Easy Backpacking Food
When asked what my favorite things are about long distance hiking, right up there in the Top 5 is FOOD. It’s not just the fact that I can eat WHATEVER I want in town and still loose weight (a huge plus), but I can also justify the junk food I eat while I hike – at least to my own horrified inner voice.
On this hike I’ve decided to cook , and I went over my cooking kit in a previous post. I use the word “cooking” rather loosely though since the meals will largely be a culmination of food + hot water = meal. There is very little actual “cooking” involved. I will say that this may change on future hikes though, as I’ve decided to get a dehydrator, and start “experimenting.”
The meal I spend the least amount of time on is breakfast. I’ve just never been hungry first thing in the morning. The act of eating breakfast for me has always been just fuel for the engine. When I have eaten though, my favorite breakfast has always been Big Sur Bars. They are like desert bars, not at all similar to protein bars or other typical hiking bars, most of which I now avoid like the dentist. They have three flavors – Original, White Zest, and Blind Date. At 600 calories and 3 servings per bar they are perfect for a long hike, and a chronic sweat tooth!
The only catch, due to the fresh ingredients, is that their shelf life is not that long. You also have to order them on-line. I usually keep them in the freezer, and then mail them to myself at different points along the trails. They are usually in the priority box for about a week, and then I carry them for about a week.
Since my next hike is a shorter hike, I’ll probably eat mostly cereal. In this case I’ll mail myself Nido to mix with cereal I purchase in stores along the way. It is powdered, whole milk made by Nestle. It lasts forever, so I pre-pack it in my priority boxes, that I then have mailed to me. In the mornings, I usually hike until my first water source, and then stop to make my cereal for breakfast.
Other breakfast foods for me have included bars (yuck), Pop-tarts (love them but am starving 30 minutes later), Bagels, Peanut Butter, Cheese, Oatmeal, Tea, Coffee, nuts, dried fruit, and Muscle Milk. On some longer, faster hikes, I’ve mixed Nido and Muscle Milk Powder to make protein drinks in the morning. I mix Vanilla and Chocolate Muscle Milk with Nido and water, and it is REALLY good. I don’t really like the Vanilla, and the Chocolate is too chocolatey, so I combine the powders. I’ve also mailed these to myself, after mixing them ahead of time.
Snacks have always varied. I LOVE chocolate, and Snickers, and most any other candy bars. I’ve always found that the energy from those was short lived, so I’ve mixed them up with other bars and protein bars. Unfortunately, I over indulged on bars and now pretty much hate them. An exception is of course Big Sur Bars, and a recent, little known upstart called “Greenbelly.” Greenbelly makes their original “Meal2Go” meals, and their most recent product – “Mud Meals,” which is a powder you mix with water. The Meals2Go are, for me, really a bar in a bag, and they are pretty good. I’ll sometimes munch on them as I hike. They stick to my belly, and last a long time! The Mud Meals are good also, with great natural ingredients, but if drinking a powdered meal, it is still Nido and Muscle Milk that I drink.
On a side note, check out Greenbelly’s Blog. They have some very good articles and guides on gear, ultralight gear, backpacking, etc. I’m always looking to promote the upstarts and entrepreneurs!
My snack of choice is Teriyaki beef jerky. I always keep a bag in my pocket, and snack on it throughout the day. I also never eat the same brand, because I’m on a hunt for the perfect jerky. In addition to jerky, I like dried fruit, CANDY, mixed nuts, trail mix (although it is close to bars now), and most any cookie.
Lunch is pretty simple. I mail myself peanut butter cups and jelly packs, that I typically purchase from Minimus.biz. I usually use two cups of peanut butter on a tortilla, and four packs of jelly. I make sure I get the jelly pack and not the jelly cup. The cup easily breaks open, and causes a MESS. The jelly pack is a lot tougher. I’ve never had any issues with the peanut butter cup.
Minimus.biz is great because I can purchase most any tiny, single helping size condiment I need. I like their tiny Tabasco sauces, and mustard packs also, and have often gotten good deals on pouch tuna and chicken. Salt and Pepper packets are also a must have for me.
I’ve eaten other things for lunch – tortillas, sausage, cheese, avocado, onion (fresh veggies the day out of town), bagels, rehydrated ramen, beans, tuna packs, etc., but PB&J is by far my favorite. I’ve never gotten tired of it. I’ve also carried Pringles. I love the can since the chips don’t break and it is light. I’ve used the Pringle cans to carry other “breakable” foods also, especially the day out of town when I might carry fresh vegetables or fruit.
In the past I’ve both cooked and gone “stoveless” on long distance hikes. Since this is a shorter hike, I’m going to cook. I’ve always kept my food simple, and have used dehydrated meals. There are a couple of good articles comparing the different foods @ Greenbelly and The Adventure Junkies. There are a LOT of manufacturers now – organic, Paleo, etc., but my main go to brands have always been MaryJanesFarm, Alpine Aire, Harmony House, Backpackers Pantry, and Mountain House Meals. Those are also in my order of preference, and offer a much shorter opinion if you don’t want to read through lengthy articles. I’m kind of like the “cliff notes” version reviewers.
I won’t be taking a lot of dehydrated food on this hike though. I’m going to buy pasta and rice meals as I go, and use my new cozy. I will mail ahead my tuna packets since I’m already mailing boxes, and got a really good deal buying them in bulk. You don’t actually have to mail anything. Every resupply town I’m going through has a grocery store, except for one resort stop, and you can purchase everything you need.
I add Tuna to every meal, unless it is beans and rice. In those, I will often cut up some summer sausage or other spicy sausage if I can find it at a deli. I like to make sure I’m getting plenty of protein. I don’t carry mashed potatoes, although I know a lot of people like these, and have often seen people mix them with their pasta sides.
A last note on my boxes. Some people use them and some people don’t. I use them for some items and not others. I typically put my maps, batteries, condiments, guide pages, and limited food in them. The bulk of the food on this trip though, I’ll buy as I go through towns. I use Priority boxes from the Post Office, and mail them ahead with my ETA information and name. Post Offices will typically hold them for 30 days, and I pick them up when I get to town.