23 days on the water. If all goes well, my third trip out to Haida Gwaii I will be in a wilderness unlike any other I have paddled into. After the first day, I will not see a road till day 22. A town and the ferry terminal will appear on day 23.
Food, that’s what I think about. What’s to eat?
Paddle where one can stop along the way in a store or restaurant is a totally different trip than if one needs to plan everything one eats for 3+ weeks. Below is some of what I’ve learned after 20+ years of doing overnight trips and 15+ of self supported trips two weeks or longer.
Preservation is necessary. Cheese and sausage gets eaten the first week, tortillas pack smaller and last longer than other bread products and if you are lucky, hard cheese like parmesan can last three plus weeks. Dried fruit lasts and lasts, that is, if you don’t eat it right away. Several dinners come from grocery store shelves. Tuna helper is good protein & well known (I add dried veggies), Alessi’s Pasta Fazool soup is dried and has real food in it, dried spaghetti sauce plus dried ground beef rehydrates with the cooking pasta and a can of chicken, a spice packet, dried veggies & instant rice is a Chinese like meal. Variety in protein (beef, chicken & fish), texture (rice, pasta, soup, etc) and flavor (Italian, Chinese, Mexican, etc) is important to keep taste buds interested over weeks, even when very hungry. Variety also helps with getting better rounded nutrition.
Fast food? Think it is going to rain soon or you are so tired, all you want to/can do is crash out, think Mary Jane’s Bare Burrito. Boil some water, mix & throw it on a tortilla, you are satiated in under 20 minutes with no mess to clean up. Even quicker is some
beef jerky, dried fruit, tortilla and possibly a sports bar – this dinner has been eaten standing under a tree in a downpour before.
Have a need to eat something greasy & salty? Bring along some hashbrowns, oil and a fry pan. Add some eggs (from freeze dried or powered, freeze dried taste better and have little clean up), and you have a breakfast meal that for an off day or a half day will make you dream of the next time you get to eat it.
Then there is fresh food. Out of every craving I have walked off of a trip with, fresh is the only one I have not figured a way to fix. Baby carrots, small onions and garlic are carried as they all last well and can be thrown in bow/stern end to stow. Tortillas, baby carrots and peanut butter are a mid trip lunch staple. A bit of onion and garlic livens up any evening meal. Have to admit I am still figuring this part out.
Fuel concerns are another factor. Multiple meals boil water and then the meal is ready (bare burritos, stir fry using instant rice) and others cook for under 10 minutes (tuna helper, spaghetti, soup). Early trips had longer cooking foods and needed more fuel. Now I carry 80 ounces of fuel instead of 116 ounces for a 21 day trip.
Sports nutrition such as what Clif does grew from something I once questioned to something that earned its place in a packed boat. Clif bars I eat once a year, paddling season, for their dense calories. Clif shots and bloks provide a quick calorie boost. An ample supply is stuffed into my PFD pockets. When combined with a hydration bladder, you get easy access to water & calories in rough seas or extended paddling between landings. A sports drink such as Cytomax provides hydration as well as sustained energy, I stop every hour for a drink of it. All of these products help me at the end of a long day (30-40 miles) to drag the boat above the high tide line, setup camp and cook dinner without crashing.
Deserts can save your sanity/pick up spirits and provide a reward. Simple foods with a low fuel requirement are needed. Chocolate is a standard, a snickers for every week is a
tradition and dried apricots turn into an object of lust. But a change is needed every once in a while to lift one out of taste fatigue or save you from killing someone (tough on a solo trip). Popping popcorn provides a salty crunchy snack that cannot be duplicated. Warm cookies (instant pancakes with chocolate chips added) makes one forget about apricots or murderous desires.
Chex mix provides a pre-dinner snack while waiting for the water to boil, both salty and crunchy, it can temporarily defang hunger pangs.
I’ve learned certain foods, even after two+ weeks of paddling taste awful. Instant cheesecake is one, potato soup by Bear Valley is another. There is the need to be satiated and Amy’s Mac & cheese just doesn’t pack enough calories. Then there is dietary needs, beef jerky is on every trip as a protein boost as is cheese and powdered milk for the nutrition (like calcium) that milk brings.
So much focus is on dinner and that is my plan – have the evening to rest, recover and plan for the next day. Breakfast is simple on paddling days, granola, powdered milk and dried bananas – I can get on the water in under an hour from waking up when needed. Plus a cold breakfast saves on fuel. Lunch is tortillas with cheese & sausage the first week, peanut
butter & jelly the second and flavored tuna/salmon packs the third week. That last week, the protein/energy provided by the fish is amazing to feel course through ones self. Breakfast and lunch are geared to be simple & quick, there is paddling to be done.
Food is highly individualistic. Like philosophy, some of this will seem silly to some people and to females or a different aged male, there can be different results/needs. Culture influences preferences as well. One European paddler friend prefers to eat his big meal of the day at lunchtime. Lunch is a couple hours long and he prefers to paddle into the evening where dinner is something simple & quick just before sunset.
But food is fuel. Screw it up and it will be near impossible to have a good trip – have you ever met anyone on a diet who is happy? Get it right and a miserable trip won’t be as miserable. Either way, food can help you crank out the miles one day and wake up to do it again the next. You’ll even look forward to the question, what’s to eat?