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.
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!
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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
- gluten free pasta with ground bison meat
- veggies stew
- pinto beans with veggies
We also put together meals from bulk bins at our local natural food store:
- ramen – black rice or millet/brown rice noodles with dehydrated veggies and Edward and Son’s bouillon cubes*
- dehydrated sausage with split pea soup
- dehydrated curry lentils with potato flakes
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.
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.
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.
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