Category Archives: Foods

2013 Backpacking Season! What’s New? Paleo!

More protein on the trailTime for my state-of-the-backpacking-kitchen blog. I don’t get over here much anymore since I worked most of the kinks out of the backpacking eating situation, but I do have some protein notes to share since we’ve starting eating paleo at home. You can bet I’m doing my best to transition that onto the trail!

I have noticed many more paleo backpacking blogs out on the net lately; can’t say that most of them have been very helpful to me, but it’s always interesting to read what other folks consider good backpacking practice. There’s a lot of difference, as you know, between doing an overnight or 2 where you might get away with pouched or even canned tuna, some pre-cooked meat and fresh fruit and veggies, and the kind of backpacking that involves mailing boxes to yourself several weeks down the trail.
 
Our big plan for this summer is revisiting the JMT with a few detours courtesy of the High Sierra Route. Should be fun! One big change will be that instead of mailing ourselves re-supplies, we’ll be recovering boxes of food pre-stashed in bear boxes at camp sites. It’s a little unsettling to consider than an unscrupulous camper might make off with our re-supply, leaving us in the difficult position of having to hitchhike into town and buy whatever food might be available at the local grocery down from Onion Valley or North Lake campground, but I have been assured by those who have used this method that such an event is extremely unlikely.
 
We will be re-supplying at Red’s Meadow —  that will be our one chance to eat a restaurant meal and scrounge through the abandoned resupplies of other backpackers. Always an adventure!
 
In 2009, Jack & I hiked the entire JMT and it was that adventure that inspired me to begin this blog. Our at-home diet has changed a lot since then; our backpacking diet not so much — we still eat beans, rice and quinoa on the trail, as well as plenty of dried fruit. Our protein percentage, however, has increased not only at home but also on the trail over the past year or 2, although unless we have trail buddies who fish, we rely on what we bring, not what we forage!
 
Remember my original protein post when I was concerned that 90g of protein might be too much? Since adopting a more primal diet, I’ve come to believe that 90g of protein for such sustained physical exertion is not enough. So as I’m putting together the 24 hot lunches, supper porridges and day snacks for the July get-away, I’m trying to squeeze in even more via dehydrated ground beef and an assortment of protein powders and a new protein bar we’ve been enjoying for the past year. Oh … didn’t I tell you?
 
Our friends who supply us with the truly delicious organic green food bar also make a protein bar! This is not a perfect paleo protein bar — it contains agave syrup (boo hiss) and although I love the 22g of protein, the 22g of sugar are a bit much. Even so, since we avoid soy and whey, this is the best bar I’ve found for backpacking. Or for pre-workout. Or for road trips … (see my review on Amazon). So now you know. If they ever make this bar without agave syrup, I will be ecstatic!
 
Back to those 24 hot lunches? I’ve determined to limit each one to 7 oz each, with the breakdown of 2 oz of the beef protein powder, 2 oz of the tiny rice/quinoa mixture,  2 oz of dried beans, and 1 oz of vegetable/flavoring. That last part is the trick. I am actually writing down my recipes again this year because my notes from last year’s meals were so vague. Yes, we loved the basil-lemon bean dish, but how much basil was really in that? And how much lemon? Oh well. Luckily, we are not picky eaters on the trail …

Tuolumne Meadows to Red’s & Back Again

Just got back from the post office, where I posted a food box off to Red’s Meadow. Seven days’ worth of lovingly dehydrated vegetarian meals, hand-mixed gorp with local raw almonds, the world-famous dodie kakes, 2 kinds of food bars (Rebar & the Active Greens), pease porridge — all the usual, with the exception of dried shrimp in the Indian meals & our standby homemade beef jerkey. Mr. Jack wanted to try a vegetarian backpack for a change — well, except for the 4.6 oz of secchi salami we’ll devour within days of opening the re-supply box.

But there’s something odd about the food I’ve prepared & gathered for this relatively short 14-day backpack.

The food doesn’t weigh as much as it should. It looks like the right amount. It feels like the right amount. All the meals individually seem to weigh about as much as they did last year and although we subtracted the 2 oz of jerky per day, we put 2 oz of some divine olive-oil-roasted & salted almonds right back in. But when I entered all the weights into the spreadsheet & divided out per person per day, I only got 1.08 lbs.

You know that’s not right. Last year we had 1.24 lbs per person & turned out we were a little short. Well, it was cold. This year we have a cozier tent and a heavier quilt. Our days won’t be as long, either, since we are going to try the High Route on the return leg, going mostly cross-country. But we are going to be crossing some snowy passes–I will, in fact, be carrying an ice ax and crampons for the first time in my life–and the ranger Mr. Jack conferred with on the phone mentioned low temperatures in the 20s. That’s cold enough for me to be glad of the improved sleeping situation!

The food puzzle is that I’m not sure where we lost that average 4 oz per day: Are the meals marginally smaller? Did I skimp when measuring out ingredients for the pease porridge? Is the gorp lighter? And the big question: Will we starve this time?

We’re heading up to Tuolumne to pick up our permits when the office opens early Saturday morning. By the time we get to Red’s Meadow we hope to have a clearer understanding of our food situation. At that point, if we need more food, we can raid the food boxes! (Assuming anything there we can eat! If you’ve been in the boxes yourself, you can understand my hesitation about relying on instant oatmeal for much nourishment …)

I keep thinking I’ve just done the math wrong, or written down a wrong weight, but if that is indeed the case, I’ve not been able to find it. I admit I’m tempted to throw another tube of almond butter into the bear bag and if there’s room when we get ourselves all packed up, I just might …

On the other hand, it’s only 15 days of not very strenous hiking, so it’s unlikely anything worse than the hungries will happen, even if we are a bit short on food. And we have plenty of tea even if we don’t have squeeze bacon!

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World’s Best Backpacking Rice

Last night in the Winters’ IGA, I almost bought a box of Minute Rice to compare cooking & tasting with the rice I’ve been using backpacking. If it hadn’t been 3$, I might have brought it home, but economy & common sense prevailed over my scientific desire for a true comparative review.

On the other hand, I don’t really need to cook instant rice in order to know that it will taste remarkably like nothing with a gummy texture. So why bother?

I like rice. My Cuban grandmother made plain white rice everyday when I was growing up. She cooked it on an electric stove in a dented saucepan with a square of brown shopping bag paper sticking out from under a lightweight lid. It was always perfect.

On my own, I have perfected the 2 cups brown rice to 3 cups water method in 30 minutes, an achievement of which I feel justifiable proud, even if the product is not quite as GQ as my pal Al’s Nicaraguan-style rice, which is rinsed and then toasted in a little olive oil with chopped onion before cooking. Al, in fact, is the fellow who revolutionized my backpacking relationship with rice 2 summers ago on the High Sierra Trail.

Guitar Lake, below Mt WhitneyOn a windy afternoon at the gorgeous & frosty Guitar Lake, Al introduced me & Mr. Jack to Kalijira Rice, the tiny aromatic rice from Bangladesh. Oh yum! This royally delicious & delicate Prince of Rice cooks in just 10 minutes. Yes, it might cook up just fine on the trail, but I haven’t tried that.

I cook it at home (yes, in 10 minutes) & then dehydrate it. On the trail, it rehydrates like a dream, while retaining its premium texture and taste. Even if this rice didn’t provide more calories, more carbs and more protein than instant rice, the eating pleasure more than repays the relatively small effort to cook & dehydrate it prior to the backpack. And the less fat, less sodium? Hmmm, you could add sea salt & a favorite oil when you cook it, whether or not you decide to add onions like my pal Al.

Mere Money Comparison
Minute Rice: $2.90/7 servings; 41c per cooked cp
Kalijira Rice: $4.20/8 servings; 52c per cooked cp

Basic Nutritional Comparison
Please be aware that instant rice does not have the full load of thiamin, iron or folic acid.


Uncle Ben’s Instant Rice, White

Serving Size: about 1 cp cooked
Calories: 190
Calories from Fat: 5
Sodium: 15 mg
Total Carbs: 43g
Dietary Fiber: 1g
Sugars: 0
Protein: 3g

Lotus Foods Tiny Rice
Serving Size: about 1 cp cooked
Calories: 200
Calories from Fat: 0
Sodium: 0 mg
Total Carbs: 56g
Dietary Fiber: 0g
Sugars: 0
Protein: 6g