This post may contain affiliate links.

Long Distance Backpacking without Resupply Stops

A White Mountain Diretisimma Route
A White Mountain Diretisimma Route

I have just started planning a 200 mile summer backpacking trip where I’m going to carry all of the food I need for two weeks. I’m not going to have a support team and I’m not going to make any resupply stops in towns or at huts. No bikes or buried food caches, either. In fact, the point of the trip is to hike over all of the White Mountain 4,000 footers in one continuous round without any assistance, carrying everything that can’t be gotten from the environment like water and fuel.

This trip very different from most of the longer trip plans I do on the Appalachian Trail where I can count on a resupply every 4 or 5 days. It’s also the first time I’ve attempted a hike that’s 15 days long without a resupply, although I went through a similar process a few years ago when I planned a 9 day hike through the 100 mile Wilderness in Maine.

I’m just getting into the planning process, but I thought I’d share some of my early thoughts about how to provision a trip like this, at least in terms of food and fuel. My friend Ryan (Guthook) has also been thinking about doing a long hike like  on the Long Trail and I’m sure we would benefit from any insights or reactions you have.

Cooking Fuel

The White Mountains are covered in forest, so I plan to use a wood stove to eliminate most of my fuel weight. I might add a sharper knife to my gear list in case I have to cook on rainy days and need to strip wet branches to get at the drier burnable core. Another option would be to carry some emergency esbit tabs. Both sound prudent. I’m not a big fan of esbit, but it burns when nothing else will and is far more packable than alcohol.

Food per Day

I’m thinking 2 pounds per day for planning purposes, but this might work out a bit lower. Sam Haraldson pointed me at some research a while back showing that long distance backpackers need about 1.75 pounds of food per day after the first week, and 1.5 pounds before that until their metabolisms rev up. That has been my experience on the 2 week hikes I’ve taken in the past.

On the other hand, I’m not quite ready to push the limit on food weight. In fact, I plan to carry 15 days of food even though my route only requires 13 days to complete if I stay on schedule. Atrocious weather and fatigue are likely to play a factor though and I want the option to sit out a day to rest or let a storm pass.

Caloric Density, Variety, and Volume

First off, I’m not into eating prepackaged backpacking meals because I like to limit the amount of crappy, chemical laden food I ingest. I’m also not into freezer bag cooking for such a long trip because it can be dreadfully boring. Been there, done that. I don’t ever want to eat couscous again!

Variety is going to be really important. I’ve been on hikes where I’ve gotten bored with my food and had problems eating enough to stay fueled. Provisioning 15 days of variety takes a lot of creativity and is something I need to really work on. For example, I’m looking into the prospect of cooking pancakes on this trip or bannock bread instead of bringing prepared carbohydrates, if only to keep things interesting. Cooking with wood, I will have an unlimited supply of fuel: the question is whether I can regulate the flame enough to fry something.

On average,  I will be shooting for 100 calories per ounce to keep the weight of my pack as low as possible. That means I will be carrying a lot of Olive Oil which has 240 calories per ounce. Other caloric rich foods include nuts, dried fried, salami, pasta, cheese, cookies, cake, pudding, Nido (powdered whole mile), peanut butter and so on.

The volume that food takes is also going to be really important because I don’t want to carry a heavier, higher volume backpack if I can avoid it. The ideal would be to have all the food I need available in a compressed brick, or at least as packable, with as little volume as possible.

Dietary Supplements

I used to believe that you could get all of the nutrients you need when hiking from your food, but I don’t think that’s going to work on a trip this long and this much strenuous elevation gain. I’m still calculating it, but I reckon it will be between 50,000 and 75,000 feet of elevation.

To compensate, I plan on taking a daily multi-vitamin at breakfast, mixing a quart of electrolytes for a noon-time refresher, and drinking a quart of Cytomax, also a powder, at dinner. I’ve used Cytomax as a recovery drink for winter backpacking and really like it. I think it keep my muscles from getting sore and it’s easy to digest.

Water Filtration

I plan on filtering my water using the Sawyer Squeeze  filter I picked up last year, but will bring along chlorine dioxide tablets as a back up. There’s usually plenty of water in the White Mountains within a half day hike unless I need to dry camp. I will be carrying my usual combination of a 3L flat platypus bottle (for evening camp storage) and 2 x 1 quart soda bottles and don’t foresee any difficulties on this front, although I’ve been warned about the need to carry extra water on some of the ridge traverse.

Bear Bags

Hanging heavy bear bags near sun down is a real pain in the ass. I’ve done it with 16 pounds of food and it wasn’t any fun: imagine what it will be with 30 pounds! It would mean having to stop each day at least 90 minutes before sundown. Hanging in the food in the dark is a really good way to kill yourself. Don’t ask.

I think I’m going to try to rationalize using Ursacks, which don’t need to be hung, or a combination of Ursacks and bear bags since I can only get 8 or 9  pounds of food into an Ursack and I only own one. Either way, bear protection is a very real issue, not just to protect the bear, but because losing any food to a bear or animal could jeopardize my hike’s raison d’etre.


Those are my preliminary thoughts for planning out a food strategy for an unsupported two-week hike. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I really enjoy there trip planning exercises, particularly because they require optimizing a number of different variables.

In this case, I need to come up with a very compressible food supply that provides me with enough calories, nutrients, and variety to last 13-15 days, given a virtually unlimited supply of cooking fuel and a willingness to spend up to an hour a day cooking. That’s got me thinking about bringing less processed foods for compactness (grains, premixed flour, powdered eggs and milk), provided I could use the cooking time to cook food for a few meals at a time. I wonder if that kind of strategy would work, if my goal is to finish the hike and not to set a speed record.

What else should I be thinking about in terms of food planning?


  1. Sounds like a great trip. Look forward to your follow-up posts. Keep us informed!

  2. 50,000 to 75,000 elevation gain? Really?

    • One other person has finished this hike before and their route included 87,000 feet of elevation. I'm hedging on what mine will be because I don't like the way my TOPO/GPS maps calculate elevation, so I'm going to have to add it up by hand, and because I haven't completely nailed down about 20% of my route yet and can't until I do a full exploratory hikes to figure out some bushwhacks and river crossings. But 50-75k is not an unreasonable estimate. I will be climbing 48 x 4000-6288 foot peaks along the way.

  3. Awesome tri/plan! I did a 6 day trip in a portion of that route… my pack was too heavy though to make a ride line traverse. I liked the energy bars: whole berry blast. packed instant oatmeal and the healthier version of backpackers pantry katmandhu curry and chana masala..both of which have pretty good ingredients. I would suggest to take along Chia Seeds. And I made a trail mix blend with brazil nuts, goldenberries, dates, goji berrries, almonds, walnutes, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and dried mango and papaya. Id like to see a list of your final gear that you are taking. Good luck!

    • Probars – that's a good idea. They are quite dense and stack up well. Same with gorp, although I do get tired of it. Gear is actually easy on this trip and makes it possible to carry all this food. It will almost definitely be less than 12 pounds.

      One strategy I looked into was trying to eat the food weight down before I started climbing big peaks but that doesn't work too well because I have to climb so many and it's unavoidable. Well, I like planning problems like this!

      • I’m sorry but not carrying processed foods will not protect you from a ‘chemically laden’ diet.

        Food is nothing but chemicals. Even water is full of the industrial solvent dihydroxy monoxide.

  4. I've done a 191 miles w/o resupply before. You're smart with the fuel idea. Getting all the food into my pack was a challenge, but I also didn't have ultralight gear at the time. My personal preference if I did it again would be putting my dehydrator to massive use: blackbeans, refried beans, lentils, split pea soup, fruit, sundried tomatoes(dehydrator dried). I never get sick of oatmeal for breakfast. I would probably smash up a ton of oily corn chips to sprinkle on my food for more taste and variety. Like you I would carry a lot of olive oil, even adding it to my oatmeal. When I did my 191 miles I carried a 2.5 pound bear canister and it took a few days before all my food fit in it. Unlike you, I just eye-ball my food, instead of calculating how much I'll eat each day, and I ended up running out of food! At least there was plenty of water around!

    • I burned out on my dehydrator pretty quickly so I'd probably take the Harmony House shortcut., but corn chips smashed are the way to go! I got turned onto Fritos this winter by friend Tom Murphy and they are an awesome winter trail food, packing a ton of calories. Tom contends that they can be used as firestarter too because they pack so much oil. I still plan to test that out.

      You see the packability issue – I am amazed that you got so much food into your bear canister. Where was the 191 mile stretch?

      • The 191 miles I did was the Sierras stretch of the PCT with a side add-on to go up Mount Whitney and back down. It took me a couple days before I could get all my food in my bear canister (bear canister’s suck!) Today I don’t eat like I did when I was on the PCT (I ate anything at that time, especially Snickers bars). I’ve recently become a vegan, try to eat all organic, and don’t eat sugar, so for me dehydrating is the way to go.

        Fritos certainly do light up. I used to light them up as a chemistry experiment when I was a high school chemistry teacher. We would calculate how many calories were in the chip by measuring the weight of each chip, mass burned, and temperature change (we would hold the lit Frito under a beaker of water with a thermometer in the beaker), and then plug it into a heat equation.

        Those thick scoop type Fritos are the way to go for backpacking. They sell organic ones that are the same thing at Trader Joe’s if you have those in New England, and they are cheap too because they are Trader Joe’s brand.

        • I can use that tip now! Frito are really expensive in the supermarket, but we do have TJs here, Funny about your science experiment. What a hoot!

        • second on the TJ’s corn chips. i try to stay away from any corn that’s not organic due to GMO’s and monsanto in general

  5. Nice, ambitious hike. You could also continue from Gorham on through the Mahoosucs and end up in Grafton Notch in Maine.

    Philip, I grew up on Bangor Street in Gorham at the base of Mt. Moriah (your route goes right past my house). Looks like you are walking the abandoned railroad grade through Gorham and Randloph?

    Esbit can emit toxins. Try dabbing some cotton balls with petroleum jelly (vaseline). These are cheap, easy to make, and burn for several minutes. Carry them in a small tin or pill bottle.

    One spark from a firesteel or match and the cotton ball/vaseline combo will light up. The beauty of a firesteel is that it can get damp or wet and it will still start fires. This can be a life saver. Also, one firesteel can light thousands of fires. All you have to do is store your firesteel dry ('cause it can rust) and your good to go as far as fire is concerned.

    If you email me your address I'll send you a free GobSpark FireSteel for your use :-)

    • That railroad grade was an experimental route I was considering. I'm going to start at Cabot and Waumbek and the question was whether to climb Jefferson or Moriah after that. Jefferson is only about 500 feet more in elevation change, so I'll probably do the Northern Presidentials first if the weather is halfway decent, otherwise I'll walk around them and go straight to the Carter Moriah Range. It's complicated. :-)

      I always carry a fire steel. It's saved my ass. Everyone should carry one.

      • If you choose to skip the Carter-Moriah range, In Gorham you can take the Pine Mountain Pine-Link route to the Presidential s.

        The railroad grade is a nice walk. It goes on the other side of Gorham Hill along the Moose River.

        When the railroad was still in operation I’d often hike from Gorham to Randolph on the parallel Portland Pipeline right-of-way which is an interesting route too.

  6. Philip- check into Big Sur bars, they pack a lot of energy, great flavor, texture, about 600 cal per bar, all natural ingredients. I eat them on my long distance hikes, snacking every couple of hours on them.

  7. I am a day hiker so I really don't have any idea on what to bring on your multi-day hike versus what your body needs to keep your strength. I always take trail mix but my wife saw this special on Dr Oz show last week and he highly recommended whole grain bars by GNU so people on the run can get their recommended amount of fiber. I tasted one, the Banana Walnut Bar and it tasted good. You have a huge hike coming and I would think it is very important to get the right types of food in you to keep your energy to the level you need. Along with that it has to be at a portable for backpacking size. I always bring Gatorade in the powder form (small individual packs to mix with my water.

  8. A few other things that I've thought of, although not exactly food:
    Ziplocks– packing your food in as few plastic baggies as possible is something to think about with this volume of food. For shorter trips I often end up with a bunch of empty ziplock bags and no food. Two weeks worth of empty plastic bags could end up being unnecessarily bulky or heavy.
    TP– You could choose not to take TP and instead use natural resources (or a squeeze-bottle bidet), or go for the two weeks worth of TP.
    Huts?– Something to think about, but how would you limit yourself in terms of the huts? They can be a good source of potable water, toilets, or toilet paper (yeah, I've snagged a few yards of TP on occasion from a hut…).

    • I think stealing TP from the huts is probably out-of-bounds because that's a resupply, but I can rationalize getting water from them since I could just as easily get it outside. I was just planning on bring 2 weeks worth of paper towels, but there's always the fall back of using sticks and leaves, or a washcloth and cleaning it out every day. I will have to bathe, as well.

      I bulk pack food in ziplocks, even now. They do add up, but again I figured I'd dump accumulated trash in trash barrels I come across on Mt Washington or the Highland Center, so it won't add up.

      I hope I didn't out you on your unannounced trip plans.

      • Hah. No worries. That part of my plan isn’t the top-secret part :) Really, I’m not even decided on it yet. But it would be pretty cool if each of us did those trips this summer. Pushing the envelope for sure.

  9. Is it possible for you to hide a bear canister or hang a food cache prior to starting?

    John Roan of Mountain UltraLight has a nice article about what he packed for two people for their JMT hike, and photos showing how he packed the bear canisters

    • I think hiking in beforehand and positioning a cache is out-of-bounds because that counts as a resupply, but if I did it on the hike itself it would be ok. For example, there are some ridges I have to hike that have multiple peaks on them and I can only climb in the middle. In this case, I think it fair to hang my food and go hike the adjacent peaks to the north and south without carrying it out and back.

      Doing this hike end-to-end with resupplies is not easy, but it’s not that hard. There are peakbaggers in the Whites that climb all of the 48 peaks each month, all year round. But there’s only been one person to do them all without a resupply – that’s makes the hike much more difficult and forces all kinds of other skills to come into play, like bushwhacking, to cut the distance and amount of food required.

  10. Leaves. Not poison ivy leaves.

  11. Long distance hikes have been quite a problem for me. Seems I am always planning them. I do about 1-2 per year with some years more. Some as long as 6 weeks, but only 4 weeks was unsupported. Sometimes I can actually get gear at different spots, but, usually not. Even batteries for my lights or AM is nearly impossible to find without long distance hikes (a full day) off the trail and back.
    Soups and stews always get a shot of oil, along with whatever meat is handy. Fried wraps in butter seasoned oil, with a little cinnamon makes a good snack. All can be carried bulk, Bisquick or the like works well for fried breads, usually a thinner “wrap” style. This is usually done uncovered in the pot as my cup is usually relegated to the task of rehydrating veggies. If it sticks a bit, Oh well, I just scrape it out with my spoon and munch. Taste is ALWAYS good after a long day of hiking! I just drink out of my water bottles. Peas, corn, celery, green beans, onions, dried pepper bits are what I like…there are several other things in the mixes I get, though. I usually bring about pound or so for two weeks. This will be enough for a handful (about ¼ cup dried) at about 7-10 different suppers. I couple tablespoons of “flour”, dried beef, olive oil, and jerky bits simmered for ~20 minutes, then a half cup of dried potatoes makes a good stew. Some of the potato mixes are pretty good with a slice of cheese over them. Pepperoni/salami, olive oil, a 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper, some crushed white beans, and a crushed, cut up dried tomato makes an OK soup, Italian style. OK, you can skip the red pepperJ Mostly, these are prepped in my cup, mixing flour and water for example. Heat the oil and drop in the pot for cooking. Then a half cup of water and a handful of veggies, often selected…more beans for minestrone, more corn, green beans, onions for soup, etc. Also I would add about 5 bouillon cubes.
    For the rest, I usually bring rice/pasta sides of various flavors. Again, I add a little this, and that. Some are quite good…others are flops. That’s OK. Without a flop or two, you wouldn’t appreciate the good stuff.
    Lunches are not my usual. I prefer to snack most of the day. Cheese, summer sausage, pepperoni, salami, etc. If I manage to get a good wrap, no mean trick over a wood fire, I save it for lunch the next day and make another at supper. I usually eat on the move or at a 5 minute rest stop on the top of some hill. NEVER pass up a chance to refill water bottles. But, I carry only two twenty ounce gatoraid bottles. In summer, I have a bladder if I will be hiking to a dry camp. It is not usually full.
    Spices are a bit difficult, but, I have found they hold up pretty well in the corner of a baggie. Salt in the summer is important. I usually add about ¼ as much light salt for the potassium. A small amount, about the size of a 35mm film case is about right for three weeks…your mileage may vary. Black pepper, red pepper, dried onion bits, and some sort of salad seasoning (Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb?) I twist and knot the baggies, later to undo the knot to use them.
    Cooking over a wood fire can be problematical. We did that for almost 15 years back between ‘65-’80. Even after I got a stove, I was reluctant to bring one. That said, I ALWAYS carry one, now. For 14 nights out, I would plan on a 20floz bottle of white gas and the old SVEA. 20oz of fuel plus the bottle only weighs about 1 lb. At the least you would be covered for bad weather. We had a 7’x7’ tarp we would set up high over the fireplace. A dry spot is needed to start a fire and keep it going. Putting wet or damp wood in a wood stove is not fun, ever. They will generate a lot of smoke…driving you out of your tent/tarp. At least till they get going good. Then tending them requires constant attention. Anyway, it is enjoyable at first, but, gets old in a hurry. Hauling 2pounds up a hill is much easier after the third day of this. Anyway, your choice. I think at the least you could take a small topper and one 4oz canister to have as backup for bad weather.
    I would rethink using Cytomax, especially at dinner. I would reserve that for drinking during the day when you are actively using calories. The quick release nature of the Cytomax will try to appease your appetite. And, it will not last till breakfast. Complex carbs, fats and oils will make you feel fuller, and, last longer at night. Again, your choice.
    Breakfast is usually a large meal for me. Coffee, 6-9 heaping tablespoons of oatmeal, maple sugar, nido or cocoa, and sometimes fried pepperoni and eggs. About 1000-1500 calories, mostly complex carbs, the rest is fats and oils (along with my pills…diabetes, multivitamin, and pain pills of course.) Snacks are usually crushed Fritos (about an ounce per day.) I would plan on a single 10oz bag. You “can” add things for flavor. Cheese, barbeque seasoning, etc.
    Anyway, this will let you carry about 1.5lb per day. You should be good with that while hiking. Expect to lose about 5 pounds in two weeks. This is mostly high density food. Your main hunger will NOT kick in till about three weeks, so I would not get overly worried. Chances are you won’t eat that much on the first few days…but, you will make up for it later on.
    I could do a complete work up, but, I am not familiar with your likes, dislikes, and your tolerance for fussing with cooking. You could do 15 days with ~25pounds of food, including some high density chocolate bars. But, this is still quite a load (assuming ~35 pounds) going over the hills you have planned. After this winter you should be in shape for it.
    Bear bagging can be difficult. But a second line and bag works. (I split these, morning and supper.) Two 12 pound bags are easier than one 25 pound bag. It does mean an extra stuff sack, though. Waterproof is always good. I usually figure everything will fit into my old Miniposa. Packing small gear, always has some advantage.

    • Jim – I was hoping to hear from you. Great advice from a hard core explorer and much to ponder. Somehow, you’ve calmed me down about food planning. I think bringing some things to cook from scratch will work and that I really can drop my food weight down to 1.5-1.75 pounds without too much worry. The last and only guy to complete this hike before me lost 10 pounds in the process. He weighed 200 pounds before the hike, so it wasn’t then end of the world.

      • Yeah, two weeks out is no big deal. The hill you plan on climbing will be. I would suggest rationing out stuff at the start. As much as I dislike wasting bunches of baggies, it might be better to pack each day for the first 7 days to sort’of get the idea of what you are eating, Put all the leftovers (there WILL be leftovers to start with) in one bag. Feel free to grab anything out of that one bag later in the hike as your hunger starts building. Then refill the empty daily baggie from the bulk stuff and put it at the end of daily bags. Chances are, if you are putting on 10-20mi/day AND climbing hills, your hunger will never really develope as in a through hike. You are working too hard.

        Loosing 10 pounds is not that bad. Most of that is yo-yo weight, no doubt. Your body can handle it. The hard part is determining if you are tired because of the steep climb you just made (which will kill your apetite, too) or because you are burning fats and need some extra carbs and sugars. This determination can get difficult. Some nights you might not even feel like cooking. That’s OK, too. Trust how you feel. Your body will let you know when you NEED something to eat. Eat the fritos. But the view from the top, well, that IS what it is all about. You’ll find beauty one footstep at a time.

  12. Have you considered pemmican? It’s definitely an acquired taste but can be pretty good if made right. I use grass-fed tallow and dried beef and blueberries. It will definitely keep you going, and it weighs nothing.

  13. For a sharp knife take a serious look at the Falkniven F1 of S1 (6.0 oz / 6.7 oz). I used a S1 on an Allagash River trip this summer. We had a day of Rain 3+ inches and we needed to find some dry wood for cooking. I was able to find enough standing dead wood to split to get a fire started. The blade still held a razors edge after some hard work. You can find them for about $120 online.

  14. Sounds like a great trip. I would only say that you should consider things like extra toilet paper from huts, food in hiker boxes, and any convenience stores you pass along the road crossings, as “foraging”. It’s never good to stick to rigid rules. The abilities to improvise, and adapt are what make great adventures possible. Remember, Amundsen ate his dogs. :-) (ok… Maybe that was overstated, but you get the point.)

  15. Are fires legal everywhere you might camp? I’m thinking you might have probelms if you stay at a campsite or tentsite — you may need more Esbit tabs than you think.

    The only time I’ve had a fire in the WMNF was at the Franconia Brook tentsite (old and new locations…

    • I’ll expect to cooking with a small wood stove, not on an open flame. They’re perfectly legal in the WMNF and perfectly safe when used properly, just like any stove. I expect to stay at some hardened sites and others not. Pretty much what I normally do. I don’t use open fires. They are too destructive unless they’re built using LNT methods.

      • I figured you’d use something like a Bush Buddy or Tri-Ti. I’ve thought about trying one of these, but given the drought conditions here, they are a no-go…

  16. Porridge for breakfast. Good slow release energy for the morning. You could use instant but if you like wholesome options ordinary porridge pre-mixed with some full cream milk powder, add water and leave to soak over-night (if wild animals permit). warm up in the morning and add dried fruit of your choice for sweetness.
    If you have to use wet wood in a bushcooker, a small piece of esbit can dramatically improve performance. If you want a simple light locking knife, look no further than the opinel brand in various sizes. A classic design that has hardly changed in a hundred years.

    • Great tips Phil. Sounds like esbit is a win regardless – never really used the stuff, but it certainly is packable. Porridge would be good, but the critters will get it. Thanks!

  17. Sounds like one heck of a trip! I know food is very important along with a good supply of water and drinks. I have been in trouble for not having enough to drink so I tend to focus more on that area.

  18. I’ve taken Hamburger Helper. I boil the burger first, then brown it (usually with a little onion) and then dehydrate it. 1 # of burger is reduced to 5 oz

  19. Talk w/herbal food people.

  20. philjones hits the nail on the head when it comes to oatmeal. Use an empty peanut butter jar, or plastic bag stored upright in your cook pot, when soaking oatmeal (of course with salt) overnight in a bear bag. This is a minimal weight solution and makes the oatmeal that much more digestible in the morning. Of course this trick is adaptable as you hike if you wish to soak TVP.. anything else for that matter.

    I’m with marco when it comes to cooking. I too use to cook over open fires, and always hated the gummy residues left behind. Of course lashing the cook pot on the outside of the pack is one method I used to deal with this, in conjunction with lots of elbow-grease at water crossings. Of course certain woods give off certain residues, but it’s what the forest provides.. I for one find it much more flexible to bring a small stove for convenience and cook over a small (LNT) fire when desiring the extra effort and cleanup.. though cooking over open-flame sure is romantic! So I must ask, have you cooked solely with found wood while hiking for such an amount of time and distance? I don’t wish to discourage you; what works for one may not work for another.

    • Let me repeat for the record that I will not be cooking on an open fire. I will use a wood stove to contain the fire and with a fire plat to prevent the ground from being scorched. These are tiny little fires that burn very efficiently in the stove. I have used them before, they are used by a large number of AT thru-hikers in New Hampshire and up and down the trail every year and I honestly can’t understand the objection. They soot the outside of pots, which is a downside in my opinion, but they are perfect for this sort of expedition.
      Here are some links to show you what they look like:
      Backcountry boiler
      Flat Cat Gear
      Jason Klass demonstrating a bushbuddy
      Vargo Hexagon stove –
      Most of these will also burn alcohol or esbit.

  21. Guys, this is not about stoves. Wood stoves work well enough, my primary objection is that when I need them the most, they are hardest to use. Soaking wet, and shivering from stoping, borderine hypothermic, and then having to gather up twigs and branches (wet) and get a fire going so I can have hot chocolate? This will happen once per week in the shoulder seasons, kind’a hard to avoid it if you go out for any length of time. I am a lazy and typical American, I guess. I want a fire, I want it NOW. Not 15 minutes from now.

    I have, on occasion, draped a tarp around a corner in a lean-to and used my cooking stove to heat up the smaller area a bit. Not something you can easily do with a wood stove, though.

    It is tedious to get wood going. But the weight benefit will be about 12oz to a pound less weight. One trick I started using when I had one was picking up dryer stuff (“birch” bark, small twigs laying off the ground…) and stuffing them in my pocket to help with drying.

    I made and tried a smaller gasifier, about the size of a bush budy out of a couple different sized cans about the time Ryan Jordan, et al were talking about gearing up for the Arctic 1000. So, less fuel on a long unsuported trip is nice. For a week? A week is not that long. I found it to be a bit of overkill, because I carried almost the same weight in wood fuel by the end of a day as I would have if I had brought WG, due to foraging as I hiked.

    Philip wants to use wood. Let him concentrate on that. I gathered wood as I hiked when using it. A piece of “found” birch bark works about as good as any for starters. There were only a few places and conditions where it made *more* sense than another type of stove. You CAN save weight over a canister or WG stove for about a week. You spend time fiddling and foraging…not a bad trade off. Cooking can get interesting when the flame is high….and annoying when it burns down. But, significant weight savings only happen after two or three weeks out. After that you start noticing a much lighter pack. Before that, it is all about the food weight. Putting together 40-50lbs of food is no easy task. Carrying that will be ~4 times as heavy as the rest of your gear, combined.

    Food weight is the single biggest limiter to any unsupported hike. Cooked food is generally more efficient than quick snack foods…at least nutritionally. Gossamer Gear sent me some crackers that were pretty bad for Christmas. I *know* that these will be added to my list for trail foods, though…good food value! Not something to snack on…something to EAT!

  22. I like to take a small plastic bottle of “Dave’s Insanity Sauce” to perk up meals. One drop will do, so one small bottle goes a long way…


  23. has a huge selection of dehydrated and freeze dried foods. I carried several of their meats into the 100 mile wilderness last year. It helped a lot with daily weight and getting in enough protein.

  24. Hi. Last year I took FIVE 2-week trips into Mexico’s Copper Canyon where I’m a guide: I’d suggest:
    1 Forage for greens, berries, etc. In the Whites there should be plenty, and greens are essential to a good diet in the long run.
    2. Quick-cooking grains like kasha (buckwheet groats), quinoa, pearled barley, and oats. I also carry cous-cous, instant mashed potatoes and instant cooked bean flakes.
    3. Seasonings like olive oil, miso, and dry chipotle peppers.

    Filters are heavy. I never use one in the mountains, and almost never get sick (giardia once in 40 yrs of mountaineering in the US, likely from drinking from the outflow of a reservoir..) But I learned how to easily deal with that by getting amoebic dysentery at least 5 times in Latin America, which is worse than giardia. It’s easy to cure both with a cheap, VERY bitter herb. Here’s what you need to know:

  25. I’ve done trips as long as 32 days unsuported. (winter with a sled) The trick is to hike shorter distances the first week, middle distance the second week, and then crank hard when the pack is light. If you make pack struts out of wood you can burn them after the first week. Plan your trip around the pack weight not the other way round. Light, ultra light, super ultralight, stay in harmony with your load. Plan on getting stronger and faster as you go along.

    • Great advice about pack stays – I will try that out. I like your model about easing into the hike and will look at my route plan a bit more with that advice in mind.

  26. Please consider NOT relying on Ursack against bear attack. They are great for rodent resistance like on the AT, but Sierra bears have been getting through them for years, including one of mine.

    I use the smaller Bearikade bear can. No problems, bears don’t even try to get in it, they’re that smart. My other reason is not to have to fight off bears all night when food is hung or when they’re attacking an Ursack, which will ultimately be successful. I need every night’s sleep on trail, so not worrying about it and throwing rocks and pine cones all night is a blessing.

    I like to hang the very heavy when fully loaded Bearikade up in the neck of the pack with a homemade mesh sling or the like. Much easier to carry, better balance by far.

    • ursacks are fine for new hampshire in my experience although i have a canister for the high peaks area of the dacks in new york

      • I use a Wild Ideas Bearikade. Lager, High-peaks approved, replaced packsheet and stays in my REI Fash pack. Great combination! Seals well for kayaking trips. Expensive but well worth it after a long day.

  27. Hey man – sounds like a great trip. My (now) wife and I did 16 days on the JMT without resupply, before I got into ultralighting… we were very heavy but still doable and did some big passes on that trip. I used this woodstove extensively while hiking the PCT – granted summers are drier out here than in NH, but I almost never used my alcohol stove to cook dinner, reserving alcohol for my morning coffee when I didn’t want to hassle with foraging for fuel. I carried both the penny alcohol and this wood stove and had zero complaints. It burns so efficiently that your pot will be blackened but not really very sooty. I also can;t say enough good things about making a pot cozy out of an old foam pad – once you boil the water and whatever food you’re cooking, the cozy will keep it close to that temperature for about 15 minutes with no additional fuel input. Plus it keeps any soot out of your pack since you store the pot in the cozy.
    Have you tried to make clarified butter? (or buy ghee, in indian markets, if you can find it and don’t want to make your own.) Keeps forever, super calorie dense and yummy alternative to oils. I also relied on my dehydrator extensively for soups, chilis, etc – with Nido and ghee you can make a kickass cream sauce. just saying it’s good for more than jerky and rollups!

    • ghee sounds good. I’ll have to experiment. On foraging,I am thinking about bringing a Tenkara rod and taking a zero half way. Maybe do some fishing. Not trying to set any speed records, just finish,

      • I’ve often brought a fishing rod thinking I will supplement my food, but it never really works out. it’s good entertainment, but it also takes daylight hours that I always would rather spend walking, and weight that could be actual food instead of ‘maybe if they’re biting and I have the time and patience’ food. we met some guys on the trail who said they hiked the JMT in the 70s carrying only fishing rods and bisquick, thinking they’d fish for their meals….they lost like 30 lbs each!!! enjoy –

        • I like taking a zero after 6 days of hiking or so. The rod would help me kill a day, interspersed with some naps of course! Not a big deal if I don’t catch anything.

  28. maybe youre way ahead of me but im thinking about the bear sacking.. i wouldnt like the idea of having to stop with a big X amount of daylight left and then be working against the clock on a chain of critical tasks after a long day like that. how about bringing one ursack and one hanging bag. hang the bag immediately upon reaching camp, and keep the nights foods plus whatever heavier items fit in the ursack. youll only need the 20 minutes give or take of sunlight, and the ursack will serve its purpose

    • I love my Ursack and totally agree with you. Best to carry one bag of food in it and hang the other (and eat first). I hiked the 100 mile wilderness with 2 bear bags and hanging them at night sucked. Reducing night time chores and the danger of beaning myself with a bear bag rock is a priority!

  29. Hi,

    Sounds like you have a great hike planned!

    Many people think you’re stuck with Mountain House meals or you have to take individual freeze dried ingredients and assemble meals on the trail, but that’s simply not true. You can make your very own Mountain House style meals without all the preservatives by taking pretty much any “one pot dish” you make to eat at home, pour it out onto a fruit leather tray (with turned up edges) and dehydrate it whole. Just remember to cut up all veggies and meats into smaller pieces (0.5 cm cubes or so) before preparing the dish, because then they’ll dehydrate and rehydrate faster and more uniformly that way. Otherwise you’ll have things that are both soggy and crunchy in your bowl!

    If you make something that you want to pour over rice, barley, corn or quinoa, simply mix it with the grain thoroughly before pouring it on the sheet to dehydrate. I use a hearty food bowl that I have at home so I know how much actually makes up a serving (and mix together with the grain where appropriate) so I’ll know the right amount for a portion and then put one bowls worth on a sheet so that when it’s dehydrated I can just pour each tray into it’s own ziplock or vacuum seal bag to make a meal. Just put in the proportions in your bowl as if you’re preparing to have a meal on the trail, mix it all together and throw it in the dehydrator.

    I make, dehydrate & vacuum seal all my lunches and dinners for my trips and doing that yourself will handle virtually all of your concerns. The nutritional quality is very high because I make it all with nutrient dense organic foods, often cutting up things like kale or other veggies very finely and adding a bunch of that in to whatever I’ve made (beef chili w/ beans and polenta, curried lentil dahl, shephards pie, Indian curries, wilderness stew, turkey and stuffing stew, thai chicken & veggie red curry, etc). You can’t even really taste it over the cumin and chili powder (or other spices), but you get the high quality nutrition nonetheless.

    The meals are as varied as your imagination/tastes and extremely delicious (assuming you’re a decent cook)! It also keeps you from having to “cook” on the trail other than perhaps adding a little extra salt, cayanne pepper and/or olive oil for flavor and to add additional calories. Since you’ve already made and preseasoned the entire dish ahead of time, you simply boil your water, dump in your food and bring it back to a boil, remove it from the flame and put your pot into a light weight cozy for 10 mins or so and you’re ready to eat! Because of the short cook time it also keeps your fuel needs to a minimum.

    I like to eat hot dinners, but usually eat cold lunches of either just extra “snacks” (food bars, nuts/seeds/dried fruits, etc.), or I have a variety of cold lunches I carry (instant humus or refried beans & tortillas or crackers, curried veggie & lentil salad w/ tortillas/crackers, instant soups (cold or hot), various veggie slaws (either vinegar based or I add a packet of mayo, mustard, and/or some olive oil), etc – you get the idea. You can also bring a salami or other hard/dried sausage or cheese to chop up into your cold lunches.

    After eating breakfast, I just throw cold water into the lunch baggie and zip it back up. By the time I stop to eat it several hours later it’s fully rehydrated and ready to eat (you might check it a bit before you’re ready to eat to make sure you don’t need to add a little more water because it all got incorporated so it’s sure to be ready when you finally stop to eat it). By then you’ll be hungry and frustrated if it’s still crunchy! With the powdered humus or refried beans I mix it up just before eating it. Of course there’s nut butter, Nutella, and other “spreads” too. To the salad meals I might bring a foil packet of salmon, tuna or chicken to eat as well. You know how much you need to eat to be satisfied and stay on your feet…

    My breakfasts are pretty much always 1/2 c rolled oats with 1 Tbs each of shredded coconut, raisins +/or cranberries, sun flower seeds, date pieces, a few each of almonds/hazelnuts/walnuts/chopped brazil nuts, and a heafty shake of cinnamon. You could also add some sugar to the mix too if you like, though I don’t. This is very calorie and nutrient dense, is wonderfully cruncy and delicious. You can pour either cold or hot water into that to eat in the AM.

    Alternately, you can also measure out the proportions mentioned above for however many breakfasts you need. First soak all the dried fruits in a bit of water overnight so it’s completely absorbed. In a food processor, blend in a little honey and nut butter to that and then toss the dry ingreds/cinnamon before adding them to the wet stuff in the food processor. Pulse it until it thoroughly coats all the dry ingredients and balls up, then press it into a bread pan and put it in the fridge. Once it’s hardened up you can cut them into bars and package them separately to eat as breakfast bars instead of having to pour in water. You can also add stuff like spirulina, “Emergen – C”, powdered mineral/vitamin mix, chocolate or carob chips, etc. to the dry ingredients before mixing with the wet to add additional nutritional content & flavor as well. Just be careful to use only as much nut butter as you need to to help hold things together, as I’ve found that the oils from nut butters can penetrate right through the ziplock plastic somehow (even though it’s still totally sealed) and gets all over everything in your food bag if you use too much.

    When I’m on the trail, for my chili I keep the polenta in a separate baggie (about 1/4 to 1/3 c) and pour the chili into the boiling water first. After the water comes back to a boil I let it cook for 2 – 3 minutes to make sure the hamburger and beans get a chance to really start to rehydrate, then I pour in the polenta slowly, stirring it thoroughly as I so so to prevent clumping. Then I bring it back to a rolling boil for about 60 seconds before sticking it in the cozy for 15 minutes.

    Shephards pie I just dehydrate the meat and veggie “fill” and fill my food bowl about 2/3rds full to put on the fruit tray and dehydrate as a serving. Then I buy those organic “four” serving dehydrated organic mashed potatoes at the health food store and separate the powder into two baggies (two “civilian” servings is one serving to a hungry hiker!). One baggie goes with one dehydrated shephard’s pie serving. Similar to the chili, I rehydrate the shephard’s pie portion with extra water for several minutes so it’s a bit soupy. Once I bring it back to a boil I pour in the mashed potatoes slowly, stirring all along so it doesn’t clump up and mixes in thoroughly to make a thick mashed potato like stew. Once it’s thoroughly mixed, it’s ready to eat (or may need 5 mins or so in the cozy), stir in some of your olive oil and add a little extra salt to taste – Hearty and delicious!

    If you aren’t a good cook and this sounds totally overwhelming to you, never fear. I often order an extra entree “to go” when I eat at my favorite restaurants. Then I bring it home, chop up the ingredients into the right sized smaller pieces on a plate, mix it with rice, etc. if appropriate in my serving bowl and throw it on the dehydrator. Next morning I package it and throw it in the freezer until I’m ready to go hike. Works just as well as making it yourself, better if you can’t/don’t cook!

    Lastly, be sure to refrigerate or even freeze stuff even it you vacuum seal it, especially if there’s any meat or fats in it, to prevent/minimize oxidation leading to rancidity/spoilage. It just keeps things that much fresher and you just take it all out just before you leave. It’ll keep fine on the trail for a couple of weeks that way. It will keep quite a long time anyway, but if you’re only using zip locks instead of vacuum sealing stuff with meat/fats in it, freezing is a must up until you leave to ensure freshness and to prevent rancidity/spoiling.

    Bon appetite!

    • One thing about vacuum sealing dehydrated meals that I forgot. Once things are dehydrated, the little bits and pieces of everything have lots of little points and sharp edges that will puncture the plastic as all the air is being sucked out, pulling the plastic firmly onto those points. This ends up ruining the seal of course and is annoying. Those vacuum seal plastic rolls aint cheap and there’s enough plastic waste floating around as it is.

      I solved the problem in the following way. First, I pour the dried food off the tray and into a large flat bottomed pan. Then I take my potato masher or a spatula and smash it down slightly over all the food to break the biggest pieces of that stuff up a little. Next I pour the food into one of those wax paper sandwich bags you can buy. I let the food settle uniformly into the bottom of the bag and then roll it up from the food end to the opening which in effect doubles the thickness of the wax paper surrounding the dried food. Then I vacuum seal the waxed paper “log” filled with food in the plastic and whatever sharp pieces are left are buffered by the layers of waxed paper. I’ve pretty much had a 100% success with maintaining the seal this way. When I make a meal on the trail, I save the wax paper which makes an excellent fire starter for the following meal, even in wet weather.

      • awesome detail. gonna have to digest this. thankyou!

        • Thanks Barefoot Sage!

          Your 2 posts are an advanced text book on how to roll your own dehy trail dinners. I have done some of this with my tray dehy unit, and am planning to do much more this coming season. Many good ideas new to me in your post, so I will print and save it for reference for when I get going. These meals are so much better than anything you can buy that once you do a few you don’t want to ever go back. Same for the mix of sort of OK foods scavenged from the grocery store shelves. They all get old pretty quick. The nuts, dried fruit, cracker and cheese kinds of things. Ugh! I may still take some of this and the standard, soon to become nauseating gorp, but not much. And only a few meal bars, energy bars, chocolate bars and peanut butter filled cheese crackers. Just a few, never as a mainstay anymore for me.

          I like your vinegar slaw idea, have done that and will do it again. It’s a way to take semi fresh, semi pickled vegs along. I buy bagged chopped cabbage and add vinegar. Simple. I might try carrot sticks in the vinegar too. Use seasoned rice vinegar for sweet/sour taste with salt included.

          I’ve taken pickled eggs along, just a few, with almost none of the pickling juice in a zip bag. Adds some interesting variety. I’ll throw some pickle slices in the same bag if I do this again. I also will use tofu and tempeh (a taste I’ve worked to acquire) in home dried trail stews instead of meat. To me, much better, and I don’t want the gross animal fat in domesticated meat clogging my arteries. I’ve taken home dried wild salmon that had been marinated in garlic vinegar with salt and spices, not cooked. Excellent, and high calorie with the natural oils, welcome on long hiking days. Haven’t tried drying the expensive smoked Nova salmon yet. Might work. Open question whether this is cured enough to resist spoilage when dried. Might have to try a small sample and see.

          I want to try drying those retort pouched Indian dinners like Jaipur Vegetables made by Tasty Bite. I usually take a couple of these along anyway, not dehydrated, and eat them early in the hike to get rid of the weight. I sometimes eat them cold out of the pouch and enjoy them. I want to dehydrate high grade organic canned bean chili that I like. This should make one excellent dried meal with no prep but drying. Ditto for apple sauce. Might be good dried, but I’ll use one that I already like. I’ll try more of these items rehydrated on trail with cold water, no stove, no heat, to see what works for me. I’m moving away from boiled grainy things anyway, like corn and quinoa. Not too big on dried rice and potatoes anymore either, unless part of a dried stew mix. It’s possible to heat water with sun in a black plastic bag like one of those solar showers while hiking and then have warm enough stew for dinner. Worth a try. I want to slide one of those retort pouched Indian dinners in a black plastic bag and strap that to the sun side of the pack to warm up. Anything to simplify, and fiddling with a little stove is sheer annoyance to me. I’m not out there to micro manage a hundred details, that’s part of the “civilization” I want to leave behind.

          I like Bob’s Red Mill Old Country Muesli for breakfasts. It’s primarily oats, in a mix I like with seeds, nuts and raisins. Can add a big spoon of soy milk powder and then let it hydrate while kicking off in the a.m. I pre measure this mix into breakfast packs in zip snack bags so a quick shot of cold water does it. I recommend Fresh and Easy’s Whole Wheat Tandoori Naan. Excellent soft bread with stews. Should last 4 or 5 days anyway. Refrigerate it at home before leaving to insure longer trail life. 4 large breads = 14oz. Split one between lunch, slathered with peanut butter, and dinner with stew. A rapidly declining weight, worth it IMO. I’ll use a few Ak-Mak crackers (much lighter) when it’s gone.

          Your advice to freeze your home dried meals if not hitting the trail immediately is excellent. Better this than to find something has mold on it on trail.

          There’s nothing like variety and you have to try wild and crazy new things on trail to discover which of them only tastes good and satisfying when you’re hiking.

          Good stuff Sage, if you have more please post it!

      • I owe you a beer. Thank you very much.

        • Owe which of us a beer? Or all?

          As long as it’s a Sierra Nevada Pale ale!

          Best, by the way on tap, real draft, at Pappy and Harriet’s in
          Pioneertown, CA, that’s above Yucca Valley on Pioneertown Road.

          Good hiking nearby up the east side of Mt. San Gorgonio, too!

  30. I used a Lil Dandy wood stove I built out of a New Hampshire one Gallon maple syrup can on a 250 mile 25 day JMT hike in 2009. Worked fine with small pieces of wood. Used esbit tablets at high elevations where wood fires are not allowed. Do try out your stove choice on a shorter hike some time before the main event. My pot was a large beer can insulated with fiberglas and wrapped with aluminum tape. I don’t try to wash soot off the pot or stove but just double bag them with plastic grocery bags. The longer the hike the more fuel weight savings. Other option is don’t cook. My choice when the weather is hot. A bear canister saves a lot of time and provides peace of mind when you hear noises in the night or when you leave it while doing an out and back up some peak. No animal is going to get in it. Used mine as a seat, clothes washer, and solar bath water heater. Mickey

  31. Some of my favorite trail foods:
    -Cheese. Especially a slightly aged white cheddar.
    -Somewhat instant soup mixes (often found at hippie grocery stories) Our local one has a lentil soup that’s wonderful with cheddar cheese, and a split pea soup which is great with salami.
    -Instant refried beans makes a super burrito. Especially with some cheese and spices. I hear vegetarian taco filling works well as well. Haven’t tried it yet though.
    -Freeze dried vegies can spice up almost any meal. Again check the hippie grocery stores
    -In general some spices make me much happier. Salt, hot pepper, dried minced garlic, dried minced onion, cumin and maybe curry.
    -Obviously borrowing someone’s dehydrator can make for an exciting couple of meals
    -Sundried tomatoes pack a lot of flavor (not the type packed in oil)
    -Real bacon bits
    -You could carry butter in the beginning of the trip to mix up the oils, but it’s a little bulky to pack
    -And you need to mix them with other things, but instant potatoes with a bit of TVP is pretty dense calorically.

    Note: in my experience simmering over a wood stove is really easy. Getting a really hot burn for a long time is a little trickier, but thankfully not needed as often. Also instead of esbit I’d be more tempted to carry some of those fire starters. They always light up and you can use them to bootstrap some damp wool. By the way this is all with the bush buddy pro. As a different backup the bush buddy acts as a super pot stand and wind screen to an alcohol stove.

    Have fun!

  32. I have done the pancake thing with nido milk and powdered egg with the oil separate. I can’t do gluten so I made some extra cakes in the AM to use for bread at lunch. Yes, you can make coffee in a skillet ;)

  33. Good information. Lucky me I found your site by chance (stumbleupon).
    I’ve saved it for later!

  34. If you melt the Vaseline first, then soak your cotton balls in it and squeeze them a bit so they don’t have an insane excess it works better. I timed the burn on a couple done like this and if I recall correctly they burned about 7 mins. Crisco works well too. As does olive oil (though olive oil cotton balls don’t burn as long as Vaseline). Anyhow, there’s so much birch up there that starting a fire should never be an issue.

  35. You can use your olive oil with cotton to start fires with your firesteel too. Plus there’s plenty of birch in those mtns. Birch will light even wet. Just peel some really thin strips from a piece.Plus you can eat cambium from both the birch and pine. Although that’s not exactly no trace hiking/camping, as it leaves the trea with no protection. (just a thought). Also there are some really good books concerning wild edibles. An EXCELLENT website and youtube channel is EAT THE WEEDS by Deane Green. Garauntee you’ll love that dude’s work. As an aside concerning water, any navigable waters (or any that were ever used to float logs on) contain mercury, as they used to coat the logs with creasote (sp?). I hope your trip is awesome and that anything I’ve said here helps.

  36. I wish you could/would link all relevant articles together so that when I recommend a particular post (or reread it for myself) we could find the follow up and other planning posts you made that reference this article. Any possibility?

  37. Awesome post! Something I’m thinking about is getting yourself fat adapted before a trip like this. Once your body is used to burning fat instead of carbs for energy I’d think you could go a lot further on less weight.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *