When I started dreaming up my hike, I was determined to make all of my own meals for the duration of my hike. I wanted to do so for many reasons, the most important being that I happen to be a little frugal (or a lot), and that I wanted to be able to eat as clean and healthy as possible.
Commercially available dehydrated hiker “meals” typically run $7-10 a pop, so it’s easy to see how that would add up fast over 6 months. Most thru-hikers choose instead to go for the hiker diet consisting of tuna, ramen noodles, and snickers. Those three items just happen to be three things I don’t enjoy off the trail- and I can’t imagine eating them for 6 months (Although I have seen a lot of hikers get really creative with their mixtures). I also have to be really careful about sugar- I have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and have found that too much sugar causes a variety of issues for me. And finally, I watched that endoscopy video showing ramen living forever in your GI system, and knowing that I probably have a gargantuan entanglement of ramen still rolling around in there from college, I didn’t think I should make an additions to it.
I was gifted a dehydrator and food sealer for Christmas (Thanks Nana and Papa!) and I got started with the experimentation shortly after. The plan was to create a variety of “meal plans” with rotating meals that met a specific calorie allotment to account for the calorie deficit that occurs when hiking 8 hours a day. Each recipe would then be labeled with a beautiful printed and easy-to-read label displaying the ingredients and nutritional information. I planned to taste test each recipe to ensure that when I got on the trail I wouldn’t find myself in a rotten mood with food that didn’t properly re-hydrate. Finally, I would carefully combine the meals into rotating weekly meal plans that I would ship to myself at certain carefully plotted resupply points. I love strategic planning and experimenting with recipes in general, so I was so certain that this was going to be a blast!
So how is it that, less than 2 weeks from starting the trail I only have about 2 months of food ready? I have only tried 2 of the recipes. I did not calculate the nutritional information, and my bags are labeled with sharpie shorthand.
The best-laid plans. As it turns out, there was a lot of experimenting that I didn’t anticipate, and a rather large learning curve. Experimenting with dehydrator time and temperature turned out to be much more time consuming than I had expected, and I also found out how temperamental the vacuum sealer can be.
“The Trail with Teach You”. I have seen this phrase repeatedly in books and online forums, and here it is come to fruition and I haven’t even stepped foot into Georgia. The trail is already teaching me to let go of expectations and perfection, and I am sure it will be reinforced even more when I am pounding dirt. Am I a little disappointed? Yup. Is it going to ruin my trip? No way. I have also read that there is simply no way to plan all of the details for the trail- anything from the aches and pains, the weather, or an equipment malfunction can completely alter all previous and carefully made plans. I figure I am just getting a little head start on all that 🙂
So what am I eating? Here’s what I have so far- and it will be interesting to see how it changes when I get a few months in!
Breakfast– A variety of bars, protein shakes, coffee, and enhanced oatmeal. I still haven’t decided if I will like having a hot breakfast- and I think it will most likely depend on the weather. I know I will want coffee, so I will have the stove out either way.
Snacks– Nuts, seeds, peanut/almond butter, jerky, hummus, dried fruits and fruit leather. I also plan to pick up cheese and a few other perishables at each resupply point to enjoy the first few days back on the trail.
Dinners– Chicken fajitas, black bean chili, taco mac, cajun chicken orzo, etc. I dried some of my favorite veggies like onions, bell peppers, spinach, jalapeños, and cilantro and used them to flavor a variety of dishes each composed of a protein and a carb.
Other- UCAN. I call this my crack- it has literally changed my life and (not so literally) given me super powers. It is a slow-burning starch that does not affect your blood sugar or cause insulin spikes, so you end up with long-lasting steady energy. I started off using this for triathlons and long distance training rides, and then started using it daily. When my PCOS started causing rapid weight gain and bad sugar crashes, UCAN was the only thing that helped me to get stabilized. I also LOVE the company itself- when I wrote to them and told them about my hike and Kay’s Kisses, they agreed to offer me and my readers a discount! If you want to try UCAN, visit the UCAN SHOP and use code UCANHIKE at checkout to save 10% AND they give 10% back which will go to Kay’s Kisses!! My favorite drink flavors are lemonade and tropical orange, and I also enjoy the cinnamon swirl snack bars and berry electrolytes. The electrolytes are a life saver on long sunny bike rides, and I am counting on them to help me through my long sunny walk too! They are sugar free and junk free- a great alternative to Powerade and Gatorade, and since they are powdered they are much easier to take along on rides and hikes 🙂
And that’s what I have in my food bag so far! It got me thinking- if you could only have one meal, everyday, for 6 months straight, what would it be? Tell me about in the comments below!