Thru Hiker Hacks for Your Spice Kit
Cooking in the backcountry can get bland and monotonous fast. You carried the food all day, the last thing you want to do is not finish or waste it when it sucks. You desperately need to eat! Life demands calories for your next day of summit crushing/hammock napping. With the right spice or accoutrement, you can get the delish’ back in your dish. Here is how to do it light and inexpensively.
Spicy – Aint a Meal without a Kick
This is one of the more basic and common additions so I figured it would be a safe start. Though not calorie significant, the right spicy twag will get any dinner down. Cayenne Pepper is light and easy to bring small amounts (and has medicinal benifits). Red pepper Flake is easy and you can steal individual packets (backcountry ready) at pizza joints. Taco Bell has a series of spicy packets for the taking. My personal favorite takes boldness. Throw the rule book to the wind and bring some liquid with no real calories. Swing by Bojangles on your way out and grab a fist full of Texas Pete Packets. Just a few will make a world of difference. 3 days in the backcountry and these will be as good as money. If you don’t live a driving distance from a Bojangles, consider a move.
MSG – Umami that’s Good
Set aside the dietary controversies around MSG for a moment and glance at the bright side. The reason why it’s found in so many foods is because it is an utterly amazing additive. MSG tricks your tongue into thinking you’re getting dense protein, stimulating hunger. Immediately it will turn your crappy starch bomb dinner into something seemingly palatable. Don’t believe me? Why do you think Ramen is so delicious? You can get straight MSG from different Asian marts or just target spice mixes with monosodium glutamate or Aji-No-Moto. You can also crush up Doritos because they’re basically just Palm Oil and MSG.
Savory Sauce – Saving meals one Packet at a time
Tarter sauce, honey mustard, blue cheese, ranch, and, of course, MAYO. Sounds gross, borderline sad, but these small delights can add a considerable amount of calories while bringing your Pasta Side to the next level. Getting these at a grocery store is out of the question for weight and amount but individual packets are easy to find. Grab a handful of these in most gas stations and fast food troths. Chick-Fil-A and Arby’s (shocker) have the fattiest/best sauces. They are packed with stabilizers that will keep them from spoiling and Soy Bean Oil for dense calories. Free, delicious, stable, lite, worth a try.
Another amazing topping on almost every dinner. P-Cheese has a good amount of protein which is particularly important at the end of the day. You can also grab these in individual packets from pizza joints of all kinds. Some are passionate enough to spring for the full shaker. It’s very possible you could run low on food and need to “pack lips” of parm just to get to town. I’m sure no one has been that desperate.
Butter and Olive Oil
By now the gram counters have closed the window in frustration. The truth is butter and olive oil carry themselves. Each offers more than 100 calories per ounce with EVOO coming in at 119 cal/oz. Both have a surprisingly long shelf life. Butter will melt a little but kept in the right container or a GoToob, it is totally fine unrefrigerated. You can grab butter pads and packets at diners and most sit down restaurants. For more reliable sources, carry a small container and split bottles of olive oil with some friends.
The Hail Mary
Atleast Some Peppa’ Baby
Gas Stations, diners, fast food joints, all have little pepper packets that will balance out the extraordinarily high amounts of sodium in your dinner. Do it for you.
Catch you in a few shakes, for another pinch of wisdom. Until next time.
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