Ill be the first to admit that I normally finish walks with food left over at the end. Not a lot of food mainly extra bars and a spare meal or two, sometimes this is because I factored rest days that I haven’t needed other times because I simply couldn’t take eating another bar. What I do factor in when planning food is listed below. These points are things I consider when planning out a trip.
An important part to consider is how many calories you get for the weight that you have to carry. There is no point filling your pack with food that takes up a lot of space but doesn’t offer much in terms of calories.
It is easy to burn 300 to 400 calories per hour whilst walking and replenishing those expended calories as best you can will leave you feeling more energetic each day.
Now I’m kind of lucky here, I don’t mind eating the same thing day after day for about 10 days. I use my dinners as my variety and I make sure to pack dinners that I look forward to eating. During the main bulk of the day food serves two purposes, to keep me going on the track and to ward off hunger.
If you need more variety it may be a good idea to make a list of things you like and rotate them in a small cycle.
The longer your trip, the more you need to focus on nutrition. Fuelling an overnight trip with pop tarts and two minute noodles is probably not going to cause you any grief. However when you start to look at trips that last a few or more days it’s important to get some quality nutrients into your body to replace electrolytes and minerals as well as adding fibre to your diet.
With my dinners I make sure to add a lot of vegetables before I dehydrate the meals. I tend to use broccoli, shredded spinach, Cauliflower, zucchini and mushrooms.
This relates to density mentioned earlier, however I also factor efficiency as my ability to either eat my snacks or lunch on the move if needed. Not having to stop, unpack, eat, repack and continue on saves me time during the day. It also means I can eat on the move if the weather doesn’t allow for a sit down lunch. Most days I will take the time to sit and eat, take my boots off and have a decent rest.
Many people are choosing to go stoveless these days and cold soak their meals meaning they don’t have to carry a stove or fuel. Me, I cant bring myself to do it. I enjoy a warm breakfast and dinner. Cold coffee sounds like torture and the gentle warming of a soup before bed is bliss.
Just about every coffee drinker has their preferred method of preparing their coffee while out on a walk.
My preferred method is to use a coffee bag, essentially ground coffee in a tea bag that I let steep while I eat breakfast then put back on the stove for a minute or so to heat back up and drink while I pack up.
Other methods I have used is a small funnel in a cup with a coffee filter and ground coffee which I gently pour hot water over. On some hut based walks you are allowed to dispose of grounds and food scraps into the composting toilets. In this instance I will cut the coffee bag open and dispose into the toilets, keeping the bag and putting that into my rubbish bag.
I have also used Moccona single sachet coffee in the past, however I find they are not strong enough and I need to add instant anyway.
Breakfast is probably one of the easiest meals of the day. A lot of people eat muesli or cereal with powdered milk. Some people are fans of bigger denser oat or muesli bars that contain 300-400 calories. Me I prefer a hot freeze dried breakfast most of the time such as the Back Country Cuisine Cooked Breakfast. I find that I am already boiling water for coffee and a bit more doesn’t add much to the boil time. I will let the bag rehydrate the food while I begin to pack up. Once I’m packed up breakfast is ready and I can eat and get out on the track.
As I mentioned earlier I like to plan a lunch that I can eat either sitting down or on the move. On shorter trips I will take Salami and Cheese to have with Ryvita biscuits. As the length of the trip grows I will add peanut butter and a drier harder Biscuit such as Ginger Nut Biscuits.
Many people take bars, cookies, hardened cheeses, wraps, dehydrated or freeze dried meals, cous-cous, instant mash, noodles and the list goes on.
I like to pack my lunch into the top of my pack or if I am planning on having a bar/biscuit lunch I will pack it into the hip belt of my pack.
I remember when I first started hiking dinner consisted of a packet pasta that was cooked on a Trangia stove, when I say cooked I actually mean baked onto the bottom of the pan. I have experimented with fresh foods and packet meats but ultimately I have settled on either a homemade dehydrated meal or a commercial freeze dried meal.
I have found that the homemade meals don’t need as much rehydration as people say. I bring the water to a boil in my pot and then add the pre prepared meal and let it come back to the boil then simmer for 2 or three minutes. After that I will remove it from the stove and place the pot inside a beanie or pot cosy to keep warm for 10 minutes. I will return it to the stove for another minute or two stirring constantly to prevent it sticking. If I have used too much water I will add enough instant mash to thicken the meal.
For the freeze dried meals I simply add the boiling water, stir, seal the bag and let it sit for 10 minutes, rip open the bag and enjoy right out of the bag.
In order to keep my energy up during the day I snack quite a bit, These snacks i generally keep close at hand in either a hip belt pocket or in the pockets of my jacket or pants.
Jerky is a favourite of mine, I tend to eat one or two packets a day. Given how much I eat and how expensive it is, I tend to make my own. My favourite commercial brands are Protea Foods and Kooee, both these brands are drier and contain less sugars than some of the soft jerkies. I prefer the drier sort as they take more chewing and this makes it last longer.
Cliff Bars are another favourite, especially the nut butter ones. not only do they pack quite a few calories but they take being abused in your pack for days or weeks.
Hard lollies, I will generally take some barley sugar lollies as a quick glucose hit.
Chocolate, Peanut or caramel M&M’s are my favourite here as the shell helps to keep them from melting if the weather is warm. Plus they pack quite a few calories.
Soup, I will pack a cuppa soup for each day. Personal preference rules here but I find Tomato, Beef and Miso are comforting on a cold night. I will have this just before bed with another snack to give my body energy to keep warm overnight.
Tea, I also pack a tea bag for each night as well as some sugar to make sweet tea. I will generally make a cup of tea shortly after setting up camp and changing. Nothing really beats sitting with warm cup of sweet tea looking over a beautiful view.
There you have it, that is the basics of how I plan my food and what I take with me on my walks. This evolves as time goes on and I find new things I like or new ways of doing things.
I am thinking of writing up some of my recipes that I dehydrate and the process of doing so, If you would like that please comment and I will start to plan it out.
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