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Our Border Route Trail trip report and Ultralight Gear list just published, so it’s time to talk about FOOD!

This post features the menu from my Border Route Trail trip, THREE favorite recipes (ie kitchen experiments), and some handy tips and resources for making your own meals on the trail.

IMPORTANT NOTE: My caloric intake on this trip was based on my own experience and knowledge of what my own body needs in varying conditions. I am not a dietician or expert on nutritional advice – I’m a hungry hiker that likes easy comfort food.

There are other resources like this one that have a dietician informed meal plans and recipes that are worth checking out if you want to dig deeper into the subject or are planning an extended trip.

LET’S GO!

How and why to make your own backpacking meals

Almost 10 years ago, I led my first backpacking trip with our son’s Scout Troop to Glacier National Park. We made our own dehydrated meals for that trip, packed WAYYYY too many snacks and even brought a horribly oversized summer sausage that I still resent having to eat and carry.

Since then, I have made dehydrated meals for every backpacking trip including my thru hike of the Superior Hiking Trail. There is something very rewarding about figuring things out for yourself, reducing costs and using your own ingredients. If you’d like to read more about the basics of how to plan a menu, dehydrate food and what staples I like to have on hand – check out this post I wrote after prepping for my SHT Thru hike.

Lunchtime on Isle Royale in 2016

This year, after a summer of less hiking and a couple of bikepacking trips, I wanted to trim down my pack weight. I enjoyed the simplicity of the gear on my bike trips and also didn’t want to haul more than I had to on our challenging Border Route Trail Thru Hike. My goal was to get back down to a 25 lb pack weight with food and water, and have the fuel I needed to keep up with its challenging terrain.

A mish mash of food for part of my SHT thru hike

Considerations for this trip:

  • Focused on counting my calories per day and increasing fat and protein.
  • Weighed each individual item
  • Temperatures were low 50’s to mid 70’s with a low chance of rain, meaning that I didn’t need to worry about burning as many calories to stay warm.
  • Left my stove at home and soaked calorie dense meals to save on weight and simplify
  • Dehydrated some items from my garden and fridge to reduce food waste
  • Reduced snacks and focused on more nutritious meals.
Forgot to take a picture of my BRT food bag, but it basically looked like this minus some junk food and snacks.

5 Day Food Menu

Here’s the BRT daily menu! Recipes and resources ahead! Spoiler alert, I do not have a recipe for every item on this list, but I do share three favorites below and hope this list is helpful in visualizing a menu of your own!

Also, nothing here is an exact science, the grid below captures my best guess at nutritional info based on food labels for my own personal use.

Day 1: Saturday 8.4 mi



FoodAmount (oz)CalProteinCal per oz
Breakfast in town0.0050012.00





Dried Watermelon1200
200





1/2 Pro Bar1.52006133





chicken cous cous dinner4.73404072
Fritos13003300
Dried Cheese Whisps117010170
1/2 Pro Bar4.73404072





Daily Total13.902050111111.5
Day 2:  Sunday 14.7 mi



FoodAmount (oz)CalProteinCal per oz
Cold Coffee w/ Protein222013110.00
Pro Bar339012135.14





4 Tbsp PBH360016200.00
2 Street Taco Tortillas3.4150844.12





Dried Bananas1210
210.00





1/2 ProBar1.52006133.33





Suddenly Salad3.53401297.14
mayo190
90.00
Garbanzo Beans11206120.00
1/2 Pro Bar1.52006133.33





Daily Total20.9252079120.57
Day 3:  Monday 15 mi



FoodAmount (oz)CalProteinCal per oz
Cold Coffee w/ Protein222013110.00
Pro Bar339012130.00





Chicken ramen slaw7.14801667.61





Dried Pears1.00200
200.00





1/2 Pro Bar1.52006133.33





Frito Bean Dip22007100.00
2 Street Taco Tortillas3.4150844.12
Fritos13003300.00
Dried Cheese Whisps117010170.00
1/2 Pro Bar1.52006133.33
Daily Total23.50251081106.8
Day 4:  Tuesday 14.8 mi



FoodAmount (oz)CalProteinCal per oz
Cold Coffee w/ Protein222013110.00
Pro Bar339012130.00





4 Tbsp PBH360016200.00
2 Street Taco Tortillas3.4150844.12





1/2 Pro Bar1.52006133.33
Dried Watermelon1.00200
200.00
Suddenly Salad3.53401297.14
Mayo190
90.00
Garbanzo11206120.00
1/2 Pro Bar1.52006133.33





Daily Total20.90251079.00120.10
Day 5 Wednesday 12.5 mi



FoodAmount (oz)CalProteinCal per oz
Cold Coffee w/ Protein222013110.00
Pro Bar339012130.00
4 Tbsp PBH360016200.00
2 Street Taco Tortillas3.4150844.12
Pro Bar339012130.00





Dinner in Town
120020.00





Daily Total14.4295081121.52
Day 6 Thursday 0 miles – Drive Home



FoodAmount (oz)CalProteinCal per oz
Back up food



ramen3


pro bar3


pro bar3


Came home with the following:



3 Pro Bars



1/2 of my dried Couscous



Chicken Ramen Slaw



2 tortillas



very small amt peanut butter



TOTAL



FoodAmount (oz)CalProteinCal per oz
Total food weight102.60


(6.3 lbs or 1.26 lbs per day)



Three Easy Recipes

When it comes to following recipes- I always have to improvise or add something. This is why I’m not a baker. I’m a creative cook that likes to throw in a dash of this and a dash of that until it tastes just right. I also enjoy the challenge of using things that I already have in my garden and cupboards to prevent food waste.

Here are THREE faves from this trip, hope you enjoy them!

Recipe #1 PBH(F) Tacos

This can barely be considered a recipe, because it is so easy.  But it is one of my favorite things to eat for lunch and keeps me fueled with a great balance of protein, natural sugar and fat.

For this recipe, you will need a container with a tight lid.  I love these tubes made by Coghlans, these make it so easy to squeeze out just the right amount-and prevents the waste of individual nut butter packets. 

  • 12 TBSP unsweetened Peanut Butter
  • 3 TBSP Honey (raw + local preferred)
  • 4 TBSP Butter
  • Small street taco sized flour tortillas
  • Small bag of Fritos
  • Small plastic bag (to cover your PBH container in case it leaks)

Directions to make approximately 5-6 servings:   Combine Peanut Butter, Honey and Butter in a bowl.  Mix well.  Add to container of your choice. 

Add liberally to a small tortilla and add a handful of Fritos to the top.  Eat like a delicious street taco!  You can add anything else you want to this delicious taco – trail mix, jerky, dried fruit, etc.  This mix is all great on bagels, bars and straight our of the tube!

NOTE:  I prepare this mixture with fresh butter the day before my trip and have had it last for up to a week without any spoilage.  Keep that in mind if you will be out for an extended trip or if you will be in extremely hot conditions, everything could melt into a big gooey delicious mess and storing it in an extra ziploc is a REALLY good idea. If my math is right, we’re looking at approx 193 calories per ounce!

#2 Black Bean Sweet Potato Burrito

This recipe can be rehydrated cold or hot.  I personally prefer it hot, but it wasn’t bad prepared as a cold soak on my last trip and would also make a good dip with Fritos. Because everything tastes better with Fritos!

For this recipe, you will need a plastic bag, camp cup or container with a tight lid.  I like these reusable bowl bags from dutchware.  They are lightweight, durable, and can be washed and re-used many times.. 

  • 2/3 C Dehydrated Black Beans
  • 1/4-1/2 C Dehydrated Sweet Potato (canned or cooked first, 1/4” chunks or dried leather)
  • 1TSP Taco Seasoning (I like Spice Island)
  • 1 Dash of Dehydrated Onion (to taste)
  • 1/8 C Dehydrated Salsa (you can also throw in a taco bell sauce packet if its easier)
  • Flour Tortillas
  • Optional dehydrated ingredients, dried tomatoes, spinach, dried chicken
  • Optional Toppings:  after rehydrating, feel free to add Fritos or some dried cheese

Directions to make approximately 3 servings:

Dehydrate one large freshly cooked or one can of sweet potatoes according to your dehydrator’s instructions.   Drain and dehydrate one can of black beans

Combine all ingredients in an airtight container of your choice.   

To rehydrate, add 1 1/4 C water and let it sit for 15 minutes. Add a little more water if it is too thick, but use caution so you don’t make soup. Spread on tortilla(s) to eat. Pro Tip: Rehydrate in an insulated cozy to keep it warm while rehydrating

#3 Ranch & Bacon Suddenly Salad!

Here’s a cold soak recipe that’s so tasty and easy, and was one of my favorites on this trip.  Plus I have always thought the name “SUDDENLY SALAD” is kind of funny. It is technically neither sudden or a salad, but it IS delicious.

  • 1 Box of Suddenly Salad Ranch & Bacon
  • Save the seasoning packet that comes in the box. Don’t be tempted to add this too early. 
  • 1/2 can of Garbanzo Beans
  • 1/4 cup dehydrated tomatoes or red peppers
  • 4 packets of Hellman’s mayo
  • Optional: Bacon bits

Directions to make approximately 2 servings:

Cook pasta al dente.  Peel the skins off of Garbanzo Beans and dehydrate both until crunchy.  Divide Pasta, veggies and beans into two airtight containers of your choice. Save the seasoning packet DO NOT ADD to the container yet.  Add approx 1/8-1/4c dried tomatoes and a little basil to each batch.  

To rehydrate, add 1 C water to dry ingredients and let it sit for 15-20 minutes.  Add a little more water if it is too thick, but use caution so you don’t make soup.  If you are cold soaking while on the trail, be careful not to let it sit for more than 2 hours or it may get mushy. AFTER the pasta is rehydrated, add half of the ranch seasoning and two packets of mayo to the pasta and stir.  

IMPORTANT NOTE:  do not add the seasoning packet or mayo to your dehydrated noodles before they are rehydrated.  Consume immediately after adding the seasoning packet and mayo.   Save the last half of the seasoning packet and the other two mayo packets for the second meal. Also…Backcountry Foodie taught me to peel my garbanzos – this might seem like a hassle, but it will keep the beans yummy and leave out the slime at the bottom of your bowl. 

A few other fine ideas…

  • I have tried a couple of commercially made meals that were pretty good – PEAK REFUEL makes a Chicken Pesto Pasta, and Beef Pasta Marinara that can be split into two servings. Two of my favorite small cottage brands recently closed shop, so I’m looking for recommendations if you’ve got em.
  • I’m not generally a fan of meal replacement bars, but tried my first Pro Bar right before this trip and liked it so much that I bought an assortment of them enjoyed eating a new flavor every day.
  • You can add a variety of ingredients to ramen and it rehydrates – hot or cold.
  • Reduce food waste and dehydrate your leftovers. To reduce spoilage, leave out foods with meat, dairy or oils, or freeze them until the night before your trip and eat those first. I enjoyed leftover spaghetti on a BWCA trip once and it was delicious (center picture above).

Final Thoughts

As I have mentioned before, I kind of dread weighing and analyzing everything in my pack…it starts out sort of fun and challenging, eventually escalates into “analysis paralysis” and then I just have to quit at some point. It was, however, a worthwhile experience to “tune up” my gear and food set up and learned some things that I will carry into future trips.

Food is a critical component to providing fuel and comfort on the trail. I used to tell our kids “everyone has different taste buds” and what we eat or choose to bring along varies so much on an individual basis. Some people can live on twinkies, poptarts, snickers and ramen on the trail – and others need to eat healthier stuff to keep them going.

In the years since my original food post, I have worked on further optimizing my nutrition, reducing single use plastics and trying not to overpack snacks (I will probably always work on this…because my brain thinks I need like 3-4 snacks a day!). It feels good to eat well on the trail, have energy to sustain myself throughout the day and not have to carry more than I truly need (like that horribly oversized summer sausage).

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this post helpful. Be sure to check out the resources at the very bottom for more tips. Got any good recipes or ideas to share? Favorite pre-made options? Shoot me a note in the comments or join the Wandering Pine FB or IG to continue the conversation!

Fun fact: there are now over 200 posts on the Wandering Pine Blog. Thanks so much for for being part of this adventure and for all of your support along the way. I love getting to share these art and adventure stories with you and I hope you enjoy them too!

Happy Trails!

~WP

Our family used to call garbanzos “butt beans” so this picture makes me giggle.

Resources:

Making Your Own Dehydrated Meals: Wandering Pine Blog

Backcountry Foodie : Dietician Created Recipes and Meal Planning Tools for Backpackers

The Backpacking Chef: DIY Backpacking Food

Border Route Trail Trip Report and Video: Wandering Pine Blog

5 Day Ultralight Gear List and Video: Whats in my pack? 25 lb 5 Day Ultralight Gear list

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