Frequently Asked Questions Part 2.0: What did you eat?

This is one of the most asked questions I get.  It is also one of the things backpackers talk about most. Food.

Let me share with you some of the basic rules to backpacking food.

Dinner

Mashed potatoes with rehydrated veggies, bacon bits and sundried tomatoes.

Rule #1 Your food has to be compact.

We’d carry anywhere from 4 to 9 days of food at a time.  It all has to fit in your pack.  And, when you’re hiking in bear country, it all has to fit in a bear can

Rich caught this picture of my with my hand in the bear can.  Mind you this is the 1/2 size one I took on a short stretch.  The full size is twice as tall.

Rich caught this picture of me with my hand in the bear can. Mind you this is the 1/2 size one I took on a short stretch. The full size is twice as tall.

Rule #2 Your food has to be light weight.

Backpackers obsess over this for one obvious reason; you have to carry it.  If you’re bored Google “backpacking food list.” There are discussion boards, blogs, and spreadsheets.  Backpackers have listed out how many ounces each meal is, even how many calories per ounce their meals are.

Rule #3 Your food has to cook fast and easy.

Image

When you get into camp at the end of the day you are tired and you have a spoon, a tiny pot and a stove to cook with.  You’re not going to make anything fancy.  The grey thing on the bottom of the stove is the fuel can.  The more fuel you use, the more you have to carry, the heavier your pack is.  You’re not going to pack a soup that has to simmer for ½ an hour.  You’re going to pack noodles that you can boil for a couple of minutes and then let sit in the covered pot for a few more to finish cooking.

Rule #4 Your food has to be calorie dense.

I tried to pack at least 3,000 calories a day into 1.5 pounds of food.  To do this you don’t pack anything that says “Light” or “Diet” on it.

Rule #5 Your food has to be non-perishable.

Obviously there are no refrigerators in the backcountry.  Your food is going to be out in the elements with you, so although a steak would be great, it is pretty well out of the question.  That being said we Americans have gotten pretty finicky about what we eat.  Ignore what the FDA says about food storage temperatures.  In the backcountry you realize that a nice hard cheese will last more than a week without a refrigerator.

Rich took freeze dried backpacker’s meals for dinner, but I went the Rice-a-Roni and mashed potatoes route.  I did most of my food shopping at the local grocery store.   A typical day for me was something like this:

This is some of the food I've already purchased for this next summer's trip.

This is some of the food I’ve already purchased for this next summer’s trip.

Breakfast:  a mix of Grape Nuts and granola with some rehydrated milk with hot cocoa or tea.

Morning Snack: Trail mix with plenty of raisins and plenty of M&Ms

Rich had fancier lunches than I did, and sometimes he shared!

Rich had fancier lunches than I did, and sometimes he shared!

Lunch: Two tortillas, each with a packet of peanut butter and a honey stick spread on them. And some dried mangos.  I lived for dried mangos.

Afternoon Snack:  A Cliff Bar.

Dinner: 2/3 of a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, maybe some jerky as an appetizer.

Dessert: A couple of Oreo cookies and a cup of tea or hot cocoa.

But how did I cook it?  Where did I get my next supply of food? Did I ever run out of food?  Stay tuned for Frequently Asked Questions Part 2.1 of What Did You Eat?

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