For Trail Geek Eyes Only, Part 4: Food

What do we eat while living in the mountains for over three months at a time? How do we do the vegan thing while living the trail life? These and more, answered in this final edition of our “Trail Geek Eyes Only” series of CDT trail preparations.

As discussed in our Gear review, we’re going cold on this trip meaning we’re not carrying a stove, fuel, or even a cooking pot on our hike this summer. While this contributes to carrying less weight, it also creates more challenges for maintaining variety in our diet without the ability to heat food. We have done some testing at home during the off season and we did do some cold eating on our 2011 AT hiking trip so we have a basic idea of what we’re getting into, but this aspect of our trip will be one of the biggest changes for us.

We’re now also fully committed to our vegan, plant-based diet. While on the trail, this actually is quite easy and not limiting. The biggest challenge will be in towns. Most likely, the towns we’ll pass through along the way will be carnivore-centric with plenty of burger, ice cream, and pizza options available, but probably not much in the tofu realm. This is something we’re mentally ready to deal with though, plus, we’re hoping for a little love from the home front.

In planning the food for this trip knowing we’re going cold and vegan, we first got the resupply schedule ready. We picked our towns that fit with our desired mileage goals and appeared to be the easiest to work with logistically.

Once this was accomplished, it was on to figuring out what would be filling our resupply boxes. Our first step, which has a degree of planning and a bit of arbitrariness, is our daily caloric intake. From past experience and a rough estimate of a number that sounds big enough without being ridiculous, we decided on between 4200 and 4400 calories of food per day (for reference, I’m 5’7” and 137 lbs and Julie is 5’6” and 124 lbs). We figure this is a good base line for calories and that we can supplement more from grocery stores if we find that 4200+ isn’t cutting it.

Next step was to come up with the major categories of food we wanted, the basics being sweet stuff, salty stuff, and meals. The sweet stuff includes energy bars, some trail mixes, granola with soy milk, cookies, nut butter packets, and most importantly, dark chocolate – 400 calories a piece per day to be exact. For meals we have some things that will be daily parts of the diet along with some variety. Daily, we’ll be eating refried beans, either pinto or black bean. For the variety, we have hummus, soy taco meat, tabouleh, top ramen (oriental flavor), instant mashed potatoes, and instant sweet potatoes. These can all be rehydrated with cold water in our empty peanut butter jars while we walk. Some of our salty snacks go with our meals. We have Fritos and tortilla chips to go with the beans and taco mix. We have pita chips to go with hummus, and Triscuits and Wheat Thins to go with everything else. Also in the salty realm are different trail mixes, seasoned nuts, chex mix, and Journey Bars, which are savory energy bars with fun flavors such as Pizza Marinara and Coconut Curry. We have some other random things thrown in such as chocolate covered espresso beans, dried mango with chili pepper, and wasabi peas to name a few.

Variety is key for us so even though we eat granola every day for example, we have nearly 15 different flavors. We’ll generally have two different types every few days so we’re rarely repeating flavors. Same goes with our energy bars, especially with the sweet ones. We have everything ranging from Luna to Lara, Trader Joes to Kroger brand, to the fancier Odwallah and Kind bars. We rarely repeat and hopefully this will help keep eating enjoyable on the trail.

So that is it…planning complete. Bags are packed, resupply boxes are ready to go out, plane tickets to the trail are purchased, and now all we have left to do is get walking. We’re super excited for this trip. We’ve planned for this hike more than any other adventure we’ve taken on. We also feel rested, and we’re physically and mentally strong heading into this trip. We hope all this planning, along with our attitudes, mixed with some good fortune along the way, make for an amazing adventure. Cheers!

To see a full list of our food inventory for the trip, check out Julie’s spreadsheet skills here.

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