The Backpacker’s Pantry: Why Have One

Some Basic Pantry Items

Some Basic Pantry Items

Back in the day, when I was a young sprout, before I went out on any backpacking trip, I would head to the store. And then go back to the store. And then stop at the store on the way to the trail.  I got wiser, and while I still will stop at the store on the way out, most often it is to just grab another cup of coffee and maybe a loaf of something sweet if the drive is long.  It is a choice to stop there, rather than a need. I keep a pantry now, mind you it is rather small, for my backpacking needs.  I will be referencing my pantry often in my blog and in recipes, so I will be giving you an outline as to what is in it, how it is set up, and some ideas on how to set up or augment your own.  First, I will give you the “why” I even have a separate pantry just for backpacking.

Of course, there is the ease of having everything at your fingertips and not having to go look for certain items amongst the rest of your daily food offerings. I am also rather frugal and by storing items together, I can keep it mind what I need for the next trip and purchase it on sale. When I am headed out, my meals are not dependent on whether I have the money that paycheck to go buy food not in my monthly budget because it’s already added into the budget.

There are items I like to have on hand that take time to arrive, like my freeze dried chicken and certain condiments.  There has been many a time when I decided the night before to go on an overnight and I needed to work with what was in the pantry. I can throw together good meals and concentrate more on gear and trail selection and less on hunting down something to eat.

Lastly, I go out a lot. Not always, but at times, I will head out every weekend until I get tired of coming home to a chore list piling up. This last spring it took about 7 weekends including a trip of six days before I stayed home on a weekend. That’s a ton of meals, a bunch of planning, and with a career and a life outside of backpacking, not a lot time to do meal prep in. The pantry is my system. It saves me money, time, and sanity.  The first two I am always looking to save more of. The last is just nicer to have.

Hoh River Trail

Hoh River Trail


Canning Corn


Messy work
Let me tell you, my canning isn’t always planned. If I just bought boxes of fruit and veggies at the local produce stand, maybe I could plan it better, but I don’t often do it that way. I usually can around what I find at the best price of free or darn close. Take my find last weekend of $2.00 boxes of corn. Listed as seconds, it was still in good shape, but needed some culling. Buying 2 boxes for $4.00 is in my price range and capabilities of sourcing. Yes, it took a whole day to process, with an early afternoon break to run to town and drop off some urgent mail, but this was so worthwhile. We had fresh corn on the cob for breakfast, I now have 20 pints of corn for the winter, 6 half pints of corn relish, and we had another meal with fresh corn on the cob. Not counting the fresh corn, that came to $0.17 a pint and oh, the taste! This stuff is local, from Sunny Farms own fields, and will be gracing our tables for the high holiday season.
Corn Cobs

So, if your local grocery or produce stand has a spot that they will set out seconds, be sure to check it frequently. Be picky and make sure it will be cost effective. It doesn’t do you any good if the cost per pint ends up being the same as firsts since you would be getting the same output but also using up your precious time. Feel free to haggle. If they have a lot of something that is worthwhile, see if they will take even more off if you take all of it. It never, ever hurts to ask!

Finished Corn