Food on the Trail

If you spend much time around backpackers one of the most popular topics of discussion is food, and if you think about it then it actually makes perfect sense. On any normal day at home you have the choice to eat a variety of different foods and for the most part as much as you want, if you don't have what you want in your fridge then a grocery store or restaurant is likely not too far away. And if all else fails there's a myriad of pizza shops, Chinese restaurants or even Uber Eats that will bring food right to your door. Conversely, when your on the trail what you have in your bag is it, if you run out of food or don't like what you brought, too bad. So it makes perfect sense that food is very high on most backpackers priority list. On the trail your food needs to be calorie dense for its weight, backpacking is no place to eat light or diet, and it has to be something you like and don't mind eating for days on end. You may be thinking to yourself, "hike hard enough and you'll eat anything", well yes and no. It is true that after a long day on the trail or fishing a rough creek that your appetite is definitely raging and food tastes fantastic, however days on end eating the same thing gets very old and you will get to the point that you no longer want to eat it. Perfect example is when I was in the Army and either in the field or on a deployment, believe me, after a few weeks of nothing but MREs you will get to the point that you have to force yourself to eat.

Now before I get started a little caveat, I am not a professional backpacker, if such a thing exists, nor am I a nutritionalist, I am just a normal guy that likes to backpack, fly fish, and eat. So with that said, I will tell you what I do and what works for me, as always, your mileage may vary.

First and foremost I am a gram pincher, I am not quite to the OCD stage but probably not far from it, why am I a gram pincher? Because I'm lazy. So the food from the old days, fried fish, taters, and bacon and eggs for breakfast just ain't gonna cut it. Not only is it heavy as all get out, but it requires a tremendous amount of time to prepare and clean up. Time I would much rather spend lounging in my hammock, fishing or moving out to the next spot. The ready made meals like the one on the right are dang near perfect except for a few flaws. Number one of those flaws is price, at your local Wal Mart those Mountain House meals are $9 to $10 each. They are light, easy to prepare, and tasty but at that price they ought to be! Another problem with the Mountain House meals is calories and fat, namely, they don't have any. The delicious meal to the right, and I am not joking they are very good, has just a little over 600 calories for the whole bag. For a 2500 to 3500 calorie per day menu you are gonna have to spend a lot of money!
I still eat Mountain House, mainly when I find them on sale,  because they are really good, all you have to do is to add boiling water, there is zero clean up and you can run down to your local Wally World to buy them. However I have found other things that are way cheaper and maybe more calorie dense even if it takes a bit more work beforehand repackaging them. Speaking of which, I repackage all of my meals and will get into that a bit later in the post.

Actually these are the sort of things you will probably find in my pack. Just like Mountain House all of these can be found at your local Wal Mart but the big difference is the Idahoan potatoes and Knorr pasta sides cost $1 and have roughly the same calories as the Mountain House. I usually add a tuna packet for more calories and protein, the tuna packets are about $1.25. So for a grand total of $2.25 I get a meal that is just as light, has the same, or more, caloric content, and after repackaging is just as convenient to make and clean up. 

Ok so everyone noticed that I didn't say anything about the ramen, I know, I know ramen is horrible for you but dang it, I love ramen! Ramen is the epitome of cheap calories, those Maruchan Bowls are my favorites and they are a whopping $.68 and have about 400 calories, that is some pretty good bang for your buck. There is another reason that I left the ramen for last, right below the ramen bowl is actually how I carry it after repackaging. I have a food saver machine like the one below, and have to say it is well worth the money. For buying items in bulk at a better price and repackaging them and also for backpacking, it can't be beat.
If you don't know what a Food Saver is, it is a device that vacuum packs and seals food into proprietary plastic bags that can be made in different sizes. The ramen in the pic right below the bowl is the same ramen in the bowl after it has been food savered. Here is why I repackage all my meals using the food saver, I am using the ramen as an example. 

Cook kit with unopened ramen.

Ramen opened with seasoning packets added. 

Boiling water added to bag.

Place bag back into pot.

Let set a few minutes then enjoy.

Take bag out and properly dispose, no clean up.

So there you have it, some of my favorite trail meals and how I prepare them. Food on the trail is not hard it just takes a little pre-planning and preparation. I left out a ton of different foods I take on the trail and concentrated mainly on the evening meals. Next time I will talk about breakfast, lunch and snacks and how I put everything together in my pack. Love to hear from you guys about what your favorites are, any suggestions or comments let me know. See you on the creek, Chris


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