Bon appétit! Say so long to backcountry Ramen | AspenTimes.com

Bon appétit! Say so long to backcountry Ramen

Nate Peterson

Backpackers Pantry makes backcountry food quick, easy and edible. (Paul Conrad/Aspen Times Weekly)

I went on a three-day llama trip in high school in the Roosevelt National Forest near Fort Collins. Yes, a llama trip, as in my friend’s mother had found a company outside Fort Collins that rented llamas as pack mules.The llama’s proficiency at hauling a heavy load of supplies (two tents, sleeping bags, food, cooking utensils) for five people was impressive, but it wasn’t my favorite memory of the trip.No, the best part was the food we ate on the trail. My friend’s mother, along with booking our fuzzy, four-legged Sherpas, had purchased two backpacking cookbooks that she used to plan our nine backcountry meals.

We ate like royalty. Chicken fajitas. Cherry cheesecake. Linguine with red clam sauce. Yummy breakfast burritos. I should also add that we never deviated from proper backcountry etiquette, leaving no trace by using only a lightweight camping cookstove with a camping skillet and a camping pot to cook up our delicacies. Ever since that trip, I’ve stayed away from Ramen and instant oatmeal whenever it comes to planning the menu for a backpacking trip.Trail food needs to be nutritious and filling, but that doesn’t mean it has to be bland. With the help of one of the many backpacking cookbooks out there, you, too, can become an accomplished backcountry cuisiniere. The Ute Mountaineer in Aspen carries a couple of these books, including “Beyond Gorp: Favorite Foods from Outdoor Experts,” for $15.95, and “NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) Cookery,” for $14.95.

My favorite, though, is “Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’: Lightweight Trail-tested Recipes for Backcountry Trips,” which you can buy at Amazon.com for $15.95.All of these books, if nothing else, will show you that cooking with dehydrated meats and vegetables, and a few carefully picked spices is easy. They also include great information on how long certain fresh fruits and vegetables will keep in a pack. The Ute also offers a whole assortment of tasty prepackaged meals from the Backpacker’s Pantry product line – the hands-down easiest way to eat delicious food in the woods. Just add boiling water into the package after opening and, voila, Southwest smoked salmon pasta. When you’re finished, you can just seal up the plastic pouch and pack it out. Selections also include Santa Fe chicken ($7), pad Thai ($7), chicken cashew curry ($8.95) and lasagna ($8.50).

And while many people would be happy eating cardboard after a long day of hiking, Backpacker’s Pantry products ensure an alternative to instant potatoes or rice and beans.”They’re great,” said Ute employee Ted Summers. “They use real spices that you would normally use when you cook at home. All the ingredients that you normally would use are just freeze-dried. They tend to be a little gummy sometimes if you don’t let all the stuff [in the package] hydrate all the way. If you let them hydrate, then they’re just as good as eating at home.”Nate Peterson can be reached at npeterson@aspentimes.com

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