FOOD DISASTERS on HIKING TRIPS!

Check out these hiking food disasters so that you can avoid these catastrophes on your hike. And there are some great meal planning  tips & a few good giggles too!

All experienced hikers know that for a multi-day hike they need to pack a variety of food that is-

  • lightweight and takes up as little room in the pack as possible

  • provides energy to keep them going

  • is easy to prepare

  • is tasty and nourishing to eat

  • has as little packaging and waste as possible

  • Don't want to pack too much and don't want to pack too little!

Sometimes, even after much research and planning, our best efforts to put together the best meal planning lists for hiking trips, still somehow result in disasters. 

Thanks very much for the contributions by the keen and experienced hikers and food planners from "Hiking in Australia and New Zealand" and "Tramping in New Zealand" facebook groups and for their excellent tips and remedies.  

If you have a hiking food disaster or great tip please go to the "Comments" section at the bottom of the page and share. We appreciate your feed back!

Apparently if you're having food disasters, you're not hiking hard enough!

 

  • If you're having food disasters, you're not hiking hard enough! Put in enough effort and a juicy bug will feel like the most delicious thing you've ever eaten. (Steven Williamson)

 

  • When a bug or three plops in your cooking pot with your meal and you think "Well there's some more protein!" then you know you are in the zone... (Joanne Bell )

.....and probably one of the very worst kind of disasters!

  • Funniest caving anecdote I ever heard was a caver who mistook his lunch bag for his 'other' bag, and opened it later on that day for lunch and found... well... shall we say the remains of his last meal? So easy to do in the dark! (Dorrit King)

CONTENTS:

       1. BANANAS

 
Bananas- High on the food disaster list

-High up on the 'disaster list' were bananas! The general consensus was to simply NEVER take bananas

  • I took fresh bananas once knowing they might end up with some bruises. What I didn’t expect was them poaching in the heat and going rotten inside their skins! (Caitlin Maher)

 

  • I put one in the hip belt pocket on the backpack- lol- When I went to eat it, I had banana soup in there -never did get that stain out! (Lucas McDonald)

 

  • Don’t take bananas! (Katie Jessica Latham)

 

  • I agree! I take dried apricots for the potassium instead (Mike Bazaar)

2. FRESH VEGETABLES

 
  • On my first multi-day hike, I thought I'd be well prepared and made a salad consisting of grated carrot, grated zucchini, lettuce, etc, and put it all in a zip lock bag. It was mush by day 1, and I had to carry it for the next few days while it was fermenting! (Alison Matich)

 

  • I thought carrot, capsicum, and cucumber sticks would be great for the first couple of days to have with hummus and cheese. The capsicum sticks got warm and juicy and literally turned into bright red dye and went on everything. Really dumb idea. (Georgie Burgess)

 

  • Don't take rocket (salad)! Thought it would last ok, but it was a stinky mush by day two and the liquid smelt worse as the days went on and leaked through the rest of the food. (Siân Steward)

 

  • Vacuum-packed salad leaves.  Not a good result (Mark Feely)

  • Wanted some fresh veg on a 4-night hike. Chopped up broccoli into little florets and washed them and put then in a Ziplock bag! Perfect! Except when I opened the bag on day three and it smelt like someone had lost their guts!  (Erin Jacob)

​​

  • I made this same mistake - my pack smelt rotten for the entire Milford track! Learnt the lesson to blanch broccoli before placing it into the ziplock bags for the future.(Bronwyn McKinnon

Fresh vegetables- often a hiking disaster20210426_114332.jpg

3. OATS

 
  • Taking oats for porridge on a 2-week walk & forgetting sweetener or powdered milk. 2 weeks of plain boiled oats. I wasn’t popular. And on another hike walking in the highlands of Irian Jaya eating what the locals ate, which was boiled sweet potato 3 times a day for a week. Couldn’t face it for years after that. (Pete Wallace)

 

  • For some reason, I thought taking oats to make porridge (something I never eat) would be a good idea on my first multi-day tramp. I ended up vastly overestimating how many oats were needed to make the right amount and ended up having to pack out large quantities of cooked porridge (aka heavy) because I couldn’t eat it. (Nicole Marie)

 

  • “I can be minimalistic and eat porridge sachets by just pouring cold water in”....forgetting that I don’t like porridge at the best of times and assuming I’d be hungry for breakfasts. Turns out I’m not hungry for cold wet oats. (Makenzie Mergard)

4. RICE & 2 MINUTE NOODLES

  • I took a Chana Masala from the supermarket on one hike. It was so hot we couldn’t eat it and then had to pack all the leftovers back out. (Julie Oliver)

 

  • I see many comments about store-bought spicy food pouches being too hot. You should try all foods you eat on the trail at home first. That Chana masala mentioned above is nice with half a teaspoon of chilli flakes added. Yes! I know you wanted to take half a teaspoon of chilli out not add more. (Alan Geeves)

 

  • I took frozen fried rice on an overnight hike. Forgot to take oil to reheat it with and didn’t think about adding water to the pan. It burnt, stuck to the pot and was bloody horrible (Julie Oliver)

  • Multiday tramp, so had rice, couscous, and red lentils as the staple ingredient for each night. Sounds ok, but undercooked red lentils gave me sooo much wind (lower end).  It has to come out sometime, and it did, all day and all night with such an uncomfortable lower digestive track. Not much fun for the tramping party or fellow hut guests. Never taken it again, and I don't think I ever will. (Laurie Richardson)

  • TIP- Uncle Bens makes very nice rice dishes that require only 30 mls of water. Really yummy (Tammy Feiges Whitham)

  • I eat Asian 2 minute noodles. Especially duck flavour. Every meal!!!!! (Kerry Neighbour)

 

  • OMG!  Duck noodles are my favourite especially the Yum Yum brand but I can’t get them anymore here! (Helen Mckerral)

 

  • When hiking, I basically live on noodles, every single meal. (Gary Roberts)

2 minute noodles- popular hiking food
Uncle Ben rice - good hiking food
 

5. MEAT, SALAMI & FISH

 
  • Be careful with salami. The heat-treated stuff is near indestructible and delicious. However, some cheap salamis are not heat treated and are only as durable as fresh meat. Guess which one I packed 3 warm days early for my return to tramping after many years doing other things. (Alan Geeves) 

 

  •  See above- buy the cured and dried salami's they can last up to 3 months and don't need to be kept in the fridge (Bruce Murdoch)

 

  • Tried to cook a trout we had caught. Wrapped it up in cabbage tree leaves. Pulled it off the fire after about 40 mins in the dark and started tucking in. Thought it tasted a bit odd and when a fellow camper walked past his headlamp indicated we were eating it raw! (David Harlan)

 

  • If you are allergic to sulphites be aware that most dried fruit and salami are full of them. (Kim Carr)

 

  • Jerky. Like peanut butter is just too much effort to eat. Probably good in a starvation situation. (Kerry Neighbour)

6. BACK COUNTRY MEALS

 
Dehydrated gourmet meals
  • The only thing I don't like about the Back Country meals is the amount of sulfites. Make me gassy- lol. Still taste nice, just unpleasant for my party haha (Bryce Brown)

  • Not reading the instructions and assuming you added hot water to ALL Back Country Cuisine meals. I used hot water when I was making their old Strawberry Ice Cream Dessert!!! (Nick Hill)

  • Back Country Mexican chicken...... waaaaaaaaaay too hot. This was before they added the pointer to indicate spicyness. We couldn’t make it less hot by adding coconut milk or something similar like you would at home. We had to eat it but it was almost impossible. I still wonder if something went wrong with the manufacturing! (Esther van den Heuvel )

  • Back Country food. My pasta took 4 x recommended cooking time to be soft enough to eat. The muesli for breakfast was probably a user error fail - there were 2 separate sachets. The one that was meant to become soft stayed hard, and the one that was meant to stay crunchy went soft  (Helen Kerslake-Forbes)

 

  • Back Country food needs to be soaking for an hour before cooking. Then heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring all the time. I add surprise peas to give it more flavour. Otherwise, forget it- they're rubbish! (Kathleen Buck)

 

  • Back Country chocolate brownie... tried a couple of times thinking maybe we just didn't leave it long enough the first time... brownie chunks were like rocks and the sauce was sickly sweet. Such a letdown!!-(Sara-jane Hales-gorbin)

 

  • I"ve had Back Country chocolate brownie a couple of times and really like it! It's the only Back Country food  I have liked. I broke the harder bits down through the packet before opening and it seemed to work a treat (Georgia Hendrie)

 

  • Back Country chocolate brownie - definitely needs more water than it says on the packet! Ended up crunching my way through dry chocolate blocks! Not recommended. Make sure to always boil more water!! (Becci Blakeway)

  • Back Country cooked breakfast - definitely a food disaster. (Amanda Edmonds)

  • Had some pretty ordinary Back Country, especially the pasta ones. I can’t understand why they make them so bland. The other brands aren’t much better. We had the Back Country chocolate dessert recently. It was awful and a waste of money. I must say the Back Country Apple and Apricot desserts are very, very GOOD and I do recommend trying them. (Nicholas Boyack)

  • Of these dehydrated meals Back Country is cheaper. $13.99 for a large size vs $15.99 for Radix, and $15.99 for Absolute Wilderness. I think Go Native is a little cheaper, but a smaller meal. Radix and Absolute Wilderness are the biggest sellers. At least for me anyway. I can’t speak for how Go Native sells because we don’t have that at the moment

 

7. CHEESE & HUMMUS

  • Goat cheese eaten on Day 2, warmish weather..thought I had giardia! (Kim Milson)

 

  • Cheese! The stuff melts. You get a yellow dry lump and a puddle of yellow oil. (Kerry Neighbour)

  • DIY dry hummus mix made from chickpea flour. Made from an online recipe I found. Never again.- horrendous. I made enough for a whole week's worth of lunches and had to bin it. (Mim Hannay)

 

  • Ugh! I make delicious dehydrated hummus but use cooked chickpeas. (Helen Mckerral)

 

8. PACKAGED &  CANNED FOOD

  • Flask of prawn noodle soup. Exploded in the bottom of my pack all over my camera, had no idea until several days later when I unpacked. Turned camera on, it went BANG then all I could smell was burning electronics  (Vanessa Robinson)

 

  • Only ate half a packet of tuna in springwater one night, sealed it up, put it back in my food bag, all good. Not so good the next night when I discovered it had leaked tuna juices and smell through my pack. I was walking the Cape to Cape and seeing more feral cats than native wildlife, maybe this was why...     (Joanne Bell)

  • LIDS- Jam with a loose lid, 8 trillion ants and horse flies, several long days in the heat... still wake up screaming about it now. Also the time I made boiled eggs to take to a summer music festival but packed the wrong ones which were still raw and ended up smeared across the top of the tent. They were nearly fried and edible by the third day, to be fair. ( Tom Wainwright)

Packaged tuna - another popular hiking food115923.jpg

FUEL IN FOOD CONTAINERS!

  • Team member carried White Spirits in plastic drink bottle which leaked, then it spread through the Tararua Biscuits, which had no choice but to eat, burping hydrocarbons as we tramped through the southern Ruahines on our mid winter traverse. Luckily we were too tired to try lighting our burps to check the amount ingested.  (Guy Vickers)

  •  Fuel in food containers is always going to end with either a bad taste or a stove that wont light. (Alan Geeves)

 

9. FOOD WITH OIL- leak & reek!

  • Caramelized onion with dried tomatoes in oil, olives in halves and tuna in oil. All in a ziplock bag to mix up with pasta. Food was delicious- the problem was that the ziplock bag was full of oil and luckily I had another bag to put it inside because it leaked a lot of the remaining oil. (Luana Df)

 

  • Same- a curry paste with oil in that leaked and reeked!! (Kirsty Stewart)

 

 10. MASHED POTATO & KUMARA MASH

  • I bought kumara mash when I was in NZ and I loved it (Deb Kah)

 

  • What is this kumara mash magic!!!? Where can one find it? (Sylvia Pietkiewicz) Can buy it in a package.

 

  • Or make it by steaming sweet potato, put it through the food processor and dehydrate. Once bone dry, put it through the food processor again to make a fine powder. (Meredith Green)

 

  • Mashed potato. Not bad in small quantity. Hard to stomach as a big meal. ( Kerry Neighbour )

 

  • Potato Mash-This is using product from Coles/Woolies. The Aldi stuff was fairly good but they no longer sell it. I am keen to try the Idaho brand but it is so hard to find here in Australia.( Meredith Green)

 

  • Amazon have the Idaho mash potato. (Nicola O'Leary)

  • Dehydrated mashed potato with hole in packet + deodorant lid coming off = entire rucksack full of white fluffy concrete ......In my defense - Scottish highlands, -2, frozen river, sleeting rain, broken tent, encroaching cows..packed in haste! (Heather McLean)

  • Maggi instant mashed potato is delicious after a long day, especially if you stir a bit of cheese and bacon bits through it  (Stefanie Aramoana)

  • Cinderella mash is awesome​. I stir in some spinach and a flavour sachet of sour cream and chives potato bake. Makes it a bit flasher when tramping. Also you can omit the milk, just add a bit more butter. (Carla Edlin)

  •  We use Cinderella mash for brekkie. Use chopped up salami, chicken salt, chopped chives and a chicken gravy packet. It is actually very nice and easy to digest. (Nicholas Boyack)

  • I wrote to Cinderella (makers of Instant Mashed Potatoes) and hassled them about using palm oil in their instant mashed potatoes. Next time I went to a tramp shop I saw they had taken the palm oil out. I wonder if others had spoken up too. (Glenn Shaw)

 

11. FOOD BARS-

  • Muesli bars. Awful. They dry out or melt. Become misshapen. Can be ok to eat, but generally not. Oven bars are ok. 

  • Protein bars are like peanut butter- very hard to get down. They are very dense and take a lot of chewing and effort. Most taste awful. And Clif Bars- Awful things. Practically gag eating them.  (Kerry Neighbour)

  • Peanut butter. Dry and hard to eat. Takes a lot of effort (Kerry Neighbour)

 

  • I take Clif Bars every time too. they are hard to eat admittedly, but worth it for the energy boost and nutrition for weight (Caitlin Maher)

  • I made some chickpea protein cookies. Unfortunately, they were too soft and we ended up eating them out of the bag with spoons- became chickpea smash. Tasted yummy though. ( Nik Nok)

Food bars
 

12. MILK POWDER & WATER

  • Mistook dehydrated mashed potatoes for milk powder and made porridge with runny mashed spud .... I don't recommend it (Karen Stanton)

 

  • Coconut milk powder that had gone lumpy....wouldn't mix in when I added water, which meant I had lumpy coconut flavoured water with granola, ( Emily Gray)

  • Trying to cheat and chucking the milk powder, hot chocolate and water in together to heat up on the MSR cooker Let me tell you burnt milk powder is so feral and gag-worthy. It put me off my favourite drink for months. (Jessie Meek)

  • One of my first overnight hikes in the Grampians 20+ years ago.

      Thought I was clever calculating how much water to carry to cook our food, only to realise in real-time that it left us with no          drinking water for 4 hours hiking in the sun. We had to drink water from leaves on the ground that were like pure distilled              eucalyptus oil. Dry horrors, eucalyptus poisoning and no relief until we hit a waterfall 4 hours later.
      Lesson learned! (Michelle Thompson)

 

13. NO SUPERMARKETS NEARBY!

  • I went on a hike with short notice in a place where I couldn’t find much by way of hiking food in the supermarkets. I did find dried lentils and couscous. Soaked the lentils during the day while I was walking. On day one when the temperature was a bit warmer they started sprouting! That was unexpected but figured it was nutritious.. alternated mixing the lentils with different flavored cups a soup. Could not eat lentils or cup a soup for months afterwards.

 

  • I also did the plain porridge thing that trip but fixed it by sticking trail mix in for a little sweetness. Since then have acquired a food dehydrator so now have home cooked curries, risottos and pastas, yum! ( -Sara Lane)

14. EQUIPMENT DISASTERS

 

 

  • I took  a frypan around Tongariro Northern Circuit to have steak on the first night. Still had to carry frypan all the way (4 day tramp) Some steak landed on the floor of the hut-epic fail. And not worth carrying the extra weight. Now have a mini pot/pan set which is  smaller and lighter and much more versatile for long tramps. (Sandra-Quentin Ginever)

 

  • When we (me) forgot the billy and had to improvise boiling water in a tomatoes can and steaming our pasta.

       Make sure to buy cans with pull lids in case you forget a can                 opener, had that dilemma a few times as well!! (James                           Hamilton)

 

 15. DEHYDRATED FOOD

  • If you have a dehydrator (I have a cheap Aldi one), bananas are probably THE easiest food to dehydrate and absolutely crap on banana chips, for taste. They caramelise and go soft and chewy, I pack them nearly every walk. (Sara Lane-Jonathan Murray)

 

  • Yum, I love home dehydrated mango too. (Caitlin Maher)

 

  • Dried apricots are an excellent source of potassium! The tangy ones are delish and beat dried bananas any day! (Mike Bazaar)

 

  • I just made 40 home dehydrated meals in prep for a thru-hike. I’ve never calculated cost before but did this time. Bolognese, and chicken and veg soup made with fresh veg, meat etc. $4.65 per generous serve. (Helen Mckerral)

  • I spent weeks cooking and dehydrating delicious healthy home made meals for our group of 8 on the Overland track. And left most of it at home. It was still good though 18 months later. (Louise Noble)

 

  • Can you share your favourite recipes to dehydrate, please? I'm not the most adventurous cook! (Simone Gould)

 

  • Just your usual spag bol, chilli con Carne, savoury mince. Just make sure the mince is very low fat. Cook with carrot, onion, celery, cook spaghetti, mix together when cooked to a ratio you like, and dehydrate! Nothing easier!

      Can also dehydrate extra tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, garlic, capsicum, and all sorts of fruit. Quite time-consuming          but worth it. ( Louise Noble-)

GREAT TIPS-

  • Dried wakame seaweed (sea vegetables), or any of the seaweeds for that matter, is an excellent addition as it is plant protein, light to carry, hydrates quickly, has lovely umami flavour (each seaweed is different!) AND full of essential minerals and nutrients like iodine, B12 , iron etc! Just chop into meals (Hayley Fraser-Mackenzie)

  • Think about water if you're taking dehydrated meals. How close is the nearest water source? If you may be a long way from one, how much can you physically carry without overexertion? Have learnt this recently, thankfully had extra food to keep me going while out hunting. (Michael Creed)


DEHYDRATION DISASTERS-

  • Dehydrated tofu and mushroom broth ( home made) Broth and mushrooms rehydrated and we're delicious. Tofu kind of rehydrated to the consistency of rubber erasers! We filled up on corn chips, salsa and noodles instead.  (Kim Milson)

  • (See above) Try freezing tofu in store packet, then thawing it, then slicing thinly, then dehydrate....(Fleur Bearda)

 

  • Dehydrated mince and mashed potatoes... Sounded like a great idea but ended up being a bowl of unappetizing goop... Never again (Jessica I. Rivera Perez)

 

  • Dehydrated tuna is not a good time (Georgia Prince)

  • I’ve seen a couple of times when young scouts haven’t realised how many peas an entire pack of surprise peas makes up. Can’t have dessert till you finish your vegetables!!!!!!!.....(Richard Wills Ham)

16. VACUUM SEALING

 
Vacuum sealer for preparing hiking meals

I’m currently exploring and experimenting with lots of foods after purchasing a food sealer! Love it! It’s a game-changer for multi-day hikes. I just can’t do Back Country foods!

 

My daughter who goes away every second week on some adventure through her course is my guinea pig! This post has had me in fits of laughter as I know some food has been a disaster for her and she returns saying Nope! Don’t do that one again!

 

Our go-to is mince,veg and rice with herbs etc -all mixed so it’s frozen down as a heat-and-eat meal. Same with a Thai chicken, veg, cashew, rice.

 

I would not suggest vacuum sealing bread rolls! They don’t bounce back! Who knows why?  I thought they would but sealing a fresh roll works wonders, wraps once rolled won’t unroll when sealed!


One huge advantage I’ve found with vacuum sealing is no leakage, Even though it’s in plastic it all packs down into one zip lock medium size bag, and we try to recycle the bags (cut them down for smaller stuff once cleaned and re-seal food) (Lisa Dudfield)

17. Final Words!

 
  • Meals I have cooked in the bush have mostly been stunning, a banquet of fine foods brought together with care and love. Whilst the exact same meal prepared at home is completely inedible....( Allan Henderson)

 

  • Wine in a h2go bottle(750ml), crackers and cheese in a container. Set. Tastes so good after a hard day and totally worth the weight in my opinion. (Mike Bazaar)

 

  • Absolutely agree!! Did the same thing on the Abel Tasman. (Erin Jacob)

Happy hikers Wix

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