While I sit here waiting for storms to stop raking the Hardangervidda so I can begin my trip I thought I'd share with you my 7-day backpacking menu.
Breakfast - It's good to get yer oats in the morning and this is exactly what I'll be doing. My oat breakfast is easy to make, delicious, healthy and cheap:
- 3/4 cup mixed oats
- 2 tablespoons 'muesli mix' (mixed chopped nuts & seeds)
- handful of raisins
- 1 tablespoon dried milk
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
All placed in a 1litre 'ziploc' freezer bag to which I simply add water, a little at a time, give the contents a good stir and squeeze then wait a few minutes before adding any more water as necessary. This kind of breakfast can be enjoyed with hot water or cold which is a bonus in cases of weather extremes or sudden time constraints due to transport connections.
Snacks - nothing revolutionary here, just a selection of muesli bars, candy bars (marzipan wrapped in dark chocolate being my favourite), small bags of nuts and dried fruit, crushed Pringles and 'energy bars'. The key here is variety. It's well known that even your most favourite snack begins to lose it's appeal after eating it for days at a time. Everything not in it's own wrapper is packaged into small, single serving, plastic bags. I'll pack three snacks per day, one for mid-morning, one for the afternoon and one for dessert/bed-time to stoke up my metabolism before bed and keep me warm at night.
Lunch - On the Nordic Lightpacking trip to Sweden earlier this year I was surprised to find myself the only member who doesn't normally stop for a warm 'lunch'. On that trip it was a case of 'when in Rome' and I 'brewed up' like everyone else but my usual style is simply a pitta pocket or fajita wrap with a selection of shelf-life sausage, long-life cheese, individually wrapped foil pots of fish or chocolate nut spread.
Dinner - There are times when I will buy and eat commercially produced freeze dried meals, the best in my experience are the Real Turmat range by Drytech. In winter I find their convenience and strangely-warming 'stodginess' very welcoming but the rest of the year I like to save myself money and weight (the packaging on the Real Turmat meals is heavy) and increase flavour by knocking up my own freezer bag meals. Freezer bag meals are prepared in the bag and require only water to be boiled in your cooking pot. No washing up necessary. This reduces mess (no trying to scrape burnt cheese sauce from the inside of a titanium pot Gustav!), weight (less equipment and detergent required) and flavour cross-contamination ("Hmmmm, a nice hint of coffee in my macaroni cheese tonight!"). On shorter trips I'll wash out and re-use the ziploc bags.
Based on easy to re-hydrate carbohydrates like couscous, dried potato flakes and small macaroni pasta I play around with other dried or shelf-stable ingredients until I find palatable meals that I'll enjoy and will go some way to refuelling me after a hard day's hiking. On the Hardanger trip I'll be taking:
- 2 x couscous with an Italian tomato & basil flavouring, sun dried tomatoes & pine nuts
- 2 x dried potato flakes with onions, garlic and parmesan cheese
- 2 x macaroni with cheese sauce
To cook these meals I just add hot water to the contents of the freezer bag, stir and squeeze and leave to re-hydrate for a few minutes. At this time of year I find 'cozys' unnecessary. Always add less water than you think to prevent your meal turning into gloopy slop. Volume markings on your cooking pot and writing the correct amount of water required on the outside of the freezer bag helps with this. I'll add tuna (in lightweight foil tubs) or dried spicy chorizo to these meals to bump up the fat, protein and flavour. I also carry a small bottle of olive oil which really helps to add richness and calories to the meals.
Drinks - 'Coffee is god' says the fridge door magnet in our kitchen and I can't argue with that. While I enjoy a really good cup of coffee at home (Ethiopian is my favourite) I'm no snob when it comes to an outdoor cuppa. I just need a jolt of caffeine to wake me up and I've been pleasantly surprised by the flavour and convenience of Starbuck's Via sachets (thanks to Phil for acting as my Pablo Escobar of caffeine). Forgive my inclusion of a sachet of brown sugar, that's just how I like my first brew in the morning.
In the evening I like to sip a warming kuksa of hot chocolate (sometimes with a wee nip in it) and will be packing single-serving sachets that provide enough creamy, choccy goodness for two kuksas worth. During the day I'm happy just drinking the clear, refreshing Norwegian stream water but I have experimented with 'isotonic' powders in the past. They're ok but seem expensive on longer trips. Nuun tablets were my favourite for their convenience and less sickly-sweet taste than the others I tried.
So there you have it, my 7-day menu. Enough calories to keep me going but with a slight deficit that will mean I'll probably lose a couple of pounds, which I can afford at the moment. Enough variety and flavour to stop me getting bored and keep me looking forward to every meal/snack. Enough dried ingredients to keep the weight down so my food bag for the 7 days weighs just under 6.5kgs.
Just enough so when I get back to civilisation I can gorge myself guiltlessly on raspeballer. Nom nom nom!
Useful articles/web sites:
- Groovy-Biotic Cooking - Quick, healthy meals with an ultralight cook kit - Mike Clelland's legendary article on BPL.
- Freezer Bag Cooking 101 - Trail Cooking.com - Good advice and 100's of amazing recipes for the backcountry traveller.