Prepping for the Appalachian Trail: Food

In which almost innumerable calories are prepared – and, in one instance, consumed without permission.

Let’s Eat!

In the midst of all the training, there also comes the fundamental question: What the hell am I supposed to eat during all of this?

Most people go into town every 3-5ish days to do a resupply; the practice of doing mail drops has trended downward over the years. But there seemed something kind of cool and strategic and even Olde Tyme Charminge about it. Plus, I had been messing around with easy-to-make backcountry meals on weekend hiking trips for a while (perhaps subconsciously in anticipation of this?) and had a few recipes I figured I could mass produce.

Which ended up being MASS produced.

The forces assembled. This ended up not even being everything I needed.

You Can Get It In What Size?

An all-too-easy series of clicks later and the boxes started arriving: quick-cooking pasta, dehydrated vegetables, powdered cheese, you name it. I have no doubt that there was, at some point, a message transmitted that went something along the lines of, “Hi, FBI? This is Amazon AI-Bot calling. I just wanted to let you know that this guy over here recently snapped for some reason, don’t know what, and has gone full-on prepper. Have a great day.”

But so help me, I used it all.


Lots of people have asked, so in brief, dinner is the following:

Instant mashed potatoes
Quick-cooking pasta
Dehydrated vegetable mix
Textured vegetable protein
Powdered cheese
Powdered butter (yes it’s a real thing and it’s fantastic)
Nutritional yeast
Nori seaweed
Salt/pepper/paprika/garlic powder

Yes, I have only one dinner. It’s a risk, I know. But it’s satisfying and very versatile. So we’ll see how it goes.

The assembly line.

There was a learning curve with preparing the dinners, but I eventually got into a system where I could crank out 18 at a time. If you get the proportions right, the mix will just fit into a snack bag and is around 550-600 calories. So it can be a meal on its own, or if I’m starving I can scale it up. If I need variety I can supplement it with other stuff.

Assembled dinners.

I can go for long stretches eating the same thing on repeat, and after much tinkering I’ve gotten this meal pretty tasty, but at the same time I recognize that there’s got to be a limit. A commonly-heard term is “hiker hunger,” which I think you get the gist of from the name. This meal goes with pretty much anything; if I need to give myself a little added “boost” of a box of mac and cheese, I have that option. And all this will be punctuated by in-town visits, where I’m sure many a veggie burger will be downed. So yeah, we’ll see how it goes.

They also pack up nicely, which helps space-wise.

Breakfast and Trail Mix

For breakfast I made a dehydrated egg meal (also with the veggies/TVP/cheese/butter/etc.) and also a granola mix with freeze-dried fruit (man it was hard not to overdo it on the fruit), powdered milk, and powdered peanut butter (also real, also fantastic). These also pack a lot of nutrition into a small package.

I knew I’d also need granola for trail mix, so I, uh, ended up going pretty big on the granola. Yeah.

Ever wonder what 25 pounds of granola looks like? Now you know. Those are 12- and 18-inch rulers for scale.

Which turned into 90 breakfasts and an almost-as-ludicrous bag of trail mix, which was an even 15 pounds with all the fruit/nuts/etc. I added in.

Snacks! And Other Items

The days would be long and lonely without them. I have lots of energy bars, but there’s still room for things like dark chocolate-covered raisins too. Because, frankly, there needs to be.

I also got supplies of other items like coffee and tea, toothpaste, sunscreen, etc.

Perhaps the most important decision: what coffee should we bring?

Birch’s Food

This was actually one of the biggest factors in deciding to do mail drops in the first place. I needed a similar savings in space/weight savings for her, as straight kibble can get pretty bulky. This will also keep her diet consistent and I won’t have to switch up food on her all the time. She’s got a freeze-dried mix as well as regular kibble, plus lots of small treats and larger chew sticks to have at the end of the day. She’ll have earned them.

Boxes Going… Somewhere

All these supplies are now at my very, very gracious friend Maddie’s house, and as I move north I’ll have boxes sent along the way. Post offices, hostels, and some stores along the trail will hold packages for hikers. So it will be fun to try and fine tune this process.

The Nose Knows

All this food was airlifted to the house over a period of several days as I assembled this menu. And so the pantry got full. Really full. And every time I saw it, it was a good reminder that, more than ever, I should remember to CLOSE THE PANTRY DOOR whenever I left for work so Birch wouldn’t mess with it. And even in all the hustle and bustle of other preparations, I did very well and remembered to close it every time.

Until the day that I didn’t.

She only got into one thing. But that thing was the powdered cheese.

This was full the last time I saw it.

She didn’t even make a huge mess. She had just worked her way steadily through about half the container, no doubt with much licking and smacking of lips, until presumably her instincts told her she was about to salt herself into the Great Beyond. She greeted me at the door panting, eyes glazed, her water bowl completely empty. I filled it and she schlorped up about half a gallon before I let her outside to unleash whatever she was holding onto in the back yard. I couldn’t watch.

The container has 110 servings of 1T each; at 35 calories per serving, that’s a cool 1,925 calories right there. In cheese. A banner day for her no doubt, and now at least we know it’s harder to overdo it on powdered cheese than one might have thought.

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Comments 2

  • AmaSue : Mar 30th

    Looking forward to following along on your adventures, especially how your food drops pan out for you. I’ll be using food drops (food allergies) as I make plans within the next few years. Haven’t found bulk granola yet so now a new search begins…lol have a great day!

  • MK : Mar 30th

    I’d love your recipe / ratios for the dinner! Any chance you’d be willing to share??


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