Activity Plan 2 for Plan Ahead and Prepare

Exploring Meal Planning

This activity will take approximately 70 minutes.

What Your Group Will Learn

After participating in this activity plan, which is designed to familiarize participants with meal planning, participants will be able to

  • Describe reasons for planning meals and snacks prior to a trip.
  • Create a recipe for a one-pot meal.
  • Choose lightweight snacks.

Group members will compare two backpacks: one packed with one-pot meals and lightweight snacks and the other packed with more complex meals and bulky snacks. Group members will use the weight of the packs and the amount of garbage created from the meals and snacks to determine the best preparation for meal and snack planning.

Materials and Preparation


  • A backpack packed with one-pot meals (see menus in this section) and snacks such as trail mix, fruit sticks, hard candies, and dried fruit. All meals items in this pack should be repackaged into resealable plastic bags to reduce bulk, secure food, and reduce garbage. For example, transfer items such as instant rice, cereal, and noodles from commercial packaging into sealable bags. The bags can be packed out, washed, and reused at home or used for garbage created or picked up during the trek.
  • A backpack packed with more bulky meals such as hot dogs, canned chili, canned soup, canned stew, bottled ketchup, and snacks such as cans of pop, canned fruit, and a jar of peanuts.


  • Read this entire activity plan and the Background on the Principles of Leave No Trace thoroughly.
  • Prepare two backpacks prior to your group’s arrival. The one packed with one-pot meals and lightweight snacks should be considerably lighter and create less garbage than the one packed with more complex meals and bulky snacks.

Grabbing Your Group’s Attention (10 minutes)

Preparing a menu and snacks ahead of time will help group members pack lightly with a minimal amount of garbage and will make the use of a stove more convenient, eliminating the need for a campfire.

Show students the two closed backpacks. Let each participant try on both packs. Take a vote to determine which pack is lighter and likely more comfortable. Without looking at the contents of the backpacks, have your group list items that might be contributing to the weight of the heavier pack.

Steps for Teaching the Activity (30 minutes)

On the Lighter Side

Divide the participants into two groups. Give a pack to each group and have group members unpack the packs and categorize the food items.

Ask each group how long it thinks it will take to prepare the meals from its pack. Focusing on the meal preparation items only, have the participants compare the items from each pack. Ask the group what characteristics of the meal and snack items from the heavier pack contribute to its weight.

Answers may vary depending on what each pack contains. Try to create a situation that allows the group to see how planning for one-pot meals, repackaging foods, and taking light snacks reduces the amount of garbage that must be packed out.

Discuss the differences in litter that would result from cooking meals and snacking from the items in each pack. Your choice of items in the packs will affect responses. Again, try to create a situation that allows the group to see how planning for one-pot meals, repackaging foods, and taking light snacks reduces the amount of garbage that must be packed out.

Ask participants which pack would require the fewest utensils for cooking and the smallest fire. One-pot meals can be made with one pot and can be cooked on a small backpacking stove. Cooking hot dogs and heating beans either requires the use of two pots or the use of a campfire.

Wrapping Up the Activity (30 minutes )

Your campers are great backcountry planners! Your group knows how to have fun while preserving the naturalness of the outdoors for wildlife and visitors. How well has each person learned to plan meals and lightweight snacks?

  • Have participants create a menu for their favorite one-pot meal and suggest lightweight snacks for one full day in camp.
  • Describe how their meals and snacks will lighten their backpacks, reduce garbage, and eliminate the need for a fire.
  • Hold a backyard cookout with camp stoves or a backcountry cook-off for advanced groups. Taste each dish and then vote. Reward the winners with Leave No Trace-type prizes. Have people create a lightweight, economical, one-pot meal that produces a minimum of trash, or have a tasting party with dried fruits and other noncook backpack foods.

Congratulations on conducting a well-prepared meeting for your group!

One-Pot Meals

Couscous You Say

1 cup water

1 cup packaged couscous mix

1 package dry vegetable soup mix

Bring water to a boil. Add couscous (a quick grain dish available in supermarkets) and soup mix. Cook until water is absorbed and couscous is tender. Variations: Add one beef bouillon cube; add Vienna sausages or pepperoni.

Bean Burritos

1 package freeze-dried refried beans



Cook beans according to instructions on the package. Heat tortillas over a flame. Add refried beans and cheese.

Check local outdoors stores and your public library for magazines and camping books that have one-pot recipes.