Preparing for the Trail – Part 2: Let the Dehydration Bonanza Begin!
So in my last post, I discussed how I determined where I would be starting the trail: dun dun duuuuuun, Mt Katahdin! Great! I know where I will start, I know where I will end; what the heck am I going to do in-between?
One big question I get from people, after telling them about my upcoming adventure, is “What will you do for food?” “Will you hunt your own food?” “Do you have to carry 6 months worth of food with you?” “You mean you’re going to mail yourself packages along the way!? How are you doing that?” These are all phenomenal questions that required my immediate attention when beginning to plan my trip.
For me, the first question I had to answer was how much money did I realistically have to spend while I was on the trail? What were my financial responsibilities at home that I needed to reserve funds for? Without getting into the nasty, ugly, beast that is called BUDGETING, allow me to answer this in a more simple way. I had VERY little funds to work with! 3 degrees worth of high level education will do that to you. So, I needed to plan my meals the cheapest way I could.
I could do what a lot of thru hikers do, and live solely on ramen noodles and peanut putter wraps, however, I also knew that the majority of thru hikers are malnourished due to their dependence on these stellar meals. I wanted to prepare a game plan that was low cost, but also provided the nourishment I would need to complete a 2,200 mile hiking trip.
What were my options?
- Purchase food with good nourishment in town = high cost, undependable nourishment (Not every town will have everything you need. Some towns may not have much at all for you to choose from)
- Survive on ramen noodles and other cheap foods shipped to me in advance = mild cost but lacking appropriate nutrients to sustain such a journey
- Survive on purchased ramen noodles and other cheap foods in town = low cost and low nourishment
- Dehydrate my meals and ship them to myself along the way = mild cost, good nutritional value and dependable!
Ding we have a winner! Years ago when I was considering doing the AT, a friend of mine had given me a large packet of recipes that I could cook and then dehydrate and vacuum seal. He had done the trail previously and swore by this packet. All I needed now was a dehydrator. So, I did what most broke people dreaming to do the AT do; asked for a dehydrator for my birthday or Christmas. I also asked for gift certificates to Eastern Mountain Sports so I could purchase the multitude of equipment I would need for this endeavor; but that is for another post.
Upon my surprise, behold, a dehydrator was delivered as the last gift I opened on that cheery Christmas morning! My significant other and his sister had purchased it for me – a 9 shelf Excalibur Dehydrator! I couldn’t wait to start it.
Since that time, I’ve tested many different kinds of food to dehydrate and I’ve been able to come up with a few different recipes, some found online, some created on my own, that I will depend on during my long trek in the woods. I’ve dehydrated everything from broccoli (an ultimate failure) to watermelon (AKA Watermelon candy – fantastic!)
, blueberries (another failure – became dehydrated mush) to chicken (when rehydrated, very good!).
So with no delay, here is what I have come up with to date as far as meals are concerned (this is still a work in progress):
- 2 oatmeal packets with dehydrated fruits mixed in (vary what goes in – strawberries, mango, bananas, raisins, oranges and persimmon)
- Coffee (black) <- an absolute MUST for me!
- Kind bar
- Banana Chips
- Dehydrated cucumber
- Dehydrated watermelon
- Dried Persimmon
- GORP (good old raisins and peanuts)
- 2 wraps with peanut butter and banana chips
- Same as AM snack
Dinner (the best meal of the day)
- Steak with mixed veggies: Dehydrated steak with Montreal steak seasoning, grean beans, carrots, and potatoes
- Chicken and CousCous with mixed veggies, macadamia nuts and apricots: Dehydrated chicken, mixed veggies, macadamia nuts, apricots, couscous, thyme and garlic powder.
- Other dinners I still have to experiment with (most likely at least one Alfredo dish with chicken)
With all these meals, all I have to do is either eat them dehydrated, or just boil some water and add the pre-packaged meals. Everything I have listed I have tested and tastes amazing! My game plan is to come up with enough options that I don’t get bored of the meals I have shipped to me.
So how do I plan on getting these meals?
While you can look online and find resources from other people that have done the trail, it is very difficult to try and plan when and where you will be picking up your care packages. Who will send them to you? How do you pack them accordingly? How do you prepare for the unknown? How long does it take to get there?
There was one really good resource that Karrit Tree and I were able to find from a fellow thru hiker of years past. This gentleman had documented via spreadsheet all of the stops that you can have packages delivered to, how long they’ll be kept there, how far away from the trail it is, and roughly how early someone should send that package. This was a great place for us to start our planning.
Once again, I returned to our bible; The A.T. Guide 2015 Southbound. Between these two resources, Karrit Tree and I were able to guestimate when and where we would be, how many days it would take us to get to each stop, and what hostels/hotels, etc accepted thru hikers packages. We are still in the process of contacting all of these places to make sure they still accept packages and how long they keep them for, but we have a preliminary list, as well as back up places in case we get off schedule or off course.
Lastly, I spoke with the UPS and was able to determine roughly how many days in advance would be needed to ship each container and how much it would cost. With those last bits of details, we have been able to really dive into our planning process and the dehydration bonanza has begun. Roughly 3 times a week, you can find me at home, grilling or dehydrating something for the trail. I have vacuumed sealed single serving dinners for myself, pre mixed, and ready for boiling water. Now my only concern is how to fit all the food I will need to carry between mail stops into my bear canister! But that is for another post!
I hope you have found this both entertaining and instructional (to a point). If you are interested in knowing more about the meals I have prepared, what the exact recipes are, or have any suggestions or other comments, please comment below or email me at [email protected].
Until next time – happy hiking!
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