Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Make Your Own Backpacking Meals!

My 14 day John Muir Trail thru-hike with my son is just a few weeks away, so I've been busy preparing 28 days worth of backpacking food for us. Making your own is not that difficult, less expensive, and much lighter than buying those individually packaged meals. Are you up for the task?



A healthy hot breakfast is pretty easy. My favorite is couscous, dry milk, dried cranberries, chopped almonds and cashews. 15 1/2 ounces yields 2,240 calories, or seven 320 calorie breakfasts. Add some variety by replacing the couscous with rolled oats, which is a bit heavier but also very nutritious. Pack a weeks worth in a plastic produce bag, which is free from the grocery store and weighs only .08 ounces! Be sure to squeeze all the air out of the bag and tie it off at the end to leave room for the contents to form to your food bag or bear canister.



Now for some dinners. I could eat my Moroccan Delight every night, but my son just might get tired of the same thing after 14 days. So instead I made a huge batch of Delight Sauce (minus the couscous), and I plan to use it with different ingredients for a variety of meals.



I may have gone a little crazy with this stuff, but did I mention that I absolutely love it? 8 batches takes a lot of ingredients! 16 finely chopped green bell peppers, 8 pounds of hot Italian sausage, browned...



...4 huge cans of crushed tomatoes...



...8 white onions, finely chopped...



...all in two giant pots with lots of garlic, basil, black pepper, and whatever else you love! Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for an hour or more.



Then into the dehydrator on parchment paper. If you don't have parchment paper you can use plastic wrap, (just don't use wax paper). I filled my 9 tray bad boy 3 times!



I found the sauce finishes drying better if you remove it from the parchment paper and place it directly onto the drying rack. It gets solid enough to do this about half way through the 24 hour cycle.



You want it to be dry so it will break apart, not like fruit leather. Then get your food processor out again and grind it up into a coarse consistency. This makes it rehydrate much more quickly and completely. Otherwise you end up with large chunks of sauce, or you waste too much fuel cooking it.



And what you're left with is 5 1/2 pounds and 13,500 calories of goodness. That's over 150 calories per ounce, wow! Now you can add it to lots of different things to make some great tasting ultralight backpacking meals with a spicy kick!



That's it for the hard stuff, the rest I will buy and repackage. I'll show you how I put it all together for a 14 day, 2 person, ultralight meal plan in an upcoming post!

15 comments:

  1. Great post. I clearly need to hike with you because I absolutely suck with my meal preparation and yet it is a VERY critical element. It's one of those things where ignorance isn't bliss.

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  2. I am done with my dehydrating. We are starting our JMT on the 15th. I just hope we will get to eat all that food I had been slaving over with all the snow and raging creeks this year.

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  3. Great post! I love the caloric values and the pics were awesome! Nice work John. Looking forward to the pics from the trail.

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  4. JGG, I agree it's critical to have the right nutrition and also go as light as possible. Very similar to bringing the right gear.

    Ewa, I tend to bring too much as well. But with all the snow in the Sierras this year, I would rather have too much tan not enough. I know there will be some very slow days that could throw us off our plan. Good luck on your hike!

    John

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  5. Tim, thanks! There will be lots of JMT pics for sure!

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  6. Good thing you have the luxury of preparing your own backpacking meals. I normally go to the grocery stores and buy canned goods that I can bring with me. I think I need to go hiking with you too! :)

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  7. Good stuff! I like the tip about drying the sauce completely, then crumbling it with the food processor. Wondering what the parchment paper is for, though. I'm looking forward to the next one!

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  8. Anon, the parchment paper is to hold the sauce until it starts to become solid, otherwise it would run right through the plastic mesh dehydrator tray.

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  9. John, I never thought about those plastic produce bags. How well do they hold up though? Do you just use one bag or do you line 2 of them together? That would be a bummer if one got a hole in it, but I guess at that weight you can afford to carry one for backup...

    Awesome on the food too. I got a dehydrator for last Christmas, but have yet to use it. I am partly worried that I have never used one before...I will have to try this out though, except not quite so much...

    As well, I have never really ate much cous cous. So, do you just add x amount of the Delight sauce to the cous cous and then rehydrate all at once?

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  10. Hey Stick,

    I've had two meals (1 breakfast and 1 dinner) inside of produce bags rambling around in my backpack for the past couple of months with no issues, so I think they are good as long as you are careful with them. I plan to bring a couple of extras on the JMT "just in case" since they are so light.

    Yes I just add a few few spoons full of delight sauce and couscous, potato flakes, or what ever I'm mixing it with, cover with water and bring it just to a boil. Then turn the stove off and let sit covered about 5 minutes or so. Super simple!

    John

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  11. Wow, that looks awesome! Backpacking meals have certainly come a long way since I was a kid, when it was basically hot dogs and canned Dinty Moore beef stew or chili every night. So cool that you have your own dehydrator...

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  12. Will this go off at all?

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  13. whats the shelf life on this trail food im planning a walk through on the Appalachian trail

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  14. with the sausage in there, shelf life would be less I would think? I have an older dehydrator, can you dehydrate meat in any of them? kinda scared to do so, although jerky I am not worried about with all the vinegar, salt etc. to preserve it.

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  15. We hike and are always looking for new ideas, all I need to do is get a dehydrator before the summer when we do our 50 mi hike Thanks so much for the info!

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