Food for an Overnighter

Overnight Backpacking Food Rations

I’ve been asked about doing a food-related post a number of times in the past and I’ve decided to make an initial foray into this with a post about overnight trips.  I will probably go into more in-depth food planning for longer trips in the future but for now here goes.

I’ve done backpacking trips as short as a 1/2 day out, spend a night, and a 1/2 day back to hikes as long as being out on the trail getting resupplies for a couple months.  When it all comes down to it however most of us are weekend warriors and we get a backpacking fix through a series of one or two night trips throughout the summer and maybe a week or two trip once every year or every two years.  A lot can be learned from the simple “24 hour” trip and the formula used to plan it can easily be multiplied by however many days one will be out on the trail.

The necessary planning that goes into these trips is extremely simple once you’ve done enough of them.  All that is needed is a simple gearlist to check off before venturing out and a small pantry of easy to grab food items.  That’s it.  Pile up your gear, grab some food, fill your water bottle, and hit the trail.

This past weekend three of us set out for an overnighter and I took a picture of the food I was carrying as an example of just how simple it is.  Everything pictured above are items I always have stocked in a box stored in an out of the way cabinet in my kitchen.  In the box are an assortment of bags of granola, packets of coffee, energy bars, chips, and dehydrated dinner choices.  Whatever I feel suits me for the weekend is what I grab.

Ultralight Backpacking Cookset

An hour or so is spent on a Thursday evening piling up my gear followed by 30 minutes or an hour with the pile of food and my scale weighing out what is needed.  I use Mike Clelland’s system for food choice which requires each backpacker bring 1.4 lb (.63 kg) of dry food per person per day.  This means that an overnighter will basically consist of a 1/2 day in, a night, and a 1/2 day out which all-in-all adds up to one full day, or 1.4 lbs of dry food.

My morning routine is almost always granola and coffee for this kind of trip.  On longer, big mile trips I may not heat water in the morning so coffee may wait ’til the late morning or be consumed cold but on a chill trip a relaxing cup of morning joe is pretty much the best way anyone can spend any time and that’s all I have to say about that.  Lunch and snacks for me are a combination of energy bars, chips, summer sausage, and cheese.  A nice balance of sweet food and savory foods is good because you don’t always know what mood you’ll be in and what kind of food you want.  If all you have is choco-minty-sugar-flavor energy bars and all you want to eat is salt-bomb-chip-nom-noms you might be let down.

Dinner is the most artistic and varying bit of my “formula”.  I vary in dinner foods from the super simple (ramen noodles covered in instant sausage gravy) to the gourmet (shrimp tettrazini cooked and dehydrated beforehand at home).  For easy to store pantry stuff I recommend instant mashed potatoes, ramen noodles, instant dry sauce packages, and whatever sort of dehydrated goods are available at your local grocer (corn chowder, split pea soup, dehydrated beans, et al).  Above is a combination of dehydrated corn chowder, beans, and assorted dried veggies, topped off with a beef bouillion cube.  I almost always carry a small plastic bottle full of olive oil (easy, dense, cheap calories) and a bottle of some sort of salt/pepper/Lowry’s/whatever type of seasoning.

The pictured quantity of food is tiny and fits into the bottom 1/3 of a 12.5×20 OPsak odor proof sack which is then put into a stuff sack.  The one photo’ed is a Hyperlite Mountain Gear cuben sack that is about as finely produced a stuff sack as exists on the market today.  The whole thing gets run into a tree on a 2.2mm piece of dyneema cord attached by a mini carabiner and will hang all nice and snug while I slumber away under my tarp a hundred meters away.

Happy nomming!