4 Easy DIY Backpacking Spice Blends for Instant Flavor on the Trail

Backpacking spice blends materials

It was day 8 on the trail and our tent group had hit the end of our rations. That evening, we faced a very unfortunate mission: Macgyver our remaining flour, potato pearls, yeast and water into a nutritious meal.

“Everything tastes better in the backcountry.” I assured my friends.

Quickly, I was proved wrong. No, Everything does not taste better in the backcountry.

I look back on that flavorless, cement goop years later and laugh. We were young, stupid and very hungry. Why on earth had we not used spices?

Spices are lightweight, super packable, and — when paired with the proper skills — hold the power to turn even the worst dinner flop into a pleasant culinary experience.

Today, you’ll never catch me without a kit of my own favorite spices (even when I’m off the trail). My spice kit is made up of 4 simple homemade spice blends of my favorite, and most versatile, world flavors: Mexican, Greek, Italian, and Asian.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to make these blends to spice up your trail meals, whether they’re complex recipes or simple backpacking foods.

4 easy diy backpacking spice blends

1. Mexican Blend (use generously)

Mexican spice blend

Best for: Tacos, chili, enchiladas, huevos rancheros, soup

Complementary wet ingredients: Salsa, canola oil

Ingredients

  • 4 parts cumin
  • 3 parts chili powder
  • 3 parts paprika
  • 2 part oregano
  • 2 part onion powder
  • 2 part garlic powder
  • 1 part cracked pepper
  • 1 part salt

Instructions

  1. Add ingredients to a small mixing bowl
  2. Mix thoroughly
  3. Package and store them using the instructions below (jump to instructions)

2. Greek Blend (use moderately)

Greek spice blend

Best for: Fish, salads, stir fry veggies, couscous or quinoa dishes

Complementary wet ingredients: Lemon juice, olive oil, red wine vinegar

Ingredients

  • 2 parts dried parsley
  • 2 parts thyme
  • 1 part oregano
  • 1 part salt
  • 1 part lemon zest
  • 1 part black pepper
  • 1 part garlic powder

Instructions

  1. Add ingredients to a small mixing bowl
  2. Mix thoroughly
  3. Package and store them using the instructions below (jump to instructions)

3. Italian Blend (use generously)

Italian spice blend

Best for: Pastas, grilled veggies, steaks, chicken, mac and cheese

Complementary wet ingredients: Marinara sauce, olive oil, lemon juice

Ingredients

  • 3 parts garlic powder
  • 2 parts oregano
  • 2 parts onion powder
  • 2 parts thyme
  • 1 part black pepper
  • 1 part rosemary
  • 1 part dried basil
  • Dash of crushed red pepper

Instructions

  1. Add ingredients to a small mixing bowl
  2. Mix thoroughly
  3. Package and store them using the instructions below (jump to instructions)

4. Asian Blend (use sparingly)

Asian spice blend

Best for: Stir fries, grilled veggies, breakfast hash, pad thai, soup

Complementary wet ingredients: Sriracha, soy sauce, sesame oil

Ingredients

  • 3 parts ground ginger
  • 2 parts sriracha cracked pepper
  • 1 part salt
  • 1 part light brown sugar

Instructions

  1. Add ingredients to a small mixing bowl
  2. Mix thoroughly
  3. Package and store them using the instructions below (jump to instructions)

How to Package & Store Your Spice Blends

Spices in containers

Once you’ve prepared your blends, here’s how to package and store them in your backpack.

Materials

  • 1 small funnel (if you don’t have a funnel, you can easily roll a piece of paper into a funnel shape)
  • Empty containers for your spices, as many as you need (I use small Nalgene containers)
  • Tape and Sharpie for labeling

Instructions

1. Pour your spice blend into an empty spice container using the funnel

Funneling spices into containers

2. Label the container using the tape and Sharpie. This is a good practice for any of your camp kitchen supplies. (I once poured potato pearls into my dry cereal thinking that it was dehydrated milk. Bad things followed.)

3. Repeat Steps 1 and 2 for each spice blend you carry with you

4 spice blends

4. Pack the containers in your pack and hit the trail! As a rule of thumb, it’s good to keep all your spices with the rest of your mess kit, camping cookware, or backpacking cookware so you remember where it is. However, I keep my frequently used spices in the top zipper of my backpack for easy access.

Cooking with a spice blend

You probably won’t need every one of these blends on most trips. Instead, choose one or two blends that interest you the most while leaving room to carry more basic spices like salt and cracked pepper.

Choosing the Right Containers for Your Spices

As most things when it comes to backpacking, you want to put your spices in something small, lightweight and waterproof. Choose a container with a tight and secure seal. There are many great options for purchasing, but my favorite brand is Nalgene, for their varying sizes and reliable seal.

If you don’t want to go out and buy containers for backpacking, that’s no problem. You can simply reuse a spice bottle from your pantry at home. Be sure to wash thoroughly with warm water and leave open to dry for 24 hours. I like to reuse garlic powder spice bottles, as that is the seasoning that I use the most when cooking, and the bottle will retain some of that flavor.

If you choose to reuse a spice bottle, know that the seal may wear out over time or be not as waterproof. A quick wrap of duct tape around the edge of the lip can prevent any unintentional spicehaps.

How to Preserve and Store Your Spice Blends

Like the everyday seasonings you use at home, these blends will stay good and smelling delicious for up to 1 year. After that, they start to lose their freshness. Keep this in mind when deciding how much to prepare.

Store your spices in a dry and dark location. For me, that’s the top zipper of my Osprey pack. When using your spices, avoid any and all moisture. Use a dry spoon when scooping out of the bottle and avoid dashing the blend over any steaming pots or roaring stoves.

Playing Around with More Flavors

Everyone has a different palette and the spices that work for me may not work for you. Feel free to practice using these blends at home, and alter the ratios as needed. Many blends already exist in the grocery store, and making use of these may be a cheap and easy way to build a foundation for your own spice kit.

My Favorite Store-Bought Seasonings

  • Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasonings
  • Spike Original Magic Gourmet Seasonings
  • Frontier Co-Op Pumpkin Pie Spice (for hot chocolate, coffee, cakes, etc.)
  • Urban Accents Tangy Pickle Popcorn Seasoning (incredible dill flavoring)

My Favorite Condiments

To go along with your dry seasonings, you may pack and preserve many condiments in the same way. Unlike your dry spices, most condiments and wet ingredients must be packed in a cool or chilled location, so avoid storing these at the top zipper of your pack. This is where the sun hits most directly. Instead, opt to store these somewhere dark and secure, like inside a stuff sack cached in your camp pot.

Condiments that keep up to one year

  • Sriracha
  • Cholula hot sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Olive oil
  • Maple syrup
  • Ketchup and Mustard (Can be stolen from your local fast food restaurant)
  • Vinegars (red wine, rice, white, etc.)
  • Worcestershire sauce

Condiments to typically be restocked before each camping/hiking trip

  • Store bought, unrefrigerated pesto
  • Store bought, unrefrigerated lemon and lime juice (store in a non see-through container)
  • Salsas
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly

Happy flavoring, Campers! With the right technique, everything tastes better in the backcountry!

Campfire meal