PCT Food Review Part 4 – Dinner

Food is the primary topic on trail. And dinners are a major piece of that pie – no pun intended.

For many thru hikers dinner is the most substantial meal of each day.  And this causes much anxiety for people, especially those with dietary restrictions.

homemade dinners

Vacuum sealed and ready to be packed

If you aren’t a fussy eater and have no dietary restrictions you can buy food as you go. Furthermore, you can ship yourself food to smaller towns further up the trail from a bigger town with more options. This way you can accommodate your changing taste buds and physical requirements.

But for hikers like us (Laurie is gluten free and Andy insists on eating minimally processed foods with quality ingredients), resupplying in small towns is very challenging. Most packaged foods include gluten and those that don’t are usually laden with additives, preservatives and other nasties.

Given these confines, we chose to ship all of our food to ourselves. Actually, we packed the boxes and Andy’s dad graciously shipped them. Thanks Greg!

resupply boxes - all 64 of them

resupply boxes – all 64 of them

As a reminder, we actively sought out sponsors for our hike to help offset the higher cost of quality foods. Every company below with an * next to their name either gave us free food or a discount. While we remain grateful to these companies, their generosity has not influenced our comments.

Happy Hour

Somewhere in the Sierra Laurie came up with the idea of happy hour. We usually stopped around 4pm for a 20 to 30 minute break and bit into huge chunks of cheese (sometimes with Luke’s or other types of crackers).

Cheese and views = happy thru hiker

Cheese and views = happy thru hiker

Cheese, like trail mix, is heavy but nutritious and delicious. We loved having cheese and would definitely carry it again! You can’t weigh happiness can you? 🙂

Andy’s parents vacuum sealed Dubliner, Asiago or Parmesan cheese the day they shipped our resupply boxes. Often times the cheese was melted by the time we picked them up, but not spoiled. To preserve the cheese for that section we wrapped it in cheese cloth to absorb the excess oils. This worked perfectly! No spoilage, minimal mess.

Cheese before sunrise. Oh yeah!

Cheese before sunrise. Oh yeah!

Appetizers

If weather didn’t permit or we had miles to cover and skipped happy hour, we enjoyed cheese with crackers after setting up our tent.

Other times Andy boiled water and we sipped miso soup. Edward & Sons Miso Cup* is fantastic. We loved it.

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Some hikers gave us weird looks when we offered them miso soup, questioning why we would carry something with such few calories. But we didn’t care. We carried it and thoroughly enjoyed it because we liked it. It was soothing on cold evenings and tasted delicious. That’s what really matters to us.

Dinners

Some weight conscious thru hikers forgo the stove. They either cold soak everything or live off of tuna and tortillas. We value a warm meal at the end of a long day, so we carried a stove and ate dinners we had made in advance, dehydrated, vacuum sealed and shipped to ourselves.

Andy’s mom graciously helped with the preparation. We cooked and dehydrated about 50 meals and Andy’s mom made over 300!

Andy’s mom made:

  • lentils and rice with veggies
  • quinoa and veggies
  • beans with veggies
  • potatoes with butter and herbs
  • buckwheat with veggies
dehydrated dinners

dehydrated dinners courtesy of Andy’s mom

We made:

  • gluten free pasta with ground bison meat
  • kitchari
  • veggies stew
  • pinto beans with veggies

We also put together meals from bulk bins at our local natural food store:

Ramen - Andy & Laurie style

Ramen – Andy & Laurie style

As a special treat, from time to time Laurie enjoyed her favorite dinner of all time – mac & cheese. We added spinach or kale powder to some of our meals for more greens and taste.

mac & cheese = one very happy Laurie

mac & cheese = one very happy Laurie

While we thought we had a good variety of dinners, Laurie quickly grew tired of the meals that Andy’s mom had made. Anticipating we would be craving salt on trail, we asked her to make them salty. Unfortunately, they were too salty for Laurie (we didn’t know this was even possible). And with similar spices they all started to taste the same to her.

To help make them palatable we either diluted the meals with Idahoan potatoes Laurie scored from hiker boxes or added Bob’s Red Mill dehydrated potatoes to our resupply boxes.

Andy, on the other hand, loved his mom’s dinners and found that over the course of the hike, some of the dinners he didn’t enjoy as much in the beginning became his favorites.

Dinner with a view

Dinner with a view

The takeaway here is that our taste buds changed on the trail – from week to week sometimes. Variety is key! If you think you have enough variety, include some more options – especially if you sort and pack all your food before you begin your hike like we did.

And if you live locally and are interested in trying some of our meals, we have some extra that we would be happy to share! Contact us if you’re interested.

(Additionally, we are interested in starting a backpacking food company with simple, nutritious and additive free meals. Please stay tuned for more information.)

To read our first food review post that covers breakfast click here, the second post reviewing mid morning snacks and lunches is here, and the third post reviewing snacks is here.

Affiliate Disclosure
This website contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in this article. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support our ongoing efforts to bring you honest, no holds barred trip reports and advice. Thanks for your support!

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PCT Food Review – Part 3 – Snacks

In this entry we talk snacks! You can find our breakfast review here, and our mid-morning snack and lunch reviews here.

As a reminder, we actively sought out sponsors for our hike to help offset the higher cost of quality foods. Every company below with an * next to their name either gave us free food or a discount. While we remain grateful to these companies, their generosity has not influenced our comments.

Snacks

We ate snacks while walking, during rest breaks or as part of our meals. There was never a bad time to snack. Like with anything we ate over 6 months, we got really tired of some things, while we regularly looked forward to others.

All the nitty gritty is below!

Dang Coconut ChipsDang Coconut Chips* are simply amazing! We absolutely LOVED them. They are crunchy, flavorful and aromatic; and never got old! The Original Flavor (with coconut sugar and salt) is our favorite. Calorie dense, hearty, and sweet, with a drizzle of salt – oh it makes my mouth water writing about it.

Of all the snacks we shared with other hikers (and there were many), this was the clear favorite. Dang coconut chips are unique and really tasty. Calorie dense, tasty and lightweight – a true thru hiker food!

Andy also enjoyed the Salted Cacao flavor. It has a subtle chocolate flavor with a hint of salt. Neither of us liked the Lightly Salted variety. We found it to be rather bland. Having said that, it was a great addition to granola, oatmeal or with freshly picked huckleberries.

Dang onion chipsDang Onion Chips* – Unlike Funyuns that are made with cornmeal and artificial flavors, Dang’s onion chips are minimally processed and made with real onions. We sampled their Sea Salt and Salt and Pepper flavors.

Andy enjoyed the crunch and flavors of both of these savory chips while Laurie felt they were too airy but continued to eat them anyway. Andy would include Dang Onion Chips in his resupply in the future, but Laurie would most likely stick with kettle chips.

go raw cookiesGo Raw cookies* – We had both Carrot Cake and Raisin Crunch cookies throughout our hike. The Carrot Cake has a nice blend of spices without a lot of sugar. And they surprisingly (or not surprisingly) taste like carrot cake! Laurie loved them in the beginning but lost interest toward the end of the hike.

Andy, on the other hand, preferred the Raisin Crunch cookies in the beginning – they are made with buckwheat groats and he grew up eating buckwheat – but enjoyed the Carrot Cake flavor when Laurie got tired of them.

Initially, Laurie found the Raisin Crunch cookies bland but coveted them in Washington and toward the end of our hike. Laurie would eat all the pieces with more raisins and once satisfied no other cookie had more than one raisin in them, she’d hand the bag to Andy 🙂

NuttzoNuttzo* Nut and Seed Butter is an unknown gem. Nuttzo combines 7 nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, flax seeds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds and chia seeds or peanuts or pumpkin seeds) into 3 types of nut butters – Original (with peanuts), Power Fuel (no peanuts) and Chocolate (with peanuts).

They come in little 2 Go packets and include no additional palm or hydrogenated oils. They take a few moments of kneading to get the oils to mix with the nut butter, but that’s a very small price to pay for such a quality, nutritious and delicious treat. Nuttzo nut butters also have less sugar than most other nut butters yet are equally delicious. Laurie loved the Power Fuel flavor and Andy LOVED the Chocolate flavor – he likes chocolate! A lot.

Gin ginsThe Ginger People Ginger Candy* – Gin Gins Double Strength  was a wonderful hard candy on the trail. They are moderately spicy but not overly sweet.

Laurie loves ginger and Andy has taken a liking to ginger since meeting Laurie so we both enjoyed these candies quite a bit! They will certainly be accompanying us on future adventures.

Banana chips – You can’t go wrong with fried and lightly salted banana chips. We purchased these in bulk and vacuum sealed them into smaller bags. Laurie loved these and even found a gigantic bag in 2 hiker boxes in Washington.

dried fruitDried fruit – Andy’s mom and Laurie dehydrated fruit. These were amazing and the best snack ever! Fruit is a luxury and is too heavy to carry for more than a day on the trail, making dried fruit feel like gold. Apricots, peaches, plums, bananas and persimmons – those are but a few of the types of dried fruit we enjoyed on the trail.

Salt and onion cashews – we got these at our local natural food store. We vacuumed sealed them to maintain freshness and it worked for over 7 months! You cannot go wrong with salted nuts on a hike, unless you eat them everyday. We included these in every third resupply box, which made them a novelty all the way to the end.

trail mixTrail mix – We bought Kirkland trail mix from Costco for Laurie and custom made some for Andy (he doesn’t eat M&Ms). It didn’t take long for Laurie to get sick of trail mix. But this wasn’t the case for Andy. He loves trail mix and still eats it! HYOH right? 😉

If you’re looking to buy quality trail mix, you can do so here on Amazon.

Far West Fungi Shiitake JerkyFar West Fungi Shiitake Jerky – These were gifted to us by Laurie’s good friend. We loved their texture and taste. Definitely the winner of the best surprise treat of the trail. Other hikers really loved them too!

Trader Joes Powerberries, Dark Chocolate Espresso Batons and Plantain Chips – all from Trader Joes. Despite the name, there really isn’t much healthy about the Powerberries – but they taste good, and on the trail that is all that really matters.

TJ's espresso batonAndy’s chocolate fix came in the form of  Dark Chocolate Espresso batons. They cost a dollar, are very sweet and very tasty. Andy doesn’t drink coffee but loves the taste of these batons.

We also enjoyed TJ’s Plantain chips. Fried, salty and crunchy. Laurie loved them. Andy thought they were ok. For him they are a bit chalky. He prefers his chips to have more crunch and less width.

Lastly, Laurie packed herself a ziplock of candy for almost every day. These candies turned out to be invaluable when she was tired, sad or grumpy. She ate them in the am, around 4pm as a pick-me-up, before dinner and as dessert. Truth be told, she should have packed herself even more candy!

Her favorite candies were Sour Patch Kids and Sour Jelly Bellies. They were heavy but worth every once! Over time, she got tired of (but still ate) Swedish Fish and peanut M&Ms.

We are happy to report that she has seen her dentist since returning from the hike and she has no cavities!

That’s all for snacks. In our next post we will cover dinners. Stay tuned!

Affiliate Disclosure
This website contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in this article. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support our ongoing efforts to bring you honest, no holds barred trip reports and advice. Thanks for your support!

PCT Food Review Part 2 – Mid Morning Snacks and Lunches

In our last post we reviewed our breakfast strategy and bars. In this post we dive into our mid-morning snacks, mid-morning drinks and lunch.

As a reminder, we actively sought out sponsors for our hike to help offset the higher cost of quality foods. Every company below with an * next to their name either gave us free food or a discount. While we remain grateful to these companies, their generosity has not influenced our comments.

Mid-morning snacks

Because 1 – 2 bars around 6am can only sustain a hiker for a little while, we usually stopped for a snack break around 10 am. Sometimes we ate cold oatmeal (soaked in advance to save time), other times we boiled water for hot oatmeal and once in a while we shoved handfuls of granola into our mouths.

GlutenFreeda instant oatsGlutenFreeda’s gluten free oatmeal* isn’t as sweet as most individually wrapped oatmeal packets on the market and were both hearty and flavorful. We appreciated the ease of individual servings which pack better into a bear can than a large ziplock filled with oatmeal.

Our favorite flavors were Apple Cinnamon with Flax, Banana Maple with Flax and Maple Raisin with Flax. GlutenFreeda instant oatmeal is especially good for people who are looking for certified gluten free oatmeal.

We had some bulk gluten free granola from Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco but most of our granola came from 18 Rabbits*. They have added more flavors to their lineup in recent months – all of which are all delicious! Our two favorites on trail were 1) Cherry, Chia and Vanilla and 2) Walnut, Flax and Cacao Nib.

18 Rabbits Granola18 Rabbits granola are not too sweet but sweet enough to make you want more. We discovered that while calorie rich and delicious, granola in general is very heavy. Often times we would eat this as a dessert the first night out of town to cut down on weight.

Mid-morning drinks

DoMatcha Matcha Green TeaWhen we didn’t have oatmeal but still wanted to stop and drink something warm, Laurie enjoyed hot chocolate and Andy drank DōMatcha Green Tea*.

Laurie LOVES hot chocolate almost as much as mac & cheese so this was always a nice treat for her. Sometimes she would make it a double and sit cooing about how wonderful life was.

Andy enjoyed his green tea, but not with the same enthusiasm as Laurie with her hot chocolate. He added coconut milk powder to his tea for extra flavor and calories. He enjoyed it very much until we encountered the heat of Northern California. The coconut milk fat leaked out of the little zip lock bags and covered his food bag and all its contents with grease. No Bueno.

Lunches

For lunch we had:

Luke's CrackersWe especially liked Luke’s Crackers* for their taste and crunch when having tuna, salami or cheese. They have the right amount of salt and taste more like a chip than a cracker.

We looked forward to and got very excited when we found these crackers in our resupply boxes even if they were all crumbs!

Prather ranchOur favorite meat products by a country mile were the Prather Ranch Landjager and Beef Candy. We absolutely LOVED them! No matter where we hike next, we will be taking them with us.

The Landjager is a delicious German style meat stick that comes in a pack of 3. Andy usually devoured them in less than a minute while Laurie (trail name Saver for the first 1,000 miles of our hike) would save at least one stick to have with dinner. And she says she has no self control..

Prather Ranch Beef CandyThe Beef Candy is moist, sweet (but not overly so), savory and very tender. Beef Candy was the hardest thing for us to share on the trail. We both loved them very much and knew the other loved them too. And since we love each other we did share them – some of the time.

Prather Ranch also makes a Hot Beef Candy if you prefer a spicier beef jerky. Andy liked it and found it to be mildly spicy. As he put it, “It had just the right amount of kick.”

TankaTanka Power Packs – Initially these were great. They are hearty 4oz servings of buffalo meat in a vacuumed sealed bag. We liked the Orange Peel flavor best. The Slow Smoked Original and Spicy Pepper flavors have wild rice in them which offer a rather odd crunch, not to mention that they gets stuck in your teeth. But these were minor details once we got used to them.  (You can only purchase these direct from their website here. Other Tanka products are available on amazon and other retailers.)

The wonderful thing about Tanka is that these power packs provided variety to our diet filled with sweet bars. Laurie appreciated their meaty taste up through the Sierra, at which time she got tired of them (and Andy got tired of them by Oregon). Again, this may have been due to the fact that we didn’t have enough variety and burned ourselves out too quickly. Having said that, in Washington Andy started liking them again – especially the Orange Peel flavor.

liverbitesEpic bars – Similar to Tanka bars, these provided a nice variety to our sweet bar selection. Due to our late order of these bars, we didn’t start getting them in our boxes until Oregon and by that time we were wildly excited for something new and different.

We appreciated the variety of flavors and found Wild Boar to be our favorite. The Venison and Pulled Pork were too salty. Andy loved their Beef Liver Jerky too but Laurie could only handle 1-2 pieces max.

That’s it for this post, the next post will cover dinner and snacks. Stay tuned!

Affiliate Disclosure
This website contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in this article. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support our ongoing efforts to bring you honest, no holds barred trip reports and advice. Thanks for your support!