnamese phins, vintage plastic drip filter

Simplest is the drip filter. Sit it on top of your cup, add the ground coffee, drop in the top filter, press lightly, add a splash of hot water and wait 30-60 seconds so the grounds “bloom” (absorb the water / release carbon dioxide – but only if fresh). 

Then top up with hot water. The swollen “bloomed” grounds ensure the added water drips through s..l..o..w..l..y, maximising the extraction of the coffee flavours. 

On the left in the first photo are a couple of stainless steel Vietnamese phins – the smaller one weighs 55gm and has a capacity of 50ml, the larger one weighs 75gm, capacity 100ml. 

The 1980’s vintage plastic filter to the right weighs 40gm, capacity 100ml. 

Pack a tube of sweetened condensed milk for a traditional Vietnamese coffee.

Or if like your coffee short, strong and black …… a couple of stove top espresso makers.

Caffeine 02L to R: single shot moka pot, single shot moka without a pot,  3 Turkish pots

Left is a single shot moka pot (225gm). Water is heated in the base chamber, the steam forcing the hot water through the ground coffee up into the upper pot. You get to hear and smell the coffee percolating. 

To the right, this visually more impressive piece (200gm) works on a similar principle – hot water flows through the copper tube into a cup sitting on the plate. The plate heats up as the coffee is brewed – warming the cup at the same time. Enamel cup (100ml) weighs 50gm, double walled thermo stainless steel shot cup (60ml) 75gm. 

On the right are 3 Turkish pots (ibrik or cezve). The 2 on the right are copper with internal tin plate – 60ml (95gm) and 120ml (165gm). The handles are wooden and are a bit cumbersome to pack. 

The third one is stainless steel (180ml) and the handle can be detached – more convenient for packing – but comes with an increased weight at 175gm. 

A bit of skill is required to brew the coffee. The grounds must be very fine and very strong. My blend of choice is Insomnia – gets me bouncing around like Zebedee. 

These stove top cookers will be no good if your stove has a radiant burner (eg Jetboil, MSR Windburner / Reactor, Primus ETA) – so you would need to carry another burner too (titanium fire midge 45g).

And finally, if you are into gadgets:

Caffeine 03L to R: Aeropress, Pikamoka, Minipresso

The Aeropress has been around for a few years. A recent version is the Aeropress Go with the container providing a cup (if a rather large one). 

An Aeropress is an immersion brewer. Isn’t this like a French Press (plunger) you ask? Yes and no – the Aeropress forces the water through the coffee grounds under air pressure, so a shorter brewing time is required – plus the Aeropress uses a paper filter which removes any residual coffee grounds. Refer Mr Google – there are plenty of comparisons. 

You can vary the amount of grounds, water and brew time to your taste. 

The Go weighs 325gm. The volume of your brew can be anywhere between 80ml and 240ml (standard Aeropress 295ml). 

You could reduce weight (to 170gm) by ditching the outer case, cap, stirrer and scoop and use your own cup (a collapsible silicon one not recommended!). 

And fancy a cold brew coffee? The Aeropress can cope with this – just add the (fine) grounds and cold water to level 1, stir for a minute before pressing and top up your cup with more cold water as desired.

The Pikamoka is relatively new. The extraction technique is innovative. You fill the coffee basket with your grounds, fill the unit with the desired amount of hot water (60ml to 240ml), drop the basket into the unit and let it sink to the bottom, then screw the inner sleeve out. 

This creates a vacuum between the inner sleeve and the double walled stainless steel outer and the hot water is sucked through the coffee basket. Once the inner sleeve is screwed out fully, your hot coffee is in the outer sleeve – now a double walled thermo steel cup. 

Again, Mr Google will tell you the benefits of this gentle extraction process. All this gimmickry comes with added weight – 425gm overall.

And lastly, the Minipresso. Weighs in at 360gm although the Nanopresso which works on similar principals weighs in at 340gm. 

It pays to run hot water through it to warm it up beforehand. Load it with espresso ground coffee, fill the reservoir chamber with hot water then pump slowly once per second. 

When the required pressure is reached, a 60ml espresso is dispensed into the integrated cup with a crème of café standards.

So what's the best option?

That all depends on how you like your coffee – short black, long black, Turkish, Americano, cold brew … and how much extra weight you’re prepared to carry to satisfy your daily caffeine hit. 

But hey, if you’ve followed Wacko’s advice and reduced your pack weight by equipping yourself with what looks like a moth eaten hoody, wind jacket made from cling film, 950+ fill down sleeping bag and a thin plastic tent / tarp with the privacy of the emperor’s new clothes, you can afford a big of extra weight for the delight of a damn good coffee in the hills, can’t you?