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  1. #1
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    Default Food Optimization on the Trail

    I will admit that I am a food enthusiast. I am working on developing a new way of trail nutrition. My thoughts of this nutritional theory stem from my understanding of the ABS diet. Throughout the day, I stayed more full. I also had more energy and motivation. For me, maintaining my blood sugar was an important thing. It was also one of my primary focuses when putting together my new meal system.

    One pillar of my system, is variety. It is my belief that different foods often metabolize at different rates. Even methods of preparation can change some of these factors. When I want to add some oatmeal to a recipe, I do not simply just add oatmeal. I add both steel cut and instant oatmeal. These perform completely differently in the body. However, I don't feel that two types of grain would be enough, so I also add in quinoa, cornmeal, and some rice. Another example is how I add beans to my recipe. In one meal, when I want to add beans, I add in an assortment of dried uncooked beans. I also add in beans which have been sprouted and dried. I may add in some dehydrated refried beans as well. It's my belief that the sprouted beans will provide additional nutrients and additional variety for energy for our body. I also feel that it's important to vary the types of beans in a meal, as more variety is a constant focus.

    The second pillar of my system is cold soaking. I am a big fan of cold soaking nearly every food. I feel that cold soaking is the procedure that can help with the many different grain and bean types. Some would argue that this increases the carried weight, but I see reduced cooking times and fuel consumption as two large benefits.

    The third pillar of my system is sprouting. There are several bean varieties that I really enjoy while sprouted. Not only do I enjoy their flavor, but I feel that grown sprouts are the most efficient trail food. My favorite sprout to eat also has the benefit of multiplication. This sprout grows to at least 5 times the volume of the original bean. I've never measured it, so it could be upwards of twenty times the volume. I will be carrying several hemp sprouting bags. I do not want just one, because I like to cycle my sprouts for freshness. These fresh sprouts will be sauteed, added to nearly any meal, or eaten raw. To me, the benefit of growing food while on the trail is immense. It's the type of nutrition that I want to add to all of my dehydrated meals.

    As I describe my system, just understand that it's just some fundamentals of thinking for me. It's the food that I think my body will respond to most effectively. I am not going to be making all of my own food, as I have around a dozen number 10 cans of Mountain House meals. As my journey on the AT this year will focus on food, I am having a fun time getting my food together. There are several spices that I've put together that just make me smile each time that I taste them. I imagine that spices and seasonings are going to be one of the major things that keeps me entertained.

  2. #2

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    My trail diet consists of jerky with cheese, combos, skittles, gummy worms, tuna packets, mashed potato's, a mountain house meal about once a year(aint had one in years now). Some chalula hot sauce, and as much Jack Daniels as I can stuff into an old ginger ale bottle that has made it all the way from Springer to Hanover, New Hampshire. I don't know about others, but I just don't have time to be sproutin beans on the trail. Seems time consuming, tinder and I could eat about all the beans in one sitting that I could possibly sprout over the span of days. Also with this system of mine, involves cramming as much town food down my goozle as I can stand while resupplying.
    AT Shuttle List
    Trail Miles: 3,715.9
    AT Trips: 67
    AT Map 1 Completion: 1818.9 Springer, GA - Franconia Notch, NH
    AT Map 2 Completion: 263.8 Gaps From GA - PA

  3. #3

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    I'm with Gambit on this one. Honey buns, GORP and pasta with tuna are my staples. Maybe not the best diet, but I'm only out for 4-6 weeks at a time and that stuff is cheap at the dollar store.

    Meals which take a long time to cook or prepare are quickly abandoned. I have a feeling your going to be eating up those cans of Mountain House rather then soaking and cooking beans and rice a lot. But heck, give it a try.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  4. #4
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    I don't feel that sprouting is time consuming at all. Perhaps you've had a different experience. For me, it's as simple as squirting some water onto a hemp bag for a rinse. Considering how much I'll be filtering water on the trail, I find this a quick task.

    Slo, maybe you've missed the part where I talk about cold soaking. In no way am I going to sit around soaking and cooking beans and rice for my meals. I'm an experienced hiker, and I'm very conservative with fuel. I soak the entire bag of food throughout the day, hydrating all of those long cooking foods. I could eat these foods straight after soak. If I want to cook the food, then the cooking time has been reduced significantly.

    I'm also concerned about chemicals found in dollar store food. Not healthy over the long run
    Last edited by Trambo; 01-22-2019 at 11:59.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trambo View Post
    I'm also concerned about chemicals found in dollar store food. Not healthy over the long run
    People poor hot water into plastic zip-locks or right into the powdered potato or Knorr Side bags. I figure that by using a titanium pot and washing it I'm consuming about 98% less plastic than the "mix hot water and plastic" crowd.

  6. #6
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    Something to consider with long cold soaking and sprouts is microbial growth contamination. It's not a nice time to have certain organisms proliferating in your food. If I am going to add water to food for an extended period of time I prefer it to be boiling first.

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    I have sprouted mung beans on the trail during a several-weeks long trip. It worked great, was very lightweight, took no effort to speak of, and provided fresh veggies. That said, I've since decided that wildcrafting provides an ever fresher and more fulfilling food experience than carrying my own sprouts.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    ... and as much Jack Daniels as I can stuff into an old ginger ale bottle ...
    You can fit "more" JD in a bottle if that JD is "barrel proof"! (See also "Barrel strength" or "cask strength"). No reason to carry the extra water around that distilleries like to put in their usual bottled stuff.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by FreeGoldRush View Post
    People poor hot water into plastic zip-locks or right into the powdered potato or Knorr Side bags. I figure that by using a titanium pot and washing it I'm consuming about 98% less plastic than the "mix hot water and plastic" crowd.
    Truth. People also smoke cigarettes and if you're not one of them you're probably much healthier than those folks also. Still, most people that never go camping eat food full of non-edible garbage, so you and Trambo might be talking about different things really.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zalman View Post
    You can fit "more" JD in a bottle if that JD is "barrel proof"! (See also "Barrel strength" or "cask strength"). No reason to carry the extra water around that distilleries like to put in their usual bottled stuff.
    Ill have to check that out!

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by FreeGoldRush View Post
    People poor hot water into plastic zip-locks or right into the powdered potato or Knorr Side bags. I figure that by using a titanium pot and washing it I'm consuming about 98% less plastic than the "mix hot water and plastic" crowd.
    My go to for cold soaking is going to be freezer grade ziploc. I'm going to have 2 dedicated just for this. My go to for hot is going to be in a heat safe plastic bag bowl thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by grubbster View Post
    Something to consider with long cold soaking and sprouts is microbial growth contamination. It's not a nice time to have certain organisms proliferating in your food. If I am going to add water to food for an extended period of time I prefer it to be boiling first.
    Oh, I'm definitely scared of mold and bacteria. In order for a system like this to work, I need to cycle my beans through different bags. I'll sprout just what I need for the day, and then my next day's eating will be in another bag. I need three bags at the minimum. I will also be washing these bags with soap after each harvest. I am also going to keep access to the minimum. Once the sprouts go into the bag, I don't open the bag except to harvest. I feel that this also will limit microbial growth, as it often comes from someone sticking their dirty hand into the sprouting container.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zalman View Post
    I have sprouted mung beans on the trail during a several-weeks long trip. It worked great, was very lightweight, took no effort to speak of, and provided fresh veggies. That said, I've since decided that wildcrafting provides an ever fresher and more fulfilling food experience than carrying my own sprouts.
    For me, sprouting is easy. I'm glad to hear that you had the same experience. I'm not saying that the people who think it's a ton of effort are wrong, but maybe that they had a bad experience. I will gladly accept a food that will grow in two days. I'm also considering carrying a container so that I can expose my sprouts to the sun before I eat them. I enjoy mung beans, but my favorite type outshines them. The flavor is much better than mung beans, but I have a 5 pound bag of mung beans, and none of the others. When you say wildcrafting, are you talking about foraging? If I was more confident, I would consider foraging .... although foraging on a trail as traveled as the AT is a bit sketchy. I would consider foraging more for wilderness, and not places where people pee constantly.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trambo View Post
    When you say wildcrafting, are you talking about foraging? If I was more confident, I would consider foraging .... although foraging on a trail as traveled as the AT is a bit sketchy. I would consider foraging more for wilderness, and not places where people pee constantly.
    Yes indeed, foraging. Sorel, fern tips, watercress, etc. All great veggies. Not sure what have there on the AT.

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    Someone mentioned SPAM in an earlier reply. You'd better believe that I'm dehydrating SPAM, Black Label Bacon, and some other delicious meats. I've actually refined quite an effective way of dehydrating SPAM. First, I cut it into small dices. I try to keep it as consistent as I can here. Next comes a sautee in a pan. I don't like the taste of SPAM, but fry it crispy and I'm into it. My favorite SPAM is the bacon variety by the way. When I get a good sautee on the spam, I toss in a bunch of salt. I then sautee the spam in the salt. I do this, thinking of the old recipe to create salt pork. After this salt sautee, I then put the meat in a strainer and run water over it. Letting it drain in the strainer, I dump it onto a paper towel and pat it dry. Then, it's back to the sautee pan which has been rinsed and put back on the heat to dry. Here we're removing the outside moisture from the spam bits. After a sautee back to dry, they go into the dehydrator. This has been my most successful method.

    As for mentioning that I will eat more of the mountain house number 10 cans than my own food ..... I hope not!!! It's not that I hate mountain house, but I definitely think that they can be improved. I'm still working on getting my food completely situated, but there are three phases that I am looking at for my food. First is the food that I dehydrate that must be eaten. These are things that I am currently keeping in the freezer. If I can't trust it for six months, then I eat it first. Then is a middle period where I'm using the food that I have prepared as well as the mountain house meals that I feel need eaten first. The last period are the mountain house meals that I see as the most shelf stable.

    I'm also going to be baking sourdough bread on the trail. It's kind of a focus of this project that I'm putting together.
    Last edited by Trambo; 01-22-2019 at 17:25.

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    but I definitely think that they can be improved.
    In what way......?

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    How can the Mountain House meals be improved? This is the same way that I would amend any meal. Let's say that I've opened up a lasagna and meat sauce. A can has around 7 servings. Even though each foil packet has 1.5 servings, I split it into 7 bags (since I intend to add to each). Now, with 7 different bags in front of me, I get to improving the meals.

    One of the first thing that I add is my thickener mix. In this mix are potato flakes, parm cheese, oats, and chia seeds. I add this thickener mix to all of the meals (as a baseline), and then I customize each one differently. Variety here is important to me, so I make a conscious effort to create different flavor profiles in each one. I'm not talking about having a slightly different seasoning, but attempting to use the base to make a different meal all together. I do the same thing with leftovers.

    This part is where creativity and pallete play a part. Lasagna is a bit more difficult to completely change, so I chose that as a challenge. Something such as chicken and noodles would be much simpler. Here, I think of the meal as three parts: the base (starch/noodle/bean), the sauce, and the meat. Changing those three things will wildly vary the recipe. You don't need to factor in the thickening agent here, because that mix is simply to allow you to add more water and give additional variety to the meal.

    Seasoning is life. I know that some people will argue, and say that it's needless weight ..... but, my trip is a pushback against the ideal that weight means everything. I feel that my morale will be raised from the additional flavorings and options that my seasonings afford me. For this reason, I'll be carrying an assortment of self made spices. I do not want to get bored with my food.

    As for varying the lasagna meals ( I haven't done this yet, so just talking you through my process ), we'll discuss some different options. You can either take the cheap and easy road here, or make each of these things from your own ingredients and seasonings. If you wish to take that route, then I suggest the 4-1-1 cookbook. It's how to make DIY versions of nearly any seasoning, mix, or sauce. For the most part, I am making my own additions here, but I will not waste a store bought package of something. If you wanted to make a rice based dish, then you can add a rice side to one of the bags. Maybe you want to add a box of mac and cheese to make a double noodle cheesy casserole. You could add a box of Au Gratin potatoes, or just a butt load of instant potatoes and cheese.

    Looking at the sauce will then give additional options. Let's say that in one bag you put a broccoli cheese rice side in with the lasagna. I add more variety to the meal, by splitting half into another bag (this is all based on how much you add and how much you intend to eat). This is where I must put on my culinary hat, and design some combinations that work well together. For one of the bags, I would make it into more of a cream sauce soup mixture. Here, I will add in powdered milk, some soup seasoning like bouillon (or dehydrated cream of something soup).

    We will be adding some additional things in the last step, but the focus here is to make very different meals from the same base. Since the other bag was a creamy soup, I attempt to create a different textured meal. Here I might shoot for a meal that I would get at an italian restaurant. I think of this as if I'm preparing Lasagna with a side of broccoli cheese rice. It definitely needs some additional meat added, but what else would make this a meal that I enjoy? I would try to make some dehydrated garlic bread dumplings to go with the meal.

    Once I get my variety straightened out, then I "fill out" my meals. Here is where I'll add some extra cheese, fiddle with some seasonings, and add in all of my little extras. For these two meals, I would be adding quite a few extras in. To both, I would be adding dehydrated caramelized onions, roasted minced garlic, various dried veggies like spinach flakes, corn, tomatoes, green beans, pickles. Also, in each meal there will be a variety of dry or sprouted beans that get added. Some of these are charo beans, pinto beans, refried beans, ranch style beans, lentils, mung beans, and chickpeas. The attempt here is to add these at a level where they don't change the meal significantly.

    Ideally, I will end up with a bag of food that should feed me for an entire day. I'm not really focusing on portioning out each bag into a finite serving, and carrying a specific number of servings with me for each section. I intend to do more trail macgyvering with my food than most. I still will be modifying food on the trail. I might take a scoop of one meal, and two scoops of another. This means that I could grab one scoop of Lasagna and veggies, and two scoops of asian chicken noodles. This would give me a meal different than another that I had before. At the end, it's HYOH. Some people might love mountain house .... whereas I desire better. It's also important to point out that the goal is not just flavor diversity, but also diversity of nutrition.
    Last edited by Trambo; 01-23-2019 at 14:38.

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    I thought I'd share a perfect example of this optimization with you all, that I just did.

    Mezzeti makes these hot chili peppers that are really delicious, so I decided to dehydrate them. As a test, I would make sure that each pepper would crack to pieces between my fingers. I then poured the seeds into my spicy seasoning. This spicy seasoning has tons of things in it, like hot salt, paprika, jalapeno powder, yellow and brown mustard seeds, and good things like garlic salt pepper and such. It now contained pickled chili pepper seeds. I took the large flakes of peppers and added them to four bags of food (a little into my jerk chicken, good amount into cream of jalapeno and poblanos, and then a random). With the little that was left, I decided that I could make something else fun.

    I took the remaining dry pickled pepper flakes, and added a good amount of chunky tomatoes, onions, and cilantro for something close to pico de gallo. There was some roasted garlic and vegetable flakes added, but this was kept fairly simple. The large bags of food are then the base that I add to this backcountry pico. If I was to make something to go with the pico, I would start with the mountain house chicken and noodles. I would have in my mind to attempt a chicken and cheese enchilada. All I would need to add is some enchilada sauce (I am likely to make my own), and some cheese powder.

    The beauty comes from the simplicity of the method. Since I am cold soaking in a container different from food storage, this gives me the ability to really customize my food. I could add the pico to the enchilada mixture before I soak, or I could keep them totally separate. I would also only be using a spoon full (or two) of pico for the meal, so a mixture like this pico will go far solo. I'll probably also use it as a base for a meal bag or two, as it would work well as a hearty tomato veggie soup.

  17. #17

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    Indeed, I've also been doing trails sprouts. I was shifted the hemp bag and Organic seed. Hung off teh back of the pack. Eating raw sprouts are better since you're not 'killing' the enzymes.

    Asa Foodie I almost aways have a clove garlic fresh, turmeric, and ginger rhizome, cinnamon, chia, hemp and sesame seed, sprouted nuts,....

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    Wooohoooo, another person who enjoys sprouts on the trail. Honestly, I don't know why this isn't more common. Having something crisp and fresh helps to brighten my day. My favorite bean to sprout is called a "moth bean". It is absolutely delicious. It's everything good about the mung bean, plus better growing and better taste. I'm likely going to sprout a mix of mung and moth beans, but I've got to test that out first. I really don't like sprouting more than one type. If they have the same growth rate, then it won't be a big problem.

    I've never really gotten into sprouting or making milk from nuts. I have no doubt that these two things would also be beneficial during long distance treks.

    One of my favorite meals to make with moth or mung sprouts, is a salad with a coleslaw style dressing. Lemon juice, a tad of sugar, red pepper flakes,pickles, parmesean, pepper, and it's good to go. I do agree with you about raw sprouts being better nutrition, but I am also dehydrating the sprouts to add to the meals. I feel that this is better than any other alternative, and it's a good supplement to the live sprouts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    As a Foodie I almost aways have a clove garlic fresh, turmeric, and ginger rhizome, cinnamon, chia, hemp and sesame seed, sprouted nuts,....
    As a Foodie, we would have some delicious meals together. That's kind of what I'm hoping for, is to hike with someone who is equally as passionate about quality food. Some people could see foodies as picky. That's a fair description, but I enjoy quality food. I didn't get much joy from the plain ole dill pickle slices that I dehydrated. However, it excites me when I dehydrate something such as Dave's spicy pickle chips. It's the difference between dehydrating onions, or taking the time to slowly caramelize onions in a sautee pan with coconut oil. I add salt near the very end of the sautee process. The combination of these things make the onions taste very similar to french fried onions. As a foodie, I get excited by the little extra steps to make a meal special.
    Last edited by Trambo; 01-24-2019 at 17:54.

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    I made a trip out to Dollar Tree today, to see what cheap food that I could find. I didn't find much to talk about there, except for freeze dried apple slices. Most everything is better bought in bulk than at the dollar store, but it's an option for many. The apples are good, and I also picked up some sunflower seeds and banana chips. I also bought three things to attempt to dehydrate. I got a nice 8 ounce bag of oreo minis (thinking of separating them and dehydrating them), generic fig newtons, and a 1 pound package of gnocchi.

    For the gnocchi, I am going to try multiple ways of dehydrating them. I will try a few whole, a few cut in half, and a few sliced. I'm thinking that gnocchi slices will dehydrate into something similar to potato pearls (we'll see).

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    Anybody got an Over/Under guess on how many trail days before Trambo reverts to a “traditional” AT trail menu?
    Using Dollar Stores in the generic sense, they are often your only food source. Your choice has been made for you. Pop Tarts, Little Debbie, Snickers, Slim Jim’s, etc. An example: The AT crossing at Hwy. 19E. Elk Park, NC has a newish Dollar General and a gas station convenience store less than a mile from the trail.
    Enjoy.
    Wayne

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