I posted this picture to instagram and Facebook over the weekend from a mini backpacking trip we did with friends and many were surprised to find out it was a dinner we made while backpacking. Today, I’m here to dish all the dirty details on how we made that meal happen, plus share some of our other favorite foods to eat on the trail. 


Backpacking with kids isn’t for the faint of heart and we really are only starting to dip our toes into it with our 5 and 7-year-old. This year we’ve taken them on two mini backpacking trips (hiking less than 2 miles for an overnighter) and one legitimate (and breathtaking) backpacking trip to Coyote Gulch. For anyone that backpacks, you know that planning your meals is of high importance. It’s a time when eating is extremely important for refueling purposes, but your resources are also diminished. You can’t run to the grocery store when you realize you’ve forgotten something which makes planning crucial. You don’t want to be hauling a giant camp stove or a heavy dutch oven so your camp kitchen capabilities are more limited. It’s the perfect challenge for the Dirty Dish Club. (Or an episode of Cutthroat Kitchen.)

Backpacking Pasta w/ Sausage

The secret to our amazing pasta dinner on our backpacking trip the other day was adequate prep at home. The meal we ate is perfect for short trips or day one of a long trip. Here is how we made it happen.

  1. At Home: Make sauce by heating two 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes to a simmer and adding desired seasonings such as garlic, onion, oregano, pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Meanwhile, cut up Italian sausage links (we used four) and sauté in a pan until the sausage is cooked and has a nice crispness. Using an immersion blender (or you can put the whole mixture in a regular blender), puree the tomato mixture until it has a nice creamy consistency. Add the sausage. Put the sauce and sausage mixture in a well sealing container (a ziplock works if you cool the mixture first). Freeze the sauce and sausage then pack for your trip. At this time, you also pack noodles, cheese, cookware, and any desired sides. 
  2. At Camp: Boil water for pasta on a backpacking stove. (We have the original model of this MSR pocket rocket. It brings things to a boil fast.) Cook pasta. We used about 8 oz of shell noodles for four of us. Using the lid of your pot (we purchased this set almost a decade ago), carefully drain the water off the pasta. (This also could be a good time to use a collapsible colander if you have one.) Dish the pasta into your dishes so the pot is empty. Add the sauce to the pot and heat through. (Hopefully your hiking has given it enough time to thaw. Our hike was very short so I only half froze the sauce.) Spoon onto pasta and garnish with grated parmesan. (We brought Pecorino-Romano we grated at home. You could also bring parmesan packets you get from pizzerias.)
  3. The Sides: A petite baguette and a pre-made salad from the produce section of our local Kroger store. Salads will survive outside a refrigerator for awhile. We don’t buy many salad kits in regular life, but they are excellent camping/backpacking options since it compiles a dressing and delicious toppings into a compact shell.

Our other favorite foods to eat on the trail:

  • Hardboiled eggs – When kept in their shells, they can go several days without refrigeration.
  • Bagels and cream cheese – can go several days without refrigeration
  • Almond Stuffed Campfire Peaches  – Best for night one or short trips.
  • Oatmeal packets (If you’re interested in hearing our recipe for DIY ones, let us know and we’ll do a post on it.)

Half the food we packed for our big backpacking trip to Coyote Gulch.

  • Dried fruit – Trader Joe’s has a nice selection as does Costco.
  • Nuts – Trader Joe’s has a nice selection as does Costco.
  • Pretzels or Cheez-Its – Salt is important if you’re sweating a lot.
  • Peanut butter cups – Guilty pleasure and child bribery.
  • Jerky
  • Nutella or peanut butter
  • Shelf stable milks
  • Hot chocolate mix
  • Nuun – Helpful with electrolyte balance. Our favorite flavor is Strawberry Lemonade. Available at Target and Kroger stores.

The other half of the food we packed for Coyote Gulch.

  • Applesauce pouches
  • Granola bars
  • Freeze dried meals like this one. On a multi-day backpacking trip we usually end up eating at least a few of these.

What food do you eat on the trail?

Written by Audrey

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