Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Inexpensive Dehydrated Food Option

I've been investigating some dehydrated food options for the PCT. Normal dehydrated backpackers' dinners are far too expensive to use on the PCT with my budget, but I was given a link to, which offers considerably cheaper options. 

Obviously, their year's supply of food is out of the question. These products often require lengthy preparation times, and everything would have to be repackaged for my hike. Furthermore, it's very risky to get that much food at once, not knowing in advance if I'll even like it, or if I'll be able to complete the entire PCT. 

Here I'll look at the products that could be used for a thru-hike:

3-Day Responder
$22 for 3 days of food, or $7.30/day
Approx. 1400 calories a day, according to company rep.
Conveniently packaged meals that need just boiling water and a few minutes of simmering (i.e. sitting in boiling water with the lid on).
Very easy to transport when backpacking.
Little extra air in packages, so will not expand much at high altitudes. 
>>> I have ordered this to try out at home and will write a review when I get it and try it out.

3-Day Responder 5-Pack
Identical meals to the above.
$100 for 15 days of food, or $6.67/day
Shipping just twice as much as for 3-Day Responder.

Grab-n-Go Pack
$350 for 60 days of food (200 meals), or $5.83/day
More calories per day than Responder packs, according to company rep.
Meals are not individually packaged and would need to be redistributed in plastic bags. 
Many more meals and much more variety than the Responder packs.
Same cooking style -- just add boiling water and let sit.

Nutrition Case
$190 for 6 cans of food
Contains breakfast food, snack bars, and a drink powder.
Snack bars need to be reconstituted in water, with honey added (in small plastic container).

Quick-Fix Case
$110 for 6 cans of dinners.
More variety for main meals.

Shipping the above
Company reps have confirmed that they can ship priority mail to general delivery. That means food can be ordered from the trail, directly to the trail.

Food ideas

I'm going to try the basic Responder pack to test the overall quality of food, and make a decision on what to get, if anything, after that. The Responder packs are most convenient for backpacking use, but may lack variety for long-term use. The other food packages listed above would need to be repackaged for use in thru-hiking. Either the Grab-n-Go pack alone or the Nutrition and Quick-Fix Cases together could provide an entire meal system. A mixture of these could be used to add variety, but that could start getting complicated. 

Boosting calories

Obviously, 1400-1800 calories a day is not remotely enough for PCT thru-hikers. What I like about these meals, however, is that they provide all the nutrition I would need in a very condensed form, and include lots of fruit and vegetable ingredients and adequate protein. The caloric value of the dehydrated food seems to be in the 400 calorie per 100 gram range. These regular meals could then be supplemented with lots of energy bars packing approx. 500 calories per 100 gram (e.g. Snickers, oatmeal or nut bars, poptarts or equivalent). So, a day's food supply might consist of:

  • 400 grams dehydrated stuff = 1400 calories + 70 grams olive oil = 600 calories
  • 600 grams high-energy snack food = 3000 calories
Note that adding olive oil to the lunches and dinners can add quite a few calories, and I would be getting 5000 with about 1 kg of food. 

The cost for the above day's worth of food would be approx. $10-12, not including shipping costs, which would probably amount to another $3 or so per day depending how I choose to do it. In town, I would buy various supermarket foods for variety. Oh, and eating this dehydrated food would require using a stove - either the Bush Buddy or an alcohol stove (don't like the idea of carrying superfluous fuel around with me, though). 

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