Review: Right On Trek Backpacking Food Delivery
What we fuel ourselves with on the trail is as personal and important as anything else we carry, if not more so, given how infinite the approaches and combinations are.
Right On Trek is a new service that assembles and ships packaged snacks and chef-cooked, dehydrated meals, organized by day and by person. They contacted me recently and offered to let me try the service out for my next trip out with my person, Inti.
Resupply points along long-distance trails are perfectly adequate for many thru-hikers—every town stop can keep you stocked in ramen, tuna, oatmeal packets, and Pop Tarts. Town resupply is more flexible and less expensive than mailing yourself packages. Many, many, many seasoned long-distance hikers swear by it, not least because you don’t know how your tastes and cravings will change along the journey, and it can be tricky logistically to chart out when to send what where.
For shorter trips, and/or for hikers more nutrient than calorie oriented, it makes sense to plan and pack your own food. Even under these conditions, however, it can still be a vexing process.
Nutrients are more important than calories, especially for someone like me, a woman in her forties. I can get away less easily than a man in his twenties with eating Nutella-spread tortilla lunches or spooning frosting directly from a tub for supper.
For my thru-hike attempt (which turned into a 675-mile LASH when my foot broke) in 2016, I did a mix of buying things along the way and preparing things ahead of time. I made dozens of oatmeal packets (personalized: with chia and flax seeds and whole goat milk powder and without sugar or artificial sweetener) and dehydrated dinners (much cheaper than commercial freeze-dried packs and also personalized to my tastes). I was lucky to have a partner back home to mail me various combinations of these, plus plain (no added sugar) dried fruit and nuts, freeze-dried veggie chips, and other healthful snacks.
Since coming home from that trip, I’ve gone on dozens of overnights and weekend trips and two section hikes, and while buying food for these shorter trips is fun because I have access to full-service grocery stores, it’s also overwhelming.
The main value of a service like Right On Trek, to me, is that all the backpacking food is in one place and it’s all pre-portioned. You sign up, answer a few quick questions about your dietary preferences, the number of people in your party, the number of days of your trip, and the number of calories per day per person (the cost is $1/100 calories irrespective of what kind of food you select, plus shipping).
Then you’re shown a pre-populated meal plan: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, that meet your criteria and total your calorie preference. You can swap out whatever you don’t like. The page shows you total calories and weight per meal and per day. Right On Trek gave me a $100 voucher, and Inti and I went in and played, moving snacks and tea bags and breakfasts around until we each had two days of food we liked. Three days later, a priority mail box arrived with four plastic zipper bags of food.
We’re not winter campers, but we are winter day hikers, so we took our bounty out last Saturday for a nine-mile out and back on the Appalachian Trail. It was a delight and relief to simply toss our zipper bags into our backpacks and head out the door.
The dinners and breakfasts serve one (unlike e.g. the two-serving Mountain House dinners, which are really inconvenient for solo hikers or those whose hiking partners have different dietary preferences) and are filled with pronounceable ingredients. We tried the beef lasagna stew (me) and the vegan gado gado noodles (Inti).
If you’re someone who wants mainly junk food, the service probably isn’t for you. Although Oreos and peanut M&Ms are on the menu, most of the snacks are high-nutrient along with being high calorie. The tuna, smartly, is packed in oil. The trail mix is not sugary. The KIND bars are whole fruit.
The dehydrated meals are a bit more complicated to cook than commercial freeze-dried food. You don’t simply pour in boiling water and wait 20 minutes. For my lasagna, I had to first boil water, then add beef and noodles and boil 3-5 minutes, then reduce heat to low, add the seasoning packet, cover, remove from heat, and wait 5 minutes. Not at all difficult, but it was a bit more involved than I’m used to with e.g. Backpackers Pantry or my own freezer bag cooking. The difference in taste between Right On Trek and commercialized freeze-dried meals, at least for the lasagna and the gado gado noodles, more than makes up for the hassle of having to wash my titanium mug.
Given how easy it was to order and pack, how much variety there is, how delicious the chef-made meals are, I’ll use it again. Because of shipping and because all the snacks are individually packaged, the cost is more than if I made my own meals and bought bulk snacks and divvied them up myself, but the time and mental-effort savings are totally worth it to me. I’m excited the service exists and look forward to using it for my first spring section hike!
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