Food System

Preface

I would like to note this is just the way I organized how I would go about fueling myself on the Appalachian trail.  Looking back, I could have done it even more efficiently.


Food Supply Packed for One Day:

Breakfast

  • Granola Mix + Oatmeal/Hot Coco – Will likely eat Oatmeal cold to avoid cook time.
  • Daily Multivitamin

Lunch

  • Two Packets of Tuna + Mayo on a Tortilla
  • Mashed Potatoes/Ramen – Will likely eat mashed potatoes cold if I consume in the middle of the day to avoid the cook time.

Dinner

  • Freeze Dried Meal
  • Mashed Potatoes/Ramen Noodles (If not consumed earlier)

Energy Bars

  • Two Cliff Bars
  • Three other bars (excluding Cliff Bars)

Variety is very important when eating practically the same thing every day.  A large variety makes the journey in a sense, more interesting especially when you are not expecting what is next.  I purposefully did not keep track of all the different kinds of food I purchased, but I did keep track of the number of variations:

  • Freeze Dried Dinners – 11 variations
  • Tuna Packets – 7 variations
  • Energy Bars – 34 variations (Mostly of the Larabar brand)
  • Granola – 3 variations
  • Mashed Potatoes – 3 variations
  • Oatmeal Packets – 3 variations

In an attempt to spice up my meals, I have an ‘A’ day and ‘B’ day bag, which I plan to alternate by day.  An ‘A’ day bag would have Ramen Noodles and Hot Coco, while a ‘B’ day would have Mashed Potatoes and Oatmeal.  See below for visual.


A-Day Bag

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B-Day Bag

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As you can see in the images above and below, in the left corner of the bags, I have my dinner labeled along with my lunch on the right corner.  This is to be sure I keep my meals as unpredictable as possible and to be sure I know at a glance not to pair this bag with the same dinner and or lunch.  As for the other markings, the circled ‘D’ means that this bag is a daily bag and the marking above is the type of daily bag, separating the different variations.

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Why Mark the Daily bag with a circled D?

I wanted to accomplish a 4000 Calorie diet but as you probably have noticed, I am barely reaching 3000 Calories per day, so I thought of making a bigger bag, one that would not only spice up the variety of my food more, but also add more Calories to my diet.  So, I created a ‘W’ bag for “weekly” bag.

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The weekly bags will have everything a B-bag has plus items to be consumed essentially over a period over a week or in my case, every other mail drop such as:

  • Bacon bits – for the purpose of mixing in with my mashed potatoes or tuna.
  • Dehydrated Vegetables – Depends on the week, but there are 12 different variations, also for the purpose of mixing in with my mashed potatoes.
  • Peanut M&Ms
  • Freeze Dried Dessert (S’mores or Neapolitan Ice-cream)

The ‘C’ Bags

One may be thinking what could possibly be the purpose of another group of bags.  Well, I only have a total of 97 bags prepacked.  The Appalachian Trail will certainly take me much longer than 97 days, but there are of a number of concerning factors that prevented me from prepackaging more food.  1) It is possible I may not finish the Appalachian Trail.  Luckily, if I do not finish, I purchased some of the longest lasting shelf life food out there to just consume whenever.  2)  I calculated the number of days based on the minimum number of miles I would need to execute on the daily if I were to complete the Appalachian Trail in six months (180 days).  Meaning if I hike more than 13 miles per day, I will be much further on the trail than anticipated and it is also a possibility I could have left over food.

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The purpose of the ‘C’ group is a way to alert myself that my food stock is running low so I can make the necessary actions to make sure I have food in the future based on my location.  The first ‘C’ bag will be marked with ‘C-18’ and day by day will decrease by one until I have bag ‘C-1.’

The contents of the ‘C’ bags are sort of a combination of bags ‘A’ and ‘B.’ The ‘C’ bags will basically have both Mashed Potatoes and Ramen.


Why Mail Drops?

While mail drops can be complicated and require a lot of time to plan, the pros for me outweigh the cons.

Pros:

  • Control over my expenses (Buy in bulk).
  • Researching and obtaining foods that have a high Calorie/Ounce.
  • Save time shopping and planning for meals.
  • Travel Less off trail.  I realize I will still need to travel in town for post offices, but some of the time hostels close to the trail will allow mail drops to be sent to their location.
  • Choice.  Even though I have my prepacked meal, I have the choice to go ahead and satisfy my cravings.

Cons:

  • Changing my diet to my cravings.
  • Lack of variety.
  • Lose option to buy as I progress.

Note: If you choose to mail your food to yourself through the mail drop system it is very helpful to make sure you have a reliable person to ship your food to you.  It is possible to pre-schedule your mail drops to be sent at certain times, though I am unsure of the flexibility you would encounter.  With that said, I  would like to thank my Mom for being able to send, package, and mail my food.  I very much appreciate her support.


Post Trail Comments:

  • To push for higher mileage days, I stuck to quick meals such as my energy bars.  I even picked up extra in towns.  There were two in particular I would continuously pick up:  Cliff Bar – Blueberry Crisp & Special K Protein Meal Bars – Strawberry!
  • I have had pretty much every Lara-bar, 18 variations total according to my previous Amazon orders.  I realized after buying them, that while healthier, they are not the best tasting.  I still ate every single one I purchased, for those quick calories, but they were far from appetizing.  There was one though, I fortunately looked forward to and that is their Banana Bread bar.  It straight up tastes like real banana bread minus the heat of an oven!
  • I requested my reliable person (Mom) to take out the granola, bacon bits, and the dehydrated vegetables.  I did not only have trouble eating them on the go, but I also lost the desire to eat them.  Quite a bit of my granola and ended up in Hiker boxes.  The dehydrated vegetables in my experience required more soaking time than I was comfortable allocating for.
  • Before my next mail drop, the majority of the food I would have left over would be granola, mashed potatoes, Ramen, and tuna packets.  I liked the non-flavored mashed potatoes, Ramen, and tuna.  The reason they tended to be the last items was because the only meal, I would take an actual break for over time was dinner.
  • Before fully acclimating to trail life and experiencing hiker hunger, I found myself giving away (mostly in hiker boxes at hostels) a lot of my food.  If you find yourself doing this in the beginning, do not worry.
  • If you find that you are sending yourself too little, be sure to check hiker boxes for food before purchasing more food in town.