The main reason I decided to write about this backpacking trip Jennifer and I are going on (NEXT WEEK!) is because we’ve gotten a ton of questions as the trip has come closer and closer to really happening (although let’s be honest – I have a week or so left to chicken out, right?).
Aside from the inevitable question from my parents (“Why do you want to just walk for 230 miles?”), a large majority of the questions have really centered around the planning. And for good reason – we’ve been doing it since January when we had to plan our permit requests. The planning is no joke, people.
You don’t just toss shit it in a bag a week or two before you leave. Doing such a thing would be pretty silly – sillier than doing this trip in the first place. You have to constantly think of 3 things during planning: cost, comfort, and weight. Fortunately, I had a lot of backpacking gear already, but this trip has still required quite a few extra purchases, one of the most significant being a food dehydrator, which I’ll get to in a second. Weight-wise, I’m not kidding when I say that I removed a pair of iPhone headphones because I “don’t need the extra weight (of 1 ounce).” I hope I don’t regret that when Jennifer starts talking in her sleep….
When it came to comfort, after the obvious things like having a nice backpack and good hiking shoes, I realized that I needed to have some comforts from home in the way of food. I knew I’d go crazy eating Clif bars for every meal, and I knew from previous hiking trips that my body does not respond well to the enormous amounts of sodium in the store-bought freeze-dried meals, even if they are surprisingly tasty (not to mention they are $10 each).
This is where the dehydrator comes in handy. This amazing contraption has allowed us to have things like dehydrated cheese powder (!) and dehydrated peanut sauce (!!), as well as homemade jambalaya (!!!).
People keep saying that we are going to be eating better than anyone on the JMT. I think we’ll be eating better than 90% of people, for sure. But some people go hardcore gourmet when it comes to hiking food, and I won’t be surprised to see fancy pour-over coffee contraptions, pots and pans, and actual plates. Plates! (We eat out of bags…)
Now, getting all of the food through the trail is just as tricky as getting yourself through the trail; that’s going to be the next post. But since people ask us a lot about our food, I figured I’d share the “menu”, meal-wise. Jennifer and I divvied up the food tasks – I took on making our meals since I bought the dehydrator, and she is prepping every last snack and instant coffee pack.
We have a few “fresh” meals throughout the trip, such as days where we resupply and over our “zero day”, so we aren’t eating 21 pre-prepped breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. It shakes down to 16 breakfasts, 17 lunches, and 17 dinners that I had to prepare in advance. To make sure we don’t get too tired of any one meal, we decided on 4 different breakfasts and lunches and 5 different dinners – all rotating throughout the trip.
This is what we came up with (and all have been tested) –
- cheese & bacon grits
- granola cereal
- cranberry-pistachio oatmeal
- Clif bar (different one each time)
- smoked salmon & hummus on dill triscuits
- veggie pasta salad
- peanut butter & honey tortillas
- tuna couscous with Italian dressing
- quinoa & veggies in peanut sauce
- mac n’ cheese with broccoli & ham
- chicken curry & rice
- beef & bean chili
- chicken & sausage jambalaya
Sounds pretty decent huh? Now you might be wondering just how we are eating all of this, right? The only perishable items are things we will buy once or twice along the way (tortillas and triscuits). Everything else is either pre-packaged (Clif bar, peanut butter packs) or dehydrated at home. Dehydrating does two things for us – 1) it keeps things shelf stable so we don’t die from rancid food and 2) it significantly cuts down on weight and bulk. For example, a serving of chili (2 cups fresh) weighs 18 ounces, but when dehydrated, it weighs 4.6 ounces – huge difference. HUGE. Also, it’s amazing just how many things you can actually dehydrate. It’s sorta fun…
Dehydrating also means we can limit what we carry to cook – we share a Jetboil, which is a device with the sole purpose of boiling water in under 2 minutes. We pour the water into the freezer bag our food is in, close it, and let it rehydrate for a few minutes. For lunch, our meals don’t even need boiling water – we made sure we had only cool/room temperature lunches, to save time and effort (and we figured it would be the warmest then, and a hot lunch sounded gross).
Where did we come up with the meals? Lots of places. I started by looking on Trailcooking.com, which is a great site for backpacking recipes. I made quite a few of those meals that passed the test (veggie pasta salad, chicken curry rice, cheese grits), and also tested a few that I didn’t like as much. A couple of recipes were made from my blog (remember when I posted recipes?!?) – the jambalaya and chai granola made the list, and the chana masala was a solid 6th place dinner option, which we decided we didn’t need (but it was great on a couple of practice trips!). Some of them were just cobbled together until they were ‘right’: the quinoa with peanut sauce, for instance, or the smoked salmon on triscuits, and last but certainly not least – the mac n’ cheese, which took 3 practice runs to get right.
The meal prep was definitely time-consuming, but I know it will be worth it, given that we absolutely NEED to eat A LOT, and as a result, it will help to like the food and have variety. Making the food saved us money, too, since we didn’t have to buy the pre-made meals, and we don’t have to restock while on the trail at the couple of stores we have access to.
Snack-wise, Jennifer has some super solid things lined up, too. Lots of trail mix, peanut M&Ms, Snickers bars (a hiking MUST), jerky, Goldfish, and even some cheesecake pudding for dessert. And Girl Scout cookies. BOOM.
And of course, you can’t hike without coffee and whiskey – so that’s on lockdown, too.
When it comes to the food, we are more than ready. Next time, I’ll explain how it all gets on the trail ;).