PNT Prep

Less than 3 weeks until we set off on the Pacific Northwest Trail and we’re in full prep mode. Food, maps, gear. Our apartment is a mess.

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Mostly the mess is due to the food. We’re making all of our meals due to K’s gluten allergy (more info and a recipe here). It’s a lot of work to do ahead of time but it’s also pretty fun, put on some tunes and get a production line going.

Biggest change from previous backpacking trips is we’re going no cook. At least that’s the plan. Seems doable from the comfort of our home but time will tell how I feel after ~70 days of cold soaking (don’t worry my stove will be on hand to send via resupply in case this plan goes horribly south).

2 months of maps 😍

2 months of maps 😍

Maps! Maps are maybe my favorite thing. Not just for backpacking but maybe also in life. K can attest to how long it took me to sort these out (too long) because I kept stopping to look them over. So pretty. So nice. Can’t wait to start using them.

Cold Soak Recipes

I spend a lot of time in the winter scheming up new ideas for my summer trips. Usually these involve lightening pack weight and spreadsheets. Oh how I love my spreadsheets.

This winter’s obsession was cold soaking. Yup it’s what it sounds like: pour cold water on your food and let it sit and soak. No stove, no heat.

Initially I was intrigued, can this really be good? My philosophy for trail food is it has to taste good and be nutritious. I don’t want to eat ramen packets, pop tarts or anything else chock full of things I can’t pronounce. It shocks me what some people eat on the trail (to be fair it shocks me what most people eat in real life). I fully admit that I’ve been known to scarf down some less than “clean” food without shame, I just don’t want this to be part of my plan before I head out on the trail.

The mad scientist’s lab

The mad scientist’s lab


What got me onto the cold soak train was thinking about how much I actually use my stove. I realized that on my most recent trips I’ve only used it once per day, at dinner time. I gave up making a hot drink at breakfast a while back to save time and I’ve always, even at home, eaten my oats uncooked. Seemed like a lot of weight to carry fuel, stove and a pot around for just once a day.

Tower of power

Tower of power

There are lots of good companies out there that make pre-made cold soak meals but I’m frugal and enjoy making up my own meals, so my winter goal became to create a nutritionally balanced menu with high caloric density that I actually want to eat. Oh and it has to be gluten free too since K can’t handle the gluten. I was hoping to get 4 solid meals, seemed like a good rotation for an 8 day or less trip: each meal twice... I ended up creating 6, they are: Thai Peanut Rice, Southwest Beef and Corn w/ Rice, Thai Coconut Rice, Green Curry Rice, Beef and Corn Chowder, Pea/Walnut/Carrot Salad, Almond/Broccoli/Cranberry Salad.

All of the dinners vary slightly in weight and calories; however, the average of the 6 is 140.09 cal/oz and 6.92oz each, about 970 calories per meal.

Most of the ingredients I buy in bulk and a good rainy spring day activity is mixing up a bunch of meals at once. Then when I decide to go on a trip I can grab and go from the cupboard.

The cost for each meal varies, but they are between $2.61 - $4.78 per serve and pack more calories than most packaged meals. The beef is the premium ingredient costing about $2/meal, if I were to go vegetarian the costs would be $2.61-$3.69 per meal.

Below is the Thai Cashew Curry recipe, this one costs $3.07 when buying in bulk. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you make it, I’m always open to improvements!

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In Defense of the Humble Raisin

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I’ve been paying more attention to the calories per ounce in the food I take backpacking. I’m totally revamping my recipes and food for trips this summer, which I will post on later (spoiler, on top of better calorie density I’m also hoping to convince K to going down the cold soaking rabbit hole with me).

One food that is surprisingly calorically light is the raisin. I bank on raisins pretty hard, they are a big part of my breakfast and my homemade trail mix. After this realization I went on an interesting (and opinionated) path through blogs, sub-reddits and nutrition data websites. Coming in at ~85 cal/oz it gets dropped out of a lot of ultralight pack lists.

This new information sent me on a frenzy of thinking about how to get raisins out of my pack too. I bounced from one solution to another. “Cranberries have a few more calories/oz, I need to use them!”, “What if i just replace raisins with more shredded coconut for breakfast!?”, “More banana chips!”...

The cranberries have more calories but most of that comes from sugar. I don’t think I’d like the taste of that much coconut in my breakfast. Raisins have some stuff that can’t be quantified in calories; iron, magnesium, potassium and folate (B9) for example. All of these are essential and hard to come by on the trail. I like packing food that tastes good and is nutritionally well rounded. If I eat bad food I feel bad. Low energy, grumpy, etc.

Some disagree and say there are studies that prove we focus way too much on nutrition on the trail. As long we feed our bodies with enough energy it’s fine till the next town. If that works for you that’s awesome. But I personally feel much better on the trail if I’m getting a well rounded diet. In the end I settled down and remembered that what works for me is finding the balance between calories, nutrition and taste. Raisins will stay in my pack.