Monday, August 09, 2010

What To Eat When Backpacking

Red Castle Mountain

So, last week, my husband, my father-in-law, and I spent 4 days backpacking in the High Uintas. See a full report on my trip, with lots of pictures HERE.

I wanted to share what I packed for my husband and myself, and what we learned from what we brought. There were definitely things we’ll be doing different next time around to save on weight and space.

What we ate:

For breakfasts, Luke ate 2 packets of oatmeal and a couple pieces of turkey bacon the first couple days. I had made some gluten free hot cereal, which I had frozen in Ziploc bags, and I heated that up each morning for breakfast for me. It was really good! I drank tea with breakfast, and Luke had some Hawaiian Punch.

Lunch was made to be more on-the-go, and it worked out really well. Luke had some peanut butter and honey sandwiches on wheat bread, which seemed good enough for him, eaten with some trail mix and jerky. For myself, the first day I brought some egg salad in a Ziploc bag, and ate that with half a gluten free bagel (made by Udi’s, which I found at our local Einstein Bro’s Bagels). The other days I ate tuna (in the individual pouches) with a bagel half. I also brought some individual mayo packets to mix into the tuna, which made it much more enjoyable (P.S. I stocked up on the mayo at recent trips to fast food restaurants with my husband. Lol).

Dinner consisted of tin foil dinners the first night. The rest of the nights, Luke ate a half packet of ramen, and some bean with bacon soup (which I’d divided and frozen). He loved it! My dinners were actually surprisingly good. I had a packet of Thai Kitchen soup (Bangkok Curry is my favorite), along with some freeze-dried turkey and veggies. I mixed it all together, and it made for a tasty and filling dinner! We also had more Hawaiian Punch with our dinners. We topped off the meal each night with a couple peanut butter cookies. So delicious!

Snacks we packed were trail mix, beef jerky, energy bars for me, oatmeal bars for Luke, dill sunflower seeds, and some Mary’s Gone Crackers Sticks and Twigs (which is a snack similar to pretzels, only gluten free, and healthier. Luke calls it bird food, b/c it’s made from grains and seeds, and tastes like it, but I love it!).

What I recommend for future backpacking trips, knowing what I know now:
(this is mostly for myself, so I don’t forget when next summer rolls around, but hopefully it will benefit you, my readers, as well)

We probably had 10 lbs of food more than we needed! We way over-packed in general, but I think we could have cut back on our weight a bit by watching our food.

So, first on the list: Don’t bother with the perishables. Yeah, it was nice to have bacon with breakfast, and obviously I can’t do oatmeal on the gluten free diet (learned that the hard way last time we went backpacking, that even “safe” oatmeal does not agree with me at ALL). However, my cereal was heavy pre-made. I also wouldn’t want to spend 20 minutes cooking my breakfast each morning, so, I think in the future, what I will do is breakfast on energy bars, trail mix, jerky, and tea.

Luke says that he’d sacrifice good food, like the tin foil dinners, and bean with bacon soup, for a few pounds less in his pack. As unappealing as the freeze-dried meals are, he says he’ll make them work next time. Plus, there’s always ramen. Luke’s dad ate 2 packets of ramen for lunch each day, and a freeze-dried meal each night for dinner. Smart!

My dinners were actually the lightest food I brought. They worked great, tasted good, and I can’t complain. I was really frustrated before we left, because I had found some gluten free dehydrated meals that I really liked, but wasn’t able to get more shipped to me before we would be leaving. So, next time, plan ahead, and order that gluten free stuff way before you need it!

Plus, with perishable food comes a need for a way to store and keep cool. We packed in a couple pounds of dry ice, 2 frozen water bottles (which were nice for having ice-cold drinks, and kept the food cool for a couple days), and a small cooler, which was light by itself, but bulky. Way too much weight there!!!

I brought a couple different energy bars that I really liked:
Lara bars. I really love the peanut butter cookie flavor, but there are a few other flavors that are pretty good too. The cinnamon roll is okay, as are the apple and cherry pie flavors. I enjoyed the peanut butter and jelly flavor as well.
I discovered Organic Food Bar, which may be my new favorite treat! I’ve only tried the Belgium Chocolate Chip flavor, but I really like it. The bar part reminds me of your average energy bar, but nestled in every bite are bursts of creamy, chocolaty goodness! These were great to have up on the trail.
On their website, the price for a box of bars is about equal to the price I paid in the store (about $2.75), but add in shipping…and you’re up to about $3.40. However, I did look on Amazon, and it looks like they sell them for quite a bit less, which is great! Plus, they qualify for amazon prime, which means I get free shipping! So, total cost on amazon is $2.22. Much more affordable for an occasional energy bar!
Just a note: There are a couple of their bars which contain wheat grass and barley grass, but they claim that they are well below the US standard of gluten free. I would still recommend testing them out at home before you open one up on the trail. I will have to give their other bars a try sometime, and report on my findings here. But these I definitely recommend!!

We loved the Hawaiian Punch singles packets! They’re sugar free, but tasted delicious! They were great for accompanying meals, and we ran out too quickly. Pack lots of these, even if you only bring one empty water bottle for them. You’ll want something other than filtered, not-quite-cold spring water to drink. Would have loved some Gatorade as well, but I couldn’t find any individual packets at the store, and forgot to measure out how much would be needed for a water bottle. I’m sure that wouldn’t be too difficult to figure out though. To keep things gluten free, I gave Luke the cup from the mess kit, and drank out of the bottle myself, topping him off as needed.

The GF bagels were so awesome to have, and I would bring them next time. The only problem is, the week we got home, I headed to Einstein Bro’s to stock up again, and was told they have discontinued carrying them! Weak! I’m so sad. They were the best, most “real” tasting bagels I’ve had since going gluten free. Buying them on Udi’s website is probably not an option for me, unless I can find some people to go in with me on them. The price per bagel is the same online as it was to buy at Einstein. But the shipping fees are atrocious! I understand they have to be shipped quickly, and kept frozen to stay fresh, but come on! Twice as much as the cost of one bag of bagels!
I suppose if you buy a few at a time, the shipping fee doesn’t increase much. But I would need to invest in a deep freeze in order to store several bags of bagels, and I don’t have room for that in my current house :P Ah, well, such is life. They did make for very handy meals, and half a bagel was all I really needed at lunch.

Definitely loved the trail mix! We packed way too much of it (filled 2 quart-sized Ziploc bags, one for each of us). We probably only ate half of what we brought in 4 days, and that included sharing some with Luke’s dad. For future trips, I would recommend packing extra M&M’s in the mix. We had a mix of peanut and almond M&M’s, and those got eaten first (I know I don't usually tolerate dairy, but the M's don't seem to bother me in moderation. Score!).

Our trail mix ingredients:
Steph’s: peanut/almond M&M’s, pecans, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews, raisins, dried apples, and dried apricots
Luke’s: peanut/almond M&M’s, pecans, peanuts, walnuts, and almonds

As far as jerky goes, we packed way too much of that too. Probably only ate a serving a day each. But it’s not too heavy, so packing a little extra wasn’t a bad thing. I’ve found a couple of brands that do well with the gluten free thing. Target’s generic brand (can’t think of it at the moment) is good, as well as Hi-Country, which I found at Wal-mart. I don’t know for sure that either is gluten free, but neither lists wheat on the ingredient list, and I have eaten both with no problems. I prefer the Hi-Country jerky, personally. It’s really good!
P.S. I just realized this, and don’t know if I’ve been oblivious all my life, but on most jerky packaging, it says to refrigerate after opening, and best when eaten within 5 days. Was this always the case? We always had jerky in our pantry growing up, and I never remember having to throw it in the fridge. Anyway, side note :) I just took a few servings worth of jerky in a Ziploc bag, and threw the rest in the freezer.

I also packed some Earth Balance butter substitute and a lemon for our fish (that we didn’t get to eat, since we didn’t catch any dinner-worthy fish). The butter was frozen, and in the future, I would probably only pack half a stick, rather than a full one. I also packed some seasoning mix for the fish, that actually worked pretty well with the dinners we ate. I mixed salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder in a prescription pill bottle. I’ve since made grilled chicken with this stuff, and it’s pretty good. I would probably bring all this stuff again, as long as we caught some real fish this time (which mostly I blame on us not having enough fishing gear).

We had no problem with fires, once we got the first one going, which was the only difficulty. We kept the ashes covered with rocks until the next time we needed them. I would still recommend bringing a small propane stove for boiling water, which was mostly what we needed for our meals.

So, in summary (because I tend to ramble on a bit in my posts):

Stephanie’s recommended food for backpacking:

Non-GF Food Suggestions:
Breakfast – Oatmeal
Lunch – PBH sandwiches
Dinner – Ramen/dehydrated meals
Snacks – Trail mix, jerky, seeds, oatmeal/energy bars, Hawaiian Punch or other individual drink packets

GF Food Suggestions:
Breakfast – Energy bars/ GF oatmeal
Lunch – Tuna packets w/ GF bread/bagel/crackers
Dinner – GF dehydrated meals/Thai Kitchen soup packets w/ dehydrated meat/veggies to add
Snacks – Trail mix, GF jerky, energy bars, Sticks and Twigs, Hawaiian Punch or other individual drink packets



Simply...Gluten-free said...

It sounds like you were well fed :)

Amy said...

I would love to know which GF dehydrated/freeze-dried meals you have found that are decent. I am in the process of looking for some for backpacking as well as building myself an emergency kit. Thanks for the informative post!

trishtator said...

What an awesome post! We love the Uintas, and are talking about one last backpacking trip before it's too cold up there. This is a great list for GF backpacking - I'll be using this with some variation for our trip.

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