Eating on the Trail

Planning food for backpacking can be as daunting as learning how to navigate. We started with calculating how many calories each of us would need in a given day, based on our starting weights, how long we would be hiking on average and whether or not we’d like to lose a few pounds. My calorie range is 2500 – 3000, Arbor’s is 4000 – 4500, and Ubadion’s is strictly 3700. That’s a lot of calories to pack in!

We have plenty of bars, electrolyte snacks & drinks, as well as junk food. (mmm jerky!) The biggest hurdle was our main meals, as I’m a terribly picky eater and don’t enjoy the commercial options like Mountain House. This meant cooking everything ourselves. I tried a few of the dehydrator recipes floating around the internet, but still struggled with dishes that were too salty or not to my flavor preferences. Being a picky eater is difficult work! I did learn a lot while preparing those meals, so I took that knowledge and applied it to adapting our favorite dishes for the dehydrator.

The challenge is to cook meals without as little fat as humanely possible. Because fat can turn rancid over time and certainly in the summer heat, its the biggest obstacle to keeping food fresh. That means cooking meat first, rinsing it *thoroughly* under hot water and then integrating it with the rest of the ingredients. When you rehydrate, you can add some oil back in. I even made some ghee to take along! Ghee is butter with all the milk solids removed, so its shelf stable. (and yummy!)

Once the food is prepared, portion it out onto the dehydrator trays and let the heated air remove all the moisture. We had an old American Harvest dehydrator that we picked up at the Minnesota State Fair back in 1990! While that machine is still going strong, we went ahead and added a 9 tray Excalibur that works like a dream.

When everything is dried, I spatula the food into Foodsaver bags and vacuum seal them. Removing the air really helps the food stay fresh for a long time. I need to learn some new tricks for dehydrated food that is pointy, because that ends up preventing a tight seal. While it isn’t a big deal on this trip, it will be as I start amassing food for the Appalachian Trail some years in the future.

Our food lineup includes:
Pasta with Bolognese Sauce                     Chicken Hash
Italian Beef with mashed potatoes             Creamy Pasta
Black Bean Salsa                                       Pumpkin Soup
Potato Leek Soup                                       Vegetarian Chili
Indian Chicken                                             Taco Mash
Bacon Corn Chowder                                 Spicy Beef
Red Pepper Hummus                                 Turkey Chili
Oatmeal with compote:
      Basil Blackberry with Peach
      Raspberry
      Spiced Apple
      Strawberry Rhubarb with lime
      Spiced Pear
      Spiced Blackberry with Peach
      Mango Peach

We ended up with 161 dehydrated meals that we have sorted into our packs and into 4 separate mail drops, that will be shipped to post offices along the trail. This helps reduce both weight and volume for our packs, making the trip a lot more enjoyable.

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