How to Have Great Food on Multi-Day Hikes

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Post by Guests » Sun May 02, 2010 4:48 am

How to Have Great Food on Multi-Day Hikes

Good food is essential for multi-day hiking trips, but food is generally the heaviest part of a pack. Food is usually between 25% and 35% of the weight of the pack on a 5 to 7 day hike. This means that somewhere between 5 kg (11 lb.) and 8 kg (17 lb.) is food. If you are taking a longer hike, then it adds up to more. Unless you have done some research and spent a fair amount of money to keep all your hiking gear extremely light, then you are probably going to carry a heavy pack. But there are several things you can do to keep the weight down and the nutrition up.

If you are travelling with a larger group of 5 to 10 people, then you have a fairly large pool of resources to problem solve. On multi-day hikes, if you can split the food in half, then you are carrying only half the food weight at most at any time. This can make a tremendous difference in managing the safety and exertion on the trail. A food drop into the trail may be possible. For many hikes, there are local services that deal with transporting people and supplies into remote locations. If you can plan your route to have a common trail entry in the middle, then a food drop is possible. Let's look at some of the options here.

On coastal hikes, water taxi service is usually possible to places along the trail. The West Coast Trail, North Coast Trail, Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, Hesquiat Peninsula, and Nootka Island can all be reached by water taxi. These locations can also be reached by float plane. Helicopter service may also be available, but is probably the most expensive option. Some trails have a fairly easy hike into a central location where a loop can be taken, such as in the South Chilcotin Mountains' Spruce Lake area. This area is also serviced by regular float plane flights and horse packing. The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail has a parking lot entry point near the middle of the trail at Sombrio Beach. More remote locations without lakes may only be accessible by hiking in or by helicopter, such as in the Stein Valley. But hiking food into an area kind of defeats the purpose of a food drop. Although these trails are all in British Columbia, the same idea applies elsewhere.

The next major option is to plan ahead and dehydrate food. Most anything can be dehydrated, from meats, to vegetables, to fruits. Dehydrated food can be very tasty if it is relatively fresh and if it has been kept in refrigeration. Rehydrating means cooking a little longer, but the additional fuel weight is minimal. Adding spices to meats before dehydrating helps with preparation. An entire meal can be dehydrated, thus reducing the weight by as much as 75%. This can make a very big difference in weight without compromising the nutrition, variety, and taste. If you are a regular hiker, taking several multi-day hikes a year, a good quality food dehydrator is well worth the money. Of course, you can buy dehydrated meals, but the cost can be considerable for a trip if you are 5 to 10 people, and the freshness and flavor are usually compromised because of the age of the packaged food. If a food drop is prohibitive because of location or cost, then dehydrating food is the second best option. On a recent 8-day hike of the North Coast Trail, I carried less than 5 kg in food because of dehydrating. I ate very well.

Whether you plan on having a food drop in the middle of your hike or plan on dehydrating food to reduce the weight, good pre-trip planning is necessary. Either way can make sure that you have plenty of good, nutritious food and minimized weight in your pack. Having enough food means that your energy can be maintained to meet the increased demands on your energy reserves. So plan your trip with one of these effective ways to reduce weight in place, and enjoy!

Gary Ward has been leading trips and teaching in wilderness areas for 20 years. Having traveled from desert to sea, he spends most of his time now in coastal areas, exploring the boundary between land and sea, land and sky, and sea and sky.

He can be found leading tours, teaching, and writing for his business, Coastal Bliss Adventures.

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