Alright, installment number two in our review of the food we ate on the PCT. Today we will be talking about snacks. A lot of people have actually asked us what we ate during the day while we were hiking because apparently figuring out what to pack for a jaunt in the woods is trickier than one would assume. Well allow us to share all of our endless wisdom on the subject.
To begin with you probably need to understand a little about the structure of our average day. Everyone hikes differently, but Kyle and mine’s preferred hiking schedule to wake up and eat breakfast, break every two hours (or after a certain number of miles depending on the day) for a snack, eat dinner around five or six o’clock and then either eat desert at that point if we have made camp for the night or keep hiking for a couple more hours and eat desert upon reaching camp. Some people prefer to have a bigger meal at some point throughout the day and will stop for a longer mid day break to whip up a peanut butter and trail mix tortilla burrito or ramen bomb (ramen noodles rehydrated with a little water and some seasoning in a small space to make a solid ramen chunk). However, once we are moving for the day we prefer to continue moving, keeping our breaks below fifteen minutes. I also tend to feel sick if I eat too much food and then try hiking again, so I prefer to wait for dinner to chow down.
Other things to note about our snacks. As you may remember we had all of our food sent to us via food drops from my parents. We didn’t want to pack every single box ahead of time because then we lost the flexibility to request boxes with specific amounts of food in them. So instead we set up a bin system that allowed my parents to build each drop when we called it in. This was great except that it made snacks kind of tricky. What we ended up doing was purchasing twenty “big snacks” (one for each drop) and then a ton of smaller snacks. We took the smaller snacks and portioned them into baggies. Each baggie had a days worth of snacks for two people. All the smaller snack baggies lived in one bin and all of the “big snacks” lived in their own bin. Then when we would call my parents would place one “big snack” into the drop and a baggie for every day we would be out. If it was a five day drop we would get five snack baggies.
So, snacks. What were the favorite things in our snack bag?
Justification: I mean, who doesn’t eat bars while they are hiking?
Description: As you can probably imagine Kyle and I have eaten A LOT of bars in our life of outdoor adventuring. As a result there have been times when we have opted out of the bar life, but in the end they really are the most convenient snack that exists. In order to combat bar burn out we decided the best tactic was to buy the widest variety of bars possible. We spent months compiling an arsenal of different bars from different stores. The end result was positive, I don’t believe there are currently any bars that we can’t stomach. There was the classic Cliff Bar and Cliff Builder Bars but then there was a whole bunch of other bars: Luna Bars, Pro Bars, Pro Bar Base Bars, Think Thin Bars, Power Crunch Energy Bars, Bounce Energy Balls, Bobo’s Oat Bars, GoMacro Macro Bar, Kind Bars, Lara Bars, Quest Bars, and Colossal Bars. There was also a random smattering of Trader Joe’s granola bars.
On Trail Preparation: Take out of wrapper. Eat.
Pros: Bars are easy. They don’t spoil for months. You can carry them in your hip belt pocket for on the go snacking. Lots of protein in a small package. Also, some of them are really good. My personal favorite is any of the Pro Bars. I am actually still obsessed with them. Kyle prefers the super beefy protein bars, like the Pro Bar Base Bars and the Cliff Builder Bars. We both liked Bobo’s Oat Bars, although for the entirety of the trail we thought they were called Bob’s Oat Bars. Also high on the list of nummy bars were Luna Bars and Power Crunch/Think Thin Bars.
Cons: We managed to avoid the biggest con of bars: repetitiveness. However, there were other cons, like some of the bars are disgusting. On the of the flavors of Bounce Energy Balls tastes like vomit. Quest Bars are just a solid hunk of yuck. GoMacro Macro Bars, which looked super super heathy were compiled of way too many tiny seeds. The good news is we now know what we like and what we definitely do not like.
Verdict: Bars. Gotta have ’em when you’re hiking.
“Fruits and Vegetables”:
Justification: Fruit and veggies are obviously solid hiking choices because they have tons of nutrients in them. Of course, we didn’t actually carry fresh fruits and vegetables because they are really heavy, but we did have a couple of options for getting them into our diet.
Description: When it comes to eating fruit and veggies on trail you have a couple of options. You can do dried fruits and veggies, fruit and veggie leathers, or purees. When it came to dried fruits I highly recommend Trader Joe’s. They have a wide variety of dried fruits in large packages and it won’t break the bank. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s both have solid fruit leather options as well, although if you want to include veggies in your diet I highly recommend making your own leather. It’s really easy, blend whatever veggies and fruits you want together until they are a thick sauce consistency and then dehydrate. You can roll them in plastic wrap or vacuum seal them, just make sure you look into proper storage if you are going to wait a while to eat them. Our favorite fruit/veggie snack was the pureed version. And yes, by fruit/veggie puree, I do mean baby food. Our favorite brands include Pumpkin Tree’s Peter Rabbit Organics and Plum Organics.
On Trail Preparation: Munch munch munch.
Pros: Probably some of the healthiest snacks we had on trail.
Cons: While we will continue to eat all three of these fruit/veg iterations we did learn some things. For starters, an entire bag of dried candied ginger is A LOT of ginger. Also, dried white nectarines look like weird old man testicles and don’t taste great. The leathers are great and I would like to make some more of my own in the future, however storage and consistency will require some work. The one we made (mango, apple, carrot) was delish but extremely sticky. The purees were amazing and we love them, however they are heavy. We would carry a couple each drop and split them at breaks. Also the purees create a lot of trash which is frustrating and seems wasteful.
Verdict: Honestly some of our favorite snacks.
Justification: Kyle likes jerky. A lot.
Description: We either buy jerky or meat sticks/bars. Jerky and meat stick/bar brands we like include Krave, The New Primal and Epic.
On Trail Preparation: Nom, nom, nom.
Pros: Kyle really loves jerky and the meat sticks/bars.
Cons: I do not love jerky and found the meat sticks/bars very off putting..
Verdict: We will continue carrying meat things so Kyle can eat them. The pro here is that since he has a snack that I don’t eat I often get to covet something else in the snack bag.
Random Snacks We Liked:
Moon Cheese: Super yummy little crunchy cheese snacks. These are so good and it’s hard to have cheese on trail, especially in the desert because it gets sweaty and gross.
Mr. Cheese O’s: These are also amazing, although there are never enough in one bag.
Halfpops: We bought a bunch of these at REI and they turned out to be pretty damn good.
Haribo Gummy Bears: For some reason we got addicted to gummy bears early on and they became a staple of our snack bag. Also, apparently these cause diarrhea but we never had a problem…
Rain City Crunch: Really amazing crunch salty sweet granola like snack made right here in the Northwest (Edmonds to be exact). We were obsessed with these.
Crackers: Crackers were an obvious and common part of our snack bags. I linked a bran from Trader Joe’s that we enjoyed.
Hummus: So one of the snacks we made ourselves was dehydrated hummus. We bought different hummus brands (mostly from Trader Joe’s) and dehydrated them. On trail we would add a tiny bit of water at our first snack break and then let it rehydrate while we hiked. At our second snack break we would have delicious hummus to eat on crackers. Also, in researching for this post I have discovered that Trader Joe’s has recalled some of their hummus’ due to possible listeria contamination…
Roasted Plantain Chips: These are a great snack.
Cookies: I would be withholding information if I didn’t tell you that we ate cookies frequently as snacks… I linked one brand from Trader Joe’s that we liked a lot.
Trail Mix: Okay yes, we ate trail mix. Sometimes. Begrudgingly. Trail mix is one of those things that we are still a little burned out on. But Trader Joe’s does carry some really good flavors. The flavors that we didn’t complain too heavily over included: Sweet, Savory & Tart Trek Mix and Peanut Butter Cups Trax Mix. The rest made us angry.
“Fish”: Occasionally we had packets of tuna and salmon sent to us. Kyle HATES tuna, so those packets were only enjoyed by yours truly. The salmon was quite good. When eating tuna I prefer to have a couple of packets of mayo and relish to mix in, which you can buy off of Packit Gourmet.
Oloves: I really like olives, so this is a fun snack. Also, another one that Kyle wont touch so I get to eat all of them.
Butters: There are, of course, all of the different single servings of “butter” that you can buy these days. Justin’s makes almond butter, peanut butter, hazelnut butter, and all the others as well. We find these to be really dry and unpleasant, except for the chocolate hazelnut butter one, which is basically Nutella.
Protein Powder: One of the things we did on the PCT for the first time was end every day with a protein shake. This is an important part of taking care of your body while you are hiking: consuming protein within thirty minutes of ending physical activity. I have linked our favorite brand and flavor.
Emergen-c: We eat a lot of Emergen-c. And I say eat because we just pour it straight into our mouths and chew, washing it down with a sip of water. We only like the tangerine flavor. They help with vitamins on trial and give you a little boost of energy.
Chia Seed Squeezes: These are also great for an energy boost and they taste great. Only downfall here is they are kind of heavy.
Are you satisfied? Obviously this is not the extent of all the snacks that we ate over the four months of hiking on the PCT, but it is a representative selection and includes most of our favorite foods. Since our biggest focus when planning snacks was variety we rarely ate the same thing more than a couple of times and although we hated some of the things we ate we enjoyed most of our snacks.
The last thing I will say about snack planning for a thru hike: you will never be full. Many people reading the blog expressed concern about how hungry we were all the time, why didn’t we just carry more food? Ultimately the problem is at some point (around four days worth of snacks) you can’t actually carry any more food. For starters your food bag is already too heavy, making your pack heavy and the hiking hard and you even more hungry because you have to carry the damn thing. But also the dry sacks we use to pack our food into are only so big and if you want to responsibly hang all of your food at night it has to be able to fit into the dry sack. We ended up discovering that four days worth of snacks was about all we could carry. And in the end we ended up carrying four days worth of snacks whether we were hiking five days or two days. If we were out for a short period of time we would feast like kings, and if we were out for longer we would ration our snacks, staring sadly into our food bag at the end of every break. And no matter what we did we were still hungry. In the end hunger is just a feeling you learn to live with on trail.