Backcountry Carbonara

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A creamy pasta dish topped with crunchy bacon jerky, pasta carbonara is a quick and easy one pot meal to make on your next backpacking trip.

Michael picking up a forkful of pasta from a backpacking pot
Like the origin story for many popular recipes, the history of pasta carbonara is filled with uncertainty and speculation. Since the name is derived from carbonaro, which is the Italian word for “charcoal burner”, some believe the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers. These miners would spend weeks at a time working up in the mountains and needed a meal that would be relatively non-perishable and be completely filling.

Back then, a slab of salted meat, a hunk of Parmesan, some peppercorn, and a bunch of eggs (or perhaps a few chickens) was as close to today’s backpacking food as any self-respecting Italian was willing to get. And we can hardly blame them!

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So, we decided to do our own take on this hearty Italian mountain man meal, but bring it into the 21st century (because we seriously doubt you can take a chicken with you on the JMT).

The first step for us was to swap out traditional spaghetti for angel hair pasta. This thinner pasta reduces the overall cook time, which helps conserves your fuel. Additionally, instead of boiling the pasta in a lot of water and then draining, we just barely covered the pasta with cold water before bringing to a boil. Some of the water evaporates, some of it is absorbed by the pasta, and the little that is left over we use to make the sauce. Easy on your water supply with no straining needed.

For the cheese, we opted for powdered grocery store variety for simplicity sake. (Although if you want to bring a chunk of Parmesan and a mini cheese grater that’s up to you.)

For the eggs, we opted for OvaEasy powdered eggs. We’ve made this dish before at home and we found that using powdered eggs actually makes the process a whole lot easier than actual eggs.

Finally, while we would love to pack along a slab of bacon, pancetta, or another piece of fine Italian charcuterie, we decided to go with the next best thing: Trader Joe’s Sweet & Spicy Bacon Jerky. If you haven’t tried this stuff before, you’re definitely missing out.  However, if you tragically live beyond the reaches of TJ, we have been told Hormel’s makes a pretty decent substitute and has a good vegan brand of bacon-eqse bits.

When the pasta is firmer than al dente, reduce the heat and mix the cheese, powdered eggs, and peppercorn into the starchy pasta water. This creates a rich, creamy sauce. Then crumble in your bacon jerky and dig in.

You don’t need a lot of ingredients or even a lot of time to make this delicious pasta dish. Depending on how long it takes your water to boil, this meal can be made in under 10 minutes! So for your next backpacking adventure, give this recipe a try and enjoy some Italian al fresco dining out in the wild.

Pasta carbonara in a backpacking pot

Backcountry Carbonara

A creamy pasta dish topped with crunchy bacon jerky, pasta carbonara is a quick and easy one pot meal to make on your next backpacking trip
Author: Fresh Off The Grid
5 from 9 ratings
Pin Rate
Total Time: 7 minutes
1 hungry hiker


  • 4 oz angel hair pasta
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Ova Easy eggs
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 oz bacon jerky


  • AT HOME: Place the pasta and salt in a resealable baggie, the olive oil into a resealable container (or pack olive oil packets), and place the eggs, cheese, and pepper into a separate resealable baggie. Pack along the bacon jerky (repackage as needed).
  • IN THE BACKCOUNTRY: Put the pasta & salt into your cookpot and pour in just enough water to cover the pasta. Add the olive oil. Bring to a low boil and cook until the pasta is just al dente.
    Turn down the heat and add the egg and cheese and stir to combine (you can add a little water if too much has boiled off - you want to create a creamy sauce here). Remove from the heat, add the bacon jerky, and enjoy!


This meal, packed, came in at 8 oz.
Per oz nutrition: 101 kcal/oz, 3.8g fat/oz, 11g carb/oz, 4.1g protein/oz.
Values are approximate only and may vary based on the specific ingredients you use.

Nutrition (Per Serving)

Calories: 810kcal | Carbohydrates: 88g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 27g

*Nutrition is an estimate based on information provided by a third-party nutrition calculator

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Pasta carbonara in a backpacking pot

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  1. I really appreciate of you because I got nice information from you.

  2. Teresa Kelly says:

    Angel Hair pasta does make cooking time shorter. Great taste after a long day. I have use the base recipe and varied the other ingredients. My meals are so much better. THANK YOU.5 stars

    1. Fresh Off the Grid says:

      Awesome! Glad to hear you enjoyed it! Definitely a great base to start with for future variations!

  3. Mike Smith says:

    Just found this site.
    I like the simple ingredients.
    Heading to Joshua Tree next week and will try the Carbonara.

  4. Frank Motley says:

    I tried this recipe while motorcycle camping this past weekend. Using a Jetboil, I cooked the pasta traditionally, but then simply scooped it out into a bowl, where I added and mixed the remaining ingredients. There was enough water on the noodles to create a creamy sauce with the egg crystals. I was truly surprised at how good it turned out! It was actually delicious by any standard. The bacon jerky gave it a genuine authentic carbonara taste. It was easy to pack the ingredients on my motorcycle and the prep was simple as well. This was a game-changer recipe for minimalistic gourmet meals! It will be a regular for me.5 stars

  5. Our group taste-tested some backpacking meals, and this was everyone’s clear favorite. It has such a full rich flavor, especially for how easy it is to make. We did make two changes: we used our own dehydrated eggs, and we used Hormel real bacon pieces, which were less expensive and very tasty. Dehydrating eggs wasn’t too bad – we just put raw eggs on the liquid trays in our dehydrator. It took about 12 hours.