The following post is written by Stuart, hungry backpacker and founder of Camping Recipes
Many backpackers treat the food that they eat on the trail as a secondary consideration. Whatever’s light, easy to store and doesn’t take a lot of work to cook. And while I certainly don’t roll in to camp and set about cooking for two hours or anything like that, I do like to put a little effort in to my backpacking food. For me, something warm and truly tasty is the ideal way to end a long day.
Without a doubt, one of my favorite camping meals is fresh fish. It’s not such an easy thing to find in many parts of the world, but being a resident of the Canadian Pacific Northwest, I’m lucky enough to live in a part of the world where seafood is abundant. In fact, I’ve never even had to catch my own fish while backpacking, though I’m certainly looking to try it.
On the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, which one of my all time favorite treks, there is a ferry crossing at about the 44 kilometer mark, which is close to the halfway point of the 75 kilometer trek. The ferry operator, Dave, sells food to the backpackers who come through, and often on offer is both fresh crab and salmon. He’ll cook either for you right at the crossing, but I’ve always preferred to take mine to go, uncooked. A little fresh food makes a good lunch, but makes an even better dinner if you can wait just a few hours.
Here’s one of my favorite recipes for cooking with fresh fish.
First, you need to get your fire stoked up and going strong. This recipe calls for coals, and a fair amount of them. Once the fire is stoked and burning down, you can prep your fish. Catching it yourself means a bit more work, but buying it fresh from Dave means all the hard work’s been done, and you can move on to flavoring.
Coat your fish in whatever fat you’ve brought along, be it butter, olive oil or even coconut oil, which is an underused ingredient by backpackers, in my opinion, because it stays solid at room temperature and has a great flavor. Next, sprinkle on liberal amounts of whatever spices you’ve brought. Salt and pepper are a must, and there are a number of herbs that go well with salmon or trout, such as dill, thyme or fennel. And that’s it. Part of what’s great about a recipe like this is that the heavy ingredient, the fish, is acquired at or near your campsite. The rest of the ingredients store well and weigh next to nothing.
Finally, wrap the whole thing up in tinfoil, nice and tight. Create a pocket in the coals for your fish, and place it in. Try to get a nice layer of coals on top, but if that’s not possible, you can always flip your fish halfway through, and add a little more cooking time. Depending upon how thick your fish is and how hot your coals are, the cooking time should be somewhere in the range of 10 to 15 minutes.
And then you eat.