Put Food Here

Status: Mile 1870 and officially into the Whites and they have not disappointed. They’re Feet still hurt at the end of the days but not nearly as bad as before and right knee is a little tweaked.

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Miles require calories. Eating on the trail can be as simple as Louis CK phrased it ‘when you’re hungry put food here’ but for comfort, style and variety it can take a little practice and before you can put food here

you have to pack it up and carry it through this

The rule of thumb I’ve heard from many people is two pounds of food per day, assuming it all has 100+ calories an ounce on average. On an average day the average hiker burns somewhere between 4,000–5,000 calories. To maintain body weight a hiker has to eat the same amount and I think most people probably don’t get enough calories while in the woods but make up for it in towns eating comically large portions that require no more transportation than from the kitchen to their gullets. In practice, I don’t really check to see how much my resupply weighs or if it’s enough calories-I eyeball it and estimate the quantities.

My normal meals are as follows:

Breakfast:

-Granola/cereal with powdered milk

-1/4 of the time I make coffee

Lunch:

-Peanut Butter (or the pb/jelly combo that comes in one jar) and tortillas. Frequently, I place a candy bar or Lara bar in the tortilla and cover it with peanut butter (I’m sorry).

Dinner:

-Knorrs Rice sides w/ a pack of tuna or pepperoni.

Snacks:

-M&M Peanut Butter

-Trail mix and trail mix variations

-Protein bars

-Dried fruit sometimes

The food I and other people ate at the start of the trip versus now has certainly changed for the weirder but it all usually still fits the rule of 100+/calories and ounce and is cheap as possible.

It’s interesting to me that the foods that tend to be good for backpacking overlap with foods that people on a budget or low income families tend to buy (or at least be associated with). Some properties that make food cheap and make it good for backpacking. 1) Lightweight. The lighter the food the more efficient it is to transport, requiring less gas or fuel. Great for backpacking since you have to carry it for days requiring less energy as well. 2) Shelf-stable. If food does not need to be refrigerated or go bad than it is cheaper to ship, cheaper to store, and will last an indefinite period of time on a shelf or closet. Being shelf-stable is good for backpacking since there is no reasonable option for refrigeration outside of winter and you never know when you’re going to eat a meal — if you end up buying a dinner at a restaurant then the meal in your bag could stay there quite a while. 3) Calorie dense. The more calorically dense a food is the smaller the volume per portion and the more units can be shipped in the same volume of space. Space is almost at as much of a premium as weight when backpacking, the more calories you can get in the smallest and lightest package the better.

I’m no expert on supply chain or whatever discipline has insight into the factors that make foods cheap but I’m guessing these factors all contribute to make the food low cost. These rules are not hard and fast, I’ve seen many people pack out six-packs of beer, broccoli, avocados…you name it. Sometimes you just get sick of the same things, some staples like Knorrs sides are great since they come in so many flavors.

Now, a little bit on some of the finer points of getting the food down my throat. Dishes are a pain to clean. If I have to clean something, then I’m much less likely to eat it. Breakfast, if I have the time in town, I’ll put my granola and powdered milk into a ziplock (pictured above) this way all I have to do to eat is add a little water and pack out the dirty ziplock.

Lunch, I keep my PB in a ziplock with a hole in the corner and a binder clip on it and that stays inside an othee ziplock in case of an accident. This way I can just squeeze the pb out and no spreading required. Also, it takes up less space than the jar and continues to shrink as I use it.

Dinner. I boil 12 oz of water and pour it right in the Knorrs pouch and keep that in a warming bag I made back at Neel’s gap and let it sit in there for 20 minutes and add a pack of tuna right to it when it’s done. No tricks for mac and cheese, just boil water and add. I tried pre-soaking the noodles in a bag and it was ultra starchy when I cooked it.

If there are any burning questions about eating on the trail just let me know. Any donations you can make to support Peace Corps Volunteers would be greatly appreciated.