Posted by: James Wapotich | November 26, 2010

The Backcountry Gourmet: What I found at Ralph’s

As you know, two of the biggest challenges around designing a menu for a backpacking trip are variety and cost. Often dehydrated food can be as expensive as eating out in a restaurant and coming up with new ideas can take some work.  In those rare moments when I have too much free time on my hands I occasionally spend time wandering the aisles of Ralph’s looking for inspiring alternatives.  Recently I would say I found two such items.

The first is Pomo Marinara Sauce.  I’ve taken spaghetti on backpacking trips a number of times, and it’s always a bit of a quandary: does one pack in and out the jar, does one find some kind of plastic container that doesn’t leak, or does one try to bring fresh vegetables and canned tomato sauce?  Finally, the same futuristic technology that lets you drink fruit juice from a box has been put to good use.  Pomo Marinara Sauce comes in just such a box and is therefore easy to store and transport.  And because it’s already loaded with tomatoes and seasonings all you really need is pasta and some meat if you want. The 750g box (26.46 oz.) is $4.99 and serves 2-3 people. On our last trip we added in Tri-Tip that we’d brought along. More recently I’ve come across pre-cooked chicken meatballs from Trader Joe’s that also work well.

The second find is Idahoan Instant Mashed Potatoes. Typically dehydrated potatoes can run as much as $2.99 per 3 oz. bag, while these Idahoan Instant Potatoes are only $1.25 per 4 oz. bag and come in a variety of flavors that we as consumers have to come expect such as Roast Garlic & Parmesan. Here too the Tri-Tip made for a nice addition. Admittedly a couple bucks isn’t that big of a deal, but it’s easy to think that the only place you can find backpacking food is at a sporting goods store.

What’s your favorite backcountry recipe?


  1. I really like cooking with couscous on backpacking trips. It only requires hot water, so it’s quick to prepare and it tends to take up the flavor of whatever sauce you add.

    One easy recipe:
    Place the following contents into a 1 quart ziploc freezer bag at home before you leave on the trip:
    1 cup dry couscous
    1 package of pesto sauce powder mix (you can find this with the powdered sauces at Ralphs, Vons, etc.
    1 handful of pistachio pieces.

    Bring along a pouch of tuna or chicken, some olive oil and some pamersean cheese.

    In camp, bring 1.5 cups of water to boil, pour into the freezer bag with the couscous mix. Add the olive oil and tuna/chicken. Close up the ziploc, place the bag inside your beanie or somethign similar (to keep it warm) and let it sit for about 5 minutes, kneading the bag every once in a while to mix up the contents.

    Once the water is mostly soaked up and the couscous rehydrated, you can pour the food out into a bowl (or eat it right out the bag and avoid having to do dishes) and add the cheese and you’re ready to go!

  2. 2019 Update: Idaho Mashed Potatoes, in all their flavors (4-Cheese!), are now sold at Dollar Tree, one of the “99 cent” stores They also sell foil packets of Starkist Tuna for another 99 cents. Add a single serving of soy sauce from your last take-out Chinese meal, and you have the 3 ingredients for a cheap, awesome, backpacking meal. … Just saying.

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