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Best No Cook Trail Menu
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Kari Post
(karipost) - MLife

Locale: New Hampshire
Best No Cook Trail Menu on 06/05/2012 06:56:54 MDT Print View

I'm planning to hike the Long Trail this summer and was hoping to do it no cook to save weight on fuel and stove (and also because I tend to prefer snacking to meals and often dislike eating hot meals when I'm hot). I've started to create a menu but could use some suggestions: currently my menu consists of mostly nuts, dried fruit, bagged fish, dried meat jerky, some cheese, and some granola. I'm definitely lacking in the veggie substitute area.

I expect to take about 3 weeks to finish (although I'm giving myself a month) and would like to do it without a resupply (with the exception of any farm stands and wild edibles I find), so I need things that won't spoil. Any suggestions?

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Best No Cook Trail Menu on 06/05/2012 09:24:04 MDT Print View

Do you eat lentils? I make cold salads out of preccooked/dried with veggies added and packets of dressing, all shelf stable. They are very tasty, especially with crackers.

Jeffrey List
(jlist) - M

Locale: Cape Cod
Best No Cook Trail Menu on 06/05/2012 10:41:50 MDT Print View

So you are planning to carry a month's worth of food from the start? That sounds tough.
But if that's the plan, absolutely everything you take better have a very high calorie density, at least 125KCal/ounce. That probably eliminates the fish, jerky, and granola right off.

Food must be full of fat to get the calorie density high enough.
No-cook food I take:
Fritos corn chips
Tsampa with olive oil. (Tsampa is a traditional Tibetan pre-roasted barley flour dish eaten by sherpas. I pre-mix the tsampa flour with nuts, raison, and spices such as cinnamon and ginger, and then add olive oil and water on the trail. It's basically like eating cookie dough, only not as good. Sources of tsampa (NFI): )

Kari Post
(karipost) - MLife

Locale: New Hampshire
Thanks! on 06/05/2012 20:08:20 MDT Print View

Thanks guys! I actually can eat surprisingly very little (or rather, function better underfed than overfed) so in doing my calculations I think I can carry it all from the start. I do plan to start with A LOT of food (it will be well over half to two thirds the weight of my pack), but I think its doable and will add to the challenge. Fortunately, if I mess up there should be opportunities to resupply.

My main concern right now is not that I won't have enough food, but that the variety will be quite limiting and therefore nutritional content, vitamins, minerals, etc. won't be balanced. So all your tips are helpful!

Edited by karipost on 06/05/2012 20:08:59 MDT.

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
no-cook on 06/06/2012 05:02:20 MDT Print View

We've done this a few times on hot summer trips albeit not longer than 14 days. If you have a dehydrator you can make all sorts of things for the trail that are no cook. Lentil salad, as Sarah mentioned, is a good one as are things like hummus and other spreads/dips. Chia can be made into a pudding of sorts with a little cocoa, coconut and dried fruit. The chia is nutrient dense, light, and a great source of calcium. Quinoa tabbouleh is another go-to of ours. You can make things like homemade date bars and the like too but the dehydrated foods will definitely save you bulk and weight.

Edited by Laurie_Ann on 06/06/2012 05:04:41 MDT.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Thanks! on 06/06/2012 08:11:26 MDT Print View

Make sure you pack enough fats. They will fuel you and keep you full. The weight may seem heavy upfront but you won't regret it. I know I crave oils and fat the most when hiking.

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
no cook meals on 07/19/2012 11:18:05 MDT Print View

In May of last year Seattle Backpackers Magazine published my article The No-Cook Trail Lunch.

This might provide some inspiration.

Andrea Feucht
(misstenacity) - F
Fats yay, greens nay on 07/24/2012 21:22:08 MDT Print View

I'm getting into light backpacking after many years of ultrarunning, but when I think "get the calories in, period" I think FAT. FAT FAT FAT.

Jars of almond butter, coconut manna, homemade pemmican. It's only a few weeks; you won't die from lack of lettuce. So you'll get bored, SO WHAT? Learn how to pick wild plants and be careful, of course. But yeah pretty much what I would back would be whole-food based fats. Maybe cheese? Some big-wall friends used to take a 2lb block of cheddar on El Cap and just slice it off until it was gone. And some macadamias if you're feeling spendy.

If you're not stick-skinny already, you'll be fine. We're built for long treks with minimal sustenance.

Your Mileage May Vary.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Best No Cook Trail Menu on 07/27/2012 20:36:21 MDT Print View

I just came back from a hike with some CDT thru-hikers who were no-cook. They basically would rehydrate their meals a few hours in advance. They were able to rehydrated all kinds of mixtures of dehydrated vegetables, potatoes, meats and grains. They'd pour olive oil in when it was time to eat to boost the calorie count and make it more satisfying.

One of the guys made yogurt out of Nido every night. He started with some store-bought yogurt as a starter and was now just mixing a fresh batch in the same bag, using the leftover yogurt residue as a starter. He'd sleep with it to get the culture going.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Best No Cook Trail Menu on 07/27/2012 23:41:11 MDT Print View

William Segraves
(sbill9000) - F - M
cookless options on 08/03/2012 05:09:51 MDT Print View

I usually go cookless when I'm solo. My list looks pretty similar to yours, with a few additions. Powdered hummus is good nutritionally, and great with crackers. Instant mashed potatoes rehydrate easily with cold water. Mixed with a little Nido, they taste better. To make them really good, and add more protein, bring grated parmesan/romano cheese. Dried chives add a little color and flavor, and with some bits of jerky, they start to taste like something one might eat at home. Dehydrated refried black beans (Santa Fe Bean Company) are another good source of vegetable protein. They're slow to rehydrate in cold water, but do decently if you give them enough time. But I also like to munch them dry - they're like chips. And speaking of chips, crushed corn chips hit the spot on the trail (I prefer blue corn). Real vegetables are a little trickier. Lately, I've been bringing dried seaweed snacks that Trader Joe's has started selling. I like these enough that I eat them at home, and while they'll probably disintegrate a bit in your pack, it doesn't change the flavor.

My biggest challenge on long trips is keeping the calories/gram high, and that means good fat sources. Nuts, nuts and more nuts, and lots of Nido for after the string cheese runs out.


Bill S.

P.S. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm betting that kumquats would be a great way to bring some fresh fruit. Relatively low water content for a fruit, you eat the whole thing, lots of flavor and vitamins in a small package, pretty durable, at least for a day or two. Has anybody tried them for backpacking?

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
A different approach on 08/03/2012 07:36:16 MDT Print View

The popular approach based on the comments above seems to be maximize fat to get weight efficiency. Assuming you have a few lbs of fat ready to be sacrificed then there may be a better approach, max out your carbs vs fats. I am no dietician but my understanding of hiking nutrition is that you need a source of carbs in order to burn fat. And if you have sufficient fat stores then there is little need to carry more. Likewise, you will need carbs to efficiently burn fat so maximizing carbs gives you the highest potential of utilizing your body fat as a fuel source.

This approach would not work with a longer duration hike such as a thru of the major trails. In that case you are trying to fuel the daily calorie burn (short term) and keep from losing too much weight by the end of the trip (long term) so overall calorie intake becomes much more important. Most people won't have to worry about the long term on a trip of your duration unless you have single digit body fat which Many claim but VERY few actually have. In your case you will either be doing it in a shorter duration than a month or low daily miles vs a traditional thru so long term weight lose is unlikely

I used to believe in the whole maxing out the calorie per ounce approach on shorter trips such as this. It makes a great spreadsheet, tracking calories per ounce, but it less than optimal in reality.

One final note. I haven't looked into the logistics of the long trail but I would never carry more than a week's worth of food if there was any sort of resupply option close to trail. It just isn't worth the extra weight and it limits creative local food (fresh) options and of course, the opportunit to stuff your face with copious amounts of yummy calories.

William Segraves
(sbill9000) - F - M
maxing out at either end is not so good on 08/03/2012 18:29:34 MDT Print View

IMO, maxing out at either end of carbs vs fat is not such a good idea. Sure, you can go with almost no fat, but you'll be carrying more weight to do it, and if you're like most people, you won't find your foods as satisfying as those in a more balanced diet. And while you could probably live on a diet of 90% olive oil for a while and save some weight, you'd get sick of it pretty fast. (In my experience, most people get disgusted by a super high fat diet before they reach the point that evidence shows they'd be having a problem from too few carbohydrates.)

Reasonably healthy diets from around the world include a wide range of fat/carbohydrate ratios, and so can backpacking diets.

When I took my first shot at what a week's worth of food at would look like, it was just over 110 cal/oz, nearly 50% carbs and a little less than 40% fat. I'm used to eating a lot of nuts, and my first shot included Nido, so my first shot was higher fat than some people's might be. (This is a 3000 calorie/day diet on which I'll lose about 1/2 pound/day if I'm doing full trail days.)

When I finished tweaking it, it was more like 125 cal/oz, < 40% carbs, ~ 45% fat, and I'd saved about 1.2 pounds. Was it worth it? I'd say so, but it was a challenge! Things like the refried beans and instant potatoes I mentioned have essentially *no* fat. It takes a lot of Nido at 50% fat to make up for that. Parmesan/Romano was a tasty way to balance the potatoes. Hummus at 40% fat will never get me there, but it's pretty balanced on its own, and it's good.

So at least when I say I'm pushing the fat to keep the weight down, that's what I'm talking about - the challenges of getting it up to 45% or possibly 50% - well short of a diet of butter sticks dipped in peanut butter and olive oil, and well within ranges that should include adequate carbohydrates.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: maxing out at either end is not so good on 08/03/2012 19:22:49 MDT Print View

"When I finished tweaking it, it was more like 125 cal/oz, < 40% carbs, ~ 45% fat, and I'd saved about 1.2 pounds."

This is almost exactly where I have ended up. My current mix is ~43% carbs, ~47% fat, and ~10% protein with a weight of 19.5 oz/day and 2650-2700 calories, depending on the specific ingredients. This does me fine out to 8-9 days, during which I lose ~1/2# per day on average. I do not do high mileage, however; my max is ~18 miles, with an average closer to 8-10. Continuous high mileage days would require far more calories after a few days, the exact number depending on how much body fat a person was carrying.

"Was it worth it? I'd say so, but it was a challenge!"

+1 to both statements for my particular style.