Backpacking while vegan
I recently spent a weekend backpacking in the Mount Baker area. Backpacking differs from camping in that you have to carry everything you need for several miles, so you need to make sure your food is as lightweight as possible, doesn’t need refrigeration and is still reasonably balanced, nutritious and provides adequate calories for the exertion of hiking. I took some time planning the meals for our 2 night, 3 day trip.
We carried enough water for the first day, but relied on water from streams and lakes, suitably filtered and/or sterilized, for drinking and cooking the rest of the time. Some members of our group used a steri-pen which uses ultraviolet light to sterilize their water. We used a Platypus filtration unit that could finely filter 4 liters of water at a time, so there was no need to sterilize. It was good to have a selection of methods, since we found we had to trek quite a way from our campsite to find a good water source.
The range of commercial vegan foods suitable for backpacking is increasing rapidly. Did you know that you can now select from 29 different packets of freeze-dried vegan meals at REI.com? Trader Joe’s has a great selection of freeze-dried fruits and vegetables, including blueberries and raspberries, great for adding lightweight nutrition to your morning cereal, and even dried okra, a crunchy and nutritious snack.
However, I prefer to make most of my meals from scratch, even if it takes a little longer to prepare and to cook at the campsite, so I based my meals on what I had in the kitchen. I did order a container of dried soy milk powder which was useful to have with our breakfast cereal and in morning coffee.
To avoid refrigeration, it’s best to take grains you can quickly cook on a campstove. If you’re trying a new combination, I’d recommend that you experiment at home first, so that you get the flavoring mix right.
Grains that are quick and easy to cook:
- Bulgur wheat
- Quickcook rice (eg Uncle Ben’s boil-in-bag, )
- Oatmeal (great for breakfast, but a bit of a hassle to clean the pot after!)
- Pita pockets (to eat with a stew)
- Dried potato flakes (not a grain, but a good source of extra calories to thicken a stew)
- Lentils (red lentils cook to a mush, green hold their shape) – 20 mins cook time
- TVP – textured vegetable protein (meat-like consistency) – soak for 5 mins to rehydrate
- Cashews, hazelnuts, pecan nuts
Here’s what I chose to take with us:
- Morning 1: Quinoa with cinnamon, hazelnuts and dried blueberries – see recipe.
- Morning 2: Oats with coconut and raisins, dried blueberries and raspberries, plus soy milk made from powder.
- Tea or instant coffee
Lunch (we used leftover curried quinoa for one lunch):
- WASA rye crackers
- Lilly’s shelf-stable hummus.
- Primal Jerky strips
- Go Macro bars
- Dried mango
Mid-afternoon snack: Clif bar
- Evening 1: Lentil stew with potatoes and carrots – see recipe
- Evening 2: Curried Quinoa with cashews – see recipe
- Chocolate and ginger biscotti, made by my friend Jan!
Additional snacks for emergencies:
- Munkpack Flavored Oatmeal
- Trail mix
- Clif bars
The food worked out well. I carried a few additional snacks that fortunately weren’t needed, since it’s always advisable to have some additional food with you, just in case you get delayed and have to spend an extra day out in the wild.
The weather was very mixed, and we were glad to share a tarpaulin erected between trees to cook out of the rain, but all in all, our trip was a big success and we had some fabulous views when the clouds lifted!