Most foods taste better when eaten on a backpacking trip. After an exhausting day on the trail, nothing is better than a good meal, and many things I would think twice about eating at home suddenly sound delicious.
That said, there are also some things that never taste good. Everyone has a list; mine includes certain energy bars that trigger week-long indigestion and some dehydrated meals that just don't seem to rehydrate.
On a trip with my dad many years ago, I recall trying a package of powder that claimed to be "dehydrated scrambled eggs." When rehydrated, the result was something like mushy bits of yellow cardboard beyond even the worst soggy goo that has ever passed for scrambled eggs at summer camp. Not only are many dehydrated meals not very tasty, they can be expensive up to $7 a serving.
If you're creative, there are easy alternatives. The keys to planning a good backpacking meal are weight, limited ingredients, nutritional value, cooking time, price and making it in a single pot. Archer Farms brand (found at SuperTarget) offers many lightweight but hearty "just-add-water" foods.
You can also make your own lightweight dinners by combining a small amounts of meat with "just-add-water" pasta, rice, bean or soup. Look for 7-ounce foil packs of chicken from Valley Fresh. Foil packs have less water than cans, meaning a higher meat-to-water ratio. Beef and ham are not easily available in foil packs, but you can get Hormel Smoked Ham in 5-ounce cans. Whatever you buy, it's a good idea to try it first at home. That way you'll know if you'll be able to enjoy it on the trail.
Here are some delicious, inexpensive, lightweight, hearty and fast-cooking one-pot meals for your next backpacking adventure. Pre-cooked weights per person are listed at the end of each.
Tortellini: Cook a 12-ounce bag of Barilla Three Cheese or Spinach Tortellini and add an 8-ounce can of Hunt's Basil, Garlic, and Oregano Tomato Sauce. You'll have a delicious meal for three. If you bring some grated parmesan cheese in a plastic bag, you'll "wow" the whole crew. Weight: 6.5-ounce per person.
Penne Carbonara With Ham: Two 4¾-ounce boxes of Archer Farms Penne Carbonara and a 5-ounce can of Hormel Smoked Ham will satisfy two backpackers. Carbonara dishes typically include bacon, but smoked ham subs nicely. Drain the water from the ham while the pasta is cooking and add to the pot 2 minutes before the meal is fully cooked. Weight: 7¼-ounce per person.
Red Pepper Risotto With Salmon: Archer Farms' Red Pepper Risotto can be enhanced with foil-packaged salmon. Two boxes of risotto (6-ounces each) with two packages of Chicken of the Sea Pink Salmon (2½-ounces each) satisfied two hearty backpackers. Weight: 8½-ounce per person.
Bean Burritos: For each hiker, seal two flour tortillas in a plastic bag and pack ¼ to of a package of Santa Fe Instant Southwestern Refried Beans. Round up some extra hot sauce packets from your favorite drive-through and you're ready to go. All you have to do is to rehydrate the beans, heat the tortillas and roll the beans and sauce into the warm tortillas. Weight: 5-6 ounces per person.