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Good Trail Food: Olive Oil

I'm traveling this week and just got back from a fantastic dinner at Carmines, and excellent Italian restaurant on Rush Street in Chicago. Incredible food. I had an appetizer tonight that I have been planning to bring on my next section hike on the Long Trail: olive oil with good bread and powdered parmesan cheese.

This might seems like an odd meal to bring on a backpacking trip, but olive oil is a very popular food with ultralight backpackers because it is so weight efficient and because it is quite easy to pack. For example, olive oil has 240 calories per once making it very calorically dense. By comparison, other backpacking foods provide you with far less than 100 calories per ounce, if you are lucky

If you want to bring olive oil with you on a trip, you can repackage it in a small plastic bottle or purchase ketchup-style restaurant packages of it to bring along in your food bag.

On my next hike, I will also be bring along some foccacia bread and parmesan cheese to eat with the olive oil. Parmesan cheese keeps extremely well on a backpacking trip because it is a very dry cheese with low water content. I'll sprinkle the cheese on the bread and then pour oil on it to eat it, and to avoid having to bring along any utensils or paper plates. This will make a very satisfying dinner. I might also had some red pepper to the oil to give it a little kick. Try this sometime and let me know how you like it.


  1. Sounds great! Excellent! I just wrote it down in my pack list for my next trip. I'll let you know how it goes.

  2. Great idea. I've been trying to figure out how to incorporate Olive Oil into a cold meal, but had not thought of this. I saw the small ketchup-sized packets of olive oil at Subway, last time I was there. Next time I'm picking up a sub, I'll grab some extra olive oil packets. Thanks.

  3. This is another good idea. I will definitely bring cheese with me on my next backpacking trip (but this means can't use my newly purchased Snow Peak pots!).

    I cook with olive oil every day at home.

    If you'd like to see a woman sampling (and by sampling I mean drinking thimbles of it) olive oil, I found this video podcast amusing a few months back:

  4. I always take olive oil with me, and I like that foccacia & parmesan idea – going to give that a try next time.

    On cold climbs I find that a quick swig of olive oil warms me up rapidly. The only downside is that it freezes at a few degrees below, so I usually keep a small bottle tucked in my jacket somewhere.

  5. Chris – we have this pretty good restaurant chain called "Not Your Average Joe's" on the US east coast that serves the foccacia, parmesan, red pepper infused olive oil combo as their pre-dinner bread basket. I love it so much I can't stop eating it, so it seemed like a good thing to copy for summer trips when I don't want the bother of a backpacking stove.

  6. Extra-light olive oil is what we bring for lipids every time. It goes well with everything, and, as you say, keeps well and is calorie-dense. If I was getting fancy I might bring sesame or hot sesame oil too.

    Powdered Parmesan or Romano works well to add some flavorful protein, as does cheddar cheese or cheese sauce powder. Dried egg or whole/skim milk powders are good too. I've been getting things like that from Barry Farms – good prices and service.

  7. Beware of the individual packets of oil – the ones at Subway are mostly canola oil – only 10% olive oil.

    It is about as calorically dense as regular olive oil, but extra virgin and virgin olive oil contains higher concentrations of antioxidants. If you're going with light or extra light olive oil, it doesn't make too much of a difference.

    Sesame oil is very pungent – I found it's an acquired taste. I personally wouldn't want to eat it in this manner.

    If you don't like the taste of olive oil, try grapeseed, which is lighter, but much higher in omega 3 and antioxidants.

    Peanut oil is a cost effective substitute, and is a bit more versatile.

    Pasta works well with oil too, and is much denser than bread. Packets of salad dressing mix can add a lot of flavor to an otherwise bland meal.

    You might also try solid Parmesan – it doesn't last quite as well as the powdered varieties, but in cool weather, it will keep for at least a week. But, you can gnaw on a small piece of it anytime you start to get hungry.

  8. I know of a website that sells small sizes of various blends of Olive Oil, even with Truffles, or Raspberry Vinegars, or Balsamic mixes..But still the best oil to have along for cooking Trout is…Crisco! Hate the taste of Trout and Olive oil….But I do carry a small bottle of Olive oil to use over any tender freshly picked wild greens I pick along the way..Mmmmmmmmm Spring is coming I better check my supply…..Thanks for the reminder…

  9. I’ve used this exact meal idea for a lunch or trail snack idea. I usually bring a hunk of Italian bread to start off with and try to kill it the first two days. Olive oil, pepper and pepper flakes along with cheap Kraft Parm cheese is how I go. All in a sammy bag ready to go on an outside backpack pocket

  10. I used to get the Nutiva squeezable coconut oil but can’t find it in stock anywhere now. Instead I plan to bring olive oil on my upcoming 10-day hike in the 100 MW on the AT, but not sure if it would be better to bring a plastic bottle of it, individual packets, or something else. Any suggestions on what would be the most leak proof?

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