Walking Distance #05 | Backcountry Food Featuring Aaron Owens Mayhew

In this episode of Walking Distance presented by The Trek and hosted by Blissful Hiker (Alison Young), we are joined by Aaron Owens Mayhew, a registered dietician and thru hiker. In 2017, Mayhew left her career to thru hike the PCT, and has since section hiked some of the AT and the Oregon Coast Trail. She’s also the founder of Backcountry Foodie, a site that she runs with her husband, Chris, to provide meal plans and shopping lists, community forums, masterclasses and other resources surrounding hiking food.

Blissful Hiker covers why the two lb/day backpacking food principle may be a myth, how to pack more calories into less space in your pack, and how to stay high energy on the trail with carbs, proteins, and fats.


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Interview with Aaron Owens Mayhew

1:00 – How did your hiking food evolve over time?

2:10 – One of the most vexing problems backpackers have is deciding what to eat. How do we carry all the food we want and need?

2:50 – Background on Backcountry Foodie

3:40 – How did you get into your business?

4:20 – You touched on the 2 pound principle for backpacking food. Why is that a myth?

5:15 – Is your main angle to allow yourself to focus on nutrition and calories first, and weight of the food second?

6:10 – Do you have general staples that people should be thinking of?

7:15 – In bear country, you have to pack your food into a bear canister, which some hikers find difficult. What’s your method?

8:15 – You mentioned dehydrated quinoa, and I want to ask for any listeners who might be thinking, isn’t quinoa already dry? What’s the dehydrating step?

9:20 – Another concern is the amount of time hikers spend at home preparing their food, if they choose.

10:35 – You mentioned quinoa and pasta as dry food bases. Would you put anything else on that list?

11:25 – You mentioned oils, and I never feel that I can take it with me, because I’m such a messy backpacker. How do you carry oil without making a mess, and the importance of it?

13:20 – It’s important to stay ahead of possible health problems or deficiencies by packing the right foods, and eating at the right times too.

15:15 – Backpacking and diets just don’t mix. Why do we crave salt and sugar so much on the trail?

16:40 – Your meal plans are cross referenced with a typical pantry. Can you talk about that?

17:25 – Do you have any recommendations about eating 3 meals a day, or snacking, or is it individual? 

17:57 – I mentioned getting into Backcountry Foodie was a real game changer for me, and one of the big changes was starting to cold soak. Do you cold soak, or do you recommend it?

19:40 – You have a recipe for us today, which was one of my go-tos. What is it?

20:45 – You mentioned hiker hunger, and I’m thinking of bonking, running out of energy. Do you know what the signs are and how to avoid it?

21:50 – You’ve created 3 sample meal plans for listeners, which we’re attaching in our show notes. There’s gourmet, cold soaking, and grocery store quick meals. Is there anything else you want to say about your eating philosophy while on trail?

23:30 – Backcountry Foodie is a hiker’s friend when it comes to staying fed and not bonking on trail.

Mentioned in this episode:

Backcountry Foodie Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake recipe

Backcountry Foodie: Granola with Milk and Berries recipe

Backcountry Foodie: Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta recipe

Backcountry Foodie: Brownie Batter Hummus recipe

Backcountry Foodie – Ultralight Recipes for Outdoor Explorers cookbook by Aaron Owens Mayhew

Aaron Owen Mayhew’s posts on The Trek

Get all of the Walking Distance Podcast episodes.

About Alison Young

Alison Young, aka Blissful Hiker, is a former host and producer at American Public Media and professional flutist. She’s thru-hiked New Zealand’s Te Araroa and the Pacific Crest Trail, as well as long trails in South America, South Africa, Europe, Pakistan and all over the US. In her podcast The Pee Rag she shares personal essays from the trail along with collected sound. Her goal in life is to hike until she drops.

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