My wife and I are going to do the Eagle Rock loop in Arkansas in the middle of June this year. We've typically always carried way too much food, but are going to give mountain house a try on this trip. For those that have a lot of experience with the freeze dried packets, what would you recommend we take? 3 per day? Or 3 packets each per day? I'm about 190lbs and she's under 110.
1) I agree the temptation to bring too much food is hard to resist. I always find actual meal planning helps. Plan three good meals a day and some snacks, but don't bring emergency meals. I always seem to bring back extra snacks. I figure bringing an additional "what-if" meal on top of that is overkill. At the end of the day count up how much calories you are bringing.
2) Do you plan on eating nothing but mountain house? I like mountain house... but that seems like a lot of mountain house. They claim the packets are 2.5 servings each, but that is if you add in side dishes. I have a hard time finishing the packet by myself, so I prefer to split them. However, I have a hard time finishing the packet because of the monotony. Half a packet, plus half a side dish or some snacks is pretty good. At 110 lbs, I doubt your wife would be able to finish a MH packet by herself. I also doubt half a packet is enough calories for you.
First, I will confess that I hate freeze-dried meal packages. I have never depended totally on any brand of FD meals.
Read the labels. Freeze dried "meals" may not be intended as the source of all the calories you need for each meal. You should be getting between 2000 and 2500 calories per day.
Evaluate your own "hunger" when backpacking. I suspect that due to your past experiences, you get the typical lack of apatite the first week of backpacking.
I suggest you share one fd meal and supplement with more appealing other "courses". I really like soups as a first course. A salty liquid really rejuvenates after a day of sweating. There are plenty of good dried soup packets you can buy in a grocery store. I have a friend who almost totally goes for split pea soup topped with "Goldfish" crackers! Gourmet hard cheese or sausage also make a tasty tidbit. And I reward myself with a square of dark chocolate (or other high quality hard candy).
I am a big fan of "gorp" - nuts and dried fruit for lunch. Also cheese sticks. They are individually wrapped and keep well. Jerky is another lunch favorite of mine. I also take Emergen-C packets for a nice mid-day fizzy fruit flavored drink that also balances my electrolytes. Candy in minor amounts is OK, but it does tend to make you "bonk" later in the day.
Be sure every bit of food you bring is appealing to you. This means that you really need to try out those Mountain House meals before you go, if you are not already familiar with these meals. A total freeze-dried diet will likely cause you digestive distress. I would only use Mountain House meals for dinner. You can get regular dry instant cereal packets in the grocery store. Also get a bag of "trail mix" to top the cereal.
I think about food in terms of calories, not packets or serving sizes.
Depending on your size and lifestyle, your dietary needs will be different. This makes it very difficult to determine how much Mountain House you need. For what it’s worth, I weigh 145 and can easily devour a 2.5 serving MH.
Serving sizes are based on a 2000 calorie diet that represents the average adult woman weighing 132 lbs- she won’t gain or lose anything on that diet. If you’re above 132 lbs, add 15 calories per pound (and vice-versa if you’re under). The resulting number is the amount of calories you should take in each day if you want to maintain your weight. This is a ballpark number- you’ll want to hone it based your level of exertion, metabolism, specific dietary requirements, whether you want to gain/lose weight, etc.
Serving sizes are deceiving: A MH meal may be 2.5 servings for a 132 lb. adult woman, but for a 300 pounder it would be more like 1 serving.
Figure out your personal caloric needs and go from there. It’s like the culinary version of a gear shakedown.
Great advise guys, I appreciate it. Yeah, Oatmeal may be a good lightweight breakfast to take along. Dicks Sporting Goods is running a good deal on mountain house, so I had to buy it. They have a sale of 12 for 47.99. I've started to shy away from cliff bars, but I know they pack some calories. As one has mentioned, I'm am the perfect example when it comes to the lack of appetite during a backpacking trip.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Even that 132 lb. woman will burn a lot more calories if she's backpacking, say, 10 miles per day at 10,000 feet altitude. Unless she is fully acclimatized to the altitude (takes at least a month), she will burn a lot more than 2,000 calories per day even without the additional activity. The same is true for the increased activity without the altitude. Put the two together, and she probably can't eat enough to maintain her weight.
I try to plan for 1 lb. of food per day for trips of a week or more. For those longer trips, I try to pick lighter weight food, such as freeze-dried fruit, instead of dehydrated, for snacks and lunches. Of course, it's more expensive, so for trips of a few days I use dehydrated to save money, which means more like 1 1/4 lbs. of food per day. For an overnighter, I may even take fresh food, which is heavier yet. On the other hand, for the first few days of a trip, my appetite tends to be poor.
Of course I am one of those "perpetually plump" people who can always stand to lose some pounds, so I don't worry about being undernourished.
If you must live on a "Mountain House" diet, and don't need to lose weight, do remember that it is extremely low in fat, which is the most efficient source of calories (9 calories per gram vs. 4 for protein and carbs). Taking along some olive oil and adding a tablespoon or two to your freeze-dried dinner when rehydrating will boost your calorie count, and it will probably taste better. If you don't want to decant olive oil into a plastic squeeze bottle (note that it may leak, so keep the bottle in a ziplock bag), you can buy envelopes of a pretty good olive oil from minimus.biz. And it's really healthy fat.
And, of course, there's always peanut butter!
One thing to note is that dehydration destroys vitamin C. For trips of a month or more, you might want to plan on taking a supplement.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Loc: Eastern MA, USA
I just had the pleasure of a hiking/camping trip in the Shennies as part of a longer road trip. A month of travel forces one to really make an effort to save space. Freeze dried foods do not shrink as do dehydrated ones. One trick that I developed for this trip was to toss freeze dried fruit (found on sale) in a food processor or blender with a little Chia for a nutritional boost and fiber plus a little Stevia. The sampling of the sale fruit that I tasted at home seemed under ripe, so not sweet. Most of the fruit concoction was packaged in small bags to have as a fruit sauce once water was added along my hikes. This saved a lot of space in my pre packed lunches. I also pureed cherry and strawberry-rhubarb pie filling, mixing those about half and half with applesauce, again sweetening to taste with Stevia to make fruit rolls. Those went over very well with friends. The fruit rolls were not as compact as the intentionally over died and pulverized fruit intended for sauces, but they were good enough to be worth it.