by Betty Thompson

BACKPACKING FOOD IS NOT JUST FOR the backpacker. Convenient, compact, nourishing foods that are sturdy for travel are handy in a variety of situations.

How about a delicious breakfast bar on the way to school, to work, after a workout? Enjoy a few strips of jerky at the beach or on a bike ride. Tuck a few trail bars in your bag for unexpected delays in flight. Keep some in your car for an emergency or to soothe cranky children.

I like backpacking and over the years I have collected ideas from friends and experimented with recipes. Many dried foods are economical to buy, especially in bulk, but homemade breakfast bars, beef jerky and trail bars are the best.

Breakfast bars are a favorite granola combined with egg and the creative choice of fruits, nuts and flavorings you like best. Each batch can be a different flavor by changing the additions. I usually add a half teaspoon of complimentary extract to each recipe along with the fruit and nuts. Fresh orange or lemon peel is a good flavor enhancer for all. Try raisin, peanut and vanilla or date, walnut with orange extract and peel, or cherry and almonds with almond extract or coconut pecan with lemon peel and extract.

Quality beef turned into homemade jerky with your own selection of favorite seasonings is unbeatable. It makes a welcome gift, too. Keep in mind salt (soy) is an important factor in the cure as it reduces the moisture content of the meat, retards spoilage as well as adding flavor.

Jerky is easy to dry on racks in four to seven hours in a regular oven at a low temperature. A dehydrator is not necessary. It's a good idea to keep a record of the seasoning so the best combinations can be repeated.

Trail bars are high-powered (increased vitamins, minerals, protein) cookies. Some high-powered ingredients are powdered milk, whole-grain flour, wheat germ, small amounts of soy protein flour or nutritional yeast, nuts and seeds and dried fruits. With homemade bars one has more control over sugar and fat content.

In addition to snack foods, a good portable lunch is dehydrated hummus (garbanzo bean and sesame spread) packaged in a sturdy ziplock bag. Package only enough for one meal. Label the quantity and how much water to add. At lunch time, add water, mix it in the bag, cut off a corner and pipe it onto sturdy crackers. Rye crisp, wheat thins, rice crackers or European-style whole grain bread, such as Rubschlager, keeps well and travels well.

If planning a quick meal for a longer hike or bike ride, try the dried foods in bulk bins. For convenience and fast meal preparation, pre-measure, mix and pack in small plastic bags what will be required for individual meals.

Unlike pre-packaged items one can take as much or little as desired. Label the contents, amount of water needed and cooking time. Package several small bags together that make a complete meal. Refried black beans, pre-cooked rice, sun-dried tomato bits and parmesan cheese go well together. Curried lentils, couscous and vegetables for soup is a good combination. Split pea soup packaged with bacon bits and dehydrated mashed potatoes is good. The potatoes are an extender and help thicken the soup.

Many foods used for backpacking are a welcome economical fast food meal at home, a quick nutritious snack to pack along, or an easy-to-store emergency meal. Here are three favorites.



2 cups favorite granola

2 eggs

A little honey (optional)

Flavoring fruits and nuts if desired

Mix thoroughly. Line a 6 by 8 inch pan with greased foil for easy removal. Spread 1/4 inch thick evenly and press firmly. Cut almost through into 2-inch bars. Bake 20 minutes at 300 degrees. Cool and cut apart. Wrap and store in a covered container.

Apricot Orange: Add 1 cup dried apricots cut into pieces, 1 teaspoon grated orange rind, 1/2 teaspoon orange or lemon extract to the granola.

Maple Date: Add 12 cup date pieces, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring.



2 pounds lean boneless beef, eye of round or flank steak (freeze for 20 minutes to make slicing easier)

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon onion flakes

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Trim off all fat and sinew. Cut meat with the grain (more chewy) or cross grain (more tender) into 1/8 -inch slices. Cut slices into strips 1 1/2 inches wide.

Combine the remaining ingredients for the marinade. Add strips of meat, coating well. Place all in a zip-lock bag and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Occasionally shift the bag around to mix the meat.

Place meat on clean oven racks with a sheet of foil on the oven floor to catch drips or place on cake racks in shallow rimmed baking pans. At this point if desired, add additional coarse ground black pepper to the slices. Do not overlap slices.

Dry meat on the lowest possible oven temperature (150 degrees) for 4 to 7 hours or until meat is hard and dry to the touch. Dry off any drops of oil. Let cool and store in airtight plastic bags or a jar. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.



1/3 cup oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cup molasses

1 egg

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1/4 cup toasted wheat germ

1/4 powdered milk

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup liquid milk

1 cup rolled oats

1 1/2 cups raisins, chopped

In a large mixing bowl, beat oil, sugar, molasses and egg together. In another bowl, combine flour, wheat germ, dry milk, salt, baking powder, soda and spices. Mix well. Add to the egg mixture alternately with the milk. Stir in 1/2 cup nuts, raisins and oats.

Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with greased foil. Spread batter in pan and sprinkle with remaining almond slices. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool and cut into 2-inch squares.

Betty Thompson has taught cooking locally since 1974.


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