We have always been lightweight camping people. Even if we aren’t on a hiking or paddling trip, we’ll arrive at our campsite by bike. So lightweight camping meals are a must!
The trick is that most (all?) pre-packaged meals are full of sulfites… and sulfites are a pretty big allergen in our family. So I had to create a bunch of homemade backpacking meals to feed our family of four.
Why make lightweight camping meals?
I come by my interest in homemade backpacking meals honestly. In 2003, my mother published a camping book (affiliate link) that was at least 50% homemade backpacking recipes. Her recipes are quite the labour of love… involving fully dehydrating salsa and things like that. To be honest, I don’t have time for dehydrating more than a few ingredients, so I needed to come up with recipes that could easily be put together with what I have on hand.
Here are a few reasons why I have never bought packaged lightweight camping meals.
- Costs: Back when we were students, we couldn’t afford to buy fancy prepackaged camping meals.
- Diet: By the time we were able to afford fancy camping meals (after we’d finished school) we also had a 3-year old kid with a lengthy list of foods that the allergist told us to avoid. Most notably… sulfites. Pretty much every dehydrated food (especially potatoes and vegetables) is high in sulphites.
- Packaging: Seems counter-intuitive to get back to nature by creating a ton of garbage that needs to be carried back out of nature. Commercial backpacking meals are pretty packaging-intensive.
A few lightweight meals
I have a bunch of lightweight camping meals that are on my go-to list. All of them are 1-pot meals (we only have one pot!) or can be cooked over a fire. Some of them use fresh vegetables or other ingredients. However, when we go backpacking, we do dehydrate everything so all we have to add is water.
A few of my go-to dehydrated foods are:
- Dehydrated black beans (affiliate link) which I turn into Mexi bowls or black bean soup.
- My mother has three recipes for backpacking bannock in her cookbook.
- Instant oatmeal with dried fruits and nuts
- Quinoa cooks up quickly and can be used to make all sorts of dishes. And unlike instant rice and potatoes, it’s full of protein and no sulphites.
- Instant hummus (affiliate link) is perfect as a dip or wrap.
Instant Lentil Soup
This lentil noodle soup is pretty much always on my to-make list. It’s more of a concept than a particular recipe because the basic soup base can be made with any fresh or dehydrated vegetables.
If we’re cycle camping we pick up whatever vegetables we can: carrots, peppers, leafy greens, onions, garlic, tomatoes. Really anything works!
If we’re backpacking we make a dehydrated veggie mix out of dried onions, carrots, sweet peas and red peppers.
Serves: 2 to 4, depending on hunger
Prepare at home
- 1/2 cup of alphabet pasta (or other tiny pasta)
- 1 cup of red lentils
- 2 tsp bullion powder
- 2 tsp dried parsley
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp nutritional yeast
- 1/2 cup of dehydrated vegetables (or fresh vegetables like: 1 onion, 2 cloves of garlic and 1 large carrot)
- Small container of cooking oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- The pasta is added after the lentils have soaked and needs to be in its own bag. If you can’t find alphabet noodles or tiny shapes, break up pieces of spaghetti. The goal is to have a pasta that can easily cook in a small pot in 5 minutes.
- Mix the lentils, boullion, herbs and nutritional yeast in a zip-top bag to make an instant lentil soup base. If you’re using dehydrated vegetables, add those to the soup base as well.
- Add 2 cups of water to the zip-top instant lentil soup bag and soak for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours ahead of time. This makes everything quicker to cook.
- If you’re using fresh vegetables, diced them. Heat 1 tbsp of cooking oil in the soup pot. Add the vegetables and saute until soft. Otherwise, add the cooking oil to the pot just before adding the soup mix.
- Dump the contents of the zip-top bag into the pot with another 3 cups of water. Bring it all to a boil. Once it’s boiling add the pasta and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
- Serve with more water, if necessary, to give it a soup-like consistency. The exact amount needed will depend on whether you used fresh or dehydrated vegetables.