After my first Appalachian Trail adventure with a couple friends I fell in love with backpacking. I love meeting other travelers and hearing their stories. I love pushing my body to its limits just to see where the breaking points are. I love the challenge of figuring out just how little you can survive on so that you can cut weight and space in your pack.
I’m not exactly an ultralight hiker switching out my knife with a razor blade wrapped in tape, for example, but I get by with as little as I can manage. After my first two sections with my friends in North Carolina and Tennessee I learned what types of foods they, and most, backpackers carry: Dehydrated dinners, oatmeal, granola bars and trail mix. This was great and worked well for those two trips as well as my solo hike through Georgia. But I wanted to find some other options that fit my normal eating routines off trail, namely Paleo, for the next section I’ll be starting in 2 weeks.
The first switch was the dehydrated dinners. I met a couple guys on my solo hike who had found paleo dehydrated dinners and I knew I wanted to locate them for my next trip. There are a few different options out there but the cleanest seem to be Wild Zora. I won’t be trying them until I get on the trail in 2 weeks so you’ll have to wait for my final assessment. Other dehydrated meals like Mountain House are fine, but many of them are sickly sweet to me and I feel like I can taste all the preservatives.
I was already using Paleoethics’ Recovery Matrix as my twice daily tea option. It’s loaded with amino acids, zinc and magnesium to help your body recover and sleep well, and it happens to be chai flavored so I love it. I’ll definitely use it again (although I’ll remove it from it’s pouch and put in a smaller, more flexible baggie).
I’ve recently discovered Paradigm protein powder and love it for my daily work out recovery. It’s as clean as it gets. While protein bars are tasty, they’re heavy and usually full of sugar. On a day-to-day basis I typically intake about 100 grams of protein so this will be vital to maintain that on the trail.
Karen’s Naturals have been a staple car snack for me for months now. It’s just dehydrated veggies and you eat them like you would popcorn or potato chips. Delicious. They’re also good to add to any other dehydrated meals to get a few extra veggies in. Similarly, dried seaweed is a delicious salty snack. I’ll remove it from it’s package as well though.
Tuna is a great source of fresh-ish protein on the trail, the little packs are essential though, as cans are heavy and you have to carry out all your trash. Bee pollen is good to add to tea or dehydrated meals to tame the allergies a bit being surrounded by blooming trees 24/7.
Next I wanted a more intentional oatmeal. There are a few pre-packaged dehydrated options out there, but I figured I could make it myself. Buckwheat is a naturally gluten free hot cereal and you can add any number of delicious and supportive ingredients. It’s not exactly “instant” in the way oatmeal can be ready in about 60 seconds, but it’s pretty close, about 8 minutes.
I made this at home first and also tried it out in my jet boil on the deck this morning to make sure it worked. At first I included coconut flour, but found it made it too thick and have since removed it.
For this Paleo “Instant Oatmeal” Recipe I used:
1/4 cup Buckwheat
2 TB Chia Seeds
1 TB shredded Coconut
1 TB Walnuts
1 TB Dehydrated Bananas
1 TB Dehydrated Blueberries
1 TB Brown Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
All mixed in a baggie at home and added to 1.5-2 cups of boiling water on the trail depending on your texture preference. Note, when not on the trail this is easily 2 servings. But on the trail I’ll force myself to eat it all before I take off in the mornings. It is an excellent source of carbs, protein, healthy fats, omega-3s, fiber and other vitamins.
You can easily add a number of other ingredients if you have preferences: different nuts, different fruits, powdered peanut butter, more or less sugar or stevia, these are just what I had on hand. I have just ordered some cricket powder to try as a healthy, sustainable, protein and B-12 source as well. TBD if it impacts the taste.
When all is said and done, there is no “right” way to backpack. No perfect food arrangement. No correct gear. It’s just what works for you. If you’ve never backpacked before, I suggest a 3 day, 2 night outing to figure out if it’s something you enjoy and your body and mind can handle. You’ll figure out pretty quick if you’ve carried too much and you’ll find ways to minimize the next time. You’ll also figure out what foods make you feel good and which ones, while tasty, weigh you down or make you feel lethargic. I will always be a proponent of whole and sustainable food sources, but I’ll also always have M&Ms in my trail mix. Balance.
Good luck on your next adventure and feel free to ask any questions. I’m no expert but I’m happy to help in anyway I can.