Appalachian Trail Food

Many thru-hikers use the AT as an excuse to gorge on anything light, tasty, and oh-so bad for your arteries. Lucas and I both know that we function optimally on clean, low-glycemic foods. Below is our list of healthy hiker grub.

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Breakfast: Even a life of get-up-and-go needs a little routine. We plan on boiling water for coffee and oatmeal in the morning, with granola or trail mix thrown in. Warm liquid to slurp and hot food seems like a good way to get our minds ready for another day of carrying 20+ pounds through the woods.

In case we wake up in a rainstorm and want to munch on the move, we will also eat

  • Bars (see list below)
  • Toaster pastries

Snacks: About half our daily calories will come from snacks.

  • Bear Valley Pemmican Bars
  • Skout Organic Trailbars
  • Nugo Organic Bars
  • Variety of other whole grain/high protein bars
  • Homemade trail mixes (a lot of our calorie intake relies on this!)
  • Homemade dried fruit: banana chips, apples, pineapple, mango
  • Almond and Peanut Butter
  • Cookies
  • Dark chocolate
  • Beef Jerky
  • Tortilla and Pita chips

Lunch: Around midday we will take a longer, hour-long rest. We’ll eat our lunch along with the snacks mentioned above.

  • Almond/peanut butter with tortillas
  • Bagels w/ Nutella
  • Dehydrated hummus with crackers
  • Dried cheese with crackers or tortillas
  • Tuna in foil packets

Dinner: We plan on eating a warm, stick-to-your-ribs dinner each night. If it is raining, we might settle on “lunch” foods. For extra calories, we’ll add sporkfuls of coconut oil or olive oil.

  • Instant soups (miso, black bean, chicken, or lentil)
  • whole wheat angel hair pasta, Parmesan cheese, and jerky
  • Mac and Cheese with tuna or jerky
  • Instant mashed potatoes
  • Stove Top Stuffing
  • Quinoa and dehydrated beans

Drinks:

  • Hot chocolate
  • Tea
  • Ground coffee (cowboy style)
  • Apple Cider
  • Gatorade
  • Emergen-C

For more information on how we picked specific foods, check out Backpacking Nutrition.

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Backpacking Nutrition

On average, Appalachian Trail thru-hikers burn about 4,000-6,000 calories a day. Our goal is to eat the amount of calories required, as well as pick the most nutritious, calorie-dense, delicious, and affordable options. We’ve also decided to schedule mail-drops rather than purchase our food from local grocery stores, mainly because it is cheaper to buy in bulk/ahead of time (in small towns off the trail, a pack of Ramen can be $1 a pack!). I admit, it has been slightly overwhelming to plan our food for the next five months–who knows how long it will take for us to tire of trail mix–but I believe that variety is key to a happy hiker stomach.

After reading the NOLS Cookery book and various websites, I have determined that I will require approximately 4,000 calories a day, while Lucas needs about 6,000. I have also concluded that a diet consisting of 50% carbohydrates, 35% fat, and 15% protein is ideal for our daily hiking mileage and trip duration. Fat is the most calorie-dense food, so a diet high in fat allows us to reduce our pack weight while maintaining our high calorie count. It is important for us to be aware of our consumption of non-nutritious foods while thru-hiking. Although Poptarts provide a high amount of carbohydrates and fats, they do not contain sufficient nutrients and minerals needed to function optimally (not to mention, they’re highly processed). Therefore, we will take a multivitamin, carry Emergen-C packets, and try to eat as healthy as possible.

Here’s the equation I used to determine how much food I will carry per day:

(4000 calories/person/day) ÷ (120 calories/oz) ÷ (16 oz/lb) = 2.08 lbs/person/day

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organic bars, 4 cal per g, and just 41 cents a bar!

Using the NOLS Cookery book, here’s our daily food allowance in percentages:

  • Breakfast = 15%
  •  Lunch and Snacks = 50%
  •  Drink mixes = 5%
  •  Dinner = 25%
  •  Desserts = 5%

I used these meal percentages to determine how many grams we can carry of each (Yes, GRAMS. Lucas bought a scale… the scientist in him wants us to be as accurate as possible). For example,

(2lbs of food/person/day) x (0.15 breakfast food) =0.3 lbs (136.2g) of breakfast food/person/day

Using this formula, I have determined that I will eat 1lbs (454g) of food for lunch and snacks, 0.1lbs (45.4g) of drink mixes, 0.5lbs (227g) for dinner, and 0.1lbs (45.4g) of desert every day.

Phew! Now that the math part is out of the way, next time I’ll discuss the actual food we will carry.

How to Make a Camp Stove for Under $5

Instead of dropping 50+ dollars on a camp stove, Lucas and I decided to make our own from two aluminum cans. We will use denatured alcohol for fuel during our Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Alcohol burning stoves are cheap, ultralight weight, and just as reliable as a store-bought stove. Our stove will be used primarily for boiling water to rehydrate dehydrated food. From our tests, we have concluded that it takes less than five minutes to boil 500 mL of lukewarm water.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create your own!

Materials you will need:

  • two aluminum cans 
  • books for a steady line
  • permanent marker
  • small nail, thumb tack, or push pin
  • sandpaper
  • razor blades
  • scissors
  • stapler
  • pliers

materials

Step 1:

Use a book (or something sturdy) for a constant height to score the can with a razor blade. Once you have scored the bottom, you puncture the can along the score line and then press along the edge of the line until the bottom separates. If the can does not tear apart easily, use the sharp edge of the razor to CAREFULLY cut along the score line. This will dull the blade greatly, so make sure you have backup razors if you choose this method (I used one blade for each can).

Do this with both cans, use whatever height you feel necessary, but keep in mind that the final stove will be a little taller than your cut lines.

step 1

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Step 2:

When the cuts are done, sand the sharp edges for safety (newly cut aluminum is VERY sharp). If you want your stove to have none of the can’s labels, sand the sides of the two cans.

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Step 3:

Choose one can to be the top of the stove, and set the bottom portion aside. Score the top portion of the stove along the concave part of the can. This sounds difficult, but if you score at an almost horizontal angle, it makes the cut a lot easier than you would expect. Now use the point of the scissors to press the score line until the top pops out.

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Step 4:

Take the remnants of one of the cut cans, and cut a wide strip of the aluminum off. This will be the inner lining of the stove.

step 4

Step 5:

Measure and trim the strip of aluminum so it will fit into the grooves of both the top and bottom portion of the stove, and staple the strip into a ring. After the ring is measured and stapled, cut small “windows” on the bottom of the ring so the fuel will be able to move throughout the stove once it is completed.

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Step 6:

Take your pliers and make slight twists on the edge of one portion of the stove so that it will fit into the other portion.

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Step 7:

Here comes the hard part–try to fit the ring made earlier into the grooves on both portions of the stove while slowly pushing one section into the other.  You may need to use your pliers to bend little bits out of the way so the ring will fit right. If done correctly, the lip of the top portion of the stove will cover the edge of the ring.

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Step 8:

Use a small nail (or push pin, thumb tack, etc.) to puncture holes into the top portion of the stove. You can use a piece of tape to measure the circumference of the stove and make tick marks at constant intervals along the tape to have holes that are equal distances apart from one another. I didn’t do this, just eyeballed the holes and punched away.

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And that’s our final product!

Now pour about a half-inch of denatured alcohol, light the fuel with a lighter or match, and there ya go… a fully functional stove.

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Tips:

Use a pot-stand to make sure you don’t snuff the flame with your pot. We made our original one out of an aluminum grill screen, but it started to melt (whoops). Our next pot stand will be made out of good ole chicken wire.

How to train for hikes in Florida

Yesterday Lucas and I discovered the perfect tool for our training–the massive football stadium about a mile away! Around 9pm we got the idea to pack our backpacks with approximately 15-20 lbs of weight and make our way to the stadium. We walked up and down a series of steep ramps for 2 hours at 5 set intervals.

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The inclines were awesome for our calves!  Though, to everyone running up and down the steps in spandex,  we looked like confused homeless people.

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With our bandannas drenched and shoulders sore, we flung our packs onto the floor of our home around midnight. We’re probably going to go back tomorrow night to get in one more intense walk before I leave for Washington (this Saturday! Can’t wait!!).

Planning the Planning Process

Yesterday I checked out a book from my university’s library, The Appalachian Trail: Celebrating America’s Hiking Trail. I admit, it was quite the adventure finding the books among endless shelves of dust and hardbound covers on the library floor I never explore. There’s a good deal on the Trail’s history in books circa the 1950s, but from reading things like ‘wool breeches’ and ‘tennis slippers’ I have decided to browse through them later out of curiosity and not now, while I’m in search of basic (up-to-date) information.

Anyway, three other A.T. books ordered through Amazon:

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail and The A.T. Guide 2013 by David Miller

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Billy Bryson

I have officially entered the obsession stage in my A.T. planning. This past week I’ve focused  on the blog, made lists of what I need to purchase and planned what I need to plan. At the end of July I am going on a ten day expedition in Washington. Luckily the program provided an outline of everything I need to do in order to train/pack. I figure a lot of the gear and prep work for the AT and that overlap so… here are my current training plans:

  • Go on longish (4-8 hour) hikes in hilly terrain with a 20+ pound pack.
  • (since I live in flatland Florida) Simulate hiking up steep terrain via hills, long flights of stairs, or stadium stairs for 1-1.5 hours with my pack. Making sure I climb AND descend.
  • Incorporate more cardio into my daily routine by bike rides, short hikes, or the elliptical.
  • 2-4 days of gym climbing a week with one of these days focusing on strength exercises with an emphasis on legs.

Gotta’ have beast legs to climb this beaut!

Mt. Baker via Wikipedia

And so it begins

Today I woke up inspired and ready to begin the planning process for my Appalachian Trail 2014 thru-hike. I am currently a senior in my university’s Creative Writing program and will begin my Northbound adventure next March.

I think it started with National Geographic documentaries and PBS specials back in 2010. Right away, I was inspired to explore the East portion of my country and become acquainted with terrain I had always overlooked. My boyfriend Lucas and I have set this goal together–the trail has been of interest to him for the past five years.  Summer/fall 2012 he backpacked through Israel, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, etc. for approximately four months. When he returned to his hometown after numerous nights of sleeping in a hammock, and our communication picked up, I told him about my vague plans of the hike. Long story short, AT partners turned into a relationship and here we are, at the beginning stages of preparation!

Rock climbing 3-4 years in a family-sized Florida community brought upon a growing passion in both of us;  to reconnect with nature and enjoy the mountains, the woods, boulders, trails, and lakes for what they are and in their natural form. I am energized by every exposure to the outdoors. As a Boy Scout (I used to be a part of the coed program called Venture Crew) I am also concerned with the preservation of the land and live by the principle Leave No Trace Behind. My goal is to become integrated into a natural environment opposed to inhabiting the land. I also want to help others experience this sense of connectedness as well.

I cannot promise you any deep insight into the meaning of life, or what we can do to change the world, but I can share with you my passion for nature and document our journey along the way.

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