PCT Food Review: Breakfast

Eventually these posts will comprise a comprehensive list of everything that we ate on the Pacific Crest Trail. They will include how each meal was made/assembled, how we prepared it on trail, and our verdict with regards to tastiness. 

I’m doing it! I am getting around to actually reflecting on our time on the PCT and sharing what we have learned with you. Whoopee! And I am going to begin with posts about food, because let’s face it, food was probably the number one thing we thought about on trail. Well, at least the number one thing our stomaches told our brains to think about. So it begins, the big food review of 2016. Hopefully I will finish it before this year is out. So let’s start where we started every day: breakfast.

Granola/Breakfast Essentials: 21 days worth of meals 

Justification: We love granola, it is our favorite breakfast to make at home and was also our favorite breakfast to eat on the AT. 

Description: We basically bought all of the Nature’s Path Organic Love Crunch Granola every time we went to Whole Foods. We paired it with chocolate Breakfast Essentials to get some vitamins in and give it something a little milky to swim in. Two thirds of a bag of granola and two packets of b-fast essentials equalled one meal. We vacuum sealed the portions to keep the granola fresh while it was waiting in my parents basement.  

On Trail Preparation: Easiest breakfast ever, just throw the granola in the pot, add a little water until the b-fast essentials are the consistency you want, stir it up and share! 

Pros: Delicious. We never get tired of this breakfast. This is our favorite brand of granola, by far. Also really easy and simple, takes zero time and doesn’t require very much water. 

Cons: By the second half of the hike the portion size was no longer enough. We had to pair it with a packet of pop tarts in order to feel full afterwards. It is really sweet, which is fine but breakfasts in general tend to be sweet which can get a little old. Also, as far as breakfasts go granola is a little heavier. If we ended up with too much food and had to ditch something in a hiker box we almost always ditched granola. 

Verdict: Still one of the best breakfasts on trail! 

Breakfast Smoothie/belVita or Poptarts: 28 days worth of meals

Justification: This was kind of a new thing we were trying. The concept here was light, fast, easy mornings. Just add water and drink right? 

Description: We bought a bunch of meal replacement drinks from Whole Foods, and added Nature’s Path Organic Qi’a cereal mixes, of which there are a couple different kinds, but all of which include chia seeds. We packaged these, along with a packet of belVita biscuits or poptarts, into zip locks. 

On Trail Preparation: Just add water and drink! Then you can snack on your poptart or breakfast biscuit while you hike or pack up camp. 

Pros: There were very few pros to our original version of this meal. Actually the belVita biscuit/poptart was the only good thing about it. 

Cons: They tasted pretty terrible, were chunky to drink because of the cereal we had added in, took a lot of water which wasn’t ideal most of the time, and weren’t very filling. 

Verdict: This breakfast needed a big makeover. Our answer came in the Sierras when we were very very low on food and we decided it was finally time to eat two oatmeal packets that had been shuffling around in the bottom of our food sack. Instead of just adding water to this breakfast we decided to cook the oatmeal and add the chia seed/meal replacement powder in with the oats. The result was fabulous. A super filling, light, satisfying breakfast. We saved the poptarts to supplement another meal. From then on out we always bought a couple of packets of oatmeal when we were in town to go with this breakfast. Kyle, who hates oatmeal, even thought this was good. 

Breakfast Quinoa: 10 days worth of meals

Justification: I wanted to try something new and I like quinoa. 

Description: I made a huge batch of chocolate breakfast quinoa. Then I dehydrated it. Then I split it into baggies and added freeze dried strawberries and raspberries and cocoa nibs. 

On Trail Preparation: In the morning we would boil a small amount of water. Once it was hot we would pour in the quinoa, take it off the heat and let it sit in the pot cozy while we packed everything else up. 

Pros: I liked this meal a lot. It wasn’t too sweet, the coca nibs were nice and bitter, and I love freeze dried fruit. It was super super light and took almost no water to make. It provided a solid alternative to the normal breakfast staples. 

Cons: There was never enough of it. Often we would combine multiple bags to make a bigger meal and then still have to eat a poptart with it. Kyle never really warmed up to it. Also, getting the amount of water right was tricky, often we put in too much and it ended up watery.  

Verdict: I liked this breakfast and we will do it again in the future. Next time round thought we will have much bigger portions.  

Oatmeal: 17 days worth of meals

Justification: You have to eat oatmeal on trail, right?  

Description: In an attempt not to just eat shitty trail food I tried to make my own fancy oatmeal at home that would be healthy for us. I bought quick cooking organic oats, and added in powdered milk, powdered peanut butter, dried berries, coconut sugar, and honey or maple syrup packets.  

On Trail Preparation: Boil water, add everything in and let sit in the pot cozy. 

Pros: Very filling. Almost always too filling. 

Cons: We hated this oatmeal. It was terrible. There are still about seven packets of it sitting in our cupboard because we told my parents to stop sending it. Healthy oatmeal doesn’t play well on trail, period. Some of the biggest problems were the berries we added. We tried to mix things up by trying out new types of superfood berries from Whole Foods. Namely we added mulberries, golden berries and goji berries. Now goji berries weren’t that offensive, but I really can’t stomach mulberries or golden berries, no matter how good they are for you. Also coconut sugar really isn’t that sweet and the honey/maple syrup didn’t make up for it. Blegh. 

Verdict: Never again. We figured out how to make good oatmeal (see breakfast smoothie above) and that is what we will stick to from now on. 

Breakfast Lentils: 10 days worth of meals

Justification: Along with the quinoa this was my attempt to mix things up.   

Description: Looked up a recipe for breakfast lentils and then made a large batch at home. Dehydrated them and packaged them up. 

On Trail Preparation: Boil water, add everything in and let sit in the pot cozy. 

Pros: Sadly there were zero pros to this meal. 

Cons: Yeah, breakfast lentils were not good. Part of this may be due to the fact that I used green lentils when the recipe called for red. I couldn’t find red at the store but perhaps I should have looked harder. This meal smelled amazing when I was first making it, the apple spice smell overwhelmed the lentils. But when tasted the lentil flavor never really went away. It was pretty much inedible. 

Verdict: We will not be repeating this one. Unless we just go savory lentils for breakfast, I bet those would be fine. 

Grits: 15 days worth of meals

Justification: Kyle loves his grits.

Description: Bought bulk plain instant grits. Mixed them with dehydrated butter, freeze dried peas, dried green onions, dehydrated milk, dehydrated cheese, salt and pepper and a fine dehydrated vegetable dust. What in the world is a fine dehydrated vegetable dust you wonder? Well as we dehydrated I ended up with a random variety of dehydrated veggies that didn’t belong anywhere. Whenever this happened I just threw them all into a general veggie bag. Then, when I was assembling the grits I decided to pulverize the vegetable mix in the cuisinart, creating a veggie dust. I added this to all the bags of grits. 

On Trail Preparation: Put water and grits into the pot, bring to a boil, place in pot cozy and wait. When you go to mix it up add in some olive oil and hot sauce.   

Pros: This was one of our favorite breakfasts. It broke up the monotony of sweet b-fast meals and provided much needed variety. Also it tasted delicious and was super filling. We started adding two bags of it together to make an even bigger meal. 

Cons: There weren’t really any cons to this meal. I will note that we ate grits on the AT as well, but always the crappy little packets of them which taste overwhelmingly of fake butter. If making our own oatmeal failed then the grits were quite the opposite, putting together our own grits elevated them to a whole new meal entirely. The only other con was that Kyle and I had been fighting a long and exhausting grits vs oatmeal battle and I unwittingly took myself out when I created this incredible trail breakfast. 

Verdict: Grits for days, I say. 

Chiliquiles: 4 days worth of meals 

I actually already did a review of this meal, you can check it out here.

I know a couple of people had questions after I posted that review about our salsa verde recipe. I seriously just google searched salsa verde and sorted through them for one that “felt” good. But there are other options, instead of making your own you could buy salsa verde and dehydrate it.  In the end I am sure having a good salsa verde will make this meal better but any old off the shelf salsa verde will probably do just fine. This is backcountry cooking after all. And you are going to be starving.

Made in Nature Pouches: 4 days worth of meals

Justification: They had them at REI and we were intrigued. 

Description: They are pouches of precooked grains with beans and veggies added in. They are all savory. 

On Trail Preparation: In the morning we would plop the contents of the pouch in to the pot along with a little water to soften everything up. Then stir constantly on the lowest heat possible so things don’t burn. Add a little olive oil and hot sauce if you have it. 

Pros: These meals were good and savory, which is always a big plus in our books. 

Cons: They were kind of heavy and not very filling. We would have needed one pouch each to make this meal worth it and then it would have been even heavier. 

Verdict: Fine for a shorter time out but not great. 

And there you have it! All of the breakfast options that we prepared for ourselves before starting the trail. Of course things came up, boxes didn’t make it and we occasionally had to buy food in town, which we had planned for to some extent before leaving. In the end we prepared about five months worth of food and we finished the trail a month early so we had some food left over. That is one of the risks of preparing your food ahead of time. But our breakfasts were much more varied and interesting than they had been on the AT and we continue to learn more and more about what we like and want when we are on trail.

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As Edward Abbey said, "An indoor life is the next best thing to a premature burial."

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