I love good food. I love to eat. I love to cook. I love to cook and eat good food. Oh – and I’m a vegetarian!
A lot of people I know have a hard time packing their meals for day hikes, camping and backpacking. They’re not sure what to bring, how much to bring, tend to over think it, or bring what is convenient and easy. Sometimes this can make for a very heavy pack, or a very hungry belly. I like to plan my meals.
Day hiking is the easiest thing to pack for. Pack a great trail mix. Include nuts and seeds (pumpkin) for protein and dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, blueberries) for some nutritious carbs. Make some homemade granola bars (these bars from dirtyGOURMET are insanely delicious – see pic). Pack an apple, some chocolate (unless of course it’s already crammed into the trail mix, and mine usually is), a few carrots, and some dried fruit (the unsulfured dried mangos from Trader Joes are fantastic). Fill the water bladder/bottle and you’re all set to go.
Car camping (Glamping) – I also find ease in packing food for car camping. I do most of my prep work and/or cooking at home. The meals are much more elaborate and tasty. If I know I can have a fire at my camp-site, then I will prep things like Potato Packets (thinly sliced potatoes, onions, peppers and carrots, tossed in some olive oil with salt & pepper, then folded up inside of an aluminum foil packet which can be placed in the coals of a fire for cooking.) My dad used to make these when I was a kid, and I have to say – they are AWESOME! It is great to have pasta salad after a day’s hiking, fresh fruits for hydration and perhaps a quinoa/stuffed pepper dish for some tasty and healthy protein. I can also boil eggs at home and have hard boiled eggs before a hike, for breakfast in the morning, or for making egg salad. The options are almost endless, and because car camping offers up a lot more space for a cooler or two, you can make good food out in the woods without having to worry about it spoiling in a day. Hot chocolate, iced/hot tea and coffee are also delicious treats in the world of car camping. Oh – Don’t forget the PB&J!
Backpacking is a different trail all together. The amount of prep work for a backpacking trip far exceeds the other two, IF you want to do the work to create your own great meals. There are plenty of companies out there who make dehydrated “backpacking” food in convenient packets that you can rehydrate. However, the taste of your own cooking and knowing what is IN your food can’t be beat. An amazing website with information on dehydrating your own food is Backpacking Chef. He offers up the “How To” of food dehydration and has quite an extensive recipe list (fruits, veggies, meats and barks – woof). One of the things I love the most about his site is how he has organized his daily food rations. After he dehydrates food for a trip, he mixes recipes and vacuum seals each meal into portion sized bags. Then he takes each meal bag and creates day bags. A day bag will have a napkin with a meal day number on it and a list of all the small vacuum sealed meal bags inside (the breakfast bag, lunch, dinner, snack and dessert). Then that pack gets sealed and put aside. Genius! Place your meals for your trip into your bear vault (usually 7-10 days worth can fit), and put the remainder of the trips food into each of the Cache drop buckets you’ll be sending out along your trek route. I like to pack two days of extra food. One for me if I go over in time between my stops, and one for a friend I meet along the way.
Varying my meals is important to me. I have no interest in eating bland rice and beans, oatmeal and the same trail mix every day. I’d get bored and then I’d get h’angry! A h’angry camper is definitely not a happy one. Variety is indeed the spice of life and your body will want different forms of nutrients from different sources to keep it going through the demands of a trek. And when you are out on trail, you’ll be the envy of all the other packers around. Don’t forget to share with the folk you meet along the way, and for the love of Pete – keep your food away from the wildlife! Use a bear vault, hang it, and make it inaccessible. You never want to keep food in your tent. It may not be the bear that shows up, but it could be a rat, mouse, vole, raccoon or other small creature that ends up shredding your tent and making you scream like a little girl at 2:00 am when the thing gets inside. If you’re hiking at a national park, don’t feed the darn squirrel – I don’t care how cute it is! Just sayin.
If you pack it in, pack it out!