Cookbook Preview: Backpacking Recipes from AMC’s Real Trail Meals

You know how, when you hear people talk about food, you get hungry? You start to salivate, maybe your stomach begins to growl, and your attention wanders from whatever you’re doing to your next fantasy meal.

That’s exactly what happened to this magazine’s editorial team when we dug into the pages of Real Trail Meals, the new backpacking cookbook by Ethan and Sarah Hipple coming summer 2017 from AMC Books. Cranberry orange skillet muffins. Chicken tikka masala. Salted caramel cocoa. Seriously? We barely made it to lunch.

So we decided to treat our taste buds in the name of work, albeit with a flexible plan. (A must, as any good trip leader will attest!) Springtime weather in New England is unpredictable, at best, and in the sprint up to this issue’s publication, we couldn’t chuck it all and hit the trail. But we could reserve a cabin at Noble View, AMC’s volunteer-managed outdoor center nestled in the hills of central Massachusetts, and pitch a pop-up camp kitchen for a frontcountry potluck. When our cooking day dawned with sustained winds of 50 mph, we said a toast to the joys of a protected heat source.

For help, we recruited a few folks who know their way around a camp stove: Becky Fullerton, AMC’s archivist; Emily Bishop, a four-season hut croo vet and current AMC Outdoors intern; and Marc Chalufour, our senior editor. Together, we spent a day cooking, laughing, and relishing food—in keeping with the Hipples’ philosophy.

“We believe that eating well on outdoor adventures keeps you safer; makes you happy; and leads to lifelong memories,” they write in the book. “Sure, you can add hot water to a bland, off-the-shelf, dehydrated meal, but we believe there is a better way.”

To that end, Real Trail Meals establishes three tenants: using whole foods—that is, real food, not prepackaged items—whenever possible; including enough calories and fat to get you up that summit in the driving rain; and deliciousness, because, as the Hipples say, “Life is too short to shovel in a pile of pasta and hit the hay.”

We couldn’t agree more. –Jennifer Wehunt, editorial director

Serves: 4, Weight: 0.58 lbs.

Nutrition Info
Calories 335
Fat 9g
Protein 7g
Sodium 787mg
Fiber 2g
Carbohydrates 55g
Sugar 0g
Vitamin A: 5%
Vitamin C: 0%
Calcium: 29%
Iron: 21%

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter or ghee Extra
1/4 cup flour for kneading
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

1. At home: Mix all dry ingredients and store in a zippered sandwich bag. Pack extra kneading flour separately.
2. On the trail: Grease a fry-bake pan, reflector oven pan, Dutch oven, or stove-top pan. Mix dry ingredients with water in a bowl. The dough should be wet.
3. Turn out dough onto a floured work surface (plate, pot lid, or cutting board). Gently knead about 12 times. If dough is too sticky to handle, add extra flour.
4. Form dough into a rough circle as big as whatever you’re baking it in, no more than 1 ½-inch thick.
5. Fry on a greased pan over low stove flame or bed of coals. After 10 minutes, flip and cook another 10 to 15 minutes.

Tasting Note
“Fresh, warm, and comforting, this bread was delicious, even before we had the rest of the meal prepared.” –Marc Chalufour

Serves: 4 to 6, Weight 1.3 lbs.

Nutrition Info
Calories 371
Fat 17g
Protein 12g
Sodium 20mg
Fiber 6g
Carbohydrates 44g
Sugar 4g
Vitamin A: 5%
Vitamin C: 7%
Calcium: 7%
Iron: 21%

2 cups quinoa
8 1/2 cups water, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup dried onion flakes
3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
2 tablespoons dried mint
2 tablespoons dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup pistachios, chopped

1. Put quinoa in pot with 4 cups of water. Swish vigorously to rinse quinoa then drain as much water as you can.
2. Measure out 4 1/4 cups of water (less if you were unable to drain rinse water completely) and add to pot, along with oil, onions, cherries, herbs, and salt and pepper.
3. Bring to a boil and stir.
4. Reduce flame to medium, cover, and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Remove from heat, stir in nuts, cover, and let sit 5 minutes before stirring and serving.

Tasting Note
“The addition of the nuts and cherries makes this way more exciting than your average quinoa recipe. There’s something interesting in every bite.” –Becky Fullerton

Yield: 2 cups, Weight: 0.56 lbs.

For our cashews, we used shelfstable ghee, or Indian-style clarified butter, but you could use fresh butter or butter powder. For this and all of the recipes on these pages, we did our measuring at home and packed each individual recipe’s dry ingredients together in a zip-locked bag.

Nutrition Info
Calories 326
Fat 30g
Protein 10g
Sodium 1620mg
Fiber 1g
Carbohydrates 26g
Sugar 4g
Vitamin A: 4%
Vitamin C: 1%
Calcium: 3%
Iron: 23%

2 cups cashews
1 1/2 tablespoons butter or ghee
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spread cashews in one layer. Bake 8 to 12 minutes, stirring once or twice so nuts don’t burn. While cashews roast, prepare remaining ingredients.
3. Melt butter in a large bowl and allow to cool slightly. Add brown sugar, cayenne, rosemary, and salt. Stir to combine until sugar is slightly dissolved.
4. Remove cashews from oven and stir into spice mixture to coat. Cool in a single layer on parchment paper. Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

Tasting Note
“This was a great trail snack, with the perfect combination of sweet and savory—plus that spicy kick at the end!” –Emily Bishop

Serves: 4 to 6, Weight: 1 lbs.

Nutrition Info
Calories 610
Fat 22g
Protein 27g
Sodium 1601mg
Fiber 13g
Carbohydrates 76g
Sugar 11g
Vitamin A: 13%
Vitamin C: 5%
Calcium: 21%
Iron: 45%

1/2 cup tahini
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon lemon juice or lemon powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 cup water

2 1/2 cups chickpea flour
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon coriander
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon lemon juice or lemon powder

1 1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. To make the sauce, mix all tahini sauce ingredients until smooth, adding more water if needed for a consistency slightly thicker than heavy cream.
2. To make the falafel, bring water to boil. Slowly whisk in falafel mix. Stir well, cover, and let sit 10 minutes until fully rehydrated.
3. Heat oil in pan then drop in spoonfuls of falafel mix.
4. Fry for several minutes on each side, until browned.
5. Serve falafel with tahini sauce and bannock or pitas.

Tasting Note
“Easy to make yet full of flavor, this would make for a very satisfying meal after a hard day of hiking.” –Marc Chalufour

Yield: 24 cookies, Weight: 2.74 lbs

These cookies are quick, adaptable, and delicious. You can make them at home, or if you pack shelf-stable milk, you can make them anywhere.

Nutrition Info
Calories 207
Fat 10g
Protein 4g
Sodium 65mg
Fiber 2g
Carbohydrates 27g
Sugar 18g
Vitamin A: 3%
Vitamin C: 0%
Calcium: 2%
Iron: 4%

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup fresh milk or Parmalat
8 tablespoons butter or ghee
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 cups rolled oats 1 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
1⁄8 teaspoon salt

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Bring sugar, milk, butter, and cocoa powder to boil in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently.
3. Let boil 1 minute then remove from heat.
4. Add oats, peanut butter, vanilla, and salt. Stir to combine.
5. Scoop spoonfuls onto baking sheet and let cool to harden.
6. Store in airtight container up to five days.

Tasting Note
“You will not be able to stop eating these. Best to divvy them up into small bags to bury in various parts of your pack.” –Becky Fullerton


By setting up our camp kitchen in the relative luxury of Noble View, we eliminated the biggest safety concern of backcountry cooking: When you’re in the wild, you’re often miles from help.

Although we were but one yelp away from Frank Evans, Noble View’s fantastic committee chair and rescuer-at-the-ready, we were still within the danger zone. Why? It turns out boiling water is one of the most perilous things you can do in the backcountry. As the Hipples say, “Your chance of having to evacuate due to scalding is higher than that of getting bitten by a snake or being attacked by a bear.”

To avoid burns and other culinary calamities, follow the Hipples’ advice for safe backcountry cooking:

  • Anyone cooking or assisting in the kitchen area should be wearing the most protective footwear they have available, usually hiking boots.
  • Use your best judgment when involving kids in cooking. You know them and what they’re capable of.
  • Keep knives in their sheaths when not in use. You can make a quick and easy sheath with some cardboard and duct tape.
  • Cut on a cutting board that’s on a hard, stable surface, not on your leg or in your hand. • Never leave a lit stove unattended.
  • Never reach across a stove. You stand a good chance of knocking it over.
  • When preparing water for hot brews, always set the pot of water on the ground and use a cup to ladle the water out. Don’t pour straight from the pot to a mug.
  • If you’re cooking over a fire, keep a bucket of water handy. Wind gusts can blow embers into dry leaves, and if that happens, you’ve got a problem. You can’t waste precious time running to get water.
  • If a small stove fire does erupt, smother it with dirt, a sleeping bag, a blanket, or clothing. Never throw water on a gas or oil fire, which will cause the fire to spread.


About the Author…

AMC Outdoors

AMC Outdoors inspires people to engage in outdoor conservation and recreation through meaningful stories.

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign up for special offers, conservation alerts, adventures near you, and stories from across the region.