"Just because we are sleeping like peasants, doesn't mean we need to eat like peasants!" If you have ever hiked or camped with me, you no doubt have heard me say this! There are plenty of options for sustenance on the trail, and I am a man of variety. I don't like to eat the same thing over and over and over, just ask my wife. I set some of this mentality aside while I am out on the trail, due topics weight, but I still try to keep it fresh and ever changing. Another thing I preach while outside is PMA, Postive Mental Attitude. A good PMA can mean a world of difference while adventuring outside, especially in an emergency. Part of keeping a PMA for me is eating good while I am running around nature. This can still be accomplished while keeping my pack weight down.
During the colder months, I don't mind a little more weight in my pack. It actually helps keep me warm, and there is less chance of heat exhaustion or other heat related injuries. So during the colder months, I like to pack freeze-dried meals, ramen noodles, instant mashed potatoes and soups. These are really easy to prepare, and help keep me warm on cold nights outdoors. Eating something hot right before I climb into my sleeping bag helps me settle in for a great night sleep. A warm breakfast is also a great way to start the day off, and helps get me going in the morning. There are plenty of instant coffees and even some hand pumped espresso machines like the Wacaco ( I have owned this one since it first became available, and I swear by it's craftsmanship, price, and quality of espresso).
During the hotter months, pack weight is important, especially if I am trying to make my miles. Freeze-dried meals are light weight, but require water for preparation. Water that I could be using for hydrating my body! So during the hotter months I tend to look for different meal options that don't require water and also keep my pack weight on the lighter side. There are plenty of options for these types of meals from protein bars to jerky.
Recently I have started making charcuterie plates while backpacking, and when hiking with others, this is always a hit. I pick up meats like sausages, salamis, and prosciutto, combined with a variety of different cheeses, nuts or trail mix, small packs of olives, a baguette of bread, and olive oil. These types of food all pack tons of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that I need to keep my energy up, while adventuring. I pack a small cutting board, and a mess kit (the pot, pan & bowl combination is nice).
When I get to camp or my lunchtime stopping point, I cut up some meat and cheese, and enjoy some nuts, olives and bread. The flavored olive oils make a great dip for the bread. If you don't want to carry the weight of the mess kit, you can also substitute a generous piece of waxed paper to place your lunch or dinner items on in a very nice spread. Surprisingly this is very pleasing to the eye and may help you with that PMA I talked about earlier.
There are many options for eating while adventuring outdoors, and I have only covered a few that I like personally. In the end, it is up to the individual to pack and carry what they like. Eating is very important, not just for nutrition and energy, but also to reinforce your positive mental attitude. When hiking or camping, you should be looking forward to eating, not loathing it. Get creative, explore your options, and have fun with it. After all, venturing outside amongst the trees and streams should be enjoyable and rewarding, because if it isn't, you are probably doing it wrong.
Special thank you to Gary Patterson of the San Diego Hiking Network for contributing this blog post. Please check his group out on Facebook for fun monthly hikes in San Diego's back country.