STUTHETRAVELER

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Stuart Peck is a freelance writer and video producer who specializes in outdoor, travel, corporate and commercial messaging and branding.  He has written for national magazines, video copy for healthcare and other corporate videos.  He also provides production support for commercials and TV shows.  

Fine dining: 5 foods great for hiking

If you've read my blog before or follow me on Twitter (ahem... you really should follow me on Twitter) you may know I'm all about the creature comforts.  While I do believe in efficient packing, I don't adhere to the ultra-light mantra.  Because of that I like to bring some tasty foods along on any trip.  To me one of the things that keeps me going while on the trail is knowing I'm going to pitch my tent someplace with a great view and be rewarded with a hot meal at dinner time or wake up with the sun and enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee.  I've compiled a list of five foods great for taking along on your next hiking trip.    

1. Coffee Creamer  
I know some prefer to drink their coffee like Fess Parker as Daniel Boone but for the rest of us who prefer a little added sweet taste, individual creamer packets are the ticket.  They're light and don't need to be refrigerated and come in a variety of flavors.  Add one or two to your coffee and it's like you're at a mountaintop Starbucks and there's a 600 pound black bear sitting at the table next to yours instead of that guy talking business on his cell phone real loud.  You can find a box of 20 at most grocery stores.  My preference is the liquid creamer over the powder.  Powder tends to get clumpy when mixed in and just doesn't taste the same.  

2. Tuna or Chicken
I know cans of tuna are nothing new but with the invention of the tuna or chicken packets it has opened up a whole new world for the dinner table of a backpacker.  You will pay a little more in the weight department for carrying meat but in my opinion it's worth it.  I've cooked tuna into my ramen noodles, made a tuna melt and stuffed it in a tortilla (see above) and made a burrito out of it.  And if you're feeling real tired at the end of the day, crack one of those packets open, throw in a little hot sauce and eat it by itself.   

3. Cheese
High in fat and a refreshing change from all the freeze dried and salty foods, cheese is a great snack during a rest stop on the trail or as a side dish with dinner.  You'll be surprised just how long cheese will keep without being refrigerated.  My personal favorite, goat cheese medallions.  You can also buy a small block of cheddar or get cheese sticks.  The nice things about the medallions and sticks is they're usually individually wrapped which means you're only opening what you're going to eat and that keeps the shelf life even longer.  Still my moto with meats and cheese on the trail... if it looks questionable don't eat it.      

4. Tortillas 
Man should not live by bread alone... tortillas are very versatile and keep very well in a tightly packed backpack.  In addition you can throw just about anything inside a tortilla shell and boom goes the dynamite, you've got an instant burrito.  I've seen people pack in tuna, ramen noodles and even smear peanut butter all over them.  I prefer to get the smaller shells as they tend to fit better than the larger ones do.  Tortillas are also great because you can get them in a variety of "flavors" such as corn, flour, wheat even spinach shells.

5. Oil
This isn't really a food (please don't try and eat this straight unless you're on day 23 of being lost in the wilderness and this all you've got) but adding a little oil can really take a dry stale meal and make it moist and taste more like something you cooked at home.  I've used oil in ramen, when making pancakes and tuna melts over my camping stove.  Get a little squeeze bottle and fill it with a few ounces of vegetable or olive oil and use it liberally.  Just don't use it in your coffee...    

What foods do you take with you on a hike?  Any cooking secrets from the trail you're willing to share?  I'm a backpacker... not a chef so I'm game for trying something new!