Adventure Upgrade: Cook Like a Pro

Pack and prepare a week's worth of mouth-watering meals.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Reader Eric Olson, 42, Woodstock, GA

» Problem “My tastebuds go numb to freeze-dried meals within a few days. How do I pack a delicious, weeklong menu that weighs less than 15 pounds per person?”

Expert Laurie March, author of A Fork in the Trail » Solution “Aim for a calorie-to-weight ratio of at least 125 calories per ounce, and plan carefully—I’ll consider heavier foods if they save me fuel weight. Two of the best ways to boost flavor and lighten up: Dehydrate your own meals and plan your menu around versatile staples.”

Pack Energizing and Flavorful Foods

Bring weight-saving meals and prepared fare.

» Plan high-calorie snacks. Load up on healthy but lightweight foods, like cheese, crackers, and nut butters—a 1-ounce packet of almond butter has more than 180 calories.

» Reduce fuel weight. No-cook foods can save a family of four more than one pound per day in fuel weight and shave the weight of cooking equipment. Try muffins and cereal for breakfast and wraps or raw-noodle salads for dinner.

» Dehydrate meals. Save pounds and avoid preservative overload from prepackaged meals by dehydrating your own food. Cut prep by drying leftovers or store-bought prepared dinners.

Use Versatile Bulk Ingredients

Serve these easy-to-adjust foods for any meal.

“A few key foods form the basis of my trail menus,” says March. She suggests mixing these staples with flavorful add-ins and fresh-food complements to build an energizing, balanced, weeklong menu. For recipes from March’s books, visit

Quinoa Rinse and dry this protein-rich supergrain at home. On the trail, cook the grains in water and add dried fruit compote for breakfast, mix with veggies for a lunch salad, or fold into tortillas with Cheddar and salsa for a dinner wrap.

Polenta Fast-cooking cornmeal absorbs any flavor—combine milk and raisins in the morning, or cheese and sun-dried tomatoes for an evening Italian stew. Cool plain leftovers, slice, pan-fry in oil, and drizzle with honey for dessert.

Couscous This versatile pasta works with dried fruit or savory veggies and sauces. In a pinch? Rehydrate it with cold water.