My evolving trail diet in search of the ultimate burrito

The most thought about item on my thru hike: FOOD! Whether it was planning food for the next 5 days on the trail, picking out which restaurants to visit in town or enjoying some trail magic nourishment; Food was constantly on my mind. Here’s a recap of my food choices and how things changed as I perfected my backcountry culinary skills.

The initial approach – CARRY TONS OF UNCOOKED FOOD:

I departed from Amicalola Falls with over 10 pounds of food consisting of dehydrated meals from Outdoor Herbivore, oatmeal, peanut butter, ProBars, a few bars of chocolate, coconut oil and other fixings for my oatmeal – I WAS ALL SET FOR THE LONG HAUL.  I also sent out food drops to the NOC and Fontana Dam hoping to have enough food to get to the smokies.  On day three I arrived at Neels Gap, where it was possible to fully resupply and I still had almost all my food.  Three days after that I was in Hiawassee, GA where again a full resupply was possible.  At this point I had devoured my chocolate, some oatmeal and the ProBars. Surprisingly the coconut oil, cinnamon and salt and pepper didn’t see much use… Within my first week on the trail I learned that food resupply was super easy and cooking food on the trail sucks! I had no energy nor a desire to get extra water necessary for cooking all the time.  If I was just out backpacking for a few days dehydrated food from Outdoor Herbivore is the way to go but for a thru-hike I needed food that I could eat right away and find in trail towns along the AT.

Second Approach – Instant everything:

Gone were the dehydrated meals, non-instant oatmeal and seasonings. In was ramen noodles, instant potatoes, instant oatmeal, cliff bars, pop tarts and lots of peanut butter.  While most of these items still required hot water they could be rehydrated with cold water if necessary.  Now once I made it to camp a few minutes later I would have a feast of instant potatoes and ramen on a tortilla with a little peanut butter flavoring. Pad Thai Burrito anyone? I’m getting hungry just thinking about this meal!


(Ramen, Instant Potatoes and hiker box Bacon Bits!)

The real game changer for me came when “Turbo” introduced to me the fact that instant oatmeal (the one loaded with sugar) could be rehydrated with cold water and still tasted good.  I gave it a try one morning when I awoke to heavy rain and didn’t want to fire up my stove.  Turns out he was right, I adjusted my breakfast concoction in the weeks following and eventually was having a delicious oatmeal meal every morning.  Here’s the recipe:

  • 3 packets of flavored instant oatmeal (flavored is the key part here)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup water – too much and you have runny cold oatmeal soup
  • 1 PopTart crumbled up
  • A couple scoops of peanut butter

Pour the oatmeal into a ziploc bag, add the rest of the ingredients, mix and enjoy! You may find this to be so delicious that you eat it off trail.

Now I was starting my day with some cold oatmeal then going with all sorts of bars during the day and finishing with a ramen/potato creation for dinner. Only complaint I had was the lack of dinner variety and still the use of a stove was required. Time for another approach to trail food.

Third Approach – Tasty instant food with no stove required:

Since I was already eating most of my food without the use of my stove I spent many days thinking of how to create a no-cook dinner to complete my exquisite backcountry food menu.

The answer came from Uncle Ben. Uncle Ben’s fully cooked rice that is.  It’s available at most grocery stores in 8 oz packets of cooked rice (yes slightly heavy, but so good).  The rice does not require heat or water to be eaten and usually comes with beans and seasonings providing a decent amount of taste and calories.  With my dinner options now seemingly endless I spent each resupply getting different additives for the rice to create a burrito that would be envied by all other hikers.  Behold the recipe for the burrito grande especial:

  • Tortilla’s (Whole Wheat or Flour)
  • 8oz Uncle Ben’s Flavored Rice
  • A can of pringles
  • 2.5 oz Flavored Tuna Packet
  • Ranch Dressing and or Frank’s RedHot
  • Avocado

For the pringles, pack these out of town in a ziploc bag, simply crush them up in a ziploc and you’re good to go. Grab a tortilla and fill it with some rice and tuna. Then throw on some crushed pringles and ranch or hot sauce or both if you really want to live it up.  Top this burrito with some avocado and you’re ready to feast.  Caution: Try not to eat this around other hikers or they may try to steal your burrito from you, it’s that good.

Now if you can break away from eating these delicious burrito’s while in town, I suggest you fill up on the items lacking in your trail diet.  Buffets, subway and really any place with ALL YOU CAN EAT is recommended!

20150612_163259(The AYCE buffet is Waynesboro, VA is a must visit)


(Occasionally you will come across signs for Trail Magic Feeds, change all your plans to make sure you get to these)

20150428_073901(When departing town a hearty breakfast is essential)

20150714_121417 (There is a section in New York where you can get one of these every day!)

20150825_073345(Legendary trail magic in Maine)

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Comments 1

  • Michael Akerley : Jan 1st

    The suggestions and comments from past and future hikers have been priceless in helping me select my gear for my 2016 Flip Flop starting in April from Harpers Ferry WV. I too have bought, tested and bought other equipment to improve weight and function. I have bicycled for years and have completed tours up to 600 miles. This is a learning process and at 64 I am enjoying the experience. Mike.


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