Winter Backpacking Food – Thai Chicken and Noodles

High Calorie Food for Winter Hiking

I tried out a new winter backpacking dinner recipe last night in the Section Hiker test kitchen that combines canned chicken breast, Chinese Lo Mein noodles (wheat), and a very spicy Thai peanut sauce. I even used my normal winter backpacking pot and insulated mug to make sure that I could make it on a hike using my winter cooking gear. Well not exactly: I didn't use my white gas stove last night. My dinner came out tasting pretty good and I think this one is a keeper.

This kind of meal falls into the category of one-pot meals, called Glop, that are recommended for winter backpacking. Glop meals need to be fast and easy to cook, since you'll be cooking them outside in freezing cold winter conditions. Chances are also good that you'll be using a high BTU liquid fuel stove that sounds like a jet engine and is good for boiling water and melting snow, but not much else.

Consequently, Glop meals tend to include a starch that's easy to quickly rehydrate, a boldly flavored sauce, and possibly some extra protein or fat thrown in for good measure.

In my experimental meal, I made the sauce first by boiling a cup of water and then mixing it and the peanut sauce in my insulated mug. I opened a can of chicken breast and added it to the sauce, setting it aside to thicken. Next, I boiled a half liter of water (1/6 of the 3 quarts that the Lo Mein package recommended), broke my noodles in half, and dropped them in the boiling water for 5 minutes. When they were done, I drained a little extra water out of my pot, and then mixed the sauce with the chicken, and the noodles together. The result was quite tasty and surprisingly good. It even got accolades from my wife.

Thai Glop - Winter Backpacking Recipe

There is one small change that I will probably make to this meal the next time I make it. The sauce needs a little more body, so I'll probably add some freeze-dried vegetables to it in addition to the chicken. Freeze-dried foods rehydrate much faster than dehydrated foods and are preferred for winter cooking, where the speed in which you can make a meal is important.

Do you have any favorite Glop recipes of your own?


  1. That sounds really good. I find that the "world foods" section of the supermarket has some great backpacking foods. And I need to start coming up with ideas like that for my next big hike!

    Just curious… what was the total calorie content of the meal? And how much did it weigh when packed?

  2. Funny, I was out in my backyard just now timing my alcohol stove at 43 degrees (Minneapolis). It "bloomed" in no time and its so much easier to appreciate this in the dark. However I realized later my fuel had been stored inside so I didn't have real world conditions after all! Anyway for winter I agree spicy is important and fast is important. I even write directions on a slip of paper because I can't think as clearly when I'm cold and hungry. I made a northern bean soup using dehydrated veggies from Harmony House but will experiment with freeze-dried instead as you suggest. My fastest glop is Thai Kitchen rice noodle soup packets. Cheap too.

  3. Guthook – I wasn't my normal self and didn't weigh everything on this first pass – total calorie count was about 1100 but I can boost that to 1500-1600 with more noodles. I'll be using this recipe in about two weeks at Harvard Cabin and will do it right then. There is some repackaging required.

  4. Jane – I write up directions and nutritional content too, on freezer bag meals the rest of the year. I use a sharpie pen and write it on the bag what it is, how much water to add, and protein, carbs, and fat in grams.

  5. Someone is getting fancy! Bravo to see you trying out more things :)

  6. A novice question if you don't mind… what is the best way to go about cleaning out your pot, spoon, what have you… after a meal like that in the back country?

  7. An excellent question actually. You might want to consider getting a no-stick pot for winter which helps with cleanup. If you have solid leftovers, it's best to pack them in a plastic bag and hike them out. To rinse the inside of your pot, pour in more hot water and agitate with your spoon, or scour with some snow. Personally, I make ginger herb tea in the dirty pot, pour it into my dirty mug, and drink it all down. Getting everything spotless isn't really required if you think about it though, since it is winter and nothing's going to grow before your next meal.

  8. One thing I do is carry paper towels. After cooking in a non stick pot, just wipe out everything left behind. Buy a good brand of towel though, then you use only one ;) Same with wiping off the spoon (lick it clean first). Then you can clean by boiling water in it. You don't even need soap if you wipe everything out – the boiling kills off bacteria.

  9. I used to take the ramen noodles and add food to them, but then I realized there really isn't much food in the ramen by itself. I think the more you eat the worse off you are, actually. So now I base meals on Uncle Ben's brown rice, cooks almost as fast and has some clout to it. Even if that's all there is I feel like I've eaten something that counts.

    Favorite breakfast, rice and raisins. Doesn't taste like anything at home, but on the trail it's powerful and delicious.

    World Foods are good. Hit an Asian grocery and get some cheap dried fish for extra light protein.

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