Camp Chef Makeover: Mr. Lite, Fast, & Drab

Backcountry cooking doesn't have to mean bland.

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(Illustration by Kim Sielbeck)

Steven Roy, 35, Milton, MA

Diagnosis Unnecessarily sacrificing taste for weight “When on an extended backpack [he thru-hiked the AT in 1998], I stick to very lightweight food,” says Steven. “I usually have oatmeal for breakfast—often five days in a row—beef jerky and goldfish for lunch, ramen, Lipton Noodles, or a Mountain House for dinner, and GU and Clif Shots for snacks.”

Makeover by Pearson. Philosophy: “More variety equals more fun. Plus, the better you fuel your body, the faster and farther you’ll go.”

Meal Rx We ramped up the menu variety—but not the weight—by adding a range of textures and flavors; we also threw in protein, vegetables, and a treat-yourself-occasionally recipe designed to fortify (physically and mentally) a relentless thru-hiker.

The Recipe: Easy Coconut Curry


1 cup couscous

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoons mixed dehydrated


2/3 cup powdered coconut milk mixed with 11/4 cup water

1 4-ounce chicken packet

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon sugar or honey

1 tablespoon soy sauce

(Total weight: 15.6 ounces)

At home
Dehydrate a mixture of vegetables such as peas, red peppers, carrots, spinach, and corn (or buy freeze-dried from a store or Put curry and garlic in a zip-top bag. Transfer oil and soy sauce to spill-proof containers.

In camp

Boil 1 1/4 cups water, add couscous and olive oil, remove from heat, and cover. Let sit for five minutes or until water is absorbed. Heat reconstituted milk to a simmer; add rehydrated vegetables and chicken. Mix in curry and garlic powders, sweetener, and soy sauce. Spoon over couscous and enjoy.

Humdrum Helpers

For extra variety and nutrition that doesn’t require a lot of menu-planning, add these tastes and textures to your one-pot meal:

Sweet Coconut flakes, raisins, and dates

Salty Smoked or tamari-seasoned nuts, Brewer’s yeast, Parmesan, squeeze packets of Justin’s Nut Butter (, or toasted seaweed such as nori

Crunchy Nuts, sunflower seeds, pretzels, sesame sticks, dehydrated peas, Frontier Bac’Uns (vegetarian bacon bits made of soy protein)

Tangy Unsweetened cranberries, lemon juice, honey mustard