Packing a snack for the outdoors

Noontime, somewhere along the Lostine River, about five miles into the Wallowas of northeast Oregon.

I had just fished a baggie full of cheese and crackers from my pack when something almost familiar hit my nostrils. "What's that smell?"

Four other noses instantly set to sniffing.

"Uh oh," said Dan.

"Ohhh, nooo," echoed Dave.

"Oh dear," said I. "Somebody's scotch is leaking!"

All three scotch fans leapt into action, ripping open packs in search of our precious cargo, all the while hoping it was one of the other two's tragedy. Dan's the one who came up holding a fancy — but empty — flask. Trail liquor is never carried in glass bottles. Too heavy. Most of us are content with the basic Nalgene container; feather-weight for transport, made from a stable plastic that won't transfer off flavor to the liquid.

But for some reason even Dan couldn't fathom in retrospect, he'd opted for a fancy little flask from the liquor store.

"Darn!" he lamented. "Forty-five dollars worth of single-malt, down the drain."

Well, more like forty-two. There was still about an inch sloshing around in the flask. The rest had soaked through our good friend's clothing and pack. We were going to get some mighty strange looks along the trail until evaporation was complete.

Then the gravity of the situation sank in. Dan had no scotch. Dave and I did. We were going to have to share.

Liquid refreshment is only one form of culinary reinforcement that backpackers and day-hikers take seriously. For a nonessential food item to make the cut, it has to sustain us in ways that basic survival meals cannot.

Indeed, during my lifetime of backpacking, I've noticed that most of us have areas where the weight of a given treat is secondary to the pleasure derived from bringing it along. It's usually a very specific food that simply represents good times in the wilderness for the bearer. When eaten, it conjurs all past adventures, heightening the experience and validating its pack-worthiness.

Everybody has their own favorite combination of GORP (good-old raisins and peanuts). And we all have tendencies leading us toward sweet or salty munchies or a combination of both. I love salami, Ak-Mak crackers and extra-aged Gouda: all good keepers over several days.

I've seen a lot of pita bread on the trail, which makes perfect sense. It's flat, yet soft, so it won't crumble. And you can stuff all sorts of things into it, from peanut butter to tuna in a pouch, for a mess-free nosh.

The recipes on Page 4 are from my trail-bar collection. Don't let the length of the first recipe dissuade you from considering it. It's easy to assemble. So make it and take it along on your next outing. If you're a fellow lover of scotch, then you'll be sending me your blessings on one of those star-lit high-country nights when dinner is done and it's just you, your favorite author, a splash of single-malt (okay, 2 ounces!) and a slice of my toasty-nutty Back Country Panforte.

Chock-full of toasty hazelnuts and almonds, luscious dried figs and thick, golden honey, this is a trail treat that pairs fabulously with that after-dinner scotch. But it's also an energizing midafternoon snack, enjoyed at the uppermost end of a day hike in the Cascades. Because it's sturdy in nature, it gets high grades in the portability department, too. You can make a couple of batches now; it will still be great for autumn and winter hikes and ski trips.

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, cookbook author and artist. Readers can contact her by e-mail at or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at

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