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Spending Thanksgiving in the Backcountry? What's on Your Menu?

One of my better Thanksgivings was spent years ago on the slopes of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park, a gorgeous, 800,000-acre confluence of desert, mountain and riparian environments in a far-flung corner of southwest Texas.

It was warm, sunny and dry my entire 2-week stay in the park in late November. My only misstep the whole trip: On Thanksgiving night, surrounded by sotol stalks and serenaded by (I'm guessing) a handful of coyotes, dinner was a pot of spaghetti.

Nothing wrong with spaghetti, of course, but if I ever make that Thanksgiving trip again, and I'd welcome the chance, I realize I have some (actually, quite a few) backpacker-friendly options available that trend toward more traditional holiday fare. Such as:

Main Meal

MealHomestyle Turkey with Mashed Potatoes by Natural High. With a little less than 2 cups of boiling water, you can create the illusion of a semi-traditional turkey meal. Another option: Grilled Chicken Breasts with Mashed Potatoes by Mountain House. These are really good.

Five Star Natural Jerky (4 varieties, from original to honey teriyaki to "Kinda Hot"). To maintain the T-day illusion, munch on this while your freeze-dried meal is rehydrating. It's like munching on scraps the person carving the turkey is shaving off the big bird.

Turkey Tetrazzini by Mountain House. This would be a good choice for the day after Thanksgiving, since turkey tet is one of those clever meals that good cooks make with turkey leftovers. I've had the Mountain House version in the past and it's dandy, as's 4.5-star customer rating would confirm.

Side Dishes

Garlic Herbed Mashed Potatoes by Backpacker's Pantry. If you feel the need to be a little fancy. Can't find any freeze-dried yams so far, though.

Green Beans by Mountain House. (You're on your own if you want to whip these into some sort of casserole.)

Lots of dried fruits and vegetables are available. Particularly appropriate for this date: Cranberry Delights by Northwest Delights.

Clif BarSweet Tooth Options

Spiced Pumpkin Pie Clif Bar (third option from the left when you view the assortment on REI/com's product page).  Sorry, no dehydrated whipped topping available, though you could try the surprisingly tasty Mountain House Ice Cream Sandwich. Or go for the Natural High 3-Berry Cobbler.

And, if you need an energy boost while you're heading to your Thanksgiving campsite, consider Honey Stinger Pomegranate Passion Fruit chews (it's the second choice on the left on the product page, about as close to a cranberry chew as I can find) or Hammer Nutrition's Montana Huckleberry energy gel.

Have you ever spent Thanksgiving in the backcountry? What food items did you take along to make the occasion as traditional as possible?

Photo below: Wild turkey in Zion National Park, by T.D. Wood.

Posted on at 5:29 PM

Tagged: Thanksgiving, Turkey, dried fruit, food and freeze-dried meals

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Ann B

TW: Great post. I have vivid memories of camping in the Chisos Basin campground on Thanksgiving as a girl with my family (seems like we were the only ones there)--we drove out from Austin. It was bitter cold at night, but we did some great hikes during the day. No freeze-dried food back then, but we kids did love Tang!

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