My hubby and I have logged quite a bit of trail time over the years. At this point in our bag-packing lives, we are finding it more and more difficult to tolerate the typical trail food. We’ve had more than our fill of dehydrated meals and packaged energy bars! So, lately I have been trying to find fresher, tastier, homemade alternatives to fuel our backcountry adventures.
There is nothing worse than sitting on top of a high altitude ridgeline, feeling tipsy and woozy, needin’ some eats, reaching into your food bag only to find…another energy bar. No. Not another one! Please tell me there’s something tasty hiding in there. Please? After a desperate search, you come to terms with the fact that there is no hidden treasure lurking in your food bag…or your backpack…or your pockets…and you reluctantly remove the wrapper and force down another dry and tasteless bar.
Now, in order to survive a day (or, even worse, an over-nighter) in my pack, you gotta be one tough cookie! You’re going to get crammed in my pack beneath a pile of gear. Your going to be crushed beneath my weight when I use my pack as a chair. You’re going to get thrown down, tossed around and mashed to bits in my pocket when I’m high-steppin’ that rocky route. And at the end of the day, if you’re still around, you’ll be stuffed into my bear canister with the trash, the sunscreen and all the other random bear magnets gathered from camp. Yeah, you gotta be a toughie, yet full of super-fuel and tasty enough to attract my attention. That’s not asking for much, is it?
Let’s start with the snacks, because a “meal” on the trail really just consists of a steady series of snacks. A couple of my recent favorite superfood finds are quickly becoming classics in stuffing my pack. The Chocolate Energy Bars are the best! Homemade energy bars packed with your favorite raw nuts and seeds for protein, dates for quick fuel, a trio of superberries for a zing of flavorful antioxidants and cacao for a bit of chocolate delight. It’s like adding a dessert factor to the dreaded energy bar and it is delicious on the trail.
Then there’s my favorite Superberry Trail Mix which keeps me going with its raw nutty protein power and a little burst of cacao. This guy is so simple, full of protein and antioxidants and you can easily dress him up or down to suit your mood (or your pantry supplies).
While nuts are so great for a quick dose of protein to keep your trottin’ trail pace throughout the day, they can begin to loose their simply raw appeal after a handful or two. So, I tried to fancy up a batch to keep in reserve for those moments when simple just won’t cut it. And these maple candied nuts with goldenberry bits were sooooo yummy, by the time we actually got to packing there was but a handful left! Note to self…next time make an extra batch for decoy cupboard snacks ;-)
By the way, these sweeties are not only like candy on the trail, they are great for gifting while you’re at it! And naturally, I failed to take notes while concocting my treats so I have no recipe for this one…I suppose I’ll have to make another batch so I can post a recipe. In the meantime, you can play around with your own creation! All you need is your favorite nuts, some maple syrup a dehydrator and whatever sweet or tangy bits you like.
Okay, time for lunch. At this point I’m done with nuts and dry goods. My hubby loves his almond butter sandwich for lunch (swimming in enough honey to ensure the bread is thoroughly soaked by lunchtime) and these days he opts for gluten-free. I know by lunchtime I won’t feel like swallowing a mouthful of dry, pasty nut butter sandwich (ah! I see his strategy), so I prefer my almond butter in an apple. I find the apple balances out the pasty factor quite nicely and it’s a juicy sweet relief to find it in my food bag.
Speaking of juicy, we have come to realize the importance of stashing juicy snacks in the food bag for those high-altitude moments when you know you need to eat, but just can’t make yourself swallow that bar. A little something juicy works wonders in situations like those! So, despite the extra weight, we now try to bring along some fruit and a little bag of fresh veggies. I’ve found that apples and tangerines (or oranges for something a little heftier) can bear the brunt of the backpack pretty well. Veggies like carrots, snap peas, green beans and zucchini can hold their own for a day. And I usually pack a handful and cherry tomatoes who, while a bit more delicate, get a little special attention at packing time.
Of course we are sure to carry an ample water supply to wet the whistle throughout the day, but something with a little flavor is a welcome treat now and then. We’ve certainly consumed our fair share of sugar-filled energy drinks, but we quickly came to a point of refusing to accept that it was necessary to ingest all those noxious dyes and chemicals all in the name of staying hydrated and “balancing electrolytes” during our strenuous activities. Hello coconut water! Our saving grace. A little bottle of sweet organic coconut water is a great way to add a swig of flavor to your hydration process. Plus, this guy’s full of potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium and phosphorous to meet your electrolyte balancing needs. (Oh, and P.S…Navitas Naturals now sells a coconut water in powdered form. Perfect for packing!)
After a long day on the trail, whether it’s hefting the packs to camp or bagging a peak, it’s time for dinner. Backcountry dinner has long lost it’s appeal, I can tell you that. I am no backcountry gourmet, but I have managed to create a few one-pot wonders that can survive a day in the bear can and don’t seem to produce much throat gagging or stomach churning.
I’ve found that simpler is better where dinner’s concerned. With a few grocery store staples you can create several simple pasta or rice dishes that are satatisfying, healthy and (dare I say) tasty. Angel hair pasta and instant rice are quick-cooking and serve as a great base for a meal. You can even dehydrate your own rice at home for that extra “healthy” factor, but I am not that hard core. Add a package of dry vegetable soup mix or veggie broth for flavor and a can of organic chicken for protein. A bag full of chopped veggies does wonders for adding a fresh healthy feel to your meal. Carrots, bell peppers, and snap peas are my favorite combo because they travel well and compliment just about any flavor style.
With these staples and some various extras you can concoct a one-pot Chicken and Vegetable Curried Rice dish topped with shredded coconut, cashews and raisins (a long time fave!). Fajita size flour or corn tortillas fit perfectly in the bottom of the bear can. Fill some of those with a mix of dehydrated black beans and rice, some chopped veggies and cilantro and you’ve got yourself some tasty tacos or backpacker’s burritos. Vegetable Pesto Pasta, with or without chicken, is super easy and full of flavor. I think my favorite is angel hair pasta with vegetables and this Hemp Pesto Sauce from Gena Hamshaw at choosing raw. I make the pesto at home, put some in a ziploc bag (double or triple bag it, because it’s guaranteed to leak) and freeze it. If I don’t have time for homemade pesto, I found a little jar of Classico brand pesto sauce at the grocery store that is easy and tasty…the trick is finding a travel container that doesn’t leak!
With dinner under your belt, pack up the bear can, bundle up and sit back to watch the sun set over the lake in your high country hideaway as you enjoy a little chocolate energy bar or candied nuts for dessert.
Then comes breakfast. Breakfast and I just don’t get along in the early a.m. hours and backcountry bloat is a sure thing after forcing down an early morning energy bar. No thanks. However, skipping this meal is a sure way to bog down your peak-bagging efforts and snafu your summit attempt. I found that some homemade, high-protein, low-carb granola is just the thing for an appetizing and energizing start for the summit. My hubby and I both really enjoyed this Chocolate Cherry granola that I made in the dehydrator (I’m saving this recipe for another post) and it proved to be a welcome treat on the trail.
You can mix up some powdered soy milk and enjoy a bowl full before you hit the trail, but I like to snack on it right out of the bag as we saunter the trail in that sunrise hour.
Don’t forget to nourish yourself, feed your soul, enjoy your sunrise sauntering :)