Trail salad recipes

Contributed by Christine and Tim Conners, longtime PCTA supporters.

When on the trail in the heat of the day, it’s tough to beat a cool, flavor-packed salad, especially when it’s enjoyed against the gorgeous backdrop of the PCT! Trail salads are both refreshing and healthy. Even better, they don’t require fuel or stove to prepare.

We were introduced to the concept of trail salads fifteen years ago by one of the first contributors to Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’, Pam Coz Hill. The idea is really simple: concoct a salad using your favorite ingredients. But instead of building your salad around lettuce, use coleslaw or finely chopped vegetables instead, which dry quickly in the dehydrator and then rehydrate on the trail without heat. It’s really that simple!

The Carter Notch Coleslaw adds variety to your food bag.

The Carter Notch Coleslaw adds variety to your food bag.

Below are two examples of trail salads designed for lightweight, long-distance backpacking. They come to you from Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’ and Lipsmackin’ Vegetarian Backpackin’. Note that the bulk of the preparation work is done at home, so all you need to do on the trail is add a little cold, filtered water. [Take a look at our page on trail food for more tips on what to eat in the backcountry.]

Sierra Szechuan Chicken Salad

From Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’
Total Servings: 6
As Packaged for the Trail: 1 serving
Weight per Serving: About 3 ounces


  • 1⁄2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Szechwan chili oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 pound somen (Japanese) noodles
  • 1 (10-ounce) can water packed chunk chicken, drained
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups matchstick carrots
  • 1 (8-ounce) can sliced bamboo shoots, drained and chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can baby corn on the cob (unpickled), drained and chopped
  • 8 ounces frozen petite peas, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon dried cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3⁄4 cup water per serving, added on the trail

Preparation at Home:

  1. In a large bowl, combine soy sauce, chili oil, and Dijon mustard. Stir.
  2. Cook somen noodles in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
  3. Add noodles to bowl with soy sauce mixture and toss, coating noodles
  4. thoroughly.
  5. Spread noodles in a thin layer on drying trays and dehydrate.
  6.  Break chicken into pieces and dehydrate along with onions, red and green bell peppers, carrots, bamboo shoots, baby corn, and peas.
  7. Once somen noodles have dried, break them into smaller pieces, about 1 inch long, and combine in a large bowl with all other dehydrated ingredients. Add cilantro and sesame seeds. Toss well.
  8.  Evenly divide mixture into 6 (3-ounce) portions, packaging each portion in its own quart-size ziplock freezer bag.
  9. Pack optional sesame oil in a small bottle.

Preparation on the Trail:

  1. Several hours before lunch, add 3⁄4 cup water to a single-serving bag dried salad mix. Carefully reseal the bag.
  2. Place salad bag in a safe location at the top of your pack.
  3. Enjoy salad for lunch, adding optional 2 tablespoons sesame oil.

Option: This salad can also be served after chilling for a few minutes in a cold stream or warming briefly over a stove.

Pam Coz-Hill
Visalia, California

Carter Notch Coleslaw

From Lipsmackin’ Vegetarian Backpackin’
Total weight: 7 ounces
Weight per serving: about 2 ounces
Total servings: 4


At home:

  • 1⁄2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 11⁄2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag fresh coleslaw vegetable mix
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1⁄2 cup chopped green pepper


  • 1⁄4 teaspoon caraway seed
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon prepared horseradish

Preparation at Home:

Heat liquids, sugar, and spices, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Immediately remove from heat once the syrupy mixture reaches boiling. Combine the shredded vegetables in a heavy-duty plastic bag or bowl and cover with the hot syrup. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 8 hours, mixing at least once during the period. Drain, then spread the vegetable mixture thinly and evenly onto parchment-lined dehydrator trays. Dry, breaking up any lumps partway through the drying process. When ready, distribute the slaw mixture evenly between 4 ziplock quart-size freezer bags (about 2⁄3 cup each).

Preparation on the Trail:

  • 2⁄3 cup water per serving

To make 1 serving, add 2⁄3 cup of water to 1 bag of slaw. Allow to rehydrate for at least 30 minutes.

Option: Add the contents of a fast-food packet of vinegar for additional tang.

Ken Harbison
Rochester, New York


Author: PCTA Staff

The mission of the Pacific Crest Trail Association is to protect, preserve and promote the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail as a world-class experience for hikers and equestrians, and for all the values provided by wild and scenic lands.