Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Worst backcountry meal ever?
Display Avatars Sort By:
Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
Worst backcountry meal ever? on 10/24/2011 14:23:26 MDT Print View

Evil twin of the "Best backcountry meal ever" thread. This may have been covered in the past, but I didn't see anything when I searched the forums.

I have two candidates:

1. 1975, two-night trip in the Adirondacks. I brought instant rice, dried Teryaki sauce and canned shrimp. I mixed everything together and cooked. No one told me that the juice in a can of shrimp tastes horrible, I thought it was like the juice in a can of clams, quite tasty. Anyway, no one could eat it because of the overpowering chemical taste, whatever it was.

2. Overnight (1980) in the Cascades with a friend and his "little brother", who planned all the meals with no help from his "big brother." I should have checked...the kid (maybe 11 years old) brought white bread and braunsweiger (pork liver) sandwiches for lunch, no mustard or mayo or anything (and I don't like liver). For dinner he brought cans of Franco-American spaghetti in cheese sauce. The sandwiches were dry as a bone and almost inedible. The spaghetti in cheese sauce was sort of edible although somewhat slimy, mushy and pasty, but then the kid opined that it tasted like worms in sauce, and no one could eat it after that. I've never been so hungry at the end of a hike!

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Worst backcountry meal ever? on 10/24/2011 15:14:35 MDT Print View

Lol...I can only imagine how briny and sea like that shrimp juice was. That in itself is a good laugh ;-)

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Worst meal on 10/24/2011 15:21:37 MDT Print View

Backpackers Pantry Pad Thai. It tastes suspiciously like vomit.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Worst meal on 10/24/2011 18:12:44 MDT Print View

Mine was a MH one....I think it was the chicken terriyaki. Maybe it was an off night for me, who knows. But it smelled like cleaner - like medicinal cleaner. I couldn't eat it. It was the meal that turned me off the meals and onto cooking. It was the summer of 2003, in the Olympic Mountains.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Worst meal on 10/24/2011 18:32:59 MDT Print View

Many years ago, I was leading a group trip, and I had a central commissary meal based on spaghetti. However, I left it to my cooking volunteers to prepare it. The plan was to cook the spaghetti in creek water that had been boiled. Instead, they cooked it in water that had already been treated with iodine.

There was a starch reaction in the cook pot, and we ate purple spaghetti. Nobody said a word, but lots of noses were wrinkled up when they saw it.


Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Worst backcountry meal ever? on 10/24/2011 18:49:17 MDT Print View

Finding salty water at an out of the way watering hole in a corner of Big Bend NP (TX). That was some horrible oatmeal in the morning, not to mention salty hot chocolate and coffee. Should've brought ramen for dinner and grits for breakfast.

Roger Heward
(green1) - F

Locale: Alberta, Canada
Worst backcountry meal ever? on 10/24/2011 19:07:38 MDT Print View

A few candidates:

1) 20 years ago, camping with a group by a lake and making instant oatmeal in the morning, still not sure why, but when we put unfiltered, untreated lake water in to the pot with the oatmeal the whole thing turned dark blue (like in chemistry class in school when using an indicators for acid/base on something that's a base) None of us were willing to risk trying to eat it. (still do wonder what was in that water!)

2) 15 years ago, Before I learned that lighter is better, when I still carried 50-60 lbs for a weekend trip, one trip a friend of mine got us American military rations... we had 3 completely different meals according to the labelling on the packages, but we couldn't tell them apart by colour, texture, or flavour... they were awful!

3) 10 years ago, A friend of mine offered to cook supper, he said he'd bring steak and potatoes, sounded good to me! ... well he brought steak and potatoes, but no marinade, no spices, no salt or pepper, no butter, no flavour of any kind, he then proceeded to burn the steaks...

I can't say that my current meals are particularly adventurous, or even amazingly good, but I can always eat them with a smile, so they can't be that bad (though I have to admit, that is one of the areas that I know I can lighten my load, and part of the reason for my joining this forum, to get some good ideas for lightweight food (without sacrificing too much flavour))

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
yuck on 10/24/2011 21:06:10 MDT Print View

oh my... this is a tough one. I think for me it was Mulligan Stew from Harvest Foodworks or maybe their scrambled eggs. I didn't like the lasagna type thing from one of the major players (I think it might have been Mountain House).

Steofan The Apostate
(simaulius) - F

Locale: Bohemian Alps
Don't ever try this recipe. on 10/24/2011 21:37:48 MDT Print View

A backpacking partner was going to prepare the dinner that he had brought. I really had no idea what he was making, but as the water was coming to a boil, I went off down the trail to refill the water containers before the sun went down. I got back to camp just as the food was coming off of the fire. He had boiled spam in with the macaroni from a really cheap mac & cheese boxed dinner. The whole pot was swimming in spam grease. Nice guy that I was, I pulled a couple of apples out of my pack, offered him one, and we both ate our fruit in silence. Neither one of us touched the mac/spam & cheese. He must have cleaned out the pan sometime in the night as it was out of sight in the morning. We packed out shortly after sunrise and things were pretty quiet until we reached the car, and as we both opened the doors to go, he said that he really did think that mac/spam & cheese should have worked. We laughed for about an hour and we still chuckle over the worst backcountry meal ever.

Barry Cuthbert
(nzbazza) - MLife

Locale: New Zealand
Spicy wallpaper paste on 10/25/2011 04:21:25 MDT Print View

An university tramping club trip deep in the Southern Alps over Easter 1994. It had been a long hard day and the three of us arrive at the knee-deep snow coated campsite late in the evening at the base of the alpine pass some 1000m above us. Steve and I got the tent erected while Marty was tasked with dinner.

The whisperlite roared into action melting snow and ice. Soon enough 1.5 litres of ice cold water was salted and an entire packet of spaghetti was dumped into the billy and brought to the boil. Somehow inattention led to the pasta and water merging into a sticky paste. There was an attempt to improve the situation by adding tomato paste, salami, and some "herbs and spices". Except the herbs and spices ended up being straight cayenne chili powder.

A taste test led to Marty taking a walk of shame to discreetly bury the offending mess behind a convenient tree. Steve and I dipped into what little spare food we had, and swearing that Marty would never cook again.

Chris Jones
(NightMarcher) - F
Super Salt Me! on 10/25/2011 06:19:35 MDT Print View

I don't remember exactly what was served, but a tent mate decided that it was "okay" to substitute sea water for regular water in preparing the meal. The logic? By doing so he could skip adding salt to the mix when the recipe called for it. God that was nasty...

Eddy Walker

Locale: southeast
Re: Worst backcountry meal ever? on 10/25/2011 07:36:54 MDT Print View

Luckliy this didn't happen to me. A few yrs ago a friend and I hiked up to LeConte shelter in the Smokies. It was in Oct and the temps were going to be in the 20's that night. This was the first time she had been camping in temps that low.
Anyway she was cooking up some tortellini. She kept wondering why the water was foaming up while cooking the tortellini. She finally tasted it and it tasted soapy. She then realized she had put in some dishwashing liquid instead of olive oil :(

Richard Lyon
(richardglyon) - MLife

Locale: Bridger Mountains
Two more candidates on 10/25/2011 08:50:24 MDT Print View

1. When in my Army officer basic training our platoon was selected to beta test a new food type called Long Range Recon Patrol rations - dehydrated something that was supposed to be edible dry out of the packet if not able to boil water or hot when boiling water was added. Tasted like sawdust dry and hot, wet sawdust with hot water added. For national security reasons I sincerely hope the current MREs are an upgrade.

2. Any freeze-dried egg product [other than those made by Cache Lake].

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: Worst backcountry meal ever on 10/25/2011 13:20:30 MDT Print View

All these posts are bring back memories...

In the early 1980's on an unexpectedly dry pass in the Cascades we had to cook with minimal water. We made one batch of mac'n cheese with ham cubes, not bad. Then we reused the water that we'd made the first batch in...needless to say the second batch of macaroni was totally starchy and pasty, and three of the four of us couldn't touch it. But then the next morning the person who was able to eat some of the second batch the night before, to our amazement (disgust?) finished off the cold remainder. He got the "Iron Stomach" award for that one.

Another time we made made lemonade from powder in a water bottle. It was a bit weak so we pulled out some more powder and added it. Unfortunately we pulled out powdered milk instead...the resulting chemical machinations were incredible, like a Mr. Wizard show. In the end all the milk curdled and floated to the top. We just dumped it.

Finally, my "Iron Stomach" award winning friend once purchased "Wheat-Tex", some sort of textured vegetable protein stew. This was in the hippy-dippy 1970's when such things were done. It had absolutely no flavor and a horrible texture...alas, another hungry night...

Edited by ewolin on 10/25/2011 13:22:56 MDT.

Tim Haynes

Locale: Mid Atlantic
Worst backcountry meal ever on 10/25/2011 14:40:33 MDT Print View

This wasn't the worst tasting, but it was a learning experience.

Early on in our relationship, taking my (now wife) on a simple overnight trip, we ended up getting a night with high wind and temperatures in the low-teens. Dinner plan was these beautiful organic sirloins from a local butcher that I had marinating all day.

We were not prepared for the weather, and I certainly wasn't prepared to cook in this weather, but after planning the steaks to try to impress her, I was determined to cook them. Got a campfire going despite the 20-30mph winds, and managed to get the steak in there.

Unfortunately (and this should have occurred to me ahead of time), when it's windy and sub-freezing, food gets cold quickly. Our steak was delicious on the first bite, cold on the second bite, and starting to freeze by the third. So back into the fire... where I managed to burn through a pair of leather gloves touching the metal rod I was grilling it on. Steak burned as well at that point, and kept getting blacker and blacker as we kept throwing pieces back on the fire to warm it up.

The bright side was eventually giving up and turning to a vacuum thermos full of hot chocolate and Bailey's that helped save the meal.

Lesson learned: In sub-freezing temperatures working with a campfire, cook steak fondue style, one piece at a time.

Todd Hein
(todd1960) - MLife

Locale: Coastal Southern California
Too much of a good thing... on 10/25/2011 15:56:59 MDT Print View

One of my staple meals used to be a handful of salted cashews added to a pouch of albacore tuna. So, on a recent trip, I brought four sets of this meal as my only "non-snacky" food. For some reason, by the time I got to the 2nd set, I could barely stomach it and the next time (what would have been the 3rd) I couldn't deal with it at all. This was 3 months ago and I can't even smell canned/pouched tuna any more. Before this incident, I thought that I could handle infinite repetitions of the same food, but I guess I can't. I have much more respect to thru-hikers and the trials they must go through in their meal planning.

Doug Parker
(BuffaloSkipper) - F

Locale: Gulf Coast
A tale of a misguided scout on 10/26/2011 15:19:21 MDT Print View

Personally, I love to cook, and I cannot say that I have ever had a bad backcountry meal (what happend as a youth may have been blocked from memory, I can' remember) ;)

I had one scout on a backpacking trek 3 years ago with a package of Idahoan Yukon Gold potatoes (they no longer make the Yukon Golds; I don't know why they were the best!). Anyway, he went to mix the potatoes and the water (including just the right amount of powdered milk). Then he put it on the stove to boil the mix. He had read the microwave--not stovetop--directions. Needless to say the scouts had potato soup for dinner.

Pete Anderson
(hosaphone) - F

Locale: Boston-ish, MA
Re: Worst backcountry meal ever? on 10/26/2011 21:52:28 MDT Print View

You can't make this stuff up! These stories remind my why, whenever somebody else is planning meals, I ALWAYS bring my own little stash of food just in case...

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Worst backcountry meal ever? on 10/27/2011 00:11:59 MDT Print View

@ Eddy, something soapy happened to me too. I was washing out my nalgenes, somehow I left a bunch of soapy water half full in a bottle, I topped it off, and headed on a day hike. I was real hot an thirsty and.... it was so nasty I almost threw up.

Joseph Kouyoumjian
Re: Worst backcountry meal ever on 10/27/2011 03:24:12 MDT Print View

Well there is nothing like a "simple overnight" when your wife comes with you! It seems like Mr. Murphy invites himself along as well when I go with mine!