My Food Bag Shakedown

I plan to thru-hike the AT in 2018. I am a novice hiker and decided it would be smart complete a shakedown of my gear and food choices. From October 1st to October 5th, 2017 I completed a 20 mile section of the AT from Snickers Gap to the AT Conservancy. As I’ve been reading and reading about other’s experiences, I’ve been taken aback by the amount of junk food that many hikers rely on. As part of my reason for hiking the AT is to focus on regaining my health, I want to have a meal plan that is nutritious. I want to lose fat, strengthen muscle, and boost my overall endurance level.

Nutritional Strategy

About a year ago, I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. Through nutrition and exercise, I’ve been able to control my blood sugar levels and lose about 40 lbs (yay for me!). An integral part of my success is due, in part, to working with a nutritionist at my local hospital.  My nutritionist is a hiker (lucky me!). My goal on the AT is to have a meal plan that is 50% carbohydrates, 35% calories from fat, and 15% calories from proteins.

While I will most certainly eat junk food on the trail, I am going to try to get most of my carbs and fat from healthy sources. For instance, for carbs, meals will include instant brown rice, couscous, and dehydrated beans. For healthy fats, my snacks include nuts.

Calorie Intake

I want to lose weight. You’d think that walking over 2100 miles would automatically mean weight loss. Sure, I’ll drop pounds. But how can I do that in a healthy way, so the drop is not too fast, and is a loss that I can hope to maintain after I’m off the trail? I discovered that 1 lb of fat is approximately 3500 calories. My nutritionist states that an average thru-hiker will burn about 3000 calories per day, and upwards of 4500 calories on difficult terrain. Therefore, I will strive to consume about 2500-2800 calories per day, increasing the calories when the terrain is super difficult. This should equate to about 2-3lbs of weight loss per week. I believe that my thru-hike will take about 7 months, or 29 weeks. My goal weight is 140 lbs (currently at 194 lbs). Twenty-nine weeks at 2 lb a week loss equals 58 lbs. So, I might return home even lighter than I’d hoped for!

Weight to Calorie Ratio

Food is heavy! This is somewhat of a new revelation for me. When I bring in my bags of groceries into the house (or rather my husband does), I know the bags are heavy. But, I never realized how heavy one day’s worth of food is. Most of the weight recommendations I’ve found suggest that a thru-hiker should carry about 2 lbs of food for each day and shoot for 100 calories per ounce. Getting 2800+ calories in 2 lbs (or less) is challenging. More challenging that I thought it was going to be!

My Happy Green Belly Discovery

Chris Cage successfully thru-hiked the AT and many other really cool hikes abroad. Struggling to maintain healthy eating habits on the trail, Chris developed a ready-to-eat meal, in a bar (read No Cooking!). The Green Belly meal consists of 2 bars, 645 calories. 17 g protein, 100 g carbs, 22 g fat. Check out all the details at Greenbelly.  There are 3 flavors: dark chocolate/banana, peanut/apricot, and cranberry/almond. I don’t care for the dark chocolate/banana, but I absolutely love the other two flavors. Greenbelly meals will be a staple of my thru-hike.

5 day meal plan

Here is what I took for my 5 day shakedown hike:

Day 1:

  • Breakfast: Malto Meal, with powdered butter and cinnamon and sugar
  • Lunch: Greenbelly meal
  • Dinner: Alpine Air BBQ chicken dehydrated pre-packaged meal
  • Snack 1: Jerky, Twizzlers
  • Snack 2: Trail mix

Day 2:

  • Breakfast: Malto Meal, with powdered butter and cinnamon and sugar
  • Lunch: Greenbelly meal
  • Dinner: Lemon chicken and egg noodles (my own recipe)
  • Snack 1: Quest Bar
  • Snack 2: Trail mix and Jerky

Day 3:

  • Breakfast: Pancakes, with powdered butter, cinnamon and sugar topping, shelf stable bacon
  • Lunch: Greenbelly meal
  • Dinner: Lipton chicken double noodle soup, hard cheese, hard salami
  • Snack 1: Quest Bar
  • Snack 2: Trail mix and Jerky

Day 4:

  • Breakfast: 2 packets of maple and brown sugar oatmeal
  • Lunch: Greenbelly meal
  • Dinner: Idaho Taco (see recipe below)
  • Snack 1: Quest Bar
  • Snack 2: Trail mix and Jerky
  • Special desert: Snicker Trifle (see recipe in this article)

Day 5:

  • Breakfast: dehydrated hash browns, dehydrated onions, dehydrated bell peppers, powdered butter, cheese
  • Lunch: Greenbelly meal
  • Dinner: Mountain House Mesquite Chicken pre-packaged meal
  • Snack 1: Quest Bar
  • Snack 2: Trail mix and Jerky

Supplement: olives and pickles. I love vinegary foods…my mouth is watering just typing these words. Yum!

My Shakedown

For this test hike, I only hiked about 20 miles. This averages out to only about 4 miles per day. Given my present physical ability and slow pace, 4 miles a day was just perfect. However, I know there was no way I was burning 3000 calories a day. On my shakedown I felt that I had brought way to much food. I never ate any of the Quest Bars. I also found that I do not snack as much throughout the day as I thought I would. Thus, I brought home most of my trail mix and Jerky. Trail mix is super heavy. In the future, I don’t think I’ll bring as much of that.  I will also need to figure out ways to add more calories to my 2 cooked meals of the day. I am going to experiment to see which meals I can add olive oil to.

I really like cooking breakfast. Cooking breakfast means that I get a later start. That’s ok with me because the added benefit of starting later is that those who went before me clear out all the cobwebs crossing the trail. I also like cooking in the cooler morning, seeing the steam rise from my pot, and feeling the contrast of the cool morning air. There is something so peaceful about cooking in the woods in the morning.

My favorite meal was Idaho Tacos. This is a meal that my husband concocted years ago. He’ from Idaho. So, this meal holds special memories. I like beef, so having a yummy meal that includes hamburger is super awesome.  Here is my recipe (for one person)–

Idaho Taco Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup dehydrated Mountain House hamburger
  • 2/3 cup loaded baked potato instant mix
  • 1 tablespoon powdered butter
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 thin slices of hard cheese (cheddar is my favorite)

Pre-trail, measure hamburger into snack size Ziploc baggie. In a separate baggie, measure out taco seasoning and salt/pepper. In a separate baggie, measure out potato and powdered butter.

On-trail, in cook pot (I have a Jetboil), boil 1 cup of water, add hamburger. Let sit about 15 minutes until hamburger is rehydrated. Drain. Add taco seasoning and salt/pepper and mix into hamburger. Set aside. In cook pot, boil 1 cup water, add potato/butter mix. Stir till re-hydrated. Add hamburger to the potatoes, add cheese, stir till melted. Eat!

 

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Comments 12

  • Sandra Moore : Oct 15th

    Vindy- if you’d like someone to hike part of the ST with You, send me a message to [email protected] or 8m on fb under Sandra Moore with my ski crazed husband as my main photo. ( Blue jacket and helmet).

    I used to [2015) long distance hike and have been pondering a hike of the AT for 2 years now. I have pretty severe heart disease but I’m in control. My husband says that he’d feel best if I hiked a Section with another hiker.

    I live in MY & hike and BACKPACK. Also, 8 have friends & family on the East Coast if we need them to pick us up to go into a town.

    Hope to hear from you.

    Sandra aka Montana

    Reply
    • Cindy Stewart : Oct 17th

      Hi Montana:) Where are you from? Where have you backpacked before? I love hearing about other’s adventures. What section are you thinking about hiking next year? Sorry to hear of your dealing with heart disease. Never any fun! Me dealing with Diabetes has been an eye opener for sure. Talk to you soon.

      Reply
  • Sandra Moore : Oct 15th

    SO SORRY FOR MY BAD TYPING SKILLS. IT’S REALLY MY WIDE FINGERS!

    Reply
  • Arthur Hamilton : Oct 15th

    Good for you. I like your attitude. You will do well.

    Reply
    • Cindy Stewart : Oct 17th

      Hi Arthur! Thanks:) I’m definitely one to set a goal and figure out how to accomplish it. Thanks for the supportive comment.

      Reply
  • Ant : Oct 16th

    Im currently training 4 hours a day at the gym. I run up and down a step mountain daily and then work a 12 hour shift. Im currently burning between 6,000 to 8,000 calories per day.

    Reply
    • Ant : Oct 16th

      Sorry, should have said, currently training for my AT thru hike in 2018.

      Reply
    • Cindy Stewart : Oct 17th

      Ufda! 4 hours a day up a step mountain. EEK… You are probably going to be much more physically prepared than am! What are you currently doing for nutrition to keep up with burning 6000-8000 calories a day? I would love to know your strategy.

      Reply
      • NoAnt : Nov 11th

        Ive been seeing a sports nutrionist for about 6 months. Strangely ive not lost any weight but i do have hadhimottos disease. I have lost about an inch. Im lactose free, soy free, gluten free and vegan so i struggle with food. My nutritionist has me in protein powder with lactose free milk but im doubtfull about it. To be honest im not happy with her. I got lucky with a podatrist (he is a marathon runner)when i had my feet checked out. Purely a precaution but as a diabetic its something you may want to do. Take your trail runners with you. Im hoping to shed pounds and grief on the trail too. Hope to see you there 🙂

        Reply
        • Ant : Nov 11th

          Hashimottos

          Reply
  • Fred : Oct 17th

    I too am type 2 diabetic and have been waiting a long time to see something regarding hiking with diabetes. You bring out good information. But I’m going to guess your menu planning is going to get old real quick. I often think I want to do the A.T. but I just know I need at least 20 different options for each meal of the day. I think the food will make or break you. I really don’t think I could relie on food drops because how do you know all your carefully planned meals don’t get old in a week or a month.
    I also noticed like you lots of junk food is eaten. I believe I will start shopping for store bought food that is available everywhere and experiment with them.
    Well anyway I wish you luck, your bio suggests you know how to get things done I’ll be watching for you. 👍

    Reply
    • Cindy Stewart : Oct 17th

      Hi Fred_ I agree with you. My 5 day meal plan will get old pretty fast. It worked ok for my shakedown, other than feeling I brought to much food. I also 100% agree that my nutrition plan will play a huge role in whether I make it or not, especially with managing diabetes. I have the fortune of having a husband that is going to drive up to see me every 7-10 days. He will help to bring me some of my self-prepared items. But, balancing those resupplies with what I can find in town will be key. I hope to find lots of fruits and veggies in town:) And, thanks for your words of support. Hope to see you out there and will have fun conversing via the Trek till then. Let me know if you come with any good recipes with your experimentation.

      Reply

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