You are what you eat! With P being in the wine business, and M being a professional chef, you would think that this would be a real topic of discussion around our house, and it is. But we also know that we have to carry what we eat, so you won’t find us lugging steaks or pre-cooked risotto on the trail when we backpack.
In fact, we have come up with a pretty simple system for our meals on the trail. Breakfast is instant oatmeal, into which we chop some nice walnuts. We get a few different flavors of the oatmeal, but with the walnuts, our favorite is the maple honey. And to add calories and nutrition, we also have some instant hot chocolate and some dried fruit. And M likes her cup o’ tea as well. To make sure that we are getting enough calories, we use three packages of the instant oatmeal between the two of us.
Lunch is just as simple. P usually gets up first in the morning, and while he is getting the breakfast together he also slices up some salami and a hard cheese like Parmigiano-Reggiano, etc. Put those two things between a couple of slices of dense bread, and you have the main course for lunch. We take along little deli packets of mayo and mustard to liven up these sandwiches. For added interest at lunchtime, we take some dried fruit, an energy bar or two, and a nice salty snack like peanuts or White Cheddar Cheezits (our all-time favorite trail food, when we have enough room in the bear canister for them!).
Throughout the day, we'll snack on Gorp. (The unofficial etymology of Gorp is "Good Old Raisins and Peanuts," but the OED says it probably comes from an English word meaning to eat greedily. Beware! Reading further my increase your appetite!)
We usually make up a separate bag of gorp for each day on the trail, more or less. And each one is a little different, so that we get lots of variety as we hike, even on a week-long trip. The mix for each day always starts with M&Ms. Gotta have that chocolate that melts in your mouth, not in your pack. And the dark chocolate ones, please. Milk chocolate is chocolate lite--not for real people. Then we add an equal amount of nuts. Sometime walnuts, sometimes almond, cashews, or pecans. Each day is different. Then we add an equal amount of dried fruit. Here again, variation is the rule. We love craisins, and use raisins, as well. We also have been know to chop up apricots, apples, bananas, and even ginger to add a little spice.
Shake the bag, seal it up, and move on to the next day. Let's see...this time with craisins, pecans, and ginger...ummmmm!
Dinner (see photo above) begins with a tasty bowl of instant miso soup (absolutely great on the trail), and then a traditional freeze-dried backpacking dinner. (Check out the pot insulator that P made to keep our dinners warm while they re-hydrate. It's just an old foam sleeping pad cut to shape...) More dried fruit, another energy bar, and maybe a package of peanut M&Ms fills out the dinner menu.
That works out to about a pound of food per day, maybe a bit more, and allows us to go on the trail for a week with less than ten pounds of food. And yeah, we sometimes lose a little weight on the trip—but it’s not like we can’t afford to lose it!
And now let’s talk about water. Unless we know it is going to be a long, dry, hike, we each take at least one full 32 ounce bottle of water on the trail, and our water filter. We plan on reaching a new source of water before our existing supply is exhausted, and we always do. That’s a little over 2 pounds of water per person…perfectly manageable. Sometimes we take two of those bottles per person. And we really don’t like getting dehydrated. When we do get to water, we drink a lot, and we drink a lot before we hit the trail in the morning. A good rule of thumb, which we tested in Death Valley, is to drink more than one gallon per person per day.
Here's a link to one of our blog posts about water...in Death Valley:
Why do we filter? Well, M’s dad is a physician, so we do have a tendency to play it a little conservatively when it comes to these sorts of things. The basic theory is that Giardia, a parasite that can cause real digestive distress, is alive and well, at least in some parts and some elevations in the Sierra Nevada. That’s true. How many parts, and how high, is open to a massive amount of discussion. The tough part is that there is no way of knowing if Giardia is in the water until you drink and start feeling rotten a few days later.
We won’t go into all the details, but just suffice it to say that if there are deer, horses, beaver, or humans upstream of your water source, the chances of Giardia being in the water increase. So we filter just about everything. And sometimes we take along a large collapsible water container that gets filled once at each campsite, and gives us enough water for dinner that night, breakfast the next morning, and a couple of full bottles on the trail.
Our favorite backpacking entree is here:
Interested in a little something after dinner? Read this blog post to see what we do!
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