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Stocking Stuffers for Hikers: Food Edition


The term might be used best to describe how to train a dog, but I would identify myself as Highly Motivated By Food. So, when it comes to hiking up the next big climb or making big miles to the next water, there’s no incentive to keep moving quite like a Food Treat.

This holiday season, consider giving your hiker friends some inspiring non-perishable food that carries easily in a pack and can help turn a pretty awesome day of hiking into an extraordinary day of hiking. Treat Food is the kind of stuff that can be a little heavy and pricey to base one’s complete thru-hiking diet off of, but can make a dayhike or a hard backpacking trip all the more delightful.  Disclaimer: I’ve bought all of these, and they’re delicious.

These are a few of my favorites:

The Epic bar is a meat-bar that has fantastic art
The Epic bar is a meat-bar that has fantastic art

1)      Epic Savory Bar: I just discovered these bars, and they blow your usual trail jerky off the mountain. They come in great flavors like Bison-Bacon-Cranberry and Beef-Cherry-Habanero. One of these bad boys will motivate any meat-eater to pick up the pace.

2) Kale Chips: Let’s face it: It’s surprising that hikers don’t get scurvy that awesome. Throw your friends and loved ones a light-weight veggie alternative in multiple flavors including Radical Ranch (really!) and Alive and Radiant Quite Cheezy. They aren’t calorie dense, but sometimes, a hiker’s body doesn’t just need calories. I’ve currently addicted to the Rhythm Honey Mustard flavor and to the , but you can make your own (just be sure to get a good vacuum pack system on DIY kale chips as they get stale quickly). Also worth checking out is this variety pack of 4 flavors.

3)      Probar: One of my favorites and a true trail staple, these meal replacement bars pack in almost 400 real food calories. Probars are great for getting a bunch of energy before a big climb or mornings when it’s so cold that the best way to get calories is to walk-and-eat. It’s not surprising to find whole dried strawberries and real nuts in these bars. They tend to be a bit on the pricier side, so a few of these make a great treat to throw in a stocking stuffer.

(Hint: the Chocolate Coconut is AMAZING).

4)      Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans/Edamame/Marshmallows/etc. On my first thru-hike of the AT, one of my old hiking buddies, Rick, sent me a care package with a crisp $20 bill and a pound of chocolate covered espresso beans. It was one of the most tailored hiking presents I’ve ever gotten. Trader Joe’s is a great place to get anything chocolate covered. I would highly recommend the super-calorie dense Chocolate Covered Sunflower seeds, better than candy bar chocolate covered marshmallows, or chocolate covered dried berries.

5)      Starbucks Via: Along the lines of the coffee beans, why not give your hiker friends the good stuff? The Vias make the lightest (weight-wise) and most flavorful cup of coffee you can get. Plus, Starbucks is pretty infamous for having almost twice as much caffeine as their competitors, so a Via can really be a treat in the middle of a day. You can usually find these at Costco for a great price.

6) Honey Stinger Waffle: Anytime a “waffle” can be sold as food athletes can eat, I’m in. A more calorific and less expensive option is Trader Joe’s Belgian Butter Waffle cookies.

7) Single Serving drink mixes: These can be a bit pricey to live off of during a thru-hike, but sometimes can make quite a difference. I’ve hiked with

8)      FishPeople Meals: These delicious meal-in-a-packet foods are legitimately good—like they’re still really good even when you’re not on trail. Although these food packets are a little heavy to eat for every meal in the backcountry, it’s nice to have one on hand for hard stretches between resupplies. They come in mile-motivating flavors like Thai Coconut Lemongrass and Wild Salmon Chardonnay and feature a variety of sustainable fish-based protein sources. I remember pushing hard at the end of a day on the John Muir Trail so that I could down one of these dinners. Let’s just say they really spice up instant mashed potatoes.

9)      Probolts (or similar GU gel/Clif Bloks/Gummi Bear like items): Sometimes, a hiker can get so into hiking that he forgets to eat. When blood sugar levels plummet, hikers get “hangry” (hungry+angry) and all sorts of other bad side effects. Probolts, GUs, ClifShots, and other gummy or gel-y delicious things help counteract low blood sugar levels rather quickly.

10) Specialty Store Novelties: My friend Dave “Lucky” Brunstein introduced me to Cost Plus World Market as the place to go for Food Treats for hiking. I’m also a big fan of Trader Joe’s for finding reasonably priced Treat Foods, especially the chocolate-covered variety.



I hope this inspires you to spice up you, your family, or your friend’s hiker diets!

Do you have any favorite trail treat foods that would make a great gift?

A Thru-Hiker’s Review of the Walk in the Woods Movie

A Walk in the Woods poster from the first public screening of the movie at <a href="">Outdoor Retailer 2015</a>
A Walk in the Woods poster from the first public screening of the movie at Outdoor Retailer 2015

15 years ago, Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods became the biggest story about (ish) long distance hiking the publishing world has seen.

10 years ago, Robert Redford dreamed of turning the book into a movie.

Now, A Walk in the Woods will come out in movie theaters on September 2nd and hiking enthusiasts everywhere are wondering “Should I go see this?” As one of the lucky few who got to see the first public screening of AWITW at Outdoor Retailer, here are a few thoughts on the movie (minimal spoilers ahead):

AWITW as a movie is something like the masculine antithesis to Wild. The movie is definitely a comedy—in some cases coming across as slapstick as a Laurel and Hardy skit. It’s not often we get humor like that in movies these days and it speaks well to the sheer joy and silliness of hiking. Sure, AWITW covers some heavy topics: getting older, death, alcoholism, loneliness, place, belonging, the very meaning of life—but in a very masculine way, it never comes across as heavy handed and remains lighthearted throughout the film.

The movie doesn’t stick closely to the book, but in some cases, that’s a good thing. Before anything was even projected on the screen, hecklers (some sitting very close to me…) starting yelling “I stopped reading when Bryson stopped hiking!” The movie only shows Bryson hiking (in addition to the bit of prep work he did beforehand).

The Appalachian Trail’s Conservancy influence on the directors and the way hikers are portrayed is strongly evident throughout the film. The ATC is fully aware how the film may impact use numbers on trail—in fact ATC Executive Director and CEO Ron Tipton gave a speech beforehand imploring outdoor gear companies (representatives of which made up the audience) to donate money with largesse to combat post AWITW trail damage.

Some of the ways the ATC’s hand showed through the film included the constant and frequent sight of a potty trowel on the screen. I think it’s wonderful that the idea of responsibly taking care of solid waste can be normalized on the big screen. However, the much more impact-creating and highly illegal driving of an ATV cruising right on the AT was also in the movie. Hopefully, that won’t be normalized, too.

Certainly some events in the AWITW never occurred in the book—and one long scene in particular occurs in a place that I don’t even believe is anywhere on the AT (but what do I know? I’ve only hiked it twice). Purists who are going to be bothered this and by the fact that he doesn’t finish the trail are better spending their time elsewhere. Nonetheless, I especially enjoyed how some of Bryson’s commentary of ecology, conservation, and natural history was preserved in the movie—a difficult feat for any director.

The highlight of the movie was really the quality of the acting (the cast includes four Academy Award winner/nominees). Nick Nolte was a wonderful Katz, admittedly different than I imagined him, and yet in some ways, a stronger and more complex character because of it. I was stoked that one of my favorite actors, Emma Thompson, plays Bryson’s wife. The rest of the actors have small roles, many incredibly memorable. Nick Offerman’s short role as an REI employee (I believe the character is named “Dave” in the book) left the audience wanting more. Kristin Schaal plays an annoying thru-hiker with the convincing-ness of nails on chalkboard. I wanted to start hiking faster away from her. And Mary Steenburgen as a hotel owner was a welcome familiar face.

AWITW is a feel good movie. It’s not a movie that may attract many people outside of outdoor enthusiasts, Bryson fans, and Redford swooners, but it’s definitely worth seeing. Even my hiking friends who aren’t shy to say the AWITW book makes them angry were pleasantly surprised. I don’t think I’d ever feel comfortable watching Wild with my family, but very much look forward to taking my folks to see A Walk in the Woods. So if you’re not hiking this weekend, now you’ve got something to do.

Check out more at

New Energy Bars, bites, and chews from Outdoor Retailer

The South African racebar debuted in the US at Outdoor Retailer 2015
The South African racebar debuted in the US at Outdoor Retailer 2015

The Outdoor Retailer trade show is the place to go when a new food items wants to show itself off to the outdoor market. Foods at OR recently trended towards all natural, low sugar, and low grain/gluten free. While in the past, bars may have focused more on flavor, many bars at OR this season centered on balancing fats-carbs-proteins for optimal performance. Here are a few of the bars that stuck out:

Energy Bars Made with Crickets

Chapul bars come in fun flavors and are made of cricket protein
Chapul bars come in fun flavors and are made of cricket protein

Chapul energy bars feature a special ingredient that has 2x as much protein than beef, 15% more iron than spinach, and as much Vitamin B12 as salmon. The secret ingredient? Crickets. Chapul bars (as seen on the entrepreneurial reality TV Show Shark Tank) say that cricket protein is good for the environment and good for humans. 10 pounds of feed can yield 1 lb of beef (40% of which is edible) or 8 pounds of crickets (80% of which is edible). Crickets require less water to raise and emit fewer greenhouse gases than other livestock or even soy, corn, or rice.

An employee for Chapul holds up a container of cricket flour
An employee for Chapul holds up a container of cricket flour

Chapul’s crickets are ground into powdered protein that looks the same as whey or soy protein (both of which are common ingredients in bars). As a result, the bar looks and tastes the same as normal bars—you won’t find any legs or antennas in these bars. Chapul comes in four flavors: Aztec Bar (dark chocolate, coffee, and cayenne), Chaco Bar (Peanut Butter & Chocolate), the Thai Bar (Coconut, Ginger, and Lime), or my favorite and the newest bar, the Matcha bar (green tea, goji, and nori).

Four points bars are designed to maximize macronutrient balance
Four points bars are designed to maximize macronutrient balance

Four Points energy bars aims to create a balanced nutrition ratio with optimized glycemic load made of entirely raw ingredients. These fig and plum based bars are made in Colorado by outdoor athletes for outdoor athletes. The bar also have other superfoods like hemp seeds, flax seeds, and coconut, as well as most of the bars have whey protein isolate. Among the better tasting bars we tried, Four Points bar has a shelf life of 4 months and come in around 250 calories per 2.5 oz. Fourpoints bars come in Apple Cinnamon, Banana Bread, Mountain Mocha, Dark Chocolate Coconut, and PB&J.

racefood energy bars were a new energy bar from South Africa that debuted at this Summer OR. South Africa is well known for being home to a high number of endurance athletes and adventurers—and this bar was created with the feedback of South African athletes from a variety of outdoor activities and sports. The bar has a nougat base and uses simple and complex carbs to release energy without a spike. There are two varieties: Farbar (for endurance) and Fastbar (for instant energy). Racefood bars come in Cranberry & Almond and Cacao, Cashew, & Coconut.

Picky Bars are based in Bend, OR and pride themselves on being a balance between performance bars and real food bars. They have a 60% carb : 20% fat : 15% protein ratio and 200 calories per 45 g bar (note that some nutritionists believe that thru-hikers should have a ratio higher in fat than normal athletes). Featuring hip art, fun-product names (like Cookie Doughpness, Smooth Caffeinator, and Blueberry Boomdizzle), and sponsoring big name athletes, these trendy looking bars are available in run/bike stores and REIs and are going to blow up on the market soon. They feature a variety of flavors, my favorite being the All-In Almond.

Simple Squares: Sharing a booth with super supporter of the long trails, Salazon Sea Salt Dark Chocolate, Simple Squares showed its new line of 8 ingredient energy bars. Labeled USDA organic and gluten free, these bars are compact and pack in 230 calories in 1.6 oz. These squares had a great flavor and because they were free of the fruit base of many bars, seemed like they would be easy to digest on trail. What I liked the most about these squares were the funky flavors—including some sweet-and-savory bars: Chili pep, Honey Nut Sage, Rosemary, and Cinna-Clove.

Go Chia superfood bites: Totally different than anything else on the market, Go Chia created crispy bite-sized almost cracker-like snacks. The bites have a satisfying crunch that is quinoa and chia seed based and aren’t sweet, but mostly just feel very light and clean (despite having a very respectable 120 calories per oz). Of all the food from OR, they are the ones I wanted to eat the most while writing this article in the media room. GoChia bites are available in Chocolate Chunk or Cherry Chunk.

18 Rabbits: It seemed almost rare to have a traditional grain-based granola bar at the Outdoor Retailer show what with all the Paleo foods popping up everywhere. Nonetheless, 18 Rabbits had a small booth out in the Pavilions and honestly, had probably the tastiest bar I tried at the whole show, which was a granola bar Cherry Dark Chocolate and Almond bar. It was super coconutty and soft and sweet, although it has no wheat or refined sugars.

Skratch Although energy chew (aka gummies) aren’t quite energy bars, they can often operate a bit like one, and are usually great ways to deliver sugar to your system quickly before you bonk. Skratch made a name for themselves in the drink mix sector helping people prevent bonking by hydrating, and they are upping their game with Skratch Fruit Drops, vegan based jellies with real fruit powder. Unlike other similar items on the market, these drops do not have wax and are lightly coated in sugar. The flavor is certainly more subtle, which probably means easier to digest while exerting yourself. Considering how many gummies I tend to eat on trail, it’s surprising my stomach doesn’t have a big ball of wax inside. Available in raspberry and orange.


Setton Farms Pistachio bites: The pistachio is a totally under utilized nut in the energy bar industry. As a result, I found the flavor and texture on this bar to be different and refreshing. Setton farms Pistachio bites use all US grown nuts. The mini bite is 20g and has 110 calories, making it a quick pick me up. The best part is the cartoon pistachio bar on the packaging.

New Flavors of Old Favorites

Clif Organic Trail Mix Bar: The super company is rolling out their take on the Kind Bar—a gluten free whole nut bar, minus the weird chicory crisps. Unlike competitors, all the ingredients are organic and there are big fatty chunks of chocolate. Clif attempted a bar similar to this and has renamed it to the Organic Trail Mix Bar line. Their new flavor at OR 2015 was Dark Chocolate Cherry Almond.

Health Warrior Chia Protein bar: the company known for slow release energy bars is rolling out a new Protein line. It has 10 g of vegan protein (quinoa, pea protein, and almonds) per 1.76 oz bar. Flavors are Dark Chocolate Coconut Sea Salt, Peanut Butter Cacao, Honey almond, and Lemon Goldenberry


Watch out for the last food write-up from Outdoor Retailer 2015!

Bacon, Jerky, and Meat: Big Food Trends at Outdoor Retailer 2015

This is Part 1 of the Food and Nutrition trend articles from Outdoor Retailer 2015. It is Part 2 in the Outdoor Retailer 2015 Summer series.

Paleo Bars and Jerky

It seemed like there was a new meat product around every corner of the Outdoor Retailer Summer 2015 trade show. With what seems like half the young population in Colorado going Paleo (the other half is the increasingly less trendy but much better for the environment vegan), the market–as exemplified by the health and energy foods that show up at OR– has stepped up to offer fresh, fun flavors.

What this means for hikers is that we don’t have to be stuck with Slim Jims and Walmart Jerky for our backpacking trips anymore and that the market is expanding far away from the fruit-and-nut bar we’ve all eaten a million times. It also means there are more savory bars on the market (check out my series on savory bars). A bunch of these meat bars can also be used as dinner alternatives for the stoveless or dinner supplements for the stoved.

Wild Zora bars combine organic veggies and natural meats to create a paleo bar. Each package is 1 oz, 120 calories.
Wild Zora bars combine organic veggies and natural meats to create a paleo bar. Each package is 1 oz, 120 calories.

Wild Zora:

The first meat and veggie bar on the market, Wild Zora uses grass-fed beef, local lamb, and free-range turkey to create moist creatively flavored bars. The bars have no nuts, gluten, soy, grains, MSG, chemical additives, or sugar or sweetners and run under the motto that “fruits and nuts do not make a complete meal” (those two ingredients, of course, being the contents of most of the bars at the Show). Wild Zora bars are 1/3 organic veggies, making one bar a full serving of veggies. This can be useful to hikers to help up our veggie intake. Zora Bars come in Chili Cayenne Apricot Beef, Parmesan Tomato Basil, BBQ Hickory Tomato, Turkey Masala Spinach, and Lamb Rosemary Spinach. My favorites were the lamb (which was among the moistest bars on the market) and the Parmesan Tomato (a really unique flavor for a meat bar.

Fusion jerky mixes tender Asian-style jerky with funky Western flavors.
Fusion jerky mixes tender Asian-style jerky with funky Western flavors.

Fusion Jerky:

A mix between Asian-style jerky tenderness and America-style jerky flavors, Fusion Jerky offers meat-eaters funky flavors and new animals to jerky. Fusion Jerky is the first jerky line to offer chicken jerky. They also offer some intriguing flavors including Garlic Jalapeno Pork Jerky, Rosemary Citrus Turkey Jerky, and Basil Citrus Beef Jerky. The only jerky company to be owned by a woman of color (she’s Asian and came up with the idea while hiking Kilimanjaro, so of course I have a soft spot for her), the company uses only US animals and is MSG and nitrate free. Her family has been in the jerky business for 50 years and makes their jerky in Nebraska.

Brick bars mix grass fed meat and nuts to make a milk/gluten/soy/grain free bar. 130 calories and 11 g of protein in 1.5 oz.
Brick bars mix grass fed meat and nuts to make a milk/gluten/soy/grain free bar. 130 calories and 11 g of protein in 1.5 oz.

Bricks Bars:

A new Paleo bar out of Brooklyn, Bricks Bars combines grassfed, antibiotic-free meats, veggies, fruits, and seeds to create a moist and richly flavored bar. Flavors come in Grassfed beef/uncured bacon/cranberry/sunflower seed AND Turkey/sweet potato/cranberry/pumpkin seed. These brand new bars blew my mind in the taste test and I look forward to seeing the company progress as they develop new flavors and grow.

Duke’s Small Batch Smoked Meats:

This Boulder Colorado-based jerky company has their own smoke house and crafts everything in batches of 500 pounds or less. Duke’s prides itself on less sugar, only hardwood smoked (not liquid smoked), and only US raised meat. There are three varieties 1) slow smoked thin cut jerky 2) extra thick and tender strips 3) and slow dried old world style sausages (kind of like a high class version of the Slim Jim). They features fun flavors like Bourbon Beef Steak Strips (made with actual Jim Beam), Chile N Lime Beef Strips, and Stubb’s BBQ braised pork strips

Epic bars are coming out with new flavors and new meat products
Epic bars are coming out with new flavors and new meat products

Epic Bars:

I’ve written about the Epic meat bars before on this blog, so was excited to see that they are rolling our 3 new flavors: the uncured bacon bar, the Chicken sesame BBQ bar, the Pulled Pork Pineapple Bar, the Beef Apple Uncured Bacon Bar, the Chicken Sriracha bar and (get ready for it) the Liver beef and sea salt bar. The company is also rolling out a new line called Hunt and Harvest Mix which includes jerky, berries, fruits, nuts, cacao nibs, and coconut chips to create a sweet and savory trail mix. This is the trail mix meant to appeal to the Hunter and Gatherer Paleo types. Epic also has come out with Bites—mini bars essentially—that are a portion-control re-sealable snack (whatever that means). These come in new flavors: bison/bacon/raisin/chia, beef/cranberry/sriracha, bacon, and chicken/currant/sesame.

The next section of the Outdoor Retailer Food and Nutrition Write-up will focus on intriguing options for the stoveless, new caffeine delivery systems, how to eat crickets on the trail, and how to drink less water. That and more…next time!

A Trip Report in Four Meals: Good to Go Gourmet Backpacking Food Review

Badger enjoys the Marinara Penne for breakfast in the Sand Dunes
Badger enjoys the Marinara Penne for breakfast in the Sand Dunes

With new backpacking foods popping up on the market everywhere these days, a crew of long distance hikers and I wanted to test out some new flavors and varieties before outdoor season gets into full swing.

As big time foodies who also love backpacking, we were stoked to discover a relatively new company on the market, Good to Go, which calls itself a gourmet backpacking food—and for good reason! Founded by Iron Chef winner (and longtime owner of NY Times 4 star rated restaurant Annissa in NYC), Jennifer Scism, Good to Go is a new pre-packaged backpacking dinner that first appeared at Summer OR and is quickly hitting the shelves of specialty outfitters.

Good to Go offers four flavors: Thai Curry (380 calories per 3.8 oz), Smoked Three Bean Chili (vegetarian, 340 calories per 3.5 oz), Mushroom Risotto (410 calories per, Classic Marinara with Penne (460 calories for 3.5 oz)
Good to Go offers four flavors: Thai Curry (380 calories per 3.8 oz), Smoked Three Bean Chili (vegetarian, 340 calories per 3.5 oz), Mushroom Risotto (410 calories per, Classic Marinara with Penne (460 calories for 3.5 oz)

I had the chance to try a few bites of Good to Go at Winter OR—and was blown away by the restaurant quality flavor. But how would food prepared by a top chef perform in the backcountry when faced by a crew of hungry hikers? We took Good to Go on a three day backpacking trip in Great Sand Dunes National Park and the foothills of the Sangre to Cristo Range in Colorado to test our Good to Go’s flavors—Herbed Mushroom Risotto, Classic Marinara with Penne, Thai Curry, and Smoked Three Bean Chili.

I bring you a trip report told in the story of four meals. The abridged version is that while hikers generally enjoy eating, on a cold and wet trip, Good to Go raised our spirits and made the being outdoors experience even more beautiful.

Dinner: Smoked Three Bean Chili

As the chef at any American Long Distance Hiking Association West Gathering can tell you, long distances hikers have an appetite bigger than a college freshman football team. Yet, after spending the day walking as far as the eye could see climbing dunes, we still found the Good to Go portions if anything, generous. Unlike many other backpacking food companies, one container=one generous meal for one person. If you’re hiking with two, bring one for each of you.

As we watched the storm roll in, we cooked up the Smoked Three Bean Chili. The meal was light in salt, but big on flavor. We loved the smokiness of the paprika mixed with the ancho chili powder. After getting pelted by wind and sand all day and not seeing a soul around, having a warm, gourmet meal really hit the spot and added to the epic-ness of our adventure.

Breakfast: Classic Marinara with Penne

So, it was harsh night out in the Dunes. Despite our efforts to find a wind-free spot, gusts of sand spit into our sleeping faces, we got snowed on, and one of our crew got lost in the Dunes doing some night photography.

We needed a breakfast pick me up. BAD. So we cooked up the Classic Marinara with Penne. As with all the Good to Go Meals, prep is simple enough it can be done when the brain is still in a pre-coffee state. We simply boiled up so water, tossed it in the pouch, and sealed it, and waited 20 minutes—enough time to get some coffee brewing!

I’m a big sucker for marinara—especially while backpacking. It’s a classic flavor, and one that is often botched in the backcountry. Good to Go’s marinara was spot on and I could just hear my Italian friends saying that it was like being back in their grandmother’s kitchen. Except not. We were in the middle of a Sand Dune getting snowed on.

Dinner: Herbed Mushroom Risotto

By 10 am, the weather had turned, and soon the snow was coming down hard. Temperatures and visibility dropped. It was snowing so hard, that we decided not to hike on in the afternoon. Luckily, we got out tents up in a relative break in the snow, and were able to hike around basecamp and enjoy the beauty of the snow for a few hours. But by dinner time, we were cold, wet, and ready for something to warm us from the inside out and give us the energy to keep our bodies toasty though the cold night ahead.

I’m always a big fan of risotto, and Good to Go’s cremini mushroom, garlic, white wine, walnut, and basil seemed rich enough to keep me snug all night. Amazingly, Good to Go actually uses Arborio rice like a true risotto, not like the mock risottos made of instant rice that I see in other backpacking foods and that I make myself. Good to Go Foods are all dehydrated, so they take a little longer to soak in boiling water than backpacking goods that are freeze dried and won’t work for those who go stoveless. If you’re impatient like me, or at altitude (water boils at a lower temperature at altitude, so backpacking dinners soaked at high altitude will take more soaking time), you can always stick your food in your pot and cook it for 5 minutes.

I’m not sure how they were able to turn Arborio rice into something that would rehydrate in the backcountry, but the result was creamy and hearty and just want our cold and wet crew needed.

Dinner: Thai Curry

After staying surprisingly comfortably warm all night (with only a heavy snow-covered branch falling right by our tent to disturb the night) we packed up our wet tents and headed out. We enjoyed a relatively warm and dry day watching the foot of snow melt and evaporate. To celebrate how we’d been able to make the best of the weekend—regardless of the weather—I cracked into the Thai Curry, which I knew from the beginning was going to be my favorite flavor of the four.

It’s filled with tons of veggies—green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and peas. But the best part is the flavorful sauce of coconut milk, but also spices you never see in other backpacking foods– Kaffir lime, cardamom, tamarind, and lemongrass. That night, I went home but could only think of the months I spend each year hiking in remote places that don’t have ethnic food restaurants. How even tastier this meal would have tasted then!

In conclusion, Good to Go offers high quality ingredients (in fact—all pronounceable) in a gourmet style dehydrated backpacking food. You can check out their flavors and where you can get them at Good to Go. While some long distance hikers may find the food too gourmet (and pricey) to eat for every meal, it is the perfect treat for special trips such as the time you have to take your food picky mom out on her first backpacking trip, a hiking trip with a hot date you’re trying to impress, or the really hard part of the your long distance hike when you’re going to want a big pick me up.

Flavors: Thai Curry (380 calories per 3.8 oz), Smoked Three Bean Chili (vegetarian, 340 calories per 3.5 oz), Herbed Mushroom Risotto (410 calories per 3.5 oz), Classic Marinara with Penne (460 calories for 3.5 oz)



Pacific Crest Trail Gearlist

Five years ago, I started hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. My friend Jenna came to see me off.
Five years ago, I started hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. My friend Jenna came to see me off.

This weekend marked the 5 year anniversary of my PCT thru-hike. Although I’ve been back there and have about half the PCT miles done as section hikes since then, nothing quite beats the trepidation, excitement, and the unknown of the first time. In honor of that day, I’m posting my gearlist from 2009. Surprisingly, I would change very few things. Since this gear is old, this would also make a fantastic discount ultralight gear list–many things on this list are older models, but still work great. Hope you enjoy this ArcBlast from the past!


ItemBrandModelWeight (oz)General Notes
backpackGossamer GearG57.8Carried from Sierra to the end, really torn up at the end, hydration pocket and side pockets are nice design, cuben fiber hot on back
pack linerHeftyTrash Compactor Bag (white)2Sent myself a new one in mail drop resupply boxes every 500 miles

The G5 already had a PCT thru-hike on it and after another hiker improperly handled it, developed a tear. I switched out to the Z-packs Arcblast and carried that from Kennedy Meadows until the end.


ItemBrandModelWeight (oz)General Notes
down sleeping bagWestern MountaineeringUltralite Mummy Bag (20 degree)29I love this bag. It was a bit hot for a week in NorCal only
BivyMountain Laurel DesignsEarly version of the Superlite Bivyuperlite Bivy7Worked well for bugs. Most nights on the PCT, cowboy camped with the bivy and didn't use the shelter. Useful for hot days when the sleeping bag was too hot, too!
sleeping padGossamer GearGossamer Gear5Was enough insulation for the PCT.
Pack explosion in Southern California
Pack explosion in Southern California


ItemBrandModelWeightGeneral Notes
tarp / ponchoSix Moon DesignsGatewood CapeGatewood Cape11Used it maybe 7 nights the whole trip. Not advisable for 2 people.
stakesMountain Laurel Designs6 x Titanium & 4 x one gram stakes1.7
guylinesBackpacking LightAirCore NANO Dyneema Cord Kit0.8
mini-biners for linesMountain Laurel Designs8 x Superfly min biners1
The top of Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT
The top of Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT

Food / Hydration

ItemBrandModelWeightGeneral Notes
food bagMountain Laurel DesignSpectralite 1500 cL0.39
Daily snack bagZiploclarge freezer bag0.1
trash ZiplocZiploclarge freezer bag0.1
Bags that hold dinner and snacksZiplocQuart size0.15
eating utensilLight My Fire Titanium Spork0.4
Rehydration ContainerPlastic frosting container with screw on cap Used for rehydrating food. Doesn't take long to rehydrate food in the desert--very long in the Sierra. Beware exploding pea soup.
Hydration bagPlatypusPlatypus 2.0 Hoser Hydration system4
Water treatmentAqua MiraChlorine Dioxide Water Purification Treatment Drops3Not sold in Cali. Buy in bulk and stick in bounce box
Wearing the Gatewood Cape as raingear on my last day on the PCT
Wearing the Gatewood Cape as raingear on my last day on the PCT

First Aid / Toiletries

ItemBrandModelWeightGeneral Notes
anti-inflammatoriesIbuprofen 200mg x 10 (in Ziploc)0.1
sunscreen for hands, facehigh SPF1Buy small bottles in bulk and send in mail drops
hygienePurellMini Purell handsanitizer .5 oz container0.5Buy in bulk and send in mail drops
toothbrushbroken in half0.2
toothpaste / soapDr. Bronner's Small dropper bottle filled with a little Dr. B0.2If you can get used to the different taste, it is multiuse!
anti-diarrheageneric x 6 (in Ziploc w/other pills)0.05
Muir Hut on top of Muir Pass.
Muir Hut on top of Muir Pass.


ItemBrandModelWeightGeneral Notes
walletALL-ETTJunior Billfold0.1
cards & cashdriver's license, debit card, cash (passport for Canada)0.3
Cell phone and charger2.7Verizon probably has better coverage. I had AT&T and was fine in most places, though.
LED headlampPetzlTikka XP3.1Easy to nighthike on the PCT (minus bears and rattlers), nice to have for that
Mp3 playerRCA Lyra mp3 player (including 1 AAA battery)2I carried an ipod nano with a solar panel until Tahoe, but it didn't work well and destoryed my ipod. The lyra (a model which isn't sold anymore that runs on batteries) is a great thru-hiking mp3 player
extra lithium batteriesfor mp3 player and headlamp2I became enamored with lithiums on the CDT. They cost more, but weigh a lot less and last longer.
cameraNikonNikon Coolpix4It was light and cheap and survived the trail despite rain and sand. Could've taken better photos, but not for the price.
resupply Listnumbered reference list of items to be mailed to me0.1
Oregon Washington highpoint
Oregon Washington highpoint


ItemBrandModelWeightSierra or desert extra weightGeneral Notes
Guidebook bagZiploclarge freezer bag0.2
Yogi's PCT Handbookuse margins for journal 5A must.
journalBicpen (use guidebook for journal & phonecard info)0.1
Resupply boxes in Etna, CA
Resupply boxes in Etna, CA

Extra Clothing

ItemBrandModelWeightGeneral Notes
wind shirtPatagoniaHoudini Windshirt3Carried this jacket for the whole Triple Crown. The new model is slightly heavier.
raingearGatewood capeponcho (see Shelter)0A bit billowy, but given that it barely rains on the PCT, worth the weight and cost.
Long sleeve shirtSmartwoolMicroweight Longsleeve Crew4Great warmth to weight ratio, but could last longer
Warm head layerBuffNational Geographic Buff1.5Essential for keeping neck and face warm in addition to head.
tights NikeNike Fit tights7Wore from Kennedy Meadows north. I was very happy to have something cover my legs in the Sierra, though if I were to it again, would probably choose something lighter. The spandex stretchiness was nice, though
socks wornSmartwoolpHd ultralight merino running sock1Nice to have extra socks in the Sierra
puffy jacketWestern MountaineeringFlash Jacket8Wore from Kennedy Meadows north
The LT3 poles in the desert. My favorite photo from the whole trail.
The LT3 poles in the desert. My favorite photo from the whole trail.

Items Worn / Carried

ItemBrandModelWeightGeneral Notes
primary torso base layerREItank top0.7
shortsRoyal RobbinsWomen's backcountry shorts5Stylish and fit well
hat with full coverageExOfficioBugs Away Mesh Cape Hat3Kept away bugs, kept away the sun, stayed on my head in the wind.
sunglassesGas station2I lost my sunglasses many times
socks wornSmartwoolRun Ultralight Micro PhD1Great warmth to weight ratio. Didn't smell. Could have lasted longer.
shoesSalomonTrail Runner XA Pro3d shoes16Great grip in the Sierra.
watchTimexIronman2Useful for planning the day
underwearEx OfficioGive N Go Bikini Briefs2
hiking poles Gossamer GearLightTrek 3s (2 of them)Carried Idyllwild to Etna. Also held up the shelter.
Tunnel Falls up the Eagle Creek Trail
Tunnel Falls up the Eagle Creek Trail


Worn or carried4.9

Why ultralight hikers should carry potty trowels

New ultralight technology makes it easy to carry a potty trowel and build proper Leave No Trace catholes
New ultralight technology makes it easy to carry a potty trowel and build proper Leave No Trace catholes

Like many ultralight hikers, I never thought I would carry a potty trowel. It was a piece of gear that seemed heavy and redundant, especially when a shoe, rock, or stick could do the job and serve multiple functions (or not need to be carried at all). However, after I tried my first ultralight potty trowel, I’ve become a strong advocate for potty trowels on trail. I believe carrying a potty trowel can improve the hiking experience, both for you, others, and the ecosystem for a near inconsequential weight penalty.

I first was willing to try carrying a potty trowel when I discovered that potty trowel technology now has multiple options available at less than an ounce. For me, it’s well worth carrying an extra 12 g to improve what was once the worst part of my hiking day.

Getting deep isn’t hard with a potty trowel
Getting deep isn’t hard with a potty trowel

Carrying a trowel has become even more important because of the increase in number of hikers, especially on the PCT. The damage (and just plain grossness) created by hundreds or thousands of hikers doing a cr@ppy job of burying #2 is mind boggling. Particularly for desert sections of drought-struck Southern California, heat, dryness, and soil-not-conducive-to-bacteria can make it so a turd will take decades to decompose. This means that each year, more and more hikers leave landmines in the sand at a rate faster than they can return to the earth. This is why digging a good hole—and carrying the equipment that can make digging a good hole possible—has become even more important.

Both American Long Distance Hiking Association-West’s President and Vice President advocate using potty trowels. It appears as if our trowels are the only thing that doesn’t match in this photo. Allgood is using a <a href="">Deuce of Spades</a> and I am holding a <a href="">Montbell Handy Scoop</a>
Both American Long Distance Hiking Association-West’s President and Vice President advocate using potty trowels. It appears as if our trowels are the only thing that doesn’t match in this photo. Allgood is using a Deuce of Spades and I am holding a Montbell Handy Scoop

Lastly, hikers need to admit to themselves that they are infamously bad at burying poops. Thru-hikers especially. When you’re trying to make miles, have to get to town before the store closes, and have reduced control over your bowels, digging a quality hole in lickity-split time using only a rock becomes nearly impossible.  The trowel can dig through all sorts of soils and build a fat cathole in a fraction of the time of many other building materials.


List of ultralight potty trowels

Qi Whiz—the one I use and the lightest on the market! It is pictured throughout this blogpost. The original model comes in at less than 0.4 oz or around 11 grams!

  MSR Blizzard Stake  is a stake but is as beefy as a trowel. Not sold at REIs, but can be ordered online.

The Deuce of Spades is the least expensive on the market and doubles as as stake!

Montbell Handy Scoop-the toughest of its size class, a Backpacking Light gear review described it as “far exceeded my expectations for digging performance–which is saying a lot considering I’m a soil scientist by profession.”

The Little Deuce Scoop-In the words of Swami, “.$20, .75oz and best of all, every time you use it you will be reminded of the following tune”


No matter how ultralight you may claim to be:

If you can carry a smart phone, you can carry a trowel.

If you can carry a book, you can carry a trowel.

If you can carry a backpack, you can carry a trowel.


Whatever potty trowel you carry, you will walk away from your business each day with the satisfaction of knowing you did a job right.

How to Train your Feet for Hiking Season

Altra Zero Drop shoes have quickly become a hiker favorite.
Altra Zero Drop shoes have quickly become a hiker favorite.

If you’ve ever thought about switching to Altra Zero Drop trail running shoes for your backpacking season, now is the time to start getting your foot accustomed to the shoe. I find that switching to hiking in the Altra Lone Peaks has increased my stability, reduced my strike impact, provided comfort for hours of hiking, eliminated long term hiker issues like plantar fasciitis, and increased my efficiency. That being said, hitting the trail with a brand new pair of Altras if you’ve never worn them before may not be the best idea because there is a transition time associated with switching over to a Zero drop shoe.

Lone Peak 1.0 in Escalante. Photo by <a title="Rocky Mountain Ruck" href="">Barefoot Jake Morrison.</a>
Lone Peak 1.0 in Escalante. Photo by Barefoot Jake Morrison.

Fear not, though—the benefits of switching over are HUGE for long distance hikers. Zero drop shoes help align the feet, reduce the impact of each foot step, and increase your stability. The foot shaped toe box—increases balance and efficiency, while reducing blisters and chaffing, maximize shock absorption and allows toes to spread out naturally. What this means for hikers is day-long comfort, increased stride efficiency, and less foot pain.

Baileys traverse in the Lone Peak 1.5s. Photo by <a href="">Barefoot Jake.</a>
Baileys traverse in the Lone Peak 1.5s. Photo by Barefoot Jake.

So, why should you start transitioning to Altra shoes now instead of say, a few days before my hike most thru-hikers (myself included) do the bulk of the trip planning? Because we’ve all spent years wearing high-heel like elevated trail runners, our feet have been trained to be lazy (in scientific speak—has neutralized our Achilles and lower calf muscles). If you hit the trail doing 15s, 20s, or 30 milers in a zero drop shoe when you’ve never worn zero drop shoes before, your Achilles and lower calf muscles are going to feel the burn. The muscles in your feet are going to be confused. It’s best to give yourself at least three weeks to strengthen your legs and feet before your hike.

Bobcat, Malto, and me on the Wonderland Trail in the Lone Peak 1.5s. Photo by Swami at <a href="">the Hiking Life.</a>
Bobcat, Malto, and me on the Wonderland Trail in the Lone Peak 1.5s. Photo by Swami at the Hiking Life.

Pre-hike training schedule:

Before you get your shoes (or during week 1): Walk around barefoot in the grass or the beach or your bedroom for 30 seconds, adding a 30 seconds per day. Week 1: Wear Altras around the office and running light errands (they sell a “work appropriate” show called the Instinct Everyday that has many of the same features as the running shoe, but looks like it’d work with a suit). At first, the Toe Shaped footbox may feel too roomy and weird. After a few days, your toes will start relaxing and will start spreading out naturally.

Sandstone in Moab in the Superior 2.0s Photo by the <a href="">Tom Gathman.</a>
Sandstone in Moab in the Superior 2.0s Photo by the Tom Gathman.

Week 2: Do a very short hikes (whatever that means to you). Start without your backpack and give yourself a rest day to assess how your feet, joints, Achilles, foot muscles, and lower calves feel. If everything seems great, slowly increase the mileage and add weight to your backpack, being sure to build in days in between for rest and recovery. On a thru-hike, it’s near impossible to take zero days every day, so let your body take advantage of rest days between hikes to build muscles and strength. Let your body also take advantage of the muscle building fuels that you can get from living off trail. Building muscles on trail when you’re living on instant mashed potatoes and ramen is going to be a little bit more difficult.

Escalante in the Lone Peak 1.5s. Photo by<a href="">Barefoot Jake</a>
Escalante in the Lone Peak 1.5s. Photo byBarefoot Jake

Barefoot Jake. Week 3: Up your mileage slightly, being sure to take days off in between. Take note of any excessive soreness or discomfort and rest up more. Week 4-6: Do a few hikes of the approximate length that you would wish to start a thru-hike. Take some days off between. Assess how you feel. Try doing that distance with a full pack of gear.

Glacier walking in the Lone Peak 1.5s in Olympic National Park. Photo by <a href="">Barefoot Jake.</a>
Glacier walking in the Lone Peak 1.5s in Olympic National Park. Photo by Barefoot Jake.

With this training system, your feet will get stronger and reduce the chance of getting bone fractures. Your lower calves will be ready to hit the trail (relatively speaking). And you’ll enjoy the natural alignment benefits of wearing a Zero Drop shoes. Wearing Zero Drop shoes is like long distance hiking: once you start doing it, you’ll have a hard time thinking of life the same way. If you’ve ever thought about it, I highly encourage starting now before hiking season gets into full swing so that you can maximize the benefits when you’re on trail.     (P.S. I’m not a doctor. Legal says that you should consult with your physician before doing anything physical or changing your life in any way).

From the Altra Blog: Altras Aren’t Just for Runners

Bobcat and I rocking the Altra Lone Peaks on the Wonderland Trail. Also with Malto. Photo by Cam “Swami” Honan from <a title="New Trends in Backpacking Food: Outdoor Retailer Sneak Peeks at What To Eat" href="">the Hiking Life</a>.
Bobcat and I rocking the Altra Lone Peaks on the Wonderland Trail. Also with Malto. Photo by Cam “Swami” Honan from the Hiking Life.

In the not so distant past, life was not so straight forward for hikers. There were no apps to use as maps/guidebooks on the trails. And plantar fasciitis/fasciotis was just a normal part of walking a long trail.

Meanwhile, a world away, some guys who worked in a running shop had an idea. It seemed like a lot of the folks who came into their store looking to correct foot pain were helped by a few simple solutions like sizing the shoe up a few sizes and wearing laces looser.

Back in their own separate world, hikers with foot problems were coming to similar conclusions as they stumbled their way north or south on a long trail, occasionally hobbling into small-town gear stores with their own set of foot problems. I consistently would buy shoes several sizes larger than my feet—often having to get men’s shoes—in order to feel like my toes had enough room to stabilize my foot. Sometimes, I would straight up give-up on shoes and walk barefoot for a bit to get out of some trail running clunkers.

One day, those guys in the running shop designed a shoe. They used their knowledge of running, what they’d seen help injured people in their store, and advanced degrees in foot bio-mechanics and biology to pattern a shoe after how people actually run. That shoe was called Altra Zero Drop.

I was lucky to be one of the first hikers to try the shoe out and thought, “Hey, my feet don’t hurt anymore.”

As someone who has never run a marathon, I get a little intimidated by ads that show people with race bibs and medals. For me, being on my feet has never been about that. But It turns out those runners know more than a thing or two about how feet work. That’s why I crafted this piece about how long distance hikers have done awesome things in the Altra Lone Peaks. Check it out:

New Trends in Backpacking Food: Outdoor Retailer Sneak Peeks at What To Eat


Part 4 in the series on Outdoor Rertailer 2015. 

Being more of a foodie than a gearhead, I was especially stoked to sample, nibble, and gorge on all of the new foods announced at the Outdoor Retailer Show this year. Here’s a sneak peak at what to eat, from the intriguing, scrumptious, to just plain disgusting.

Most Innovative: Clif Energy Food

Clifbar unveiled their new energy food packets at Outdoor Retailer
Clifbar unveiled their new energy food packets at Outdoor Retailer

Part real food gel, part adult baby food, these pouches taste way more “real” than the competitors’ energy goop. These totally organic, gluten-free packets come in re-sealable pouches and have a shelf life of 12 months.

One major selling point on these bad boys is that they’re easier to digest than real food, but tastier and mor

e wholesome than gels. Props to Clifbar for the innovative idea. Because of the limited calorie density, I can’t see this taking off in the long distance hiking community as more than an occasional treatbar. As much as I love the Clif Energy Foods, I worry it won’t stick around for long, so start hording these before they end up on the cutting block!

The sweet flavors (90g): Banana Mango Coconut (100 calories) and Banana Beet Ginger (110 calories).

The savory flavors (120g): Sweet Potato and Sea Salt (200 calories) and the Pizza Margherita flavor (120 g—my favorite).

New Dehydrated Food: Good to Go


Founded by Iron Chef winner Jennifer Scism (and long time owner NY Times 4 star rated restaurant Annissa in NYC), Good to Go is a new pre-packaged backpacking dinner that first appeared at Summer OR. The flavor is pretty much advertised—restaurant quality.

The only downside is that Good to Go is dehydrated instead of freeze-dried, so Soakers like my friend Bobcat aren’t going to be able to use this food to its full potential. It appears to have as many calories as the competition, but a single serving Good to Go retails for the price of a double serving of the competition. I guess it’s still cheaper than dinner at a 4 star hotel.

Flavors: Thai Curry (380 calories per 3.8 oz) , Smoked Three Bean Chili (vegetarian, 340 calories per 3.5 oz), Mushroom Risotto (410 calories per, Classic Marinara with Penne (460 calories for 3.5 oz)

Sweet and Savory: Navitas


Health food store standard, Navitas organic superfood company made an appearance at Outdoor Retailer and rocked the potential for flavor and variety of all natural backpacking snacks. I was already a big fan of backpacking with the Cacao Nibs and Chia seeds, but was stoked for their new line up set to roll out this spring.

Coconut chips (three flavors): cacao, caramel, and chili lime (I tried this was and it was AWESOME). These have the potential to be a low glycemic alternative to potato chips. Of course, coconut chips are never inexpensive, but at least these come in creative flavors.

Superfood+ Line: Cacao Hemp Almonds, Chia Rosemary Pepitas, Coconut Hemp Pepitas, Goji Basil Cashews, Goldenberry Ginger Almonds, Maca Maple Cashews (incredible), Tumeric Tamari Almonds (turmeric is an all-natural ibuprofen alternative).

Although they aren’t new, I was pretty intrigued by the Power Snack cubes (Flavors include: Cacao Goji, Citrus Chia, Coffee Cacao, and Lemon Goldenberry). At $10 for 8 oz, these raw organic cubes are less expensive per oz than many other raw organic bars out there and have no added sugar.

New Twist on a Trusted Bar: Probar

Although they didn’t have a booth at Winter OR this year, during the show, several of my friends swung by ProBar headquarters and met with Jules, the CEO, who had kindly supplied the Gossamer Gear Jamboree in Moab with snacks. I’ve been excited for their two newest flavors, which rolled out a few months ago:

Almond Crunch: Let’s just say that the hikers who tried this bar loved it so much, that what they want to do to this bar is inappropriate to write in the blog. This flavor is phenomenal. (And thank you, Probar, for making a peanut-free bar!)

Strawberry Bliss: It’s like they took my favorite ingredient from the Wholeberry Blast and just dedicated a whole bar to it.

Probar also rolled out their new line, Bites, which offers the same great flavors as their Meal Replacement Bars, except in smaller-portioned (and thus lower calorie) bars. (Hikers, of course, are best sticking to the Meal Replacement Bar).

Best Idea Ever: Alpine Aire Guacamole

How many times have I been sitting on a mountain and wished that I had some guacamole for my chips? Up until now, I didn’t think it was possible to dehydrate an avocado. I thought it was physically not possible. But Alpine Aire has done it–and it’s incredible. Keep your eyes and tongue peeled for this amazing, incredible, much-dreamed about new food idea. Hikers: I introduce you to freeze dried guacamole!

Reading Material: The Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook

Stackpole Books presented their newest backpacking food recipe book, the Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook, which includes 398 recipes. Suitable for preppers and hikers alike, if you’re looking for an off-season hobby to get you prepared for backpacking, this book has enough projects in it to keep you busy until next off-season. It includes full color photos of what can be done with a dehydrator—although, admittedly, many of these are way too fancy for a lot of hikers.

Oldie But Goodie: New Clif Bar Flavors

At the Conservation Alliance Breakfast, Clifbar rolled out two new flavors for attendees to try:

Berry Pomegrante Chia

Nuts and Seeds

Macrodelicious: GoMacro Bar

I was pleased to see health food staple Go Macro bar at Outdoor Retailer, showing off some of their cool new packaging designs–which recently won an award for awesome art. Outdoor Retailer was a great place for them to showcase some of their new flavors that I haven’t seen in stores yet: banana + almond butter, sunflower + butter chocolate,  sesame + butter dates, and cashew caramel.

Trail Magic Award: PowerPop

The ultimate in trailside magic showed it’s face at OR this winter: an Otterpop like ice popsicle with electrolytes. I’m just saying if someone showed up at Scissor’s Crossing handing out a few of those, they’d instantly get the status of “angel” from some near-dead hikers.

For a Good Cause: Salazon Chocolate

At Outdoor Retailer, Salazon rolled out their Continental Divide Trail specific salted chocolate bar: 72% Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Almonds. All Salazon bars are Oragnic, Fair Trade, and Rain Forest Alliance certified. Packed with plenty of energy, uppers from the chocolate, and salt to keep your electrolytes in balance, proceeds from this bar go to the Continental Divide Trail Coalition. Now that’s some good chocolate!

Are there any food trends or flavors you’re excited to try in your backpacking food?

Stay tuned for the final segment on Outdoor Retailer: gear and marketing trends in the Outdoor Industry!