by Jemima Headlam
Hiking with a group is a great way to push your cooking boundaries with the support of your friends, and there is nothing like coming together at the end of a long day to debrief and share a meal. Sometimes people prefer to do individual meals, often for the sake of simplicity, but why not come together with a shared meal? It's much more fun but the logistics can be a nightmare to organise, so here are Trek & Travels Top tips to dining in the outdoors with a group.
- Work out everyone’s food allergies. Nut allergies? Lactose free? Gluten free? Vegan? Vegetarian? Preferences? Anyone hate scroggin (if that is even a possibility). Make sure you cater for everyone. If most of your group is vego, why not give it a go too.
- Vego options: Campers Pantry Pea and Cauliflower Dahl was a hit, even with the meat eaters of our group. The Back Country Cuisine Pasta Veg and Veg Stir Fry are always satisfying. For the meat eaters who just can’t go without consider taking some jerky in your snack bag. Personal favourite is Griffin’s Chipotle Beef Jerky!
- Anyone with serious allergies, carry an EpiPen! Fortunately no one in our group was allergic to nuts (i can’t imagine a hike without scroggin but I’m sure it can be done).
- Lactose free? Keep powdered milk and cheese separate.
- Gluten free? Switch out pasta for rice. GF porridge is actually quite satisfying (once you add a mountain load of dried fruit and a bit of cinnamon). Rice crackers instead of your Jatz crackers. Read the ingredients of any pre-made meals! Back Country does a load of clearly marked GF meals. Campers Pantry does delicious freeze-dried veggies you can add to rice noodles or rice. YUM!
- Try to pick ingredients that are as light as possible and don't take too long to cook (remember - longer cooking time means more fuel required and fuel = weight). Rice crackers, rice noodles, freeze dried veggies, instant noodles, Cup-a-soups, dehydrated meals etc. are all lightweight and cook fast!
Split the food into ‘meal types’ between each hiker. That way everyone carries some and you only have to grab one bag at meals times.
- Our party of five split the kitchen this way: one person has the breakfast, one has all the lunch, one has all the dinners, one has snacks and hot drinks (coffee,tea and powdered milk) and the last person carries the stoves and fuel.
- If you're only sharing evening meals and doing your own breakfasts and lunch, have everyone carry one meal and draw lots to determine the order in which they are eaten.
- Kitchen Set up! Stove(s) - how many people are in your group? 2-3 people might only need 1 stove and 1 pot while with 4-6 members you’ll want to take at least 2 stoves. Then there's the added bonus that if one stove fails you’ve got a back up.
- We found the best combination for our group was the Jetboil Minimo for fast boiled water and the MSR Dragonfly multi fuel stove for longer cooking, like rice or porridge. Multi fuel stoves work better in super cold conditions, while the Jetboil gas stove makes a hot cuppa in the blink of an eye with very little prep and fuss.
- Having two stoves on the go at the same time is way more efficient, one can be boiling water for a hot drink while the second is making dinner.
- Pots, Bowls and cutlery - size matters, so does weight! The best group set up we’ve come across is the Sea to Summit Alpha Set 4.2 - two pots, four bowls and four mugs all fit into one compact 1.2 kg set!
Luxury/ Gourmet items: consider a frying Pan. Easter was the first time I've ever taken anything so luxurious as the Sea to Summit Alpha Pan and I have to say I was not disappointed. We took the big one, 10” or 25.5cm for those in the new world. With its weight of 335 g, and the size and bulk, it's definitely considered a luxury item.
- Easter morning we treated ourselves to Pancakes
- Multiple Lunchtimes we had Quesadillas for lunch. Sandwich, a bit of cheese between two, bit of flat bread or corn tortillas… YUUUMMMMMM
- Meat eats - Fried salami - droooool
- Vegoes - Fried Tofu - how good does that sound?
- Oh and EGGS! Who doesn’t love fried/scrambled eggs. Depending on the temperatures you can carry eggs in tassie for a couple of days (keep them protected in a Coghlans Egg Holder.
- And don't forget pudding, for heaven's sake! A block of chocolate is always welcome, unless you're in the desert in which case it'll rapidly turn into packet soup - ugh! Little individual supermarket steamed puddings like Aunt Betty's are scrumptious, as is Back Country's Apple Pie and their other options.
- Contain your Condiments, if you’re anything like me I won’t eat anything unless it's as hot as the pits of hell. I like my food spicy and therefore need to add a lot of chilli to my meals. For chilli powder, your favorite seasoning or other spices (i.e. nutmeg for your porridge/cinnamon in your coffee) check out the Salt and Pepper Shaker from GSI. For liquids you really can’t go past the little Nalgene bottles. There are completely leakproof, great for cooking oils, dressings etc. For honey and hot sauce I use GoToobs. Originally designed for liquid soaps in mind these are great for sauces! The caps don’t leak and the silicone casing means you can squeeze out the goods, even on those chilly mornings.
- Partake in a little Fire Water of an evening? There's unfortunately no such thing as dehydrated beer, at least none that is actually drinkable. If we invented one we'd be millionaires, but in the meantime your best bet is a hip flask or quality drop of red wine. If plumping for the latter, the PlatyPreserve is a great soft bottle made specifically for carrying wine. It makes a great gift as well, for other wine lovers or maybe just yourself!
- Sea to Summit Wilderness Wash is a long time favourite detergent for many hikers. Despite having a low ph and claiming to have a neutral effect on the environment, ALWAYS clean and rinse your gear away from any natural water sources. If a grease/food trap is provided at the campsite be sure to use it. We don’t want to encourage pests or fat possums now, do we?
- Pro tip: put aside some hot water from the kettle for washing up. Anyone who’s pulled the short straw and found themselves washing up on a cold night will know the unbearable pain of freezing water on cold hands.
- If you’re at a campsite without a water tank you could use a Kitchen Sink like the Sea to Summit one (pssssst - these also double as a really good laundry sink too) and our favourite cleaning tool is the GSI Compact Scraper - gets you pots clean as a whistle!
So next time you're on a group hike, overnight or week-long, make the evenings more fun by planning a menu ahead of time with your friends, splitting up the buying, packing and carrying, and cook up a storm!