Trail Cooking 101: Dry Mixes

Dry mixes are the base to many meals when cooking in the outdoors. When layed out, planning doesn’t have to be hard: a mix of protein/carbs/fat and some flavoring. It’s easy to take pasta, rice, potatoes, even quinoa, and make it tasty if you have the right dry mix to add. Most of these were done to be lower in sodium, less crap added and no fake colorings. A good example is the pesto mix: if you buy it commercially, and don’t buy the organic brand, the ingredient list is scary – it even contains wheat, along with a slew of cheap sweeteners. And it’s $3 a packet. You can do a lot better! Some of the mixes you can’t buy in stores (the cream of mushroom mixes for example).

These are some of our time-tested favorites, and are a mix of “regular” and “vegan” friendly options, so most everyone has a few to pick from!

DIY Salsa Mix

Cheddar Cheese Sauce Mix

Cheezy Hemp Heart Sauce

Parmesan Cheese Sauce Mix

Parmesan Cheese Herb Seasoning

Dry Cream of Mushroom Soup Mix

Vegan Dry Cream of Mushroom Soup Mix

Instant Pesto Mix

Dry Onion Soup Mix

Savory Broth Powder

Vegan Queso Sauce Mix

Savory Topping

Recipe Review: Eggless Eggnog

I was intrigued by a recipe I saw in the most recent issue of Backpacker Magazine in the “Backcountry Feast: Holiday Recipes For Camp” for eggless eggnog.

In our cookbook Trail Cooking: Trail Food Made Gourmet, we have a couple of recipes for eggnog, in which we use powdered eggs. An egg free version would be good for egg allergies and similar, so I went on a 5 mile walk to the store for instant pudding mix this morning.

I picked up a pack of the Jell-O Simply Good pudding, as it contains no artificial coloring. Any instant vanilla pudding will work however. I followed the recipe, and realized it had one huge flaw upfront: it contained a lot of dry milk. If you cook on the trail with dried milk, or make smoothies with it, you know it has a very strong flavor and aroma. The recipe calls for 3¼ CUPS of it. Yikes. But needless to say, I made up a batch of the dry mix. In the recipe they have the reader make the entire recipe at once. You better have a lot of chuggers around the camp fire. Instead, I broke it down to 4 servings. And played with each section, to work on the taste.

Note to self: Sometimes those fake dyes sure make pudding look better. Hahaha. It was really this gray in real life.

The best version was the chocolate eggnog. Only downside was the cocoa powder really showed any milk lumps. Oh boy.

I also made a version and added in coconut cream powder, which while tasting better, clumped up badly.

Maybe there was a reason Backpacker told you to add booze to the recipe. A few sips in you wouldn’t notice the heavy-handed dry milk aroma and lumps…….so it is worth it? Maybe. It didn’t wow me over. It has potential, but I need to figure out how to lower the dry milk amount.

Eggless Eggnog


  • 3¼ cups dry milk
  • 1 pouch or box instant vanilla pudding (3.4 ounces)
  • 2 pinches ground cinnamon
  • 3 pinches ground allspice
  • 3 pinches ground nutmeg


Mix the dry ingredients together well. For best results, process in a blender, to finely grind the milk powder, or work it with a fork.

Divide into 4 equal packets, in a snack size zip top bag. You will have about ¾ cup + 1 Tablespoon dry mix per serving.

To Prepare:

Add the dry mix to ¾ cup cold water. For best results, prepare in a water bottle. Put on lid tightly, and shake for 1 to 2 minutes. Drink will thicken upon sitting for a few more minutes.


Stash the sealed drink container in a cold stream or snow bank for 15 to 30 minutes, to chill the drink. The flavor of the milk goes down.


To make a chocolate eggnog, add in ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder with the original mix. Be sure to process the dry mix well, to avoid clumping.

I use these measuring spoons for “pinch”.

Makes 4 servings.

First Aid Kit: What Is In Mine

A long time ago I picked up this ditty bag from Outdoor Research, to use for my First Aid kit. While I was thinking 10 years ago, it’s probably more like 15. For a few years I quit carrying it and went to a quart freezer bags (during the minimalist UL years). But in the end, the few ounces won out. For one thing, the bag still looks new, even after thousands of miles and many backpacking trips. The freezer bags would last a few trips at most. Everything has a pocket or area to be in, letting me find what I need quickly. It has a small grab handle as well, on the bottom, and features a number of zippered pockets.

My thoughts on First Aid Kit packing: Only take what you know how to use, and are willing to use. Some people only carry a few bandaids, others carry a few pounds of gear. The best thing you can do is learn how to use the items you carry. Hopefully not in the field, but at home. I carry a lot, and it was having more kids that changed me. Children love to fall it seems, and get ripped up. So if you hike without children, your kit might be a lot lighter. And the truth is, a First Aid Kit is often just for those emergencies we can take of. Not everything can we protect from (such as bad falls, lightning strikes, falling rocks).

My current kit, along with the “why” it is carried:

  • Epi Pen Jr (2 pack) – Our youngest has life threatening allergies. I carry a pack as a backup in my first aid kit, along with a second set that is the “everyday carry” from my purse. This is a prescription only device, but I don’t care what it weighs – it is weightless in my eyes. I replace it every year.
  • Liquid Benadryl – This product was made by Walgreen’s and isn’t made anymore. So we will go to another type soon. It was a single adult dose. (However, for the child, EpiPen’s are used first before antihistamines if it is related to any of his known allergens.) I feel EVERY person should carry enough Benadryl that is fast reacting that can be shared. It can buy time.
  • Quick Clot – Deep injuries are hard to treat overall. However, if you can stop the bleeding, the injured person has a better chance. These packs are small and light.
  • Wound Seal – Easy to use, no bandages needed.
  • Disposable gloves – It’s not just about avoiding others body fluids – it’s also about keeping the victim clean! Your hands are probably not very clean overall when hiking. (See unscented baby wipes at the bottom)
  • Gauze roll – Good for covering minor wounds and minor burns.
  • Tape for gauze – For sealing many wraps.
  • Gauze pads – For absorbing and wrapping minor wounds.
  • Ace Bandage – For wrapping up sprains.
  • Alcohol prep pads – For cleaning minor wounds.
  • Various OTC meds in single use packets (ointment, athletes foots, burn ointment, itch ointment) – I have used all of it.
  • Aspirin packs – I have my reasons to carry it. I carry it for me and for strangers. It weighs nearly nothing.
  • Tylenol or Advil painkillers – Just to have on hand. I don’t take pain killers unless I have a severe headache (from the elevation or being dehydrated) but you never know.
  • Bee and stinging insect kit – I had a hiking partner who would get stung all the time by yellow jackets. These really work and remove the pain.
  • Crown kit – If you have dental work, and that involve crowns, this is insurance for if it pops out. You can still eat and not have an exposed hole. Also good if you break a molar and need to pack it till you get out.
  • Eye Pads – Because there is a time in life when you meet someone who has been poked in the eye, or got it inflamed. Being able to cover an eye and tape it in place really helps.
  • Various bandaids, in many sizes – Think from small to big, 2 of each. They don’t weigh much.
  • Blister bandaids, in 3 sizes – These are made by BandAid, but Walgreen’s makes generics as well. Well worth the cost, one of them will stay on for days, and fills in the blister. Zero pain. Don’t waste your time on moleskin and other treatments. You will find at the end of summer you have given half your blister care away to strangers.
  • Water purification tablets (MicroPur) – Backup to any water filter I carry.
  • Fire Starter – If you hike in off-season, or where it is wet, this is worth the weight. It doesn’t matter what type or even a brand – just that it helps you quickly get a fire going. I once had a hiking partner come down with the start of a flu-like sickness, and he couldn’t stay warm. I made a fire and it helped not only him stay warm, but something about an emergency fire just makes you feel better inside.
  • Waterproof storm matches – Just carry them. They weigh almost nothing. Lighters and piezo’s on stoves fail.
  • Hand sanitizer – I don’t use it on hands, I use it to start fires.
  • Sewing kit – Next time you get a freebie at a hotel, take it. Add in a few safety pins as well. From whip stitching tent walls to socks….if you can’t hand sew, go learn it now. Life skills here!
  • Duct tape – Because it can fix so much.
  • Mirror – Tiny and small, and weighs as much as a feather. Good for many things.
  • Mini toothbrush – While touted as disposables, if you bring toothpaste they work an entire trip.
  • 3 days worth of prescription medications –
  • Hair ties – Silly? Not if you have long hair. Get it out-of-the-way. Also good backup if you wear a pony tail while hiking, and your band breaks.
  • Travel pack unscented baby wipes – for hand cleaning. Use them to get under your finger nails especially.

Is it a lot? To some it might be, but overall, I have used most of what I carry at some point (thankfully not the crown kit, but if I need it, it’ll be priceless).