Trail Food Prep

Beyond Ramen: Three Cookbooks for Backpacking

Trail Food Prep

Preparing Recipes for an AT Trip

Just how many packs of Ramen Noodles can one person eat in a week?  I tried to find out during college, and didn’t want to repeat the experience while backpacking.  There are good premade dehydrated meals available, but they get expensive when packing for a long trip.

Determined to find healthy, nutritious and affordable alternatives, I began collecting backcountry cookbooks.  Over the years, I found a few favorites.  Now my meals are the envy of hungry packers.  To top my list, a cookbook’s recipes have to be simple and the ingredients easy to find.

Here are three cookbooks to get you started eating well on the trail.

The Appalachian Trail Food Planner – By Lou Adsmond

Don’t let the name fool you.   The Appalachian Trail Food Planner is useful no matter where you hike.  It extends beyond recipes with chapters on Mail-Drop Lists and Schedule, Ingredients and Staples, and Menus.  The recipes are simple, easy to follow and each has a trailside instruction card.


  • The ANZACs cookies in Adsmond’s book are a favorite of mine both at home and on the trail. They are yummy, full of complex carbohydrates and stay together in my pants pocket.  The recipe is originally from World War 1, when women baked these cookies for their men in the Australian-New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC).
  • The Sunrise Spuds breakfast is a potato dish will warm your belly on a cold morning, and give you the energy to hike until lunch.  I pack each serving in a quart size Ziploc bag.  In the morning I poor hot water directly into the bag, and eat.  Eating out of the bag saves time while breaking camp.

Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’ – By Tim and Christine Conners

Compiled of recipes from backpackers across the US and Canada, there is something for nearly every hiker in this cookbook.  Some require dehydrating, but the book gives clear directions.  Excellent tips, a touch of humor, and a bit of history, pepper the pages.  Trailside instruction cards are also included. This is a good pick for your first backcountry cookbook.


  • A healthy portion of the Backpack Pot Pie will make you think you’re in a southern diner, not miles out in the woods.
  • My sweet tooth loves the Whitewater Cheesecake.

Trail Food – By Alan S. Kesselheim

Trail Food is heavier on dehydration than the previous two books. It even includes plans to build your own dehydrator.  I sometimes use this book just for the section on dehydration, since it is better than the instructions that came with my dehydrator.

Trail Food also extends beyond recipes.  Its chapters include, The Outdoor Kitchen, Organizing Your Pack and The One-Week Backcountry Menu.  An emphasis on nutrition is a welcome addition, as well.


  • The homemade beef jerky recipes.

Before your next backpacking trip, have fun planning and prepping some affordable, tasty and nutritious meals for the trail. For those of you who just can’t hike without a pack of Ramen Noodles, each of these books has a recipe using the classic, budget extending, staple, of college students and hikers.

UPDATE 8/17/2012: I have another new favorite I must share – A Fork in the Trail – By Laurie Ann March

After first writing this post I started chatting with Laurie Ann via Facebook and ended up ordering her books. They were a good find and I recommend you add them to your library.

Comments 7

  1. Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’ and the sequel Lipsmackin’ Vegetarian Backpackin’ are both great books. I’m a bit biased because I went on a wilderness canoe trip with the authors (some of the photos in the veg book are from that trip). The couple encouraged me to write my own cookbook on that trip… but I am getting off topic here. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I tasted quit a bit of their food on that trip and their books are great.

    1. What an opportunity to try some amazing trail food! It sounds like you’re a cook as well, let me know if you would like to share a couple of recipes in a guest post!

  2. Pingback: Essential Reading – Campfire Chic

  3. Great post. I will be adding these books to my wishlist. Hopefully, I will be able to prepare other meals away from Mountain Houses and Ramen noodles!

  4. I am always looking for new recipes to make while taking my Texas trails! If I love them they will move into my planned PCT trip next year! Gonna go check out the books for my wishlist!

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