Dan's Outside

I go, I see, I do, I walk, I think, I like…

Breakfast on the Trail

After seeing this morning’s Trailcraft post about breakfast I thought I’d offer my thoughts about breakfast on the trail.

For years I’ve valued simplicity above fanciness when it comes to trail meals, and breakfast is no exception. I’m generally uninterested in spending a lot of trail time preparing food. My standard breakfast has long been cold granola, perhaps supplemented by a cup of tea. I pick up granola in the bulk food bin at my local Whole Foods and re-bag it for the trail. To a single serving (maybe about 2/3 to 3/4 cup) of granola I add a heaping tablespoon of dry milk power. Since it can be hard to get dry milk to fully dissolve on the trail, I shake the sealed ziploc bag containing milk powder and granola until everything is evenly distributed. Fixing breakfast couldn’t be easier: Find a comfortable rock with a great view, sit, empty bag into cup/bowl, add water, mix a bit, and eat. (I’ve speculated that it might work to pour the water straight into the ziploc, seal, mix, and eat from the bag – but the thought of carrying milk and granola coated plastic bags in my trash bag has dissuaded me from trying this.)

On long pack trips careful food selection and packing become all the more important. On a short trip it isn’t a problem if you over- or under-pack a bit, but both are to be avoided on a long trip. You don’t want to carry any more food than necessary, but you sure as heck don’t want to run short. In addition, these days you have to think of how you’ll cram it all into a bearproof canister. A few years ago, while preparing for a long Sierra pack trip, it occurred to me that a meal of granola is probably slightly larger than a meal of oatmeal, with the downside that preparing oatmeal consumes fuel. However, if you are approaching the capacity limit of your bear canister, adding fuel bulk outside of the canister to extend the number of days worth of food you can fit in the canister can be a Good Thing. (I can get more than 10 days of food into a standard canister and I’ve been out for a week using only the small Bearvault.)

As a consequence of this slightly convoluted reasoning I often replace the granola with oatmeal on longer trips. While each ziploc of oatmeal is only a bit smaller than a ziploc of granola, on a long trip the difference probably adds up to at least on extra breakfast. I assemble my own “trail oatmeal” at home, again using ingredients from the grocery store bulk bins. I start with 1/2 cup of “quick cooking” (not instant!) oatmeal, to which I add some raisins (or perhaps date or apple pieces), a few chopped nuts (walnuts or perhaps almonds), some brown sugar, dry milk powder, and cinnamon. The whole thing cooks on low heat in three minutes or less on the trail, and I’ve come to look forward to the hot breakfast. If I’m going to have tea (see below) I start out by boiling enough water for both tea and oatmeal. After pouring out the water for the tea I add the oatmeal ingredients to the simmering water, and I drink tea while fixing oatmeal.

What about beverages? Many years ago I used hot chocolate mixes (e.g. “Swiss Miss”) and even carried Tang, the industrial strength pseudo-orange-juice powder. Yuck! The chocolate mixes are too bulky and heavy, and don’t really taste all that great. Tang is, well… Tang. Let’s not go there. For a short time I carried a very small single-cup espresso maker – wonderful coffee, finicky operation, too much weight. These days I only carry a few tea bags. They are small and light and even a confirmed coffee addict like me can learn to like tea on the trail – in truth, I don’t miss espresso at all on the trail now. I usually carry a few herbal mint teas (especially good in the evening) along with some stronger caffeinated teas for breakfast.

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September 17, 2007 - Posted by | Technique

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