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Feeding kids in the outdoors can be... challenging
posted by John : July 14, 2014

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SHiBs are BACK!

At home we try to prepare food the kids will like, but in the end they get what they get. Don't feel like eating this because it's insert nonsensical reason here? Too bad, you get to go to bed hungry.

What's the worst that could happen? They eat a big breakfast or maybe pass out during a math test. Big deal. The point is they eat what the rest of us eat. Except when we're backpacking. When we're miles from the nearest refrigerator there aren't a lot of options. And being extra hungry at breakfast or passing out on the trail aren't going to work. (Note to CPS: The kids have never passed out at school on account of skipping dinner.)

So instead of making the kids eat some exotic backcountry meal I stick to the tried-and-true basics. Here's what they eat.


  • Mountain House Macaroni and Cheese. Lots of it. A box of Kraft makes three servings, which is perfect for my three small kids. Yet somehow any one of them can put down a double-serving bag of Mountain House even if we've only hiked a few miles.

  • Hot dogs. No particular brand, just hot dogs. If I pull them straight from the freezer before we leave they're just barely thawed by the time we are ready for dinner. Pro tip: Cook them in a JetBoil and then use the same water for the Macaroni and Cheese. (Maybe that's why they like it so much...)


  • Oberto Bacon Jerky. But let's be honest, I love it, too. It's shelf-stable bacon! The biggest problem is that some of the kids will grab the bag and run away. So much for sharing.

  • Bagels. I'm ashamed to say they thought two day old bagels from the grocery were amazing because they only get frozen bagels from the bag in the freezer. Maybe there's something to "fresh" food.

  • Swiss Miss hot cocoa. This isn't really so much about breakfast as it is any meal with hot water.

  • Mountain House Scrambled Eggs with Bacon. Sometimes this is a hit and sometimes they won't touch it. I can't find rhyme or reason to their tastes, but when they reject it I get to eat more.


  • Peanut Butter and Jelly, but only on the first day. Otherwise the bread gets soggy and I have to eat all the sandwiches. I've tried bringing little packets of peanut butter and jelly and fresh bread, but "It doesn't taste right."

  • Bars, bars, and more bars. The downside to all that protein is things stop moving so well. On the upside, things stop moving so well.

  • Pringles. We don't usually have tubes of chips at home because they go so quickly. However, on the trail the salt in the chips is pretty much a vitamin so as long as they're carrying it I'm ok. Plus, the container is harder to crush than a bag. (If you want an even more durable container at the cost of chip quality, go for Lays Stax.)

  • Carrots. Amazingly, they will eat carrots like candy. I don't get it either, especially when they're warm. Ew.


    And speaking of candy, it gets a special section all to itself. It motivates and energizes and I don't question the empty calories when we're on the trail.

  • M&Ms. It's hard to go wrong with M&Ms. The only time they aren't a big winner is when it's so hot they turn into candy coated liquid chocolate. I imagine that's what eating a beetle must be like. Crunch SQUISH. (Probably doesn't taste as good, though.)

  • Skittles. If it's too hot for M&Ms we go to Skittles. If they didn't get rock hard during winter we might use them more.

  • Swedish Fish. I hear eating a diet rich in seafood is good for us.

  • Bacon Jerky. Sorry to mention this again, but it fits in this category, too.

    Regardless of what the kids have to eat I think the most important thing to remember is they should never be hungry. A hungry kid is not a happy kid and happy kids are what I want on the trail. I'll try to balance their meals, but in the end a couple of days subsisting only on chocolate and bacon isn't going to kill them. (I hope.)

    This post is part of #TrailTime Twitter chat scheduled for 3pm PDT/6pm EDT/4pm MDT Thursday, July 17th. Follow along by searching for #trailtime or follow me @moosefish.

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