“The thing about food is it’s all good, but there’s no food as good as trail food.” – Ratatouille
I love cooking. I enjoy the process of combining a variety of ingredients and mixing flavors to create a unique result. When I first started backpacking 17 years ago, I bought an Excalibur food dehydrator and started making my own instant meals. I quickly tired of eating the same dishes day after day. Somewhere along the way I realized that if I prepared all the ingredients separately, I could mix and match them on the trail and never eat the same meal twice.
Wild rice, quinoa, red cabbage, tomato paste, pinto beans, black beans, carrots, and broccoli.
I’ll be using this technique for most of my meals on my upcoming thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. I tend to skip breakfast when I’m hiking. If I want a hot meal before midday, it’s usually oatmeal. Unlike a lot of people, I actually eat oatmeal when I’m not hiking, so I’m not too worried about getting sick of it on a thru-hike. Otherwise I just snack on cold foods: trail mix, dried fruit, bars, and so on. I usually cook two hot meals later in the day using my arsenal of ingredients.
My earliest camping experiences go back to my childhood in Minnesota. My mother took my brother and me on trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area from a very young age, usually with other friends or family in tow. We’d paddle and portage from lake to lake for days at a time. My mother was (and is) an experienced wilderness adventurer who enjoyed occasional solo trips as well. She taught us how to appreciate the natural world while having fun and staying safe. These memories stand out more clearly than any others from my youth. Jumping out of a canoe to swim in the middle of a lake. Eating freshly caught fish roasted on the campfire. The magical sound of loons singing at night.
Even though I grew up in the suburbs, my childhood was filled with opportunities to appreciate nature. Cross-country skiing. Ice fishing. Visiting my grandparents’ farm. Hikes through local wilderness preserves. Family road trips. Camping with friends as a teenager.
With my brother in Alaska. (I’m on the left!)
I moved to Oregon on my own at the age of 19. It wasn’t long before I heard the wilderness calling my name. I figured I had enough experience that I could just head out onto the trail without advice or guidance. Fortunately I did know enough to keep myself safe. What I didn’t know was how to pack for a trip when you have to carry everything on your back. I was used to packing more than one bag per person, and carrying it all in a canoe. It didn’t take long for me to learn from my mistake.