View Full Version : Any Serious Hiker's Out There

10-02-2007, 11:53 AM
My daughter and her husband are going to hike the Appalachian Trail in bits and pieces starting with Thanksgiving break from work and school. They have done some hiking in Colorado and took along different brands of what I call "quickie foods."
My question is.....has anyone found a brand of food that they think is the best? (Tastiest, most compact, etc)
I'm thinking of giving them a gift card for Christmas so any suggestions would be appreciated.

10-02-2007, 12:10 PM
Here you go.


and here is the menu table.

menus (http://www.mreinfo.com/mre-menu-2004.html)

Now if you really love them you will find them something else. :D

Actually the new ones as shown here are not half bad and even come with a water activated heater for heating your meal.

Stay away from the brown bags.



Michael s/v Sannyasin
10-02-2007, 12:20 PM
I bought a bunch of backpacker meals to supplement food on the boat and hands down the best tasting was the Mountain House.

I thought they used to have a Curry Chicken, but maybe I'm thinking of the Chicken Teriyaki.

What is great about them is you just add hot water, zip the ziplock bag, wait a few minutes, then just spoon out of the bag. If you don't finish it, you just zip the pouch closed and have some later. Great for when you're in the cockpit alone and you don't want a bowl sloshing around.


10-02-2007, 12:33 PM
get them a dehydrator , they could make their own jerky, dried fruit and chili etc

10-02-2007, 12:40 PM
Chad, I actually ate some of those when a hurricane wiped out our power for two weeks. They were being given away by the Red Cross.
Not bad....

10-02-2007, 12:45 PM
You're right, they are not bad. The brown bag on the other hand, I had to live off of those for a few weeks and they were pretty bad.

The new MRE's, as shown on the menu link, are really quite good. I don't eat as many as I used to, comes with being in a pansy type unit.


BTW Most army/navy stores will carry them.

Milo Christensen
10-02-2007, 12:47 PM

Buy them this book (http://www.amazon.com/Pacific-Crest-Trail-Hikers-Handbook/dp/0963235923). The chapter on trail nutrition is worth the price.

Edit: Is there anywhere on the AT that's safe from snow and freezing temps in late November? Maybe they should look at the average climate data at those elevations in the locations they're planning on.

10-02-2007, 12:56 PM
When I'm hiking, I prefer normal, dried food like Rice-a-Roni, macaroni and cheese or Zatarain's, not the fancy stuff you find in REI. Simple bean soup from the grocery store is great, with copious amounts of Frank's hot sauce... if soaked long enough before boiling and taken in moderation.

When you're hiking long distances like that, most of your eating is uncooked snack food like gorp, cheese, cookies, candy or powerbars, so the cooked meals you bring are less important.

One nice thing to look for is food that can be prepared by boiling water in the pot and then pouring it, with mix, into a cup or bowl... the idea being that you never have anything other then water in the pot. That way, you save a lot of time, effort and frustration on cleaning the pot.

My ideal dinner for a long, light hike is instant soup, mixed in the bowl, not the pot, hot cocoa, mixed in the cup and a hunk of cheese or cold, dried meat like salami.

10-02-2007, 01:02 PM
The good thing about the MRE is you don't need a pot nor do you need a heat source. Each bag is a self contained meal with it's own heat source. Fill the heater to the fill line with water and slip in your main course and in about 10 minutes you have a piping hot meal.


Paul Pless
10-02-2007, 01:10 PM
I agree with ljb5. Definitely check out what health food stores are offering these days - lots of prepared, prepackaged meals that are a giant step up from rama noodles. I've done a few portions of the AT, and unlike some other trails, you can splurge a little on food weightwise, because the trail crosses civilization pretty often for you to be able to resupply.

John of Phoenix
10-02-2007, 01:41 PM
Chad, did you ever try LRRP rations? They were the predecessor to MREs. Good stuff. Chili and beans was a favorite.
We used to trade liquor or Cobra rides or what ever the going price to get them. Anything for a change from C rations.

Beanie Weenies, arrggggh. Even with Tabasco, arrgggh.

10-02-2007, 01:55 PM
No, I never got to try those. I started with the brown bags and went on from there.

I was sure glad when the finally served "T" rats and gave us a break from the brown bag.


10-02-2007, 01:56 PM
Well, it depends on how long they're going and how they're going to find water. Water is kinda heavy, so it's the bottom line consideration for eating while backpacking and hiking. And it's essential for survival, as well, so most serious hikers take something to process the water they find to keep them safe from giardia. In the southern AT that is a serious consideration, although as they work their way into NH and ME it will be less so. They need something to make the water less bland than just water, if only for variety. That's where the vitamin C and sugar come in. Gross as it is, and nice as it would be if Ocean Spray brought out cranberry juice crystals, Tang is pretty efficient for that. Water bottles.

The next essential item for human support after water is fat. Bringing dried meats that have a decent fat content, and dried or semimoist cheeses, can make a big difference to energy.

After that is salt. Make sure the foods they take have salt in them - crackers, salted drier meats, pretzels, salted nuts in the gorp. Bring the salt in the food, not in a separate container.

For a week most humans can get by on much less food than they imagine. I spent a week 2000 feet up on a pond in the White Mountains of NH a couple years ago with crackers, salami, cheese, gorp and Tang. Well, and coffee too. The only really decadent thing I brought was a tiny jar of half and half for the coffee. When I go again this year I will leave the stove at home. If all I need it for is coffee, I don't need to carry it. I can make it through a week without coffee. Nighttime temps averaged around 35 that week.

Warm clothing was essential for me, but may be somewhat less so for them, being so far south and global warming being what it is. The best lightest warm layers they can get will make a huge difference, and 70% of your body heat is lost out your hairline, so hats are really important to keep warm. If it's actually cold, mittens make a big difference too.

Sleeping in an appropriate temperature situation is essential if they get cold. The lightest possible bag to 25 degrees. ThermaRest pads are bottom line for them unless they like pebbles in their backs and hips. If they're willing to tolerate that, all they need is a piece of closed cell foam. And a tent. Bugs aren't fun.

Next is proper shoes and socks. Hard to decide what's the most important - proper food or proper footwear. Ankle support, top notch socks, arch support that actually works, the right sole for Cordilleran terrain - no heel slipping up and down in the boot. No threadbare socks, stinky feet are nearly inevitable, but blisters stop the show.

Adequate rain gear. Boring but terribly important. Must not weigh a lot. Foulies are not the right direction. Elastic, no metal rings, clamps etc. Quick on, preferably breathable, although they might think they can't tell the difference.

Toilet paper. Follow the rules at all times. Something modest to dig with to bury the human refuse.

Rope to hang their food. Bears!

And last is a camera, preferably one that uses minimal electricity.

Nicholas Carey
10-02-2007, 05:04 PM
My standard is NOLS Cookery, the cookbook of the National Outdoor Leadership School. Excellent book.


The Appalachian Trail Conservancy also publishes The Appalachian Trail Food Planner, which, in addition to recipes, goes into the logistics of planning food for a 2,000+ mile hike -- how/where to schedule food drops by mail, etc.


The nice thing about NOLS Cookery is that it tends to avoid the expensive, pre-packaged freeze-dried backpacker foods. It tends a lot more towards cheaper alternatives: lentils, beans, pasta, etc.

One thing to note: if you buy the expensive, freeze-dried foods (at $6-10 a pop), pay no attention to the supposed number of servings. If you're humping a 60-pound pack up hill and down dale, you're going to be easily burning 3-4,000 calories a day, especially if you're hiking in the fall and winter. Something like this supposed "Beef Stroganoff for 2 (http://www.rei.com/product/514070)" offers up only 360 calories per supposed serving.

As far as brands of freeze dried stuff, goes, in my experience, they're all about the same, whether its AlpenAire, Mountain House, Richmoor, Backpacker's Pantry.

I always carry a container of olive oil. As a source of concentrated calories, it's hard to beat: 100g (3.5 oz weight) is about 890 kC (dietetic calories for the non-scientists). And when you're hungry and cold, its amazing how much better [almost] everything tastes with a little olive oil added to it.

Also, Frank's Red Hot sauce ("adds flavor, not just heat"). It's a cajun hot sauce, but milder than the usual ones and with a lot of garlic added to the mix. Spices up most anything.


And Starkist and Bumblebee are now packaging tuna, salmon and chicken in foil pouches, which are, I think, a great option for backpacking.

George Roberts
10-02-2007, 05:42 PM
I always preferred to eat as I walked but ...

3 Musketteers candy bars. Dried fruit. Nuts.

Powdered milk with cocoa and sugar premixed. Instant potatoes with powdered milk premixed.

I like any of the dried veggie meals any brand. Taste them before you buy too many.

Grind them up in a blender if space is an issue.


Calories per day depends on how much you carry and how far you walk.

Wild Wassa
10-02-2007, 06:09 PM
When I go bush bashing I always take lots of home made scroggin.

Meals are meals but you need to keep the energy levels high throughout the day. Scroggin is perfect for doing that. You don't need to stop for long to fuel up on scroggin.

Some photos from a bush bash I did last weekend in the Blue Mountains.

Looking up at a where we were headed through the branches of a Mountain Blue Gum.


Looking back down.


A trail? ... when we go bush bashing all we do is dream of being on trails ... we hardly ever find them either. The best trails around here are the Wombat tracks.


10-02-2007, 06:33 PM
scroggin? Gorp is what we call it here on the west side of the Atlantic Pond!

10-02-2007, 06:38 PM
Get them to read Colin Fletcher's "The Complete Walker IV."

Chris Coose
10-02-2007, 06:40 PM
Read "A Walk in the Woods", by AT traveler Bill Bryson for further reference.

10-02-2007, 08:03 PM
This is a link to the Aussie version of such a track. I've done the section Walhalla/Kosciuszko over a few years. Could you post a link to the Appalachian trail please?
I think Elf has it about right, I do a snow camping trip on XC skis when we have enough snow and I always take some fresh stuff, lemons, peppers, beans, sage leaves, and a few herbs to ginger up the flavours.


Joe (SoCal)
10-02-2007, 08:36 PM
Phil (CSOH) should chime in he's the AT man round here. ;)

Nicholas Carey
10-02-2007, 09:18 PM
This is a link to the Aussie version of such a track. I've done the section Walhalla/Kosciuszko over a few years. Could you post a link to the Appalachian trail please?The US long distance trails are

The Appalachian Trail. Runs 2,175 miles (3,500 km) along the Appalachian Mountains from Georgia to Maine:


The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (http://www.appalachiantrail.org/) is the 80 year-old nonprofit, volunteer organisation that works to maintain the trail in conjunction with the National Park Service. More (much more) at Wikipedia, of course: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appalachian_Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail, much more remote and rugged than the Appalachian trail (the Appalachian range is typically less than 4,000 feet in high) runs 2,650 miles (4,265 km) along the Sierras from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. Altitude varies from some 2,500 feet (765m) to more than 13,000 ft ( 4,000m). The Pacific Crest Trail Association (http://www.pcta.org/) is the non-profit group that maintains the trail. More at http://www.fs.fed.us/pct/ and (of course) Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Crest_Trail

There are other long-distance trails in the US:


including the Continental Divide Trail (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continental_Divide_Trail), which will run some 3,100 miles along the Continental Divide from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. It is about 70% complete, I believe.

10-02-2007, 09:47 PM
Regular old Ramen pretty much sucks, but there is a high quality ramen from Korea, its called Shin Ramyun. Its hot and spicy, the noodles have real noodle consistency, the portion is much larger. I eat it at home, if you put some shrimp or chicken, some mushrooms, some sliced scallions in it, its prime first quality food, I recommend it for home, I eat it. I would not try to live on ramen, but for 99 cents, its the best meal I have ever eaten for the price.

10-02-2007, 10:19 PM
As Popeye stated look into a dehydrator. When I was hiking/camping for7-10 days at a time I was very thankfull for the meals that I had that came from my Harvest Made dehydrator. You can cook a little extra of most any meal or use leftovers in it, this way you know that you will like what you are eating and the cost over time is much less than finding those pre-made meals. Water becomes an issue when hiking I have a PUR water filter that I have had for almost 30 years, one of the first hiking units they put out it works great, while everybody else is checking water temps and trying to put a chemical in the water and waiting,I would be have a cool drink of freash water. Food and water are covered now we need something to snack on and a great trail book is Gorp,Glop & Glue Stew ISBN#0898860172 from The Mountaineers, 1011 S.W. Klickitat Way, Seattle, WA 98134.

one of the simple recipes;

1 cup instant whole wheat cereal
1 cup quick oatmeal
2 to 3 cups chopped dates
1 2.5oz jar dried (chipped) beef
Preheat oven to 400*. Mix cereals and fruit and set aside. Remove meat from jar, separate slices and spread on cookie sheet. Turn off oven and put in meat. Meat will dry out in about 15 minutes--take care it doesn't scorch. Remove dried meat from oven. With rollng pin, crumble it into fine pieces. When it is cool, mix with the other ingredients. Store and cary mixture in a covered plastic container. Eat dry by the handful for trail food, or mix with hot water for a tasty morning or evening meal.

Any questions about the above, please ask

10-02-2007, 10:31 PM
Old but still good is Gretchen McHugh's Hungry Hiker's Book (http://www.amazon.com/Hungry-Hikers-Book-Good-Cooking/dp/0394707745) ; I think you'll have to find one used. Colin Fletcher's Complete Walker series is good, too; the information has changed over the decades.

10-03-2007, 07:40 AM
the wildlife is also edible

10-03-2007, 02:25 PM
Thanks everyone. I knew I could count on you.
I now have numerous ideas to run with.

10-03-2007, 02:40 PM
A friend of mine did the whole AT (boy did he stink when we stopped by to crash in my dorm room!) a few years back. I don't remember his exact menu, but I remember he survived on those noodle-dinner packs for evening meal and ate a significant nubmer of snickers on the go. Maybe he did oatmeal and fruit in the morning -- I don't remember. but those noodle (or rice) packet dinners are light, easy to cook and not as expensive as specialized hiking fare.

Just my 2cents...

Wild Wassa
10-03-2007, 03:38 PM
"... noodle-dinner packs ..."

Poverty packs I call them. Being light is their main plus. If you add dehydrated vegitables to them, then they can work wellish otherwise there isn't much in a poverty pack.

If I'm only going walking for 3-4 days, I get the local curry house to make a couple of hot curries. Madras curry will last a while not refrigerated ... how hot? hot enough for the Madras curry to try to eat its way out of a screw top tupperware container by about day 2. When walking one can only take so much dehydrated food, before you start to feel bloated and stodgy. Real food, fresh food, is essential. I try to avoid dehydrated packaged food as much as possible, I have some stuff as a backup, for if I'm delayed returning. I make sure I'm not ever delayed ... dehydrated trail packs taste terrible.

Scuthorp, I've walked the Alpine Trail from the official finishing point just below Mount Tennant to Kosciusko, then slightly further south to South Ram's Head. I did it in stages, taking nearly 16 years to link the sections together. I've also walked from my home close to the Blue Range north of Mount Tennant, to Mount Tennant, again in stages. I always thought that the Alpine trail needed to include all of the Alps and not terminate at the most convenient bail out point being the Ranger's Station below Mt Tennant. Devil's Peak in the Blue Range is one of the most interesting summits in the Alps and should be included. The summit of Devil's Peak is a large Aboriginal stone tool quarry (Metadolorite), second only in size to Mount Williams (Greenstone) in Victoria.

Two more photos from last weekend. A young Brown Barrel. Mature Brown Barrels grow to be some of the biggest trees in Oz.


Four Coachwood and a Wattle (maybe a Blackwood?). My dinghy is made of Coachwood. Coachwoods are easily identified by the lichens and rich smell.



10-03-2007, 08:49 PM
Well it wasn't hiking... but I've spent some time in the woods. ;)

Last time out, I used one of these Jetboil stoves...


...and was really happy with the results. For a couple of folks, you can get an extra mug and just use one stove.

I'll second the Mountain House recommendation.

10-03-2007, 10:07 PM
You know, in the end, anything in the grocery store thats not refrigerated will work. There's pre-cooked bacon, cheese lasts for days, tons of packaged rice and pasta dishes complete with sauce, just add water. Dried beef, canned shrimp or chicken, good old spam, bisquick. Dried fruits. You could live for a week on 20 bucks, no need for any expensive camp store stuff. Just shop the grocery store and only buy whats not refrigerated.

10-04-2007, 06:43 AM
hiking is best if food is light-weight (sans water) , nutrient dense , and minimal packaging pat

and tastes good , a variety of meats is the one thing missed after a few days

you can make pretty good breakfast 'bisquits' in a pan over camp fire coals with flour , soda , salt and sugar , cut in a little lard , enough buttermilk (or water in a pinch) to make it sticky , bake covered ~ 20 minutes , great with butter and jam and a cuppa perked coffee

George Roberts
10-04-2007, 09:03 AM
PatCox ---

I agree with you. Last time I was out for longer than a week I simply went to the grocery store. Lots of food that just needs water and minimal cooking.