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Yum! 'Deconstructed Pizza' for Backpackers

What are your favorite backcountry meals? Our friends at The Muir Project (don’t miss their wonderful video trailer) share with The REI Blog some food tips gleaned from their thru-hike of the John Muir Trail. Plus, check out the recipe (pizza, anyone?) that was the surprise group favorite of the trip. Here is Jen, their camp chef:

When prepping for this one-month adventure, one big emphasis of mine was FOOD, and in particular—dinners. We opted to forsake freeze-dried meals in favor of a more customized approach.

The challenges: Everything had to be made a month in advance for the cache drops; there would be at least 5 days between each drop; we’d be feeding a group of 5 hungry people using only a 3-liter JetBoil pot.*

Ready, set, go!

Durand of The Muir Project eating dinner

We gathered recipes and ingredients from specialty sites such as Trail Cooking, Mary Jane's Farm, Harmony House Foods, plus grocery stores and even seasoning packets from local restaurants. We then met to package up all of the different dinners, arranging meals within drops to give us diversity throughout the month.

One note I’ll make about trail menus: A “portion size” varied between the different recipes, and I tended to err on the higher side with 4 guys in the group. But no matter how ravenous we were at dinner, we always had leftovers for lunch (except on deconstructed pizza night), which turned out be a huge blessing when one of our lunch drops didn’t make it.

Favorite Meal: Deconstructed Pizza

It’s not easy to “bake” in the JetBoil, as the only speeds are high and off. Low is a beast that can’t be tamed—especially with mountain winds around you. Patience is key, so make sure you have a little appetizer before starting, or you’ll curse me and the process.

Deconstructed pizza from The Muir Project


2 cups Bisquick (or other brand) baking mix. Add a little garlic salt and Italian seasonings. Store in ziplock bag. Then you can add water for easy mixing.

½ cup water

1 package pepperoni

2-3 sticks mozzarella string cheese

Homemeade dehydrated sauce**


1.      Oil the bottom of the pan

2.      Add your prepped baking mix

3.      Cover the JetBoil and keep as low as possible for 5 minutes

4.      Remove biscuit bottom

5.      Line bottom with pepperoni and replace with biscuit, uncooked side down (or, if you really want to go crazy—like we did—add more pepperoni on top)

6.      Add mozzarella string cheese

7.      Serve with heated, rehydrated pasta sauce

I’ve seen that some people can get the dough to cook without flipping. I’m guessing they have a bit more control over the heat source, or maybe more of that patience thing I was talking about. Also, someone suggested adding cornmeal to pan before putting in dough. I think I’d try that next time. Either way, your fellow hikers will be fighting for the last bite.

I was proud of my “Iron Chef of the Trail” title, but even more proud that I didn’t have to wash a single dish the entire trail. Sometimes, it pays to be the cook.

What have been your greatest cooking success stories on the trail?

*Full disclosure: We did have another small pot for items besides the main dish: Ramen appetizer, coffee and tea, and reheating the homemade pasta sauce.

**Feel free to message me at if you’d like my recipe for homemade pasta sauce. It served as a great base for pasta, chili and the pizza.

If you live in Southern California or will be visiting soon, come join The Muir Project team at a free outdoor event featuring music by Opus Orange, a panoramic photo exhibit and a screening of the short, An Inside Look at Shooting the Outdoors.

Tuesday, Sept. 11, 6:30pm: REI Manhattan Beach store

Wednesday, Sept. 26, 7:00pm: REI Arcadia store

Posted on at 1:45 PM

Tagged: The Muir Project, backpacking and food

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My wife and I have had many a yummy meal on the trail by making whole grain pasta with pesto and chicken. It's a heavy meal to carry if you don't have dehydrated chicken, but for the first night on the trail, it serves as a good reward for breaking yourself into hiking mode.

We make our own pesto in a small food processor with fresh basil, olive oil, garlic and pine nuts and pack it in a small zip bag, squeezing the air out. Some people freeze the pesto into ice trays. I've done it, it works, but flat packing makes sense to me. We typically also take slices of sun-dried tomatoes and toasted pine nuts.

Boil pasta with the sun dried tomatoes.
Drain most of the water (the tomatoes do give the water a very nice broth, and we retain some to add flavor to the meal)
Add pesto and stir to coat evenly.
Stir in nuts and chicken.

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I am very fond of my dehydrated veggie spaghetti (actually angel hair pasta.) Rather than bother to edit-for-post and then post it for the umpteenth time, here's a link to the recipe on Chef Glens' site


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