While studying the JMT Take/Leave Survey, I noticed a pattern. Some hikers who indicated that they took too much food would post comments like, “Didn’t feel like eating.” Then, the percent of trip completed might be 20-30%.
I’ve seen the effect of elevation changes on the appetite. Not eating enough can cause the early end to a trip. I’ve been fortunate that I stay pretty hungry on the trail, but keeping food interesting, nutritional and light, is a challenge.
There is also a danger in packing too much food (and weight) so measuring and estimating needs can be challenging. Finding foods that are calorie-dense, lightweight, and low in bulk, is the task. Finding veggies for the trail is important, too.
I do better if my trail menus contain “real food” I might eat at home. Going with natural foods where possible also helps in the taste department. Some might thrive on nothing but commercially available freeze-dried meals, but I find that home-dehydrated food is tastier and less expensive.
To dehydrate frozen veggies, just place them on the rack and let your dehydrator run for several hours until they’re crispy. You can go for chewy if your trip is soon, but I prefer crispy-dry to avoid spoilage and reduce weight.
I like to dehydrate fresh vegetables when possible. It’s important to blanch them by placing in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. I cut them then, blanch them, and then place them on the rack. Some veggies do better if I spray the rack lightly with Pam to avoid sticking. Blanching is important if you want to hold the natural color in your veggies. I even blanched two green bell peppers before placing on wax paper in my dehydrator. They were a thing of beauty and will add some flavor to several meals on the trail.
For some veggies like carrots, broccoli, and green beans, I purchase Mother Earth Products freeze dried vegetables. Powdered cheese and butter from Hoosier Hill Farm also add some flavor. These products area a little pricey, but good!
Dehydrated fruit is a real treat and good energy on the trail. My favorites are bananas, apples, strawberries, and pineapple. I slice thin and dip in instant lemonade, so the fruit holds its color. Dry until crispy to avoid spoilage and reduce weight.
Home dehydrated fruit is much better than what you can buy in the store. The flavor is amazing. It’s difficult not to eat the dry fruit before ever arriving on the trail!
Protein for backpacking tends to be heavy. Tuna, chicken, or salmon in foil packs are delicious but heavy. Carrying a few of these for lunch or dinner is an option, but I purchased a can of Mountain House dehydrated beef and chicken for weight and convenience. Meat added to breakfast or even $1.00 Knoll side dishes make a tasty and easy-prep meal.
Dinners with a view: Having just a few simple recipes that can be varied is the way to go when backpacking. Below are my foundational breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes. With planning and preparation, food on the trail can be the source of enjoyment and energy. Enjoy your outdoor restaurants and dinner with a view where ever the trails may lead!
JMT Egg Scramble
Problem: We need an easy-to-prepare hearty breakfast that includes much-needed protein. Solution: JMT Egg Scramble.
Ingredients: (I include some brand names because of the variations in products and taste.)
At home: Place the following in a ziplock bag. Measure the amount needed for each breakfast on your itinerary:
4 tbs Hoosier Hill Farm Whole Egg Powder (equivalent to 2 eggs)
1 teaspoon Hoosier Hill Farm cheddar cheese powder
1 teaspoon Hoosier Hill Farm butter powder
Pinch of salt & pepper
Pack a medicine measuring cup which includes tsp marks (3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon)
In a separate bag, place the following:
1 tbs Mountain House freeze dried ground beef
1 tsp dehydrated onions (add dehydrated bell pepper and zucchini squash if you like)
In a small pan or cup, place 1 tablespoon of beef and 4 slices of potato (and any other dry veggies) broken up
Barely cover with some of the water heated for coffee and soak for 15 minutes or more
After re-hydrating, add mixture from your small pan or cup to your cookpot and bring to a boil (add a little water if needed)
Add powder egg from bag prepared at home (includes salt, pepper, cheddar cheese powder and a pinch of butter powder). If mix is runny, you can add more egg mix.
Heat for just a minute and then eat out of the pot or in a breakfast burrito
Camper’s Choice Dinner
Problem: Commercial freeze dried meals are very high in sodium and boring.
Solution: Home prepared meals with varied ingredients to keep the appetite interested.
Ziplock bag with ½ cup (or more) dry powder soup – I like Bear Creek Cheddar Broccoli or Creamy Potato / Alternate: Romine Noodles, Knoll side dishes, etc.
If the soup you choose requires milk, include Carnation instant milk in the bag with soup. Usually, a tablespoon is all that’s needed.
1-2 tablespoons Mountain House freeze dried beef or chicken (from separate ziplock bags)
1-3 tablespoons (or just a fist-full) of the dehydrated veggies of your choice (potatoes, broccoli, spinach, etc.)
1 ½ cup water (or more)
In a small pan or cup, let meat and veggies soak for 15 mins. or longer
Add meat and veggies to the 1 ½ cup of boiling water in cookpot
Add ziplock bag of soup mix and stir constantly until the soup thickens (5-10 min.)
Eat out of the pot.
Lunch Crunch Roll-Up
Meat – tuna, salmon, or other
Mustard packet or Taco Bell-type sauce
Crushed Fritos or other calorie and fat-loaded chips
Place ingredients on tortilla and form into a roll-up.
Peanut & “Jelly” Sandwich
PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter
Hilltop Garden Honey-Cinnamon Sprinkles
Put a small amount of water (approx. tablespoon) in a cup and add powdered peanut butter until the desired thickness. Spread peanut butter on a tortilla and sprinkle honey-cinnamon crystals lightly on the peanut butter. Roll up and enjoy.
It’s nice to have a little flavor (not sweet) in your water on the trail or in camp. A little lemon or lime seems to calm the stomach at times. Add a pinch of True Lemon Crystalized Lemon to your class of water. A 2.85 oz container is the equivalent of 15 lemons so repackage in a smaller container. True Lime and True Orange are good, too.