Saturday, March 30, 2013

Packing for another trip

I'm planning to hike the Appalachian Trail through New Jersey in a few weeks.  It's a beautiful area.  When I thruhiked in 2010, I knew I wanted to come back and spend more time.  And now I finally will.

The first thing I do when I'm planning a trip is try to figure out how far I'll walk every day, where I'll stop to camp, and where the water supplies are.  Once I have that laid out, I look at my resupply opportunities.  In this case, they aren't good.  There's a small general store (Horler's, in Unionville NY) several days in, and that's about it.  Take into consideration my gluten sensitivity and dairy intolerance, suddenly food is a real issue.  I won't be able to eat a lot of what I find in most stores.  So today I went to the grocery store to try to get enough backpacking food for the whole 8-9 day trip.

On a trip of that length, I have multiple considerations.  Primary is weight.  I will be able to buy some snacks at Horler's, and Joe To Go might have drinks or chips I can buy.  But mostly I'll need to carry my food.  After weight I'm concerned with variety.  Being hungry AND carrying extra weight in food you can no longer stand to eat (and I'm talking gagging when you try to swallow, here) are crazy-making.  So I know that I need variety.    I also need things to pack small enough that I can fit them in my backpack and still carry enough other gear to stay safe. 

Because my food will take up a lot of room and weight on this trip, I'll be carrying smaller and lighter versions of some of my other gear.  I'm still taking my 15 degree sleeping bag.  I can't compromise on warmth in camp.  But I'll take my little tyvek rain jacket instead of my big old Marmot Precip.  I might take my little antigravity gear stove rather than my larger and heavier Jetboil.  And I'll probably take my little Zpacks tent rather than my larger tarptent or LightHeart tent.

Last year I absolutely loved Packit Gourmet's breakfast smoothies.  They taste fantastic, and they're super high in protein.  400+ calories and 35 grams of protein is hard to beat, especially considering that each weighs less than 4 ounces.  The problem is that they're dairy based.  I decided to try making my own, and it turned out pretty well if I do say so myself.  I've found two different gluten free vegan smoothie powders - one chocolate, one vanilla.  To those I've added either strawberries, peaches, or pineapple and coconut, as well as stevia and dried whole goat milk.  I got the fruit freeze dried from my local grocery store (with the exception of the coconut, which I already had in powdered form.)  I used a mortar and pestle to crush the fruit to a powder and add it to the mix.  I've tried peach vanilla at home and it was DANG good.  I'll have that, plus chocolate strawberry and vanilla coconut pineapple.  I'm considering a vanilla apple cinnamon too.  That sounds like it would be good cold or hot.

I didn't make all my breakfasts up to be smoothies, though.  Again, variety is key for me.  So I threw in two different flavors of oatmeal, one Jamaican Peanut Porridge, and a couple different flavors of gluten free breakfast bars.  Every day I also get to have a serving of instant coffee with powdered goat milk and a little sweetener.  I used to bring dunk bags of coffee, but then I'd have to pack out the wet coffee bags.  Instant is good enough.

I mixed it up less in my daytime snacks, but they all taste pretty great so I don't need to.  This has been my standard snack bag for several years:  Welch's fruit snacks, a handful of nuts, a little box of raisins or four prunes, a couple pieces of hard candy, and several fun size candy bars or one full size one.  I can't have most trail bars now, but I like Kind bars quite a lot so now I pack a variety of those.  Most days I'll also throw in an energy gel.  They're good for that late in the day push up a mountain, when you realize you aren't as close to the shelter as you thought you were.

Every day I have a salty snack of some kind.  Doritos, Popchips, cheesy poofs (which, shockingly, can be bought gluten free), gluten free pretzels, and most varieties of potato chips are still good options for me.  The saltier and more flavorful, the better.  I also have one (or two, in hot weather) packets of Crystal Light every day - the varieties with the electrolytes in them.

Because I snack often, I don't always eat a real lunch.  If I do, it's minimal.  Maybe some Nut Thins (which have bonus protein since they're made from nuts) with sheep cheese or peanut butter on them. 

By the end of the day I'm usually tired (go figure) and uninterested in making a production out of dinner.  These little noodle soups have been my go-to easy dinner for years.  Luckily they're made with rice noodles so I can still eat them now.  I also like to carry out a retort packaged Indian dish for the first night, like Kashmir Spinach.  Neither the soups nor the Tasty Bite dinners are high calorie.  They're just something warm to put in my belly at the end of the day.  I don't usually do a big meat dinner.  Instead I bring pepperoni, bacon, sausage, and packaged chicken or tuna that I can eat a little bit of at lunch or dinner if I'm in the mood.  I get a lot of protein from my smoothies and nuts.  If I feel that protein is an issue I'll put a package of beef jerky in my snack bag for the day.

I have a few other favorites that often find their way into my food bag.  Crystallized ginger tastes fantastic and settles the stomach.  Fake gluten free oreos make for a nice rest break.  Hot chocolate is delightful for breakfast or dinner.  Werther's candies have been a staple for over a decade.  Dried mango is the shiznit.  And if I can get them, homemade Rice Krispy treats (with gluten free rice krispies, now..) really float my boat. 

So I purchased all this stuff and brought it home and packed it up.  It was REALLY HARD to pack it and not eat it.  I did do a little taste test to make sure the fake oreos were edible.  (They are!) But I persevered and packed for not only my New Jersey trip, but my next trip with DeLee.  Now I just need for it to be time to go.