WaterThere is a depressing shift toward hikers carrying disposable, single use, bottles of water. Single use water bottles are one of the biggest frauds visited upon the American public. Much of the time, the water is merely tap water, not spring water. If it is spring water, it has been shipped a long distance, adding to the carbon cost.
Most of the time, these bottles are not recycled, and more than two-thirds of these bottles end up as landfill. Those which are "recycled" are actually "down cycled" They cannot be turned into other bottles: they are fashioned into items such as picnic tables or fleece fabrics. The process uses some nasty chemicals as well.
The rationale seems to be that these bottles are light. True. However, they are disposable. One may purchase soft water bottles from such companies as Platypus and Nalgene which are just as light and have a lifetime guarantee. The environmental load of these bottles is outrageous, and backpackers should eschew them.
A dichotomy of hiking is that even though one is working extremely hard, often the appetite is suppressed. Hiking in extremely hot weather really suppresses it. Often at the end of a long, hot day salty foods like chips are the only thing that really taste good.
After about a week on the trail, however, appetites double. I have seen this happen over and over again. Perhaps because the body metabolism has increased. Keep this in mind if planning a hike more than 5 or 7 days long.
As a rule of thumb, one does not eat as much as one thinks one will. It is much more common to have a bag of food left over at the end of a hike than to run out. Teenage boys are the exception.
These portions usually work for me:
I like a fast breakfast, except on layover days. One cup of old fashioned dried oatmeal (I can't stand the instant stuff), cooked, with dried fruit and nuts with two cups of cocoa (I don’t drink coffee) Or a Packit Gourmet smoothie or two instant breakfasts. Mountain House has a breakfast skillet which is good and hearty. Packit Gourmet has a Santa Fe breakfast corn pudding that I like.
Lunch is basically snacks eaten all day. Two cheese sticks, a sandwich bag of crackers, a half sandwich bag of dried fruit, one of trail mix, and one of nuts. Four dry cookies and lemonade or dried ice tea mix ( I don’t personally care for energy drinks). In hot weather I might add a single serving bag or box of chips. Salts rule in hot weather. If a hiker is on a severely salt-restricted diet, she should probably not be on a strenuous backpack. I throw in a couple Rice Kripy Treats for emergencies. They weigh almost nothing.
Dinners are usually more relaxed. It is not a bad idea to start with an instant soup. This restores the lost salt and allows the body to relax enough to actually feel hungry. Then a freeze-dried, add water only meal. Usually a two serving meal is enough for one if there is no soup or dessert. The “single serving” meals sold are actually more like a serving and a half, and are just about right. It is possible to divvy up a two-serving meal (divide it before it gets wet, and be sure to put half the flavoring into each bag, or night one will be bland and night two will be Whooie!). Once the meal is re-hydrated, saving it is impractical and throwing it out is bad juju. So you are stuck with carrying it.
Nothing wrong with freeze-dried food. It is light and easy to fix. Just add water: my kind of cooking. But I do get tired of the same old four or five entrees.
I like Mountain House, and like their Lasagna, spaghetti, stroganoff, tetrazini, mac and cheese, chili mac, and sweet and sour pork best. REI gives a 10% discount if you order eight or more food items at once.
I've found some companies that have different types of dried and freeze dried food.
Enertia foods were recommended to me by Backcountry Ranger Della. The entrees I've tried are still add hot water and wait, but they aren't really freeze dried. They don't have meat. They are in individual serving sizes, which works well for me.
The Pinnacle Pasta was excellent. Very spicy. The Glacier Garlic Noodles were so garlicy I didn't have to worry about vampire attacks at night. Very good. The San Juan Stroganoff was a little bland for my taste. I won't buy it again.
Didn't care for the Moosillauke Goolash, the Max Patch Mac and Cheese, or the Parker Pass Potatoes. Also too bland. The Allegany Alfredo Noodles were bland until I added a packet of tuna: then they were fine.
El Capitan Three Bean Chili was too bland until I added a summer sausage. Also the beans had a deleterious effect on my gastrointestinal system which lasted most of the night and next day (which is why I saved them for the last night).
Packit Gormet has some really interesting stuff. Some of it is a little heavy. Often they come with packaged mayonnaise or dressing mixes to help with the flavor. They have a lot of no-cook options.
Their dried cheese spread and chicken salad spreads make good alternatives to cheese sticks and peanut butter. The chicken salad spreads are huge: they make a good lunch for two without any other trappings but some crackers. Half of a chicken salad with some bread or crackers also makes a good non-cook dinner. Mountain House makes a chicken salad mix as well. Not as hardy and the chicken is not as good, but it is a lot easier to mix. Packit Gourmet chicken salad takes a long time to re-hydrate.
The All American Burger wrap is a good non-cook dinner. For $1 more one may add mustard, catsup, relish, and mayo, or one may sneak over to a local fast food place and obtain these extras for free. Didn't care much for the black bean burrito mix. Too bland, even with the added salsa.
I like their smoothies for those mornings when I don't feel like cooking oatmeal. They are pretty sticky when mixed in the bag. A canteen or a large bowl works better. I think the peach smoothie is best. The kiwi berry and the berry taste the same to me. Tropic fusion is Okay: pineapple/coconut mix is not my favorite. The Packit Gourmet items are marked, "best used within one year". I have found that the smoothies, at least, taste odd past this date, and I have even gotten slightly nauseous using these past the "best used by" date. Since I tend to buy a lot of hiking food and store it, this is a problem for me.
All the deserts I have tried have been really good, but a bit heavy. The pumpkin cheesecake was spicy. Lemon cheesecake was good, if a little bland. Sometimes I divvy these up into two packets and eat half for breakfast.
They also have boil-in-the-silicone-cup baking mixes, and they sell the silicone cups. The first time I tried it, the pot was way too small, and it made a big mess. Tasty, but a mess. Haven't tried it again with the proper sized pot.