Eating Well on the Trail

Andrew and I really like to cook.  We enjoy doing everything from comfort food (wonderful Wisconsin mac & cheese), to difficult culinary adventures (like that time I ordered oysters on the internet and shucked them for a party).  When we’re on the trail, we like to eat well too.  I’m not a canned chicken kind of gal, but pre-packaged meals like Mountain House are very expensive for what you get and extremely salty.  Assuming one meal averages $9, times two people, times 5 nights, that’s easily $90 for dinner alone.  Here’s how we do trail food, including our 5 day menu for our trip to Isle Royale National Park.

Advance Planning

Whenever we start planning a trip, I find that it helps out a lot to determine how many meals we’re going to have.  If you’re going to go beyond pre-packaged food, you’ll need some lead time.  For our trips, I tend to start prepping 3 x the number of days in a trip in advance.  So, for Isle Royale, we had a 5 day trip, so I started food prep about two weeks in advance (5×3 days).  Why so much time?

  1. It takes time to dehydrate food (up to 24 hours a meal) if you’re doing that.
  2. Repackaging things you buy at the store can also take a lot of time.
  3. We never remember everything we need to bring the first time we go to the store, so this leaves us some wiggle room.

Breakfast

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Breakfast doesn’t need to be boring if you don’t want it to be!  I’m much happier with an interesting breakfast and a boring lunch.  For our 5 nights, we needed 5 breakfasts.  We brought: 8 packets of oatmeal (variety of flavors), dehydrated hash browns, a bag of granola, 8 tubes of Trader Joe’s instant coffee, and 8 Clif Bars.

Lunch

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For some reason, though I’ve been burning calories like crazy, I am never ready to sit down and eat a meal for lunch.  Andrew, on the other hand, is often ravenous.  We never do a hot lunch, which works for us.  For our 4 lunches on Isle Royale, we brought: 1 box of Triscuits (repackaged), 6 pitas, 1/2 lb Manchego Cheese, summer sausage, 4 individual Jif to go peanut butters, 3 Justin’s hazelnut butter packages, and 1 espresso hazelnut almond butter blend.

Snacks

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Snacks are my favorite thing to pick out for the trail.  Because I don’t eat much at lunch (often a half of a pita with some hazelnut butter), I get exhausted if I don’t force myself to eat.  I find it way easier to stop every hour or so and have a small snack.  We brought: 3 Kind bars, 3 energy gels (for me), 6 fruit snack packets (Star Wars themed!), 3 packets of olives, Mini Babybel cheeses, homemade beef jerky, trail mix, dehydrated apples, and 4 Clif Bars.

Dinner

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Dinners are the big meal when to backpacking.  We like variety of food and don’t mind taking the extra time to cook it.  For our 5 dinners on the trail we brought: Trader Joe’s Cheese Ravioli with Boboli Pizza Sauce (easy to thin out on the trail with water), dehydrated pea & ham risotto, supplies for burritos (tortillas, dehydrated black beans, instant rice, small amount of cheese), dehydrated beef & broccoli, and dehydrated risotto.

Treats

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After a long day of hiking, sometimes you just want a treat!  We brought: 2 bars dark chocolate, a Jiffy Pop popcorn, 4 packets of apple cider, and whiskey.

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