99 Meals in a Day
Today marks two weeks until my start date at Springer Mountain to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Yesterday, I packed 99 backpacking meals for three months’ worth of dinners. Up until that point I’d felt anxious about my level of preparation — I was feeling a bit behind.
Relying solely on mail drops throughout the trail is a tall order when it comes to thru-hiking preparation.
My drops will cover breakfasts, dinners, and some snacks. Midday meals, peanut butter jars, Honey Buns, and country ham breakfasts at Huddle House will be purchased throughout my hike.
I hiked 700 miles NOBO on the AT in 2012 after college. This experience helps me a bit in understanding how to prepare and I’m really excited about my homemade meals. I’m still scarred from pasta sides. These can be found at any grocery store and some glorified gas station stores along the AT. I shudder to think about eating one of the alfredo sauce recipes again.
There are two reasons why I’ve chosen to prepack my meals:
My dog. No, she’s not going to be eating my food (though she would if given the chance), but her meals do have to be mailed along the way. Sadie is my catahoula-lab mix hiking partner and my responsibility. To keep her diet up to calorie count and consistent, she needs prepacked meals and her doggy grandparents have volunteered to mail those to her throughout our entire trip. It made sense to include my meals with those drop boxes and so I started researching.
It’s more cost-effective. I’m sure there are people that will argue with this point. I feel, though, that purchasing ingredients, making my own recipes and packing my own meals is a cheaper food option for the AT hike. One of the reasons I stopped hiking in 2012 was a lack of funds, so I’m taking budgeting seriously to manifest this dream of a thru-hike.
And maybe there is a third reason. My garbanzo bean, rice curry dish is way better than any pasta sides.
I researched vacuum sealing cooked meals. I looked into various prepackaged backpacking meals (Backpacker’s Pantry, etc.) and explored dehydrated foods, both ingredients and premade meals.
I finally decided on dehydrated ingredients based on recipes I designed. I discovered Harmony House Foods. This company offers any kind of dehydrated bean and an impressive list of dehydrated vegetables. They even have freeze dried fruit, which I’m using in trail mixes.
My recipes are simple. Their inspiration comes from my single-life, one-bedroom apartment lifestyle. When I’m not eating delicious pasta dishes put together by my more inspired, culinary friends, I eat rice, beans, and vegetables. If cheese and Sriracha are around, those are included. Also, put an egg on it. Any time.
That is the basis for my five recipes that I will rotate through my five month journey.
Rice + bean + vegetables + spices
The curry recipe I mentioned earlier includes rice, garbanzo beans, green beans, carrots, potatoes, onions, curry, powdered coconut milk, and salt. Delicious. I may or may not have made this meal one evening because I had no other groceries in the house. And eaten the leftovers for lunch the next day. If I can enjoy this meal during life off the trail, I can only imagine I’ll be stoked for dinner after my first big mile day.
The meals take ten to 15 minutes to cook, in simmering water. I’ve packed these ingredients into bags, one for each meal. That way my number one trail angels, Mom and Dad, can grab however many meals I’ll need per drop box.
It’s a lot of work up front and a vomit-inducing amount of money to put down in a short period of time, but I hope to keep costs down during my hike with this plan!
Disclaimer one: I only have three of the five recipes finalized. Still need to finish two recipes and order ingredients. Also, exploring the pricing and feasibility between instant rice and regular rice.
This plan is less intense but just as delicious. I’ve decided to go with Good To-Go oatmeal and granola breakfast packs. For the price and the calorie count (around 500 per pack) I’m excited about breakfast.
One of my favorite parts? The granola packs take cold water. I’m going to have hot oatmeal breakfasts for the first two months and granola for the rest of the trail. Once I get my trail legs and miles up, I’ll want to hit the trail quickly in the morning, and limit my stove time.
Disclaimer two: I am addicted to coffee. Morning stove use will never stop.
My trail name is Blueberry and you can follow my hike and my story-collecting project, The Ones Who Walk, at www.theoneswhowalk.com and @theoneswhowalk on Instagram.
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