Figuring out what we will eat on a long distance backpacking trip starts with figuring out how much we will eat. From nutritionalist and long distance hiker Brenda Braaten’s article Pack Light, Eat Right:
How many Calories do I need?
If your load is less than 15% of your body weight and terrain is gentle, your caloric needs are not significantly different from normal (i.e, 2500-3500 Calories for active females, 3000-4000 Calories for active males). If, however, you are carrying 25-35% of your body weight over difficult (uneven/steep) terrain, you will need extra calories (500-1000, give or take).
Our total pack weight will vary a lot along the trail, but will generally be between 15% and 25%. Somewhere around 3500-4000 per day seems like a good target. We don’t have to get this number perfect ahead of time; there will be a lot of opportunities along the trail to add calories.
Wandering the Wild has a nice breakdown of the percentages between meals that they used on their hike. This is very similar to the percentages we will be figuring (although we are a little heavier on desserts). Here is what we are shooting for:
At the beginning of the hike, this is going to be too many calories. Most people say that the “hiker hunger” doesn’t start until 4-6 weeks into the trip when 4000 calories per day may not even be enough. We will adjust our snacks as necessary to find the right balance. Unless our resupply stop is “Buy Only” (see our previous post), we plan on making up all of our breakfasts, dinners, and desserts ahead of time. This equates to 128 days of meals.
OK, now that the math is out of the way – what are we going to eat?
Breakfasts are fairly simple. We have made a ridiculous amount of granola that we will use as a base and add freeze-dried fruits and powdered milk. We also made an almost equally ridiculous amount of steel-cut oatmeal with brown sugar and powdered milk. We will use this as a base to add home dehydrated fruits and nuts. We also like the peach almond grits recipe on Erik the Black‘s website. We will also throw in some pop-tarts and cream of wheat to mix it up a little.
Dinners are a little more complicated. We have been trying lots of recipes since November and only ones with an A+ rating have made it to the menu. Most of what we are planning on eating is dehydrated at home and then vacuum sealed (thanks mom and dad!). We have then been stockpiling it in our parents’ freezer (thanks other mom and dad!). For anyone looking to learn how to create your own meals with a dehydrator, we highly recommend the book Recipes for Adventure. Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’ and Lipsmackin’ Vegetarian Backpackin’ also have some good recipes that have made it to the menu. We also like the dinner recipes on Erik the Black’s website for quick and easy meals. Some of our favorite meals are chicken and stuffing with sweet potatoes, rice and beans, burritos, pesto tortellini, and stir-fry.
For desserts, we like cookies and about any recipe with pudding. The dessert recipes in Recipes for Adventure are enough of a reason to buy the book. We are big fans of the pineapple upside down cake, trail angel cake, and banana pudding.
Lunches and snacks will be bought on the trail, unless it is a “Mail Only” stop. Our usual trail lunches will be whatever we can put in a tortilla, crackers and cheese or dehydrated hummus, bagels with cream cheese, or pita bread with avocado, sprouts, nutritional yeast, and olive oil – this is really tasty. Snacks are anything else that looks good – snickers, dried fruit, granola bars, snickers, trail mix, Fritos, mixed nuts, and snickers are all good. We also like snickers.
We may be the only hikers to gain weight on the trail!