Food is without a doubt the most talked about subject on the trail. We use it as currency, we do calorie math every time we eat something, we even dream about it. Its the heaviest thing in your pack and by far your biggest resupply expense. When going into a grocery store to resupply, you first bust identify how many days you have before the next town, and also what the terrain looks like along the way. The terrain is important, if it's all climbing you will want more calories, but you will also want to keep an eye on the weight for the same reasons... You will be carrying it up mountains. Common breakfast foods include pop tarts, granola bars, and oatmeal (for those willing to cook before breaking camp). If the hike is 4 mornings, you will need 4 packages of pop tarts or 8 packages of instant oatmeal. Pretty straight forward. Some people throw some coffee or tea into the mix as well... But again, these require boiling water. Lunch is a little more versatile. Tuna, spam, canned chicken, summer sausage, cheese or any combination thereof are commonly seen being rolled into tortillas. Tortillas are perfect for backpacking because they are a starchy blank canvas containing all the caloric value of a slice of bread, all while being tough enough to withstand being crammed into your pack. Unfortunately tortillas are relatively heavy (the good ones are anyway) so you want to make sure you pack just the right amount. Lunch items can also include durable fruit such as oranges and is usually supplemented with a helping of snack food such as trail mix, beef jerky or a snickers bar (the ultimate bargaining chip). All in all, lunch is a duty. We can often find a great view or a sunny field to set up shop for a nice long siesta, but for the most part it's about afternoon calories. Dinner is where trail food gets interesting. In some cases people can be pretty creative and end up putting together an appetizing meal. In most cases, however, dinner ends up resembling a botched science experiment. Mac 'n Cheese, instant potatoes, pasta/rice sides, stuffing, ramen, or dried beans make up the list of usual suspects. These starchy insta-meals can easily be jazzed up with any of the aforementioned tortilla accompaniments (even the peanut butter) as well as freeze dried veggies or dehydrated proteins. One of my personal favorites is a box of Mac n cheese with bacon bits (the good ones) and crushed crackers. Another winner suggested to us by the recipes found right here on TDC is instant stove-top stuffing with dried cranberries, canned chicken and a packet of gravy mix. In addition to these combinations, the majority of people on the trail have taken to dehydrated meals from Backpacker Pantry, Mountain House or Inertia. These companies make dehydrated meals that only require a few cups of boiling water and 10 minutes of patience. When it's ready you just eat right out of the packaging and throw the whole thing away, no cleanup. And by throw it away, I mean that you can either burn it (frowned upon) or stuff it into your stinky freezer bag full of rotting tuna pouches. Some people have mastered the art of dehydrating home cooked meals to simulate the ease of a Mountain House meal without the repetition. I, for one, am over the routine of beef stroganoff, chicken and rice, lasagna, repeat. We've seen people out here with dehydrated meals that would rival mom's home cooking. One fella we met at a shelter north of the Nantahalla national forest had dehydrated pineapple upside-down cake. His mother had dehydrated a piece of angel food cake, pineapple topping, powdered whipped cream and enclosed a packet of pineapple syrup. Everything was wrapped individually so that the components could be hydrated separately and then combined. Super jealous. Most people that dehydrate meals do so in a less complex manner though, dried ground beef and salmon are usually carried just for a lightweight protein supplement. 2 pounds of ground beef can be dehydrated and condensed to a third of the size and a tenth of the weight. Another type of dinner on trail is known as Coyote stew, in honor of our acquaintance Cody Coyote. Coyote is at the point in his hike (2400 miles in) where the taste of food no longer matters, it's just about sustenance. Coyote stew is essentially the act of combining a number of odds and ends that may not necessarily go together very well. Coyote was last seen submerging bite sized pieces of a PB&J sandwich into a concoction of ramen noodles, gravy mix, beef jerky and instant coffee. I couldn't make this up. It was atrocious. The worst part was that the caldron of bubbling goo was too much for one sitting, so the remaining half was tucked away where it could be reheated for breakfast. Mmmmmm. In addition to planning meals on the trail, every hiker carries a large quantity of snack food such as GORP, trail mix, dried fruit, jerky, granola bars, cookies, crackers and of course; candy bars. Leaving hot springs with what was supposedly a 4.5 day hike ahead, each of us carried no less than a dozen snickers bars. With 280 calories each, snickers is definitely the most calorie dense food for the weight. That said, 12 snickers bars aren't exactly lightweight. Hikers generally strive to carry about 2 pounds of food per day, I would estimate that the people we have been hiking with (us included) strive for somewhere between 2.5 and 3 pounds per day, making for roughly 15 pound fluctuations in pack weight. Any trek between resupply towns usually begins with a 35-40 lb pack and ends with a 20-25 lb pack. My theory is that this adds to the misery of climbing back onto the ridge from a trail town.
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