A NOLS Instructor’s Favorite Backcountry Foods

Kandace Wysock

Table of Contents Potato-Ramen StewSubstancesGuidelinesVegan “Creamy” Mushroom PolentaIngredientsGuidanceBackcountry PizzaElementsGuidanceButtermilk Pancakes with Buttermilk IcingElementsGuidelinesBackcountry ButtermilkElementsDirections Just after a long, difficult working day on the path, the human body does not just crave fuel. It desires a warm, delicious, and nourishing feast. “Eating effectively in the backcountry would make these kinds of […]

Just after a long, difficult working day on the path, the human body does not just crave fuel. It desires a warm, delicious, and nourishing feast. “Eating effectively in the backcountry would make these kinds of a planet of variation,” says John Sims, rations supervisor for the National Outdoor Leadership School’s Rocky Mountain campus in Lander, Wyoming. He’s observed it firsthand: “I remember a person day previous drop when I was operating as an instructor. We experienced moved for a number of several hours to camp, and all the pupils ended up drained, hungry, unsatisfied. The teacher group inspired men and women to start producing foodstuff correct away, some fast soups and ramen. As shortly as people today started out acquiring all those calories, their mentality and the complete atmosphere of the camp turned all around. We went from a grumpy, not happy team to a rather energetic one.”

Since it was founded in 1965, NOLS has been known for refining backcountry meals, as evidenced by its cookbook, NOLS Cookery, now in its seventh edition. In addition to area-examined recipes, the book consists of guidance on on how to pack and ration provides, as properly as nourishment strategies for extended-length climbing. As rations manager, Sims likes to make certain his programs’ learners go out into the discipline with versatile ingredients. “We don’t send out out a unique food approach or recipes for learners,” he says. “Instead we mail them out with a bunch of alternatives for food items things, and they get to make their have food approach in the subject.” One of his favourite staples is flour. “Working with it in the discipline is the exact as functioning with it at dwelling,” he says. A different: “We send out them out with a dried tomato powder—tomato paste that has been dried and powderized. You can make a lot of things with it.”

“We have a large amount of learners who come in who do not actually know how to cook dinner,” he suggests. “Showing them how to make a pizza or cinnamon rolls is neat.” That reported, when it comes to his own backcountry cooking, Sims prefers keeping it basic. “For myself, I like points that are on the much easier side—things that are fairly speedy and really don’t have to have a ton of prep.”

Listed here are four of his preferred recipes, ranging in problems from simple, upgraded ramen to chef-worthy buttermilk pancakes.

Potato-Ramen Stew

This recipe is a terrific way to spruce up a go-to backcountry food. “My favourite way to do ramen is boil the noodles like ordinary, insert in spices, and add some prompt potato pearls or flakes and make a thick stew,” Sims suggests. “On major of that, you can include cheese, summertime sausage, a range of salty fatty issues, and it transforms ramen from a lighter appetizer meal into a pretty complete, thick, filling food by by itself.” This recipe is 1 of his favorites if he’s only bringing a Jetboil or an additional backpacking stove. 


1 ramen packet (any flavor will work, but Sims likes Koyo’s Garlic Pepper the very best)
3 ounces immediate potato flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 packet shelf-steady rooster (like Starkist) 


Comply with the directions on the ramen packet, and cook dinner the noodles until soft. Remove from the heat, bit by bit add the potato flakes, and stir. The consistency ought to be thick but continue to thin more than enough to drag a spoon as a result of. Include the olive oil, chicken, and ramen seasoning, stir, and appreciate.

Vegan “Creamy” Mushroom Polenta

If commencing your morning with one thing sweet leads to bonking, attempt polenta. “This savory breakfast is mouth watering no matter if you are vegan or not,” Sims suggests. It also tends to make for a comforting meal.


3 cups h2o
8 ounces polenta
8 ounces cashew milk powder
1 handful dried mushrooms (Sims orders from Harmony Household)
3 ounces dietary yeast
2 packets powdered vegetable bouillon
Salt and pepper to style
1 tablespoons olive oil


Convey the h2o to a boil. When stirring, little by little stream in the polenta, cashew milk powder, mushrooms, dietary yeast, and broth packets, and time to flavor with salt and pepper. Stir consistently for about five minutes, or until eventually the mixture is smooth and thick. Change off the stove. Add the olive oil, go over, and let sit right until the mushrooms end hydrating, about two to three minutes.

Backcountry Pizza

NOLS backcountry pizza (Picture: Courtesy Clary Greacon/NOLS)

If your go-to après meal is a significant slice of pie, you are in for a treat. “This NOLS common has fed and uplifted the spirits of 1000’s of college students and instructors alike,” Sims says. Pizza is a person of the foods taught during every single NOLS class, in addition to cinnamon rolls. You will want a standard cooking package as very well as a few precise parts of equipment: a stove with a simmer perform (NOLS employs the MSR Whisperlite), a flat-bottomed pan with a steel lid, and a pile of little twigs—the major should really be about the measurement of a pencil. Evaluate, combine, and bag the dry crust ingredients (apart from the cornmeal) ahead of time, so they are completely ready to go when you’re in the wild.


For the crust:
6 ounces white flour 
3 ounces powdered milk
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter 
1½ cups drinking water
½ ounce coarse floor cornmeal (optional)

For the sauce:
3 ounces tomato powder 
1 ounce dried onion
1 ounce milk powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder

6 ounces sliced or shredded cheese
Sliced mushrooms


In a bowl, blend all of the crust components (except the cornmeal) together, and roll into a agency ball about the size of the palm of your hand. Use your thumb and fingers to pinch, extend, and flatten the dough until it’s about the thickness of two quarters. Mild the stove and decrease the heat to a simmer—the decrease the much better. If making use of cornmeal, sprinkle it on to the bottom of the flat-bottomed pan. This will carry the dough enough to help hold it from burning. Place the flattened dough into the pan, and deal with with the steel lid. Location some of the compact twigs on prime of the lid and light-weight them. This is referred to as a twiggy hearth, and it simulates the leading burner in an oven. Continue to keep adding twigs to hold the fire burning for five to seven minutes. While the dough cooks, combine the sauce ingredients jointly in a compact bowl or mug, and season to flavor with salt and garlic powder. Blow out the twiggy hearth, and cautiously get rid of the lid. At the time the dough starts off to transform golden, include it with the sauce, cheese, and toppings. Include the pizza with the lid, and restart the twiggy hearth. Prepare dinner right until the cheese is melted, about two to three minutes. Slice and appreciate.

Buttermilk Pancakes with Buttermilk Icing

Making pancakes in Alaska on a NOLS trip
Producing pancakes in Alaska on a NOLS trip (Picture: Courtesy Tracy Baynes/NOLS)

This recipe is one of Sims’s latest discoveries. “Making backcountry buttermilk is nicely truly worth the time,” he suggests. “These pancakes are a mouth watering twist on a classic and are certain to make your pals envious of your backcountry baking techniques.” You can evaluate, mix, and bag the dry ingredients in advance of time, so they’re prepared to go when you are ready to cook dinner.


For the icing:
1 cup butter
1½ cups buttermilk (recipe under)
2 cups granulated sugar 
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the pancakes:
3 tablespoons egg powder (OvaEasy Whole Egg Crystals performs terrific)
9 tablespoons h2o
1 cup white flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ cups buttermilk (recipe down below)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Butter or oil for pan, in addition butter for topping


To make the icing: Blend all of the components in a medium saucepan and mix over medium heat, stirring regularly. The moment the elements have melted, simmer an further minute or two. Take out from the warmth and allow for to great for five to ten minutes before serving. 

To make the pancakes: In a mug, incorporate the egg powder and h2o, blend until eventually clean, and set aside. In a bowl, mix all of the remaining dry components or if you did this move at home, empty your bagged dry-components blend into a bowl. Include the egg mixture, buttermilk, and vanilla, and stir until easy. The pancake combine must be slender and runny sufficient to pour off a spoon. Flip on your stove and warmth up a pan. The moment heat, include either butter or oil. Pour approximately half a cup of the batter into the pan, and cook until eventually compact bubbles form on the area. Flip and go on cooking right up until golden brown. Serve with butter and buttermilk icing. Tends to make 10 to 12 pancakes.

Backcountry Buttermilk


1 cup water
½ tablespoon vinegar
4 tablespoons powdered milk
1½ ounces lemon-juice powder (Accurate Lemon packets work properly)


Add the drinking water, vinegar, and lemon juice powder to a bowl. Mix to dissolve the lemon juice powder. Gradually increase the powdered milk although stirring, breaking apart any clumps. Would make 1½ cups.

Lead Photograph: Ibex.Media/Stocksy

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