Backcountry hunting has the potential to get expensive. Investing in a good tent, boots and a pack can set you back close to a grand. Smaller purchases like quality socks and sleeping gear will take a chunk of change as well. Backcountry food presents a challenge. Nobody wants to spend a delirious week craving home-cooked casserole, but prepackaged meals can cost more than the headlamp you forgot at the truck.
Over the last few years we have found a few products that stave off hunger without costing a fortune. Below I have listed tips and recipes for cost-effective backcountry meals. Please keep in mind that some of these ideas come from New Zealand where they don’t have bears to worry about. Thank you for reading.
When it comes to carbs we eat a lot of rice, pasta and oatmeal. Walmart sells Knorr Rice Packets for $1 a piece (or 6 for $5.50). They pack down nicely and have 700 calories each. You can bring a bag of brown rice as well to go super low cost. Ramen, a staple, weighs nothing and has something called “flavor,” which you’ll have forget exists on Day 2.
I haven’t found anything better than oatmeal for sustained energy on a morning elk hunt. Outside magazine recommends the variety pack and including almonds or peanut butter for extra calories.
Remi Warren has a great podcast on perfecting backcountry nutrition. That’s where I picked up packing tortillas instead of bread. You can also buy bagels as a durable bread substitute.
On a trip in New Zealand, Max and Andrea like to cook pancakes beforehand and heat them up in the hut. You can also pack powdered pancakes or mashed potatoes (Outside). Andrea freezes stews, spaghetti and curries that thaw on the hike and recommends butter to add flavor. Lastly, they carry broccoli, carrots and capsicum to have some vegetables along.
Don’t overlook simple sugars. I always take two apples. It’s nice to have some sugar mid-morning when you start feeling drained. Gatorade packets also provide relief from the boredom of water.
Appalachian Trail hikers recommend bite-sized Snickers. Personally, I don’t like having melted chocolate wrappers in my pack. However, I do take fruit snacks for a quick sugar fix.
Protein and Fat
Cheese and eggs go well with anything. If you’re on a shorter trip, a couple eggs (hard boiled or uncooked) can add some much needed protein. Cheese keeps surprisingly well even in warm weather. Peanut butter and cheese sandwiches provide an alternative to the always delicious peanut butter and jelly. Cheese on a tortilla over the fire or a breakfast burrito will give you that extra boost you needed to finish the hunt.
I take salami if I’m not in bear country. I like to have milk at the car for cereal, which I leave next to a stream to keep it cool. Max prefers powdered milk. If you’re a muscle head with a 400 pound bench, you could bring protein powder. Please don’t hurt me.
It’s a pain to carry a jumbo-size jar of peanut butter only to carry most of it back out. Smaller tupperware containers work awesome for transporting condiments. Bring along a sheet of aluminum foil as well. You can throw grouse, possum or trout in foil to cook in the fire. Packing a couple MREs or dehydrated meals to pick you up after rainy day or missed opportunity is also a good idea. Plastic holders for eggs and bananas allow you a bit more options too.
Backcountry hunting requires a consideration of what you’re willing to pack and what you’re willing to eat. Variety is essential both to get the right nutrients and to keep from losing your mind. Some hunters can eat dirt for a week and some seem a bit more picky. Be honest with yourself about what you’ll need to stay positive. I hope some of these tips help you save a buck and kill a buck on your next hunt ;).
Good luck out there,
Stu, Max and Andrea