Trail Food

Inexpensive, yummy, healthy and ultra lightweight. These are the 4 parameters we’re all trying to maximize. Here’s one of my favorite recipes: home-dried veggies and instant rice. Very easy  but you do need a method for drying food. I have a dehydrator and I consider it part of my backpacking gear. You can also use the sun. Look on line for simple food drying methods if you’re not familiar with it.

I begin with a bag or two of frozen mixed vegetables and toss them into the dehydrator (or sun) for a couple of hours. Before drying, determine how much of the vegetables you would eat in a single sitting with a serving of rice. They will be very small when completely dried. Using frozen vegetables eliminates the mess and time required to cut them yourself. I put my food together in the weeks leading up to a trip. These packets are being prepared for an 8-day hike on the Colorado Trail next week. If I were preparing for a 2-month trip I would of course be working my food much earlier.

I have two bags going in here. The top is a Mexican vegetable mix. The bottom a soup mix. I’ll get 2-3 meals from each. Experiment. I admit that some of my concoctions don’t always please me, but they usually please me more than most of the prepared foods on the shelf.


Those two bags dried down to 1 1/2 cups, 1/4 cup per meal. Don’t be fooled – it’s more than you think. Mixed with 1/4 instant rice it makes a very filling and healthy meal for me.


Now comes the hard part. Mix equal parts rice and dried vegetables. Add herbs. My favorite is a mix called Herbes de Provence. Sometimes I toss the rice in tamari sauce then dry the rice. I also use Italian spices and add dried tomatoes, onions and peppers to the mix. It all works. And this is the final product:


Dry everything completely as they will mold if they’re damp and set aside for weeks or months. I don’t worry so much when I’m planning to eat it within a couple of weeks. I also dried 3 apples, enough for one trip, and left them slightly softer than I normally would.

And now for the best part: cooking. I’m big on using as little fuel as possible. It’s a weight thing. So I carry a pint container with a leak-proof lid. An hour before I plan to eat I put the day’s dried meal packet into the container with 1 cup of cold water. By the time I’m ready to cook all the water has been absorbed and the vegetables are hydrated. All that’s required is a quick heat up.


All that’s left to do is eat and watch the sunset. Enjoy!


Footnote: The final product, packaged in paper envelopes rather than plastic. I’m using business envelopes cut in half and butcher paper stapled along the edges.








Okay, time to get serious

I’ve now read Bill Bryson’s book, A Walk in the Woods, once and watched the movie three times. I’m ready to begin my own adventure. I fear if I watch it one more time I’m talk myself out of going. As a line in the movie goes: Why hike it? You can see the whole A.T. in 4 minutes on the internet.

I’m not sure that keeping up with the adventures of others is a good idea. Many of the adventures are not that pleasant. But honestly, whenever I mention it to friends and family I get the same reaction that Bryson got – upraised eyebrows and concerns about my sanity. The only place I find any sympathy or understanding is from other A.T. wannabes. Not quite true. I’m encouraged to follow my dreams, sometimes cautiously (Are you sure that’s a good idea?), other times with modest enthusiasm and a kind of if-you-plan-it-maybe-I’ll-come-along-for-a-week response. I need to buy the book about Grandma Gatewood to continue to inspire me when I weaken.

grandma gatewood

Grandma Gatewood (

After all, the A.T. is unlike any trail in the world. It’s its own beast, its own brand of Americana insanity. I’ve heard it described as a moving city that’s 2,200 miles long and 6 feet wide, with a population of about 3 million supported by all that they need to survive their ordeals: grocery stores, hostels, hotels, shuttle services, medical facilities and outdoor gear shops, to name just a few.

I’ve just arrived in northern Texas from my home in western Colorado. While not exactly like the climate of the southern 1000 miles of the Appalachian Trail – the portion I intend to attempt first – this climate gives me a feel for what I’ll be facing. Yesterday it rained. Not the soft rains of western Colorado that are a delight to walk in. No, these rains are deluges, as if the sky were an ocean with the bottom ripped out. It doesn’t rain, it pours. Standing inside and looking out it’s awe-inspiring.