I am thinking I should give some background information on our backpacking trip to the Loyalsock Trail before I go into the details. Garet, my boyfriend, and I are planning a backpacking trip to Grand Teton in August 2019! We are using this fall and spring to get ready for that trip. This means lots of EXCEL spreadsheets, gear research, food and nutrition calculations, meal experimentation, and a whole lot of training trips!
I’ll be writing about each training trip on here for a few reasons:
- The food recap be a good reference for us so we can improve based on things that didn’t work out.
- It will be a great way for us to look back remember our amazing backpacking trips.
- You guys can see how easy (and delicious) it is to prepare nutrient dense, vegan food for a multiple day backpacking trip.
Note: These posts will be pretty good-focused and not so much about the details of the trail. If that’s what you’re looking for, you won’t find a whole lot of trail information here! Sorry!
Let me preface this by saying we did not get the mileage in that we had planned! A few factors went into this: a lack of sleep, a late start, and most importantly, a SUPER wet trail. We had planned on around 23 miles the first day and around 19 miles the second day. I’ll elaborate on this later in the recap though.
Before you think that we are crazy for eating all of this food, we did NOT. I over-calculated our nutrition, which was only a partial mistake, because I wanted to make sure we had enough food. Far better to have more food than not enough on a trip like this.
Calculations: Energy and Nutrient Needs
I’ll be adjusting our energy and nutrient needs for the next trip based on different calculations that include our average heart rate. There are a ton of considerations when it comes to figuring out our individualized energy and nutrient needs:
- Resting Metabolic Rate
- Pack weight
- Average incline %
- Terrain difficulty
- Temperature and other weather considerations
- Our individual fitness level
- Average heart rate
- & so much more!
I was clearly having a blade with all of these calculations. I’m still perfecting my process but that’s what these practice trips are for!
Because we have to be concerned with our food weighing as little as possible, I made a spreadsheet that breaks down different ingredients by calories, grams of net carbs, protein, and fat by ounce.
After I had that spreadsheet created and our estimated energy needs calculated, I started on a daily food planner for each of us. The food planner breaks down the food by meal and then by energy. It also totals the energy and macronutrients per day so that I can be sure we are meeting our individual needs and are hitting an ideal macronutrient ratio.
I know, I know… this sounds pretty time consuming, right? Trust me, it was, but I had SO much fun. There’s nothing like diving into nutrition literature, doing a ton of calculations, and playing around in an organized spreadsheet. Call me weird, but this is one of the funnest projects I’ve ever worked on!
We Bought a Dehydrator!
Because we will have a ton of trips planned (and because I’m a super foodie) we decided it would be worth it to buy a dehydrator. We got this one. I’ve only used it for about a week so far but I already love it!
The dehydrator helps us reduce the weight and volume of fresh fruit and vegetables drastically. Sometimes we can save hundreds of grams per ingredient. This way we don’t have to sacrifice quality nutrition and flavor! It will also help us save money because dehydrated meals are relatively expensive.
I’ll be elaborating on the dehydrator (and dehydrated meals) after a few more trips so that I’m writing from a place of more experience. When I get that post written, I’ll link it here.
Because Garet and I obviously have different energy requirements, I was sure to separate our meals and snacks and then label them by person and day! Each meal and snack got its own labeled baggie. We used dry bags to separate each day’s food. So far, this organizational system is working for us!
For the sake of convenience, we split the major meals (breakfast and dinner) down the middle. To compensate for Garet’s increased energy needs, I set aside more snacks and electrolytes for Garet during the day.
Accuracy – Know Your Numbers!
To ensure accuracy, all of the food was weighed on my food scale. Basically, I was going back and forth between the food scale and my spreadsheet on the kitchen island for about a week!
I really like these maple syrup packets from Untapped! Even though they create a little bit of extra trash, they are just too convenient. Same with the nut butter packets. So far, we are thinking that the extra weight of the packaging is worth the convenience of them being sealed well!
On the first day, after only 2 hours of sleep (and a strangely sensitive stomach on my end), we left for the Loyalsock Trail! We left Philadelphia around 3:30 in the morning and didn’t get to the trail until a few hours later. We made breakfast by where we parked the car before we started hiking.
In total, we ended up doing 17.6 miles on Day 1 instead of the anticipated 23. We learned a lot about our own capabilities and our combined capabilities though so we are much more prepared to reach our mileage and speed goals for the next trip!
Breakfast Day 1
I made quite a bit too much food for breakfast. Probably could have cut this recipe almost in half. That being said, I stand by having more food than we need until narrowing down on our specific, individualized energy needs.
This batch of oatmeal had oats, chia and hemp seeds, cinnamon, dehydrated blueberries, raisins, soy milk powder, some granulated sugar, coffee infused maple syrup, and peanut butter.
The trail ended up being completely saturated due to a rainy week. This means we had to hike through a boatload of mud…and that’s quite the understatement. This slowed us down pretty significantly. I also slowed us down substation because steep declines make me especially cautious. This is especially true when the steep declines are made of wet, slippery rocks!
Dinner Day 1
We got to just over 17.5 miles before it started getting dark. We set up camp as soon as we found a reasonably flat spot near a water source. We stopped early for a few reasons: we started late, it was getting dark, the unexpected technicality of the trail, and my cognitive function basically came to a halt. We got 2 hours of sleep. Somehow I forgot that a lot during the hike. Every few hours I would remember that I was running on nearly no sleep and be stunned that we were moving at all!
Once we found a place to set up camp, we immediately set up the tent, filtered some water from the creek, and started making food. The goal was to get to sleep before 9. Mission accomplished. We were in the tent by 8:45 and passed out nearly immediately after dinner. Probably due to a carb-induced food coma!
For dinner, we had an entire box of instant mashed potatoes from Whole Foods, dehydrated veggies (peas, corn, and beets), TVP, nutritional yeast, and soy milk powder. The mashed potatoes were delicious, but the meal took up WAY too much volume thanks to the potato flakes. It was fine for this trip but it won’t be fine for The Grand Teton trip we are training for.
Day two we ended up getting another late start and we only had one pair of (muddy, soaking wet) socks so we cut our mileage in half and simply finished the loop. The mileage for the day wrapped up around 9.5 miles. It was a more relaxing day! We ended up having the fortune of hiking the Link Trail so we could complete the Loyalsock loop!
We came across a few really awesome swimming spots on the way back that were worth stopping at! I didn’t get in the river because I was worried I would irritate my skin for the last few miles of the day. I kind of regret it because it looked like a lot of fun, but I am comfortable with the consequences of my decision! Next time I’ll be getting in no matter what though.
Breakfast Day 2
We made about 1.2 liters of coffee because we are addicted to coffee! I ended up popping a caffeine pill as well because I wanted to avoid a caffeine headache later in the day. We added coconut milk powder to our coffee for some extra calories. It was a little sweeter than I’d like, but it’s good for extra calories in the morning.
Breakfast on day two consisted of oats, chia and hemp seeds, cocoa powder, soy milk powder, dehydrated bananas, raisins, chocolate chips, coffee infused maple syrup, some sugar, and peanut butter. Garet threw in a little bit of the unsweetened coconut milk powder at the last minute too! I was SO impressed with how well the bananas rehydrated in the oats and will definitely be recreating this one.
Note: I typically don’t add granulated sugar to my oats, but simple carbohydrates are really important for activities like this. Simple sugars will become even more important as our elevation, mileage, and overall trip duration increase over the next year!
In other words, everyday nutrition rules are very different from performance nutrition rules!
Dinner Day 2
When we got back to the car, we made dinner at a nearby picnic table. We contemplated not making dinner and just hopping in the car to head home, but we didn’t want to miss an opportunity to practice cooking with our backpacking gear.
This meal is going to be on REPEAT. Soba noodles, dehydrated veggies (broccoli, onions, peppers, and carrots), peanuts, dehydrated sriracha sauce, sesame seed oil, soy sauce, and peanut butter.
The dehydrator worked exceptionally well all weekend but it worked out particularly well for this meal! A huge part of me wants to make this meal again for this weekend’s training trip because of how delicious it was. The logical part of me knows that I should experiment with different meals so that we have variety on the August 2019 Grand Teton trip. Stay tuned for the next recap to see what I decide!
Snacks and Supplements
Again, I overpacked our food by quite a bit. We didn’t end up eating both snack bags and we ended up eating about 2/3 of the bars I packed. I’ll correct the amounts for future trips, but the snack choices were pretty spot on!
Garet and I are pretty huge fans of Lara Bars. Especially the cinnamon roll ones. We each had a series of Lara Bars each day for a quick couple hundred calories and some carbohydrates.
Lara Bars are our current favorite because the flavors are spot on and there is a lot of variety! They are also pretty nutrient dense per ounce and the ingredients list is exceptionally simple.
DIY Trail Mix
I made us a trail mix with raisins, chocolate chips, peanuts, almonds, and sesame sticks. During the actual hike, I was craving carbs pretty significantly so I think next time I will increase the ratio of raisins/chocolate chips to nuts/sesame sticks. Not only was I craving carbs, but I didn’t enjoy the heavy feeling of digesting lots of nuts and seeds in the middle of a hike.
I’m still determining what supplements I want to take on these trips. This time, I brought electrolytes, caffeine, and magnesium. Eventually, I might cut out the magnesium to conserve weight but I haven’t quite decided yet!
Like I mentioned earlier, I ordered a bag of Skratch Labs Lemon and Lime Electrolyte Mix to make sure we were hydrating optimally. I chose this supplement because it had a reasonable amount of sugar per serving and we needed the extra carbs too! We loved the flavor and will definitely be sticking with this hydration supplement for future trips.
I drink a lot of coffee at home. Unfortunately we can only make 1.2 liters of coffee in the morning and that’s really it for the rest of the day. I ended up taking a 200mg caffeine pill each day to prevent a caffeine headache.
Before going to bed at home, I always have CALM magnesium powder in warm water. For these trips, I bring a CALM travel packet and have one before going to bed. This helps my muscles relax after a long day of hiking and it ensures a good night’s sleep!
We did about 27.1 miles total between the two days. Day 1 came in at 17.6 miles while day 2 only came in at 9.5 miles.
Every practice trip will be a learning experience! We learned a lot on this first training trip to the Loyalsock Trail. Our next trip to the Allegheny Front Trail (about 42 miles) this weekend should be even more refined! Stay tuned for that recap next week.
Thank you for reading! I hope it was as helpful for you to read as it was for me to write. If you have a request for future Vegan Trail Eats recap posts, leave the request in the comments below! Alternatively you can shoot me an email with any questions.
Stay tuned for more Vegan Trail Eats!