Backcountry Meals From Military Missions to the Arctic Circle: Part 4

Published 2021-09-21
Photo by: Dudley Edmondson
By: Zach Lazzari

Running backcountry expeditions around the globe calls for a simplified approach to enjoying and appreciating a few flavors. Just ask Chad Brown, MYSTERY RANCH ambassador and founder of Soul River Inc., as well as Love is King. He runs multiple outdoor-based non-profit organizations while organizing and leading expeditions everywhere from Oregon to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Soul River organization brings veterans and inner-city youth into the outdoors, and his Love is King organization is working to break down boundaries in the outdoor community while providing equitable access to natural spaces.

On Soul River trips, inner-city youth are provided with a complete list of food and gear. Chad has found that veterans have the ideal experience and personal supplies to help outfit the kids. He tells them to “bring their heart first and lead with a great attitude.” Brown also leans on his military experience to streamline backcountry meals while focusing on photographing, adventuring and telling stories that matter from behind the lens.

Carry Your Favorite Sauce

Backcountry meals can’t always be gourmet, but your favorite sauce will spice up anything. Sauce packets are a lightweight and safe alternative to glass and can stash away easily in any backcountry kitchen kit. Carry small packets for weight savings or a small bottle when you have room to spare or need a bulk supply. Keep the packets in a plastic bag to protect your gear against potential ruptures.

“Tabasco sauce goes well on anything,” Brown says. Backcountry meals often consist of rice, pasta and dehydrated foods. Spicing things up with a bit of hot sauce goes a long way when your standard meals are repetitive and low on flavor.

Bring a Drink to Wind Down

Many of our best moments outdoors take place after a long day of exploring. Tired, relaxed and feeling good should be the general evening campfire vibe, and Brown likes to supplement that calmness with mint tea and honey, making the two simple ingredients staples in his backpack.

“There is nothing like ending a day, making a fire, dealing with group dynamics issues or sitting down to take a break with Axe sipping on hot mint tea and honey! This makes the soul complete!”

Mint tea, instant coffee and powdered drink supplements add very little weight to your pack, and they deliver big when it’s time to relax. You could even throw in a pinch of whiskey for the evenings.

Follow Brown’s lead and bring along your favorite lightweight beverage to celebrate the beginning and end of each day.

Water on the Go

Water is essential, but Brown is often exploring places where fresh water is readily available. His pack is loaded with cameras and specialty gear, so he carries a Grayl water bottle with a built-in filter to stay hydrated safely. The instant water filter saves pack weight by avoiding the need to carry bulk bottles. When you’re camping on a river, using the local water source just makes sense. Collapsible water containers combined with a pump-style filter or purifying tablets are another option for pulling bulk water on-site.

Don’t Forget the Dog Snacks

Chad travels with his service dog Axe. “Axe is a highly trained service dog, and he eats on a strict schedule. I do give him an occasional special treat; salmon is his favorite.” While Axe has particular limitations as a working service dog, he still enjoys the extra calories on big trips. When you are burning through energy in the backcountry, your best friend is also pushing hard. Bring along calorie-rich treats to reward your dog on the trail.

Pack it All Up

Brown covers a ton of ground in different environments, and he condenses gear into the GLACIER and 3 DAY ASSAULT BVS. The GLACIER is his workhorse pack for 40-60 pound loads with cooking equipment and backcountry meals.

“The GLACIER is a beast and mule for my gear haul. The pack gives me adequate space for the essentials of my gear and is flexible with adjustments to fit my body as I am on the move. I love this pack; it’s built like a tank!”

He transitions to the 3 DAY ASSAULT BVS while photographing, noting that it reminds him of his service rucksack. He packs the bag full of camera bodies, lenses and tripods and loves how it conceals his expensive equipment.

“My 3 DAY ASSAULT BVS pack carries two Canon full-frame DSLR bodies, four lenses, seven batteries, two strobe lights, a drone, remote hot-shoe links and controllers, a tripod conversion/light stand, filters, an iPad Pro, a small medkit and satellite phone. The great thing about my assault pack is that it does not look like a camera bag, and it camouflages the expensive gear I have when I am traveling!”

The 3 DAY ASSAULT BVS is like a personal photography studio with room to spare for snacks and plenty of mint tea. The flexible set of uses makes it an excellent option for tactical and personal use.

Brown is no stranger to hauling gear around the globe, and his extensive field experience has fostered an evident appreciation for the little things. Hot sauce and a nice cup of tea are staples that he carries to every destination.