The Secrets Of Ultralight Backpacking: The Eats
Monday 4th Jul
A funny camping story:
My first backcountry camping experience happened in the spring of 2017. My brother, who had some experience where I had none, led us into Frontenac Provincial Park for a two night trip. I have no idea what our pack weight was, but it was way too much. Too many clothes, two days worth of real groceries, beer, and, the piece de resistance, two bagged folding chairs. We were only hiking 5 km, but by the time we arrived at our site, we were pretty miserable. We set up our chairs, opened a couple of beers, and sat looking out over Doe Lake. For two hours.
Two days later, we made the return trip, somewhat lighter having eaten the food and drank the beer. When we arrived back at the parking lot, we dropped our packs and sat on the tailgate of the vehicle for water and a snack. A man, accompanied by a couple of very well-behaved dogs, walked past. The man was carrying what appeared to be little more than a half-filled school backpack, and the dogs were each outfitted with little saddlebags. My brother, glancing at our two large, overstuffed backpacks, asked the man how many nights he was going in for. The man said five. Five nights. The dogs were carrying their own food.
At that point, I was not schooled in the finer points of ultralight backpacking. It was still trying to achieve a car camping experience out of a backpack. But the rule of ultralight backpacking is comfort without luxury; there are no "maybe" items. Nothing without purpose goes in the bag, and everything gets weighed.
Comfort means enough food and means to clean water. Comfort means one must be warm and dry. Comfort means one must be safe. And, comfort means one must be (somewhat) clean.
The Superior Challenge will be 6 nights and 7 days on the trail, and, between me and my hiking partner, we will be carrying everything we will need for the duration; there are no "refueling stations" along the way.
In my experience, I know I do not want to be carrying any more than about 35 pounds. Ideally, it should be closer to 25 pounds, keeping always in mind that the less you have to carry, the more enjoyment you get out of the hike itself, which, really, is the whole point. But, for this trip, I need to be carrying at least 10.5 pounds of dehydrated food (1.5 pounds per person per day is recommended). Carrying dehydrated food is necessary to ultralight camping (as is, unfortunatley, ditching the beer and the lawnchairs).
There are lots of companies making dehydrated food for camping or for emergency preparedness these days, some better than others, but none that yummy, sadly. I am rather fussy about food; I want food to be relatively healthy, be seasoned the way I like, and be delicious. So, I make my own dehydrated camping food, which is the part of the trip planning that really takes the most time and effort. Food prep started a month ago. The added challenge, this time, is that my hiking companion is vegan and gluten free. But, I do love a challenge.
Having some tried-and-true recipes that lend themselves to dehydrating, a good dehydrator, and an understanding of how to rehydrate the food are all you reallly need. So, our meals for The Superior Challenge are:
1. Strawberry and coconut oatmeal (breakfast)
2. Buleberry nut granola (breakfast)
3. Cauliflower and chickpea masala
4. African peanut and bean soup
5. Mushroom stew with mashed potatoes
6. Lentil soup
7. Roasted red pepper pasta with broccoli
There will also be energy bars, flatbread, and trail mix for snacks.
Making my own food also saves weight in packaging when compared to commercial preparations. Each meal is packed in a small zip-top bag. As we have to carry out all we carry in, the sum total of our trash will be a bunch of zip-top bags stuffed into a larger zip-top bag. And, to save plastic garbage from landfill, I wash and reuse the bags at home, so it will be truly a trashless week on the trail, in which I take no small amount of pride. We shall leave only footprints in that sacred place.
What makes up the rest of the 35 pounds in that backpack, you ask? Keep an eye out for the next post. And, if you are enjoying these posts, please consider making a donation to my fundraiser. Thank you!