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Backcountry Menu Planning: What Do You Pack?

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August 26, 2013

Backcountry Menu Planning: What Do You Pack?

By David Draper

In about a week I’ll be packing into the Utah Book Cliffs for a backcountry elk hunt. The next few days will be a flurry of last-minute activity, including exercising, shooting, and packing for trip. I’m also still working out my menu for the seven-day hunt, and that’s where I could use a little help from you. I have a pretty good idea of what my hunting partner and I will be eating, but am looking for ideas from hunters with experience camping and hunting well away from the trailhead.

I have hired Flying J Outfitters to pack us into a drop camp via horseback, so we don’t have to go super lightweight, but we do still have a weight limit to consider. A lack of refrigeration will limit what goes into the panniers for the pack in, and to put further constraints on the menu, the closest water source will be about a mile away, with a steep uphill pack back to camp. While I’m not on a budget per se, I am cheap by nature, so I’d like to keep the cost of groceries to a minimum.

Price is the reason for some of what’s featured in the photo above. Instant potatoes are on sale this week for a buck a package. Same goes for the Knorr Sides, which are going for 99 cents right now. I will probably be adding a few Mountain House meals to the larder and, of course, there will be plenty of venison jerky and snack sticks, along with trail mix, oatmeal, peanut butter, trail bars, and probably some fresh fruit like apples and oranges.

Hopefully, by the middle of the week we’ll be enjoying some fresh elk steaks, but what’s missing or what would you add to the grocery list (other than a bottle of whiskey, which I assure you will be added to the pack)? Any insight on what makes for a great meal in elk camp?

Comments (16)

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from tom1777 wrote 33 weeks 1 day ago

Have you considered MRE`s? They would save space and you could just supplement with the snacks you previously mentioned.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from SMC1986 wrote 33 weeks 1 day ago

A few cans of tuna. Throw them in with the knorr sides and boom you have a meal for two. I wouldn't take MREs. They tend to be fairly bulky and not on the gourmet side of the taste spectrum. Maybe pack some goya adoba seasoning. You can out it on a rock and it would be edible.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 33 weeks 1 day ago

2 cans of spam [a la Monty Python] to go along with those dehyd potatoes and no fast coming elk meat, Box of hot coco mix. Some Rice-Aroni. Puddings.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 33 weeks 1 day ago

You already have the most important item, a Book Cliffs elk tag. Congratulations

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 33 weeks 1 day ago

Both SMC and Mark have mentioned a couple of items I take all over the world and they seem to add a little zest to the menu on special occasions. They are heavy and a bit bulky, but they can be added to all most anything to give a bit of flavor . Couple cans of tuna and Spam. In tough country you rarely get fish. Tuna can creatively be added to all kinds of things. Spam can be added to taco meat for a special taste. Decades ago always took a bottle of Tabasco, but these days it is common throughout the world. Now I substitute a small bottle of soy sauce. Just a few thoughts from someone who has been in a lot of tough country around the world. Kindest Regards

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jay wrote 33 weeks 1 day ago

I always pack in the little packets of pepper to give the stuff some taste. No use in taking salt, almost all the meals you take have plenty.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jay wrote 33 weeks 1 day ago

Almost forget. You can buy crystal light singles that are good for 16 ounces of water. Sometimes its nice to have something to drink other than water. They are small and light.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hengst wrote 33 weeks 1 day ago

Make some logan bread or hudson bay bread. Some PBJ on top and you get a boat load of calories that taste good and realy stick to your ribs, high calorie to weight ratio. I would go with the hudosn bay bread for this trip if I were lucky enough to have that tag.
Tortilla wraps and the chicken in the mylar package are also pretty good, get the chicken and tuna with water in it and add dehydrated onions, peppers
You can make a decent stew out of jerky also., thicken up the liquid with the mashed potatoe flakes.
Add some flour to the mashed potatoe flakes and you can get dumplings or make patties and fry in a skillet. If you freeze bacon you can make this the first day in with the bacon grease, bacon will be ok as long as you have it packed frozen and use fast.
Have fun!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from chidjm wrote 33 weeks 1 day ago

A bottle of honey is pure energy, and will go good with the peanut butter. Also, get some tortillas for your PB and Honey to make wraps. Or you could just drink it for a quick pick up and instant cavity.

A bag of candy will also be a good quick energy boost, while also helping boost spirits. But that's what the whiskey's for, right?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 33 weeks 14 hours ago

Back in the 70's when running was very popular, marathoners would eat bacon and eggs prior to a race. It provided the energy necessary to last all-day. Both bacon and eggs will last several days in a pack. My favorite pre-hunt meal is a bacon, eggs and peanut butter sandwich.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from sib wrote 33 weeks 9 hours ago

Boondockers Used Sports website has a good all around high calorie, low cost baking mix that is versitile. I tried posting the link, but F&S says it contains obscene words...I don't see it. You'll have to google it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hermit crab wrote 33 weeks 9 hours ago

Don't know if you're bow or gun hunting, but if bow hunting, be sure to pack a judo or blunt point or two for any birds or small game you may come across.

In addition, since you're quite the gourmand, I'd recommend a few extra additions:

Cheese - A small wedge of a hard cheese like a parmigiano can keep for a surprisingly long time without being refrigerated - wrap in paper not plastic. May not last all week, but a small block makes a great snack for a few days!

A few small onions are well worth their small size/weight and go well in everything you cook.

Spices in small baggies or one of those backcountry spice containers. Definitely garlic powder, pepper, salt and tony chachere's or other "universal" spice.

Lastly, fill up a few film canisters with real salted butter. It'll easily last a week in the shade without spoiling, and is a welcome addition to everything. Few things in the world as good as fresh elk heart sauteed in butter with garlic and onion!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hornd wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

Sardines + Crackers
Mrs Grass Chix Noodle + Can of Chix Breast
Rice Cakes + Peanut Butter
Salmon Jerky
Smoked nuts
Dried Apricots or Figs
M&M's
Tabasco Chipotle or Heinz Jalapeno for some kick
Tang to cover off taste water
Tea & Honey

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 268bull wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

I would drop the fresh fruit in favor of dried fruit. Less weight plus less bulk to carry. Papaya's, pineapple. pears, cut into bit size are a nice treat to refer back to. You mentioned jerky, which is a good thing, but I pre-cut mine to bite size pieces, not having to do head twists to get a manageable bite. Maybe,depending on your palatable tastes, hardboil a dozen eggs before you leave. Quick breakfast protein and less the mess. Good luck on your hunt!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from coachsjike wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

can of chili always works for me.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from OMuilleoir wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

Anything that packs a lot of protein - sandwich ready tunafish packs go great with crackers. Clif bars, if you can stand the taste, are good energy boosters.Instant oatmeal is nice warm start to cold mornings. Beef jerky of course.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from tom1777 wrote 33 weeks 1 day ago

Have you considered MRE`s? They would save space and you could just supplement with the snacks you previously mentioned.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jay wrote 33 weeks 1 day ago

I always pack in the little packets of pepper to give the stuff some taste. No use in taking salt, almost all the meals you take have plenty.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from chidjm wrote 33 weeks 1 day ago

A bottle of honey is pure energy, and will go good with the peanut butter. Also, get some tortillas for your PB and Honey to make wraps. Or you could just drink it for a quick pick up and instant cavity.

A bag of candy will also be a good quick energy boost, while also helping boost spirits. But that's what the whiskey's for, right?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hornd wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

Sardines + Crackers
Mrs Grass Chix Noodle + Can of Chix Breast
Rice Cakes + Peanut Butter
Salmon Jerky
Smoked nuts
Dried Apricots or Figs
M&M's
Tabasco Chipotle or Heinz Jalapeno for some kick
Tang to cover off taste water
Tea & Honey

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from SMC1986 wrote 33 weeks 1 day ago

A few cans of tuna. Throw them in with the knorr sides and boom you have a meal for two. I wouldn't take MREs. They tend to be fairly bulky and not on the gourmet side of the taste spectrum. Maybe pack some goya adoba seasoning. You can out it on a rock and it would be edible.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 33 weeks 1 day ago

2 cans of spam [a la Monty Python] to go along with those dehyd potatoes and no fast coming elk meat, Box of hot coco mix. Some Rice-Aroni. Puddings.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 33 weeks 1 day ago

You already have the most important item, a Book Cliffs elk tag. Congratulations

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 33 weeks 1 day ago

Both SMC and Mark have mentioned a couple of items I take all over the world and they seem to add a little zest to the menu on special occasions. They are heavy and a bit bulky, but they can be added to all most anything to give a bit of flavor . Couple cans of tuna and Spam. In tough country you rarely get fish. Tuna can creatively be added to all kinds of things. Spam can be added to taco meat for a special taste. Decades ago always took a bottle of Tabasco, but these days it is common throughout the world. Now I substitute a small bottle of soy sauce. Just a few thoughts from someone who has been in a lot of tough country around the world. Kindest Regards

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jay wrote 33 weeks 1 day ago

Almost forget. You can buy crystal light singles that are good for 16 ounces of water. Sometimes its nice to have something to drink other than water. They are small and light.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hengst wrote 33 weeks 1 day ago

Make some logan bread or hudson bay bread. Some PBJ on top and you get a boat load of calories that taste good and realy stick to your ribs, high calorie to weight ratio. I would go with the hudosn bay bread for this trip if I were lucky enough to have that tag.
Tortilla wraps and the chicken in the mylar package are also pretty good, get the chicken and tuna with water in it and add dehydrated onions, peppers
You can make a decent stew out of jerky also., thicken up the liquid with the mashed potatoe flakes.
Add some flour to the mashed potatoe flakes and you can get dumplings or make patties and fry in a skillet. If you freeze bacon you can make this the first day in with the bacon grease, bacon will be ok as long as you have it packed frozen and use fast.
Have fun!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 33 weeks 14 hours ago

Back in the 70's when running was very popular, marathoners would eat bacon and eggs prior to a race. It provided the energy necessary to last all-day. Both bacon and eggs will last several days in a pack. My favorite pre-hunt meal is a bacon, eggs and peanut butter sandwich.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from sib wrote 33 weeks 9 hours ago

Boondockers Used Sports website has a good all around high calorie, low cost baking mix that is versitile. I tried posting the link, but F&S says it contains obscene words...I don't see it. You'll have to google it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hermit crab wrote 33 weeks 9 hours ago

Don't know if you're bow or gun hunting, but if bow hunting, be sure to pack a judo or blunt point or two for any birds or small game you may come across.

In addition, since you're quite the gourmand, I'd recommend a few extra additions:

Cheese - A small wedge of a hard cheese like a parmigiano can keep for a surprisingly long time without being refrigerated - wrap in paper not plastic. May not last all week, but a small block makes a great snack for a few days!

A few small onions are well worth their small size/weight and go well in everything you cook.

Spices in small baggies or one of those backcountry spice containers. Definitely garlic powder, pepper, salt and tony chachere's or other "universal" spice.

Lastly, fill up a few film canisters with real salted butter. It'll easily last a week in the shade without spoiling, and is a welcome addition to everything. Few things in the world as good as fresh elk heart sauteed in butter with garlic and onion!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 268bull wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

I would drop the fresh fruit in favor of dried fruit. Less weight plus less bulk to carry. Papaya's, pineapple. pears, cut into bit size are a nice treat to refer back to. You mentioned jerky, which is a good thing, but I pre-cut mine to bite size pieces, not having to do head twists to get a manageable bite. Maybe,depending on your palatable tastes, hardboil a dozen eggs before you leave. Quick breakfast protein and less the mess. Good luck on your hunt!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from coachsjike wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

can of chili always works for me.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from OMuilleoir wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

Anything that packs a lot of protein - sandwich ready tunafish packs go great with crackers. Clif bars, if you can stand the taste, are good energy boosters.Instant oatmeal is nice warm start to cold mornings. Beef jerky of course.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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