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Backpacking Spice Kit Ingredients

AT Maildrop Resupply Box
AT Maildrop Resupply Box

The biggest challenge I face on most backpacking trips is eating enough. The problem is that the food I bring or resupply in towns is boring and doesn’t have that much variety. Ramen noodles, rice sides, couscous, pasta, mashed potatoes, refried beans – they’re all monotonous to eat over a 2-3 week period.

I could use a little help here.

What spices or condiments do you bring in your food bag to help make your backpacking meals more interesting?



  1. Try some combo herb mixes. Like Bell’s Seasoning, Old bay seasoning, Misses dash.

    Also you may try making some of those meals at home and seasoning them up. You could also try some high quality ramen type. Also you may try some other whole grain pasta like corn pasta. You could also try going the other route by taking nothing but hardtack and pemmican. Then all you have to say is, “I am glad i have this instead of hardtack and pemmican.”

  2. Every time I’m near a McDonalds, Burger King, etc. I go in and grab a handful of those little salt and pepper sachets, they can really help make a meal a little more interesting! I also pack some chili flakes or dry spice mixes in a small ziplock to add some heat and flavour.

  3. A little vial of GROUND red pepper always worked well for me. Onion powder, garlic powder, maintain good flavor also. Sometimes all you can get is flaked red pepper and dried onion, minced garlic. Avoid Onion salt/Garlic salt. Lawry’s Seasoned Salt works OK in soups and stews. Salt and black pepper, of course. Some oregano & thyme also goes well with many pasta dishes.

  4. I am pretty basic. Salt, pepper & Tobasco.

  5. I load up a GSI Spice Missle- (yes, I could just use a baggy) with salt in one container, some seasoning from-
    an another, and some in another.

  6. Pretty much carry only Tabasco Chipotle – great on just about everything.

    • I love that stuff so much. I use a 5 oz bottle in a week or two just for lunch at work. I told my wife she should stop wasting glass and just buy the 1 gallon bottle.

  7. I tend to use what I have in the house for my daily cooking. Penzey’s Spices makes great blends, and I love the freeze dried shallots that are in a few blends. I generally don’t bring “one spice” spices other than salt and pepper. Nice addition. I also avoid salted blends, preferring to salt things as necessary. No need to over-salt!

  8. Hot sauce, red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese.

  9. I have a Moroccan spice blend from Wegmens that I use with couscous meals. I also use the Swanson Flavor Boost broth packets to add flavor and salt. Unfortunately, they are hard to find so I stock up when I can.

  10. I cook a lot of pasta since it is quick and easy. So I go with grated Parmesan cheese and a lot of Italian seasonings. This works on other foods as well pretty easily. Oregano, Basil, Paprika, and ground garlic all work great for many different things. For rice based meals I’ll bring a little bottle of teriyaki sauce or soy sauce.

    I try to think of how I would make dinner at home, and try to package that stuff in smaller sizes.

    I know you are into freezer bag meals and stuff, so might I suggest making some dehydrated peppers? I think that would pack nicely. Maybe some bell peppers, banana peppers, and jalapeno peppers, cut them up, throw them on a dehydrator, and bag them up. I would guess they would re-hydrate nicely in a cup of boiling water? Can’t say that I’ve tried it before. I might have something to try here I think and see how it works out.

    • I’m not into FBC anymore. Too much work. Hence, spices.

      • Ah that makes sense. Yeah if you had all the time in the world you could cook one hell of a meal I’m sure. With minimal effort I’d say stick to spicy stuff. Red pepper flakes, garlic, onion. Not sure how long fresh spices would stay good for, but you could try using them for the first few days of your trip before they go bad. That would make the flavors 10 times better than dried spices. Fresh rosemary and dill might last the longest. Anything big and leafy will probably go bad the fastest.

  11. Yellow Curry. chili flakes, sea salt, pepper.

  12. pesto for potatoes and pasta

  13. Curry was a very nice change on a recent trip, very different from “traditional” backpacking spices.

    I did Curry Lentils

    Curry, tuna and couscous with raisins

    • Unfortunately I ate so much Couscous when I WAS into Freezer Bag Cooking, that I get nauseated even thinking about it. I blame SARBAR for this. :-)

      • PW, why couscous and not some other ricey dish? Is it something about cous cous itself that has some advantage?

      • So, how are you cooking these days? Probably not Mountain House, right?

        I use ramen (the noodles not the seasoning) as a base for a lot of meals. I suspect that curry tuna with ramen would be awesome.

        • A mix of stuff. Granola and milk for breakfast, miscellaneous for lunch, and a combination of pasta and soupy things for dinner, ranging from ramen noodles with olive oil (which never gets old), different varieties of pasta with some kind of mix in, some spicy lentils and chili meals from Hungry Hiker I like and gasp – I may even bring some Knorr sidees and mountainhouse on my next big section hike.

  14. Mayonnaise and sriracha. Get or buy the little mayo packets from a local deli or (you can get sriracha packets on there, too). We add sriracha and mayo to pretty much every dinner we have at home and just carry that over to the trail as well. Mayo does an awesome job thickening up soups and the sriracha jazzes up the blandest of foods. My mouth is already watering thinking about our chicken stew that we make at home and on the trail with added mayo and sriracha…mmm…

  15. One of my favorite meals is a tablespoon of curry concentrate (keeps in a small ziplock), some coconut cream powder, jerky and rice noodles. Dehydrated peppers are nice in that too. You just need boiling water and can rehydrate everything in a freezer bag within a cozy.

  16. Ummmmm… Red pepper flakes, Parmesan, Penzey’s dried shallots, Penzey’s Foxpoint or Bavarian or other of their blends can make things interesting. Mix up some dried herbs like thyme, tarragon, dill etc to your taste, weighs nothing and adds lots of flavor.

  17. Aside from salt & pepper. Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute. Sometimes Old Bay over my sardines. Occasionally take some dehydrated onion or garlic flakes / or powder.

  18. With the advent of Small is better in the packaging of Condiments the variety that is available now compared to what there was in 1968 is ASTOUNDING. What I bring depends on what I am going to eat, OF course! My all time favorites continue to be dried; Garlic, Onions, Green Onions, my own mix of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. I have yet to find these in Individual Serving Packets. Lawrys Seasoned Salt in a small Nalgene twist cap bottle. I use this on Wild Meats and Fish. Tastes good on Rabbit, Squirrel, and Trout and Bass, not so much on Venison. If the wild “Greens” are in Season I bring a supply of Olive Oil and Red Wine or Apple Cider Vinegar which I am now finding in Individual packets and are much safer than small bottles and vials and such that I used to carry. .. Lemon packets, Splenda packets, sure helps out funky tasting water as well as on Fish and plain Oatmeal.. I add a single serving packet of Parmasean Cheese to my Freezed Dried Spaghetti meals as well as my own homemade tomato based sauces. Also I add it to wild Salads, Fish, and Mac&Cheese to pump up the flavor. One of the things I like the best about Individual Serving Packets is then fit into a lot of places in my Cook set that a small bottle or vial would not fit into..Between the Stove and matches and scrub pad etc. etc. Because of the Salt Contents of most foods I do not bring any plain Salt or Pepper. The Lawry’s covers all my needs in that area. And of course that little Bottle of Tobasco Sauce from your MRE’s…sure spice up a lot of items including Mac&Cheese.

    Maybe your next subject could be on Individual Serving Packets of items like Mac&Cheese, Instant Potatoes, Stews, and Meats, Ravioli, Spaghetti in 7 oz cans which you would normally heat up in a Microwave..Give us or have us give some tips on how we get around being without a Microwave to cook them up….

    Thanks for another great offering..

  19. With hummus or other spreads, I like some Marrakesh za’atar. It is usually a blend of thyme, sumac, toasted sesame seeds, and salt.

    It gives a tart, almost lemony flavor that works well with some things.

    Little packets of True Lime are great with beans. At home, I often finish a bean dish with a splash of vinegar or a squeeze of lime.

  20. Have you been following Andrew Skurka’s current series on recipes? It all looks really tasty so far.

  21. I recently ordered a bunch of “groceries” from

    Although I wasn’t a huge fan of their prepared meals, I highly recommend their salsas and “powders”.

  22. Next to regular salt and pepper, my favorite dry seasoning has been Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning for years. It’s WONDERFUL on pretty much any kind of meat, fish, veggies, salads, ice cream (okay, not ice cream), etc. I eat a dash of it by itself sometimes, because I like the flavor so much. Of course, YMMV.

  23. One other idea. If you are adding salt, you can add Creole seasoning instead. That is mostly salt with red pepper, black pepper, garlic, whatever. One amusing way to get is the five pound box of one thousand tiny packets of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning. You can give them out as stocking stuffers or party favors for years.

  24. Haven’t tried it yet but will: dehydrated pesto. Costco sells a jar of the stuff which is fantastic. We use it with many meals.

  25. I saw this dehydrated olive, rosemary, and miso powder on Serious Eats. A bit of work to make, but it sounds really tasty and different. If you are an engineer and like to cook, check out the rest of The Food Lab, but expect to spend some time…

    “This deeply savory, slightly tangy, and aromatic condiment can be folded into or sprinkled onto your food for a big hit of flavor. It’s 100% vegan and designed to take the place of Parmesan in a pasta dish, but it’s also great sprinkled on salads, sandwiches, roasted meats, grilled fish, burgers, or pizza.”

  26. I’d forgotten, several years ago I got a couple of collections of small spice packages from TSP (teaspoon) Spices for Christmas. I packed a selection of those for our Philmont trek and made them available to the Scouts for dinner. I had to answer lots of “what’s cumin” or “what’s rosemary” questions, but we ate well. Our Ranger said it was the best backcountry food he’d had all summer and he was a pretty honest dude.

    Here is the evening’s chef adding some green spice (oregano? basil?) to dinner:

  27. Hi There!

    There is nothing worse IMHO than food devoid of flavour. That’s why I pack mine with tons of spices and herbs. I know the weight is of the essence here, so with this in mind I’d suggest dry herbs. You can never go wrong with adding herbs to your meals to make them more aromatic. Ideally you’d use fresh, but that would be quite hard, I think in a hiking scenario. Then I’d make sure basics like salt and pepper make it to your meals. Sometimes you can get specialized salts like smoked salt, Himalayan salt etc, that do make a difference. And last my favourite spice to always have in my spice rack is the Gourmet Collection:
    Obviously you can ditch the glass container and transfer the spice into a plastic bag. These are just spectacular and will turn any dish into a storm of flavour! Highly recommended. And just so it’s clear, I have no association with these folks, just found them at a local store and fell in love :)


  28. For me I always have to have salt, sugar, hot sauce and black pepper.

  29. I forgot about this item in my prior post…Savory Choice! They come in a half dozen to a box around here and what they are, are, Individual Flavor packets, with Beef, Pork and Chicken Broth..One to a cup of Water. I also add a packet to Freeze Dried Beef Stew, or Chicken and Rice or Noodles and of course any Soup I prepare….Their not as salty as the Cubed stuff.

  30. packets of dressing/marinade- balsamic, roasted red pepper, sesame ginger. hoisin and soy sauce packets. dehydrated salsa.

  31. Salt, pepper, curry powder, cayenne, and garlic powder are my mainstays. Packaged in small ziploc-type bags, amounted varied by the length of the trip.

  32. I make my meals at home and dehydrate them. Since I live alone, I cook up big batches of one-dish meals and freeze individual servings for later zapping in the microwave. It’s no extra work to put 4 servings’ worth in my 4-tray dehydrator. In camp, I just add hot water–the food is already seasoned to my taste.

    The only time I expect to do any cooking on the trail is if I will be fishing. I carry a little salt and a small amount of herbes de Provence, my favorite seasoning, in tiny zippered plastic bags from the craft store (found in the beads section). Of course, that assumes I catch something!

    • We eat home dried meals like this mostly.

      I haven’t seen anyone mention dried tomatoes yet. Either dry at home or buy sun dried, then chop to dust in the blender. Packs a flavor punch.

  33. without repeating what others have on the reply’s, I go for whats readily available that i like. colman’s mustard powder is in most local grocery stores by me didn’t see it mentioned

  34. I’ll say there are two objective factors: weight and taste and one subjective factor: imagination. Some people might object on the objectivity of taste.

    I usually plan my menu, think about the possibilities along the way (fishing, stores, mushrooms) and pack for that. Dry spices weigh practically nothing, if you take care of packaging.

    In recent years I have been mostly paddling, so I have an assault kit that includes GSI pepper grinder and gourmet salt flakes, with fresh garlick and so on. Occasionally also soy sauce or a four bottle bladder of red wine. Some of the red wine went into braising the pork neck we bought in the Åland islands, most of it went into marinating the cooks.

    I don’t tend to use commercial backpackng meals, as they have been in my experience overpriced and tasteless. I figured this out in the 90’s, so they may have changed. Instead, when backpacking, I make up stuff from the regular store offerings. Rice, pasta, mashed potatoes, flour, with a dry sauce package and soy protein.

    Generally I would take along salt, black pepper, basil, chili in some form and a bulb of garlick. That should be able to make any meal edible when you are hungry enough. Of course more variety in the herbal side would add to the pleasure. And in addition to plain chili, I would take some smoked variety (smoked paprika around here, chilpotle across the pond, I think).

    I would also visit the local ethnic stores to find interesting stuff. E.g. our Vietnamise store has dried cocoanut milk, which makes it easier to have cocoanut curry on the trail.

    For the people who like mushrooms, you should absolutely get dried mushrooms or dry them yourself. We have several flavorful species here, like chantarelles (I don’t get what is so fantastic about them). Of course they may also happen naturally along the way.

    Then there are meal specific spices, like arabian rice with cinamon, cardamom, cloves and turmeric.

    Basically, I think that this is mostly about the imagination. So many possibilities.

  35. My two favorites dishes: (1) quick-cooking pasta with dehydrated broccoli and dehydrated tomato sauce with added salt, basil, thyme, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. And (2) minute rice with dehydrated carrots and bell pepper, with dried coconut powder, cumin, coriander, cardamom, salt, pinch of cayenne, and something else that I’m forgetting.

  36. Some things that I’m excited to try for this summer: rice noodles (cooks in 5 minutes), dehydrated peanut butter (pb2), and a loaf of bread (tribute to john muir).

  37. I’ve been looking at your post for sometime and I am preparing for a section hike on the AT starting at Tellico Gap north to Fontana Dam with 4 Teen Challenge students and another staff member. This is my 2nd section hike everyone else’s first. Back to the spice, I am taking a 9 oz bottle of Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce. That’s a little heavy but it will go fairly quickly. If I were alone I would break it down into smaller size.

  38. I love to take a large dropper bottle of sesame oil. It has great flavor (tastes great with black pepper) and a little goes a long way.

    I also like to dehydrate sauces (like peanut sauce and thai or indian curry) as they are easy to carry as leathers.

  39. Salt, pepper, garlic and thyme are my core four, but if you don’t want to fuss you’re probably better off with mixes.

    Italian mix: oregano, basil, majoram, mint, parsley (sparingly on the mint)

    Basic mix: onion, garlic, dried bell pepper, black pepper, red pepper flakes, a pinch of yellow curry if you’re feeling adventurous. Highly recommend flaked garlic and onion over powder, as powders get clumpy (expecially onion)

    TexMex mix: cumin, paprika, chipotle, coriander, cilantro, parsely, cayenne, garlic, trulime packets

    Onion mix: onion or shallots, chives, scallions, parsley, a bit of garlic (best with dishes with butter in them)

    Curry mix: dried coconut milk/cream and curry powder/paste of your choice. Alternate: coconut extract and Nido make passable coconut milk

    Chicken soup mix: carrots, celery, onions, parsley, nutmeg

    Stir-fry mix: ginger, garlic, basil, red pepper flakes, soy or hoisin sauce packets, honey packets

    Standalone additives: double concentrate tomato paste (dehydratable down to leather), miso, dried mushrooms (can be pulverized to powder), sesame oil, hot sauce (I hate hot sauce but I’m clearly a minority on this), mustard, premix freeze dried veggies

    If you’re still searching for a container medium, I’d suggest screw-top contact cases. Decent size, seal tightly, easy to access.

  40. John from the Intense Angler YouTube channel has a brilliant suggestion. Store spices inside cut off pieces of drinking straws, with ends sealed using a lighter. Snip one end and sprinkle into your meal. I like Montreal Steak Spice, curry, garlic, oregano, and seasoning salt. I also coak and dehydrate my own meals, spiced at home.

  41. Brendan McNally

    This is a topic I had some questions about and I’ve read a lot of great responses here. hopefully this will help me step up my trail cooking game.

  42. Milton Beauregard

    Having attended culinary arts school for a short while, I have a hundred suggestions. But if you can carry only three spices, I would carry some Herbs de Provence. Magical concoction, light weight but will transform blah to gourmet even if ingredients are the same. I also carry Mrs. Dash original; salty without actual salt and added flavor as well. And lastly but not forgottenly, I got a small squeeze bottle with a small spout and stopper and fill it with Sriracha Sauce. That gives good amount of heat and tons of flavor as well to almost any dish. Eating outdoors is fun. Use your imagination and it does not have to be boring like the Lipton sides or Ramen.

  43. Interesting post.

    Before leaving any reply, my opinion is to look carefully on the journey, and what could be available in food restocking points. I would not think to carry an entire week of food, some stuff is perishable, and is nice to have some fresh fruit like apples and bananas, as a change to berries picked on the way.
    Now, I do not walk, but I cycle, so 20-30 miles to reach a shop, are not a huge deal unless you’ve to climb a big mountain. But such distance is not easy when walking. One more reason to plan the meals.

    I like to bring the condiments from home, mostly based on what I am cooking.
    Everything goes into 2×3″ or 4×5″ mini ziplock bags, which are available in many shops or Ebay, as “jewellery/sample mini bag”. For things like Pesto, Peanut butter or Marmite (fantastic on bread, has good amount of protein too) I use 50ml alluminium jars, those too can be found on Ebay/Amazon/etc as “cosmetic sample jar”, they weight 5-6gr each and are leakproof. Even tho, I put them in a ziplock bag for peace of mind.
    On short trips, 2-3 days, all I need is a small plastic jar (like Multivitamins) for all the things, each one in its mini ziplock bag. Without the sugar, which I do use a bit, it’s a <50gr thing, so it's light too.

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