Vegetarian Backpacking Meals

Vegetarian Backpacking Meals 2017As a long time backpacking guide and vegetarian myself, I’ve found ways to eat well on the trail while working with clients who may (or may not) also be veggies. It’s actually a bit of a pain to try to bring meat on the trail, other than ultra-salty jerky and wrapped sausage sticks.

For that reason, most vegetarians will find themselves eating better meals than the majority with these few vegetarian backpacking meals:

(All of my meals are based around Freezer Bag Cooking so if you’re not familiar with this method I suggest you start by reading Sarah Kirkconnel’s brand new 2016 edition FBC book.)


Crunchy Beans and Rice

Possibly my all time favorite for deliciousness and simplicity. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an entire shelter ask me, “What is that amazing smell?” This is an easy vegetarian meal for the trail that you’ll come back to over and over again.

If you enjoy Tex-Mex or anything resembling tasty burritos and spicy rice this is the meal for you:

What you’ll need

Pre-Trail Preparation

  1. Grab that gallon Ziploc bag and toss in your cup of minute rice, taco seasoning, and dehydrated refried beans.
  2. Crush up your Fritos and toss them in a small snack sized Ziploc bag.
  3. Put the snack bag of Fritos inside the gallon bag with your other ingredients.

On-Trail preparation

  1. Pull the snack bag of Fritos out of the gallon Ziploc.
  2. Boil enough water for the beans and rice (2 cups of water if you followed my portions).
  3. Once the water is boiling, shut off the stove and pour the water into the gallon Ziploc bag.
  4. Seal bag and let it sit until the water has been fully absorbed by rice and beans. Set up camp while this happens.
  5. Stir up meal, sprinkle crushed Fritos over it, and enjoy! Eat straight from the bag for no-mess cleanup.

Creamy CousCous

Another amazing recipe that will leave you hiking through your day just to get to camp for your dinner! Completely vegetarian backpacking meal and amazingly tasty.

This one is hearty and filling so leave plenty of time to veg out (ha, no pun intended) around camp after you eat up.

What you’ll need

Pre-Trail Preparation

  1. Add couscous, milk powder, and walnuts together in the gallon Ziploc bag.
  2. Put your olive oil in a leak proof container (I bought a pack of 8oz water bottles and drank them all – replace with olive oil).
  3. Consider adding a little extra seasoning (dry buttermilk ranch seasoning) if you want before leaving home.

On-trail Preparation

  1. Boil enough water for the couscous according to the box you used of pre-mixed couscous.
  2. Add boiling water to freezer bag.
  3. Seal freezer bag, let sit while you set up camp.
  4. Stir in olive oil before eating and mix thoroughly.
  5. ENJOY!


Best Vegetarian Backpacking MealsIf you enjoyed these simple vegetarian backpacking meals, please consider picking up your ingredients using the links above. The small Amazon kickback helps me keep this site running so I can keep bringing the best backpacking information available to you!

If you want more great freezer bag cooking meals for backpacking just let me know in the comment section. I love freezer bag cooking backpacking meals and it’s so much fun to share the simplicity with new hikers.

Check out my list of the most calorie dense foods if you’re looking for foods that really pack a punch on the trail.

How to Get Outdoor Pro Deals

Wouldn’t it be sick to have access to brands like GoPro, K2, Patagonia, Outdoor Research, and Kelty for a steady 60% off?

That’s called a pro-deal, my friends. A lot of you reading my blog are outdoor pros or looking to become instructors, guides, naturalists and so on. Guess what!?! You can snag easy pro deals up to 60% off these brands. Wish someone had told me this when I was a county park ranger….

How to Register for Outdoor Pro Deals

There is an easy way to do this and a hard way to do this…. let’s start with easy:

Sign up for hundreds of outdoor pro deals in one registration with

Get some sick outdoor pro deals with Experticity.

Get some sick outdoor pro deals with Experticity.

This one used to be known as Promotive but I guess they’ve recently overhauled themselves. Maybe it was a merger, I’m not really hip on the happenings behind the scene. It doesn’t really matter, just go get your sick gear for dope discounts.

You can register on your own and hope for acceptance or, if your employer is cool, they’re already registered. It’s better to connect with an employer because brands usually offer deeper discounts through employers.

If your employer has an Experticity hub, simply make an account, search for your employer, link your profile to them (you may have to provide proof of employment) and BAM! Discounts.

If you’ve ever been on a NOLS course, you’re already eligible! All NOLS alum can connect with the NOLS hub on Experticity and get stick gear deals.

Get creative, ask friends, ask old employers, it’s not difficult to find a way to legitimately qualify for these badass outdoor gear deals.

Individual Brands

Many outdoor gear brands offer pro deals on a case-by-case basis. Don’t see a brand on Experticity that you want a deal with? Try checking out that company’s corporate website. Often you’ll find pro deal programs through the brand its self.

Here’s an easy example:

Patagonia’s pro deal corner of their site can be found here.

How do you become a Patagonia pro deal member? Here’s a direct quote from Patagonia’s pro deal FAQ:

The Patagonia Pro Program is a membership program for qualified pros and influencers specific to our brand. Membership is by application only and all members need to reapply/requalify annually to continue membership and access. Membership is not guaranteed and can be revoked at any time. If you are interested in applying, please visit our Apply for Membershipsection and follow the instructions.

Patagonia offers an individual pro deal!

Patagonia offers an individual pro deal!

So even if you can’t get ahold of the deals through Experticity – just go hook yourself up by convincing the brands that you’ll be a great ambassador for their gear in one way or another. Just get creative and be honest.

Here’s Mountain Hardwear’s Pro Deal page.

Maybe you need some Columbia gear on the cheap – here’s the pro deal page. Columbia has always been one of my favorite brands and snagging the gear a bit cheaper would be sick!

Outlet Stores

This one is often overlooked.

This is how I picked up a great  new pair of skiing pants, a jacket, and brand new pair of Mountain Hardwear gloves for well under $100.

Check your local shopping centers for outdoor gear outlet stores. The savvy gear shopper can snag sick gear on the cheap here.

My all time favorite? (No surprise here) The Columbia Outlet Store in Kimball Junction, Utah.


Hey, why pay full price when all these brands want you to rep their gear on the cheap!?

If you’re an outdoor pro, educator, guide, instructor, or anything else (media, blogger, etc) which qualifies you through these great outdoor pro deal programs – take advantage of them yesterday!

Cheers, friends and happy trails!

Best Men’s Patagonia Ski Gear 2017

Let me preface by saying that, as a reader of my blog, you know I don’t bullshit around here. If I’m calling something the “best” then it’s a piece of gear I use, trust, and rely on. As a full time ski instructor at Deer Valley Resort, I spend more than 100 days on skis every year and my cold weather gear either keeps up with me or gets donated to the second hand store.

This isn’t another Amazon affiliate review from Joe Schmoe’s website – this is the real deal. Real advice from a backpacking guide and ski instructor you can count on to cut to the chase. So let’s get to it:

Patagonia Men’s R1 Fleece Pullover

Made from polyester, this excellent winter insulation layer is perfect for several reasons.

Patagonia's R1 Pullover

Patagonia’s R1 Pullover

First, Patagonia was one of the earliest makers of “waffle” pattern polyester insulation layers in this fashion. The inner fabric of the R1 fleece line is made of raised square grids which significantly improve the insulative value of the garment.

Second, Patagonia’s style fits my slender, longer frame quite well so it’s great for any of you “athletic” fit people out there.

After years of owning and using the R1 pullover, I have yet to see any wear or degrading of materials. I’ve taken this thing on so many trips I can’t even count and I’m not sure if it’s 4 or 7 years old at this point… I do know it’s still kicking strong and I doubt I’ll need to replace it any time soon.

To top this all off, they offer it in several variations and, while I own the R1 Pullover, if I could go back and buy the “right one” I would have gone with the R1 Fleece Hoody.

Patagonia Men’s Nano Puff Jacket

This one is offered in two different flavors – synthetic or down (the down version is called a Down Sweater).

In case you’re not already aware of the difference here are the major points:


  • More Expensive
  • Most compressible
  • Higher insulation value
  • Loses almost all insulation value when wet


  • Less expensive
  • Slightly less compressible
  • Slightly lower insulation value
  • Loses less insulation value when wet

For mid-winter skiing there’s nothing wrong with down… I just opted for synthetic at the time because I wanted to save money and have more flexibility in using it for backpacking in the cold rainy off seasons.

Nano Puff Jacket

Nano Puff Jacket

I LOVE the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket for its absurd warmth. The jacket is comfy, highly durable, and warmer than it should be. This jacket lets absolutely no wind through (due to nylon outer and inner shells). Paired with a moderate helping of synthetic insulation this jacket will keep you roasting!

If money weren’t an obstacle and I could snag another jacket, I would grab the Patagonia Men’s Down Sweater Jacket and give it a try. Though I must say, the Patagonia Men’s Nano Puff Hoody would be great for the added hood option.

Final Notes

If I had unlimited cash, I would most definitely try many other Patagonia ski apparel products. Even with access to great industry deals, I have to choose when and where to buy their often pricey gear.

At the right price, and after carefully considering what apparel I need, however, Patagonia gear has never let me down.

Maybe some day I’ll get the chance to test some of their other awesome looking goodies!

I usually use the R1 and Nano Puff with a hard shell jacket (I own several from various brands) as my full layering system for mid winter personal skiing and have never had a problem with this set up. It’s versatile, usually way too warm, and highly adaptable.

Ethical Leave No Trace Paddling Tips

Ethical Paddling with Leave No Trace Principals

If you’ve spent time on a busy section of river corridor, then you’ve pulled up on a seemingly pristine stretch of bank overhung by weeping branches and stretched your legs as you pull on those nice sandals only to find a big old pile of unburied human poop.

Okay, maybe it was just the leftover remnants of an improvised fire ring left from the night before by some frat boys out for a good time.

Either way, as outdoor leaders and educators, it’s our job to uphold ethical backcountry travel guidelines and to make sure we teach these to our students and our friends.

Not familiar with LNT? Start here with the 7 LNT Principles.

Here’s the three most important LNT Principles as I feel they pertain to paddling:

Dispose of Waste Properly

Nothing gets my paddling hackles up so much as finding poor stewardship of our natural resources and public waterways.

Take an extra bag with you next time you paddle and pack out some trash. Hopefully others will see you setting this good example.

Make sure you take a trowel for proper human waste disposal even on short trips. You never know when you’ll have to go and every time counts. Don’t make the next kayaker have to step in it.


Paddling a stretch of the Au Sable River in Michigan

Need up to date suggestions and reviews on equipment that can help you haul your paddling gear, food, and waste in to and out of the backcountry? Try checking out Paddle Pursuits.

Minimize Campfire Impacts

If you find an improvised fire ring (non-established) then teach those you’re traveling with why it’s so important to only use established fire circles. Depending on what land you’re using (National Park, National Forest, Wilderness Area, etc.) it can actually be illegal to create your own fire rings.

Using established fire rings keeps the destructive impact of wilderness campfire isolated in a single location. Unless you’re traveling in very remote backcountry and need a fire while you’re kayaking please stick to established rings.

Minimizing campfire impact also means completely burning any wood that you start to combust entirely to ashes and covering the ashes or disbursing them. A great rule of thumb is to burn sticks no larger than your wrist or longer than your arm.

For a few more tips on how this LNT principle applies to paddling you can check out this article.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

This one gets overlooked so easily! For some reasons waterways tend to be one of the first destinations for rowdy and inconsiderate backcountry travelers. Bachelor parties, tubers, and other variously intoxicated paddlers seem to flock in droves to loudly make chaos and leave trash scattered about like a hurricane.

Always remember that other people are enjoying the natural resources and public lands. On waterways your voice travels quite well so keep it down.

Set up your tent and campsite well out of view from the water. Ruining visual corridors with the trendy bright neon colors used in tents and equipment right now is often overlooked. Allow others to enjoy the same undistracted view of the beautiful and wild waterways you enjoyed before setting up camp.

On the same note, respect those less considerate users of the recreational waterways but if presented the opportunity perhaps you can try to talk to them about why it’s so important to become LNT aware.

How to Teach LNT Principles

It’s important to remind people that LNT principles are guidelines and that not every situation requires the same approach. When teaching LNT I always start by asking the group to contribute their opinions about public land use and resource management. With children this is often a facilitated discussion where you’ll want to make the language digestible and appealing.

Naturally the discussion can flow into how LNT principles help us provide the framework through which to teach ethical recreational use of public and natural lands.

Check out the LNT website for LNT teaching resources and courses to become an LNT Trainer.

Take the LNT Online Awareness Workshop to see if you’re familiar with ethical backcountry travel guidelines.

Leave no trace principles are guidelines to help ensure the waterways we enjoy recreationally and professionally are kept pristine for future outdoor enthusiasts. Let’s spread the awareness!

Is Anyone Not Ready? Wilderness Trip Leading Tip

Outdoor Guide Tip of the Day

As Chris Ducker would say “no one has a monopoly on good ideas,” and that holds true among outdoor trip leaders.

Very early on in my backpacking guide career, or trip leading, as it is most often called in the industry, I stumbled across a little soft skills tip that has proven useful and I have passed on many times to new leaders.

“Is anyone not ready?”

It’s such a small little phrase but it makes a huge difference and here’s why and when to use it:

When preparing the group, as a leader, to move again be it on trail or water many new trip leaders will ask “Is everybody ready?”.

The usual response to this question is a bunch of mumbling, a few “yeses”, and maybe a really quiet and faint “no”. It can be really hard to tell who is ready and who isn’t, then you’ve got to ask again, or go through each person individually to find out who is and isn’t ready to move.

Instead simply rephrase the question: “Is anyone not ready?”

If your students respond “nope, I’m ready,” then begin to kindly remind them they need not answer unless they’re saying the affirmative. It may take a few tries before some of your students learn not to respond to the question unless they’re unprepared to move.

This alleviates confusion and allows outdoor trip leaders to know for sure, with only one question and one response, whether or not the group is ready.

The ideal response, as your group learns this question and how to answer it, is that the entire group will say nothing at all and then you know you’re ready to go.

No news is good news for a trip leader and while I encourage my trip leaders only to call back to base camp if it’s an emergency, I also encourage my participants to answer this question only if they’re unprepared to move.

What simple trip leading tips do you have for other adventure educators? Leave us a comment to start the discussion!


Lead and Sweep Hikers: What are Their Roles?

As I prepare the BMW for a long ride north this weekend I figured I’d get one last piece out to you all.

Let’s keep it quick and explore the roles of lead and sweep hikers for group backpacking.

lead hiker

Lead hiker’s have many tasks and you’ll want to rotate your group participants through this role. Among others their duties include:

  • Pace setting and checking for group pace
  • Checking for group hydration and ensuring water breaks
  • Initiating hiking games and group chat
  • Greeting oncoming trail traffic and alerting the group to move aside
  • Navigation
  • Getting the group ready after breaks and ensuring all are present

Any hiker in your group should be doing most of these tasks, don’t leave it solely up to your lead hiker. However, the lead hiker bears the primary responsibility for oversight.

You’ll find that as more of your group gets a chance to lead hike for a day or half a day, they’ll start to check in on the group even when they’re not in the lead. By the end of your trip you’ll have a whole group of lead hikers.

When you’re first starting out you’ll want to hike as the lead hiker and demonstrate to your group what the behaviors are of good lead hiking.

Sweep Hiker

Hiking sweep means you’re traveling very last in the group no matter what.

Normally you’ll want to make sure that you can still see your lead hiker and, if you can’t, call out for a slowing of pace. Sweep hikers are often the first to notice a pace that’s not correct.

As the sweep hiker it’s your job to mop up all the little details.

You should be:

  • Keeping an eye on pace
  • Watching the group carefully for signs of developing injury
  • Making sure no one drops gear on the trail (fuel bottles come to mind)
  • Leaving all break sites last and double checking for stragglers and trash
  • Triple checking the navigation and make sure your group hasn’t missed something
  • Keeping an eye on the weather; it’s often overlooked

When I hike sweep I try to focus on things I know my lead hiker might be too busy to notice.

As a good trip leading team, however, your job is always to predict what your co-leader needs support with and get that done before they even know it.

A great trip leading team works together always in harmony and creates a safe, meaningful environment for their group. This ensures maximum impact on students and best outcome of course goals.

Make no mistake, your students will notice when you are working as a well oiled machine with your co-leaeder and the group will strive to meet your level of excellence.

student participation and L.O.D.

Make sure you’re giving all your students a chance to rotate in to the lead and sweep hiking positions.

Usually this is done by creating a Leader of the Day structure in your adventure trips. We’ll talk about that in more detail later in another article.

Nurture your students as the learn to perform these roles and make sure you’ve already set a good example for them.

Debriefing at the end of each day with your entire group in a safe, positive learning environment, is critical to improving your LOD (leader of the day) effectiveness and smoothing out the operations of the lead and sweep hikers.

Don’t forget; it’s critical to also privately debrief the day with you LODs each day so that you and your co-leader can give them private and direct timely feedback about their performance.


You’ll find that your students’ ability to lead and sweep hike well is a direct result of your mentor ship and your own ability to lead and sweep hike well with your co-leader as you demonstrate and provide feedback.

If your adventure program doesn’t already have a Leader of the Day system and lead and sweep hikers in place as common practice, just contact me and we will work together to develop that content for your course.

Got great lead and sweep hiker ideas? Leave me a comment with the best games to play, common mistakes, or things you’ve learned as a lead and sweep hiker in a group!

Pre-Trip Strategies for Wilderness Trip Risk Management

There’s always a lot of excitement and energy as your group hops out of the van at the trailhead. Chatting with your driver, usually your supervisor, you button up last minute details, and then you’re off.

Wait a minute! Before you hit that dusty trail here’s a few tips to make sure your group is prepared.

Starting a new journey is always exciting.

Starting a new journey is always exciting.

Remember, these tips should be paired with pre-trip planning and training of participants which should be much more in-depth.

Weather contingencies

Make sure your group is aware of things like the lightning position.

On the same note, hopefully you’ve already taught the “ABC’s” of backpacking, but make sure your group has appropriate clothing accessible. At least rain gear in an outside pocket (if it’s summer time).

Lost hiker protocol

How will the group respond in case of a lost hiker among your group? Make sure before you hit the trail that everyone in your group understands what to do if they become separated from the group.

I usually suggest the “hug a tree” policy whereby any lost hikers from my group immediately sit next to the nearest tree the moment they realize they are lost.

People often try to find their way back only to become more lost and make the situation worse.


It’s incredibly important to maintain good relations with other back country travelers when leading groups. Often you, or your employers, special use permits depend on keeping good standing with the land managing agency and if they get negative reports of your groups use, you’ll lose those permits.

  • For large groups always yield to smaller groups by standing to the side of the trail.
  • Always yield to horses by stepping to the downhill side. This is for the safety of the horse and rider in case the horse spooks.
  • When stopping for a water break or rest break, always move your group off the trail to allow passage of other users. Nothing is more unprofessional looking than a group of a dozen people clogging up the trail.

From a risk management persepective the most important tip to remember here is about horses. Always remember to step to the downhill side when yielding and keep a low voice as you greet the rider from a distance. If the horse spooks near you or your group it’s best for it to shy away toward the uphill slope where it’s less likely to hurt its self or the rider.


Make it clear that no one leaves the group without informing you. No matter the reason every hiker in your group must let you, the leader, know when they’re leaving.

Even for quick facili-tree breaks (bathroom); you are responsible for the group and must know where they are at all times. You don’t have to follow them to the bathroom but you must be aware that they have left.

pace setting

Consider using yourself and your co-leader (you MUST have a co-leader, never walk into the woods without a co-leader) as the lead and sweep hikers for the first half day.

This is important because you can set a good example for the group by playing trail games, setting appropriate pace, checking in with the group, monitoring rest breaks, etc.

You’ll want to let your group rotate into the roles of lead and sweep hiker as the trip progresses but it’s important to model good lead hiking so they have a tangible example to replicate.

Setting an appropriate pace is very important for group dynamics, mental health, and physical health on trail.

Often times hikers will struggle to keep up with a strong lead hiker but won’t say anything. Eventually you’ll realize it’s becoming a problem when you have an asthmatic episode from a hiker in your group who pushed themselves too hard to keep up.

Be proactive with pace setting, ask your group often “Would anyone like me to slow down?”

Eventually the group will learn to ask eachother and often they’ll ask you to slow down for someone else in the group they can tell is struggling but unwilling to speak up.

Encourage a safe environment for this, you’ll be glad you did.


What tips do you have for pre-hike risk management at the trailhead?
Leave me a comment!