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Backpacking with No-Cook Foods

Yogurt with huckleberries and paleo pumpkin spice granola that I made on the Trail

Yogurt with huckleberries and paleo pumpkin spice granola that I made on the Trail

I tried backpacking with no-cook foods rather than the usual cooked fare on a two week trip through Glacier National Park this summer. It’s not clear I saved much weight with no-cook foods, but with my gear so light, I had room for luxuries like musical instruments, so I figured I would try some no-cook methods learned from CDT thru-hikers last year.

Making Yogurt on the Trail

I learned this from a CDT thru-hiker. He made yogurt in a ziploc. I opted for a more durable plastic jar. It’s very simple to make:

  1. Bring a small amount of store-bought yogurt to get it started. Mix Nido powdered milk, water and the store-bought yogurt starter in the container. Shake it up.
  2. Keep fairly warm either by sleeping with it at night or by keeping it somewhere dark yet warmed by body heat or the sun. Inside my shirt while I hiked worked well. So did at the top of my pack in a place that would get warmed in the sun as I hiked. It made yogurt even if the temperature of the liquid only reached 75-80 degrees or so.
  3.  I stored the yogurt in my bear hang at night. If I slept with it I would remove it from my sleeping bag a few hours before eating so it would be cold for breakfast.
  4. Eat but save a little for starter for the next batch. Repeat.

It’s not clear that Trail Yogurt is a weight savings over other foods. The unmade yogurt was powdered milk but the yogurt I carried all day was 16 oz of liquid. However, it was delicious and promoted good digestion and it made a powdered, barely palatable liquid, into real food. Sometimes it was thin and sometimes thick but always welcome.

Coffee Milkshakes

I’m a coffee addict. I mixed whey protein powder, Nido powder and instant coffee in my bottle for a tasty instant coffee milkshake. I also had chocolate covered espresso beans, but the coffee shakes were better than choking down candy for breakfast.

Rehydrated Chicken: Like the yogurt, this was a 16oz container of liquids and solids. But we hardly needed to carry drinking water so it was okay. This tasted good but became a little boring after a while. Next time I will make more varied dinners such as chili and curry.

Rehydrated Chicken: Like the yogurt, this was a 16 oz. container of liquids and solids. But we hardly needed to carry drinking water, so it was okay. This tasted good but became a little boring after a while. Next time I will make more varied dinners such as chili and curry.

Dehydrated Dinners

I learned about rehydrating cold dehydrated foods from my CDT hiker friends. They would rehydrate lunch at breakfast, dinner at lunch and breakfast overnight. Their food looked very tasty and was all home-made, non-commercial dehydrated foods.

I spent months dehydrating cooked, mashed sweet potatoes, pulled chicken and pork and vegetables.

I have instructions for sweet potatoes here:

http://www.santabarbarahikes.com/community/blog/index.php?id=265&page=1

To make pulled chicken or pork, use boneless, skinless chicken breasts or pork tenderloin. Plop the meat in a slow-cooker and let it go for about 8 or 9 hours. Remove, pull the meat apart and put the shredded meat in your dehydrator. It dehydrates quickly. It also rehydrates quickly and has the consistency of real meat, not chewy or hard. Alternatively you can slow-cook in the oven and add spices.

I dehydrated raw and cooked vegetables. I find many raw vegetables provide too much fiber when rehydrated so I preferred cooked carrots, cooked butternut squash, cooked and finely chopped green beans, raw zuccini, and raw corn. I also supplemented with dried mushrooms from the Asian market and freeze-dried Just Veggies corn/peas/carrots when it turned out I didn’t have enough.

Another trick I learned from CDT hikers is that you can dehydrate olives. They are very good!

I mixed the meat, vegetables and potatoes and filled my plastic screw-top container about 3/4 full with the dried food and filled it with water. It soaked during the day as I hiked and only took a few hours to be edible. I seasoned it with extra virgin olive oil, salt or dehydrated miso paste.

My Kitchen: Left to right: plastic peanut butter jar, plastic container with threads removed (my cup and bowl), plastic screw-top container, plastic bottle. Used for yogurt, eating/berry collecting, soaking/eating dinner and coffee milkshakes respectively.

My Kitchen: Left to right: plastic peanut butter jar, plastic container with threads removed (my cup and bowl), plastic screw-top container, plastic bottle. Used for yogurt, eating/berry collecting, soaking/eating dinner and coffee milkshakes respectively.

Wild foods

We were lucky enough to hike somewhere with lots of berries lining the trail. Although my black plastic cup/bowl was more of a luxury than a necessity, it earned it’s place in my pack by providing me a container to collect berries as I hiked. I began to refer to it as “my precious” because I put in so much effort collecting berries and running to catch up with the others. I began to worry I might trip and spill “my precious” berries.

We also had a mushroom expert in our group so we enjoyed a few wild mushrooms. We also had a Japanese heavy weight backpacker who cooked Japanese soup for us each night. My cup came in handy for the soup as the clear plastic container would melt if it came in contact with hot liquid.

Glacier Backpacking Friends: Shroomer, Piper, TrailHacker, Low Gear

Glacier Backpacking Friends: Shroomer, Piper, TrailHacker, Low Gear

Glacier

Glacier is beautiful and well-worth the long drive it took to get there. It was fun to hike ultralight through the park from top to bottom, from Waterton Lake in Canada to Walton at the southern end. One in our group was not ultralight but we were on more of a backpack trip than a fast hike so we had plenty of time to enjoy the hike, take pictures, strum on my strumstick, swim in lakes and creeks, pick berries and search for the porcini mushrooms that eluded us.

Glacier requires you to camp in reserved campsites, prearranged through the rangers. This allowed us to meet new people every night and preach the gospel of ultralight hiking, making yogurt and no-cook meals and promoting Japanese backpacking cuisine which we learned about through our Japanese heavy-weight hiker friend, who earned the trail name Low Gea,r for how he grinded up the passes with his 50+ pound pack.

This post was written by Trail Ambassador Diane “Piper” Soini.

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10 Responses to Backpacking with No-Cook Foods

  1. Glen Van Peski September 24, 2013 at 5:01 am #

    Interesting article, I’ve never thought of doing yoghurt on the trail! I have had some great no-cook vegan meals from Outdoor Herbivore, and have done several recent trips heating dinners with body heat.

  2. RenegadePilgrim September 27, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    You can also get freeze-dried yogurt “pellets” through Thrive, a website catering more to preppers and LDS families but their food is DELICIOUS! No additives and really tasty.

    I spent five days in Glacier NP this summer on the Bowman-Kintla horseshoe and it was amazing. I can’t wait to go back and explore other parts of the park. The privy at Boulder Pass alone was worth the trip. :)

  3. Holly Naylor September 27, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    Been working on no cook meals. Try cooking quinoa and then dehydrating it. Add pine nuts, dried pineapple and cranberries. I carried canned chicken, but next time will dehydrate my own. Thanks for the tip. And the resources for more good ideas. I’ve never had any luck with yogurt at home, but will try this one before I hit the trail.

  4. Jon Belcher (Gandalf) September 27, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    Great article.
    What are the black plastic container with threads removed and the clear plastic screw-top container and where did you get them.
    I use a peanut butter jar for my hydration container and a snapple bottle (with top cut off) slipped inside a Smart (cut off) water bottle.
    I don’t like the rings of the snapple bottle, too hard to clean.

  5. Jim Parker September 30, 2013 at 2:42 am #

    Screw top is a Talenti Gelato container

  6. Diane October 1, 2013 at 1:41 am #

    The black container originally held coconut oil. I got it in the supplement section of a local health food store. It’s quite thick and durable and a good shape. I’m always on the lookout for good containers. Sometimes I’ll even shop the grocery store just for the containers.

  7. vicky October 1, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    Hi. Ok, so I have tried making the yogurt at home 3 times. I have tried making it the first time with the directions as is. Never thickened. Second time I added a teaspoon of maple crystals thinking the yogurt needed something to feed off of. No luck. Third time I tried a different yogurt. No luck. Active cultures in both yogurts. What the heck am I doing wrong? Help…..

  8. Monty Montana October 8, 2013 at 12:45 am #

    Temperature! If I remember correctly, the mix of milk and active yogurt culture must be slowly be raised to 138 F, and then maintained through the night. In the morning, voila!, yogurt. Salton used to make yogurt making kits, which are still found in thrift stores, so check’em out. Yogurt on the trail? I dunno…maybe on a hot day. Happy trails!

  9. Rosaleen Sullivan February 7, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

    I agree that temperature might be the issue, but 138F might be a bit high to ferment yogurt. At home, I scald milk, allowing it to cool to about 110-112F before adding the starter culture. I’ve also made yogurt in motel rooms,going by “comfortably warm” on my inner wrist. IIRC, about 115F is safe for keeing enzymes alive for “raw foods,” getting back to 138 being possibly too hot. Below 90 F is too cool. I haven’t gotten past thinking about making yogurt on the trail.

  10. Kerstin September 16, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    There are yogurts that don’t require high heat – check Cultures for Health for the original culture. Also, Kefir powder might work for making a milk kefir…not sure about the powdered milk, but it also doesn’t require very high heat.

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