Easy Hiking Food for Overnight Trips (That’s lightweight too!)

I’m still staggered by the number of people who say that planning and organising food is the issue that stops them from doing overnight hikes.

There’s really no reason these days for using that excuse and my suspicion is that if you’re still using it, then the real issue isn’t to do with the food, but something else. (Ouch!)

I’ve already done this video on Basic Food for Hiking last year, so here’s a refresher to prove that it can be as easy as a trip to your local supermarket or even hopping online and letting someone else do all the work for you.

Once you’ve mastered the basics of supermarket options, and only if you’re keen, you can worry about dehydrating your own food and getting into the other myriad of options available to you.

1.  The “Let someone else worry about it” option

Ready to go 24hr Ration Packs

Let someone else do all the work - Strive Food 24hr Ration Pack.

Let someone else do all the work – Strive Food 24hr Ration Pack.

I mean really. If you just want the easiest option and don’t want to think about it, order a 24hr ration pack that is ready to go. There’s a few varieties that I’ve come across and they’re pretty good. Just check the overall weight and what cooking/preparation you need. eg. do you need to take a stove and billy? (PS: I’m going to be doing a video review on the Strive Food 24hr Ration Pack very soon!)

 2. The “I’ll do some of the thinking” option

Pre-packed Dehydrated Meals

This is simply a trip to your outdoors store (or buy online) purpose made dehydrated hiking meals. There’s a stack of different varieties available these days and some brands, such as Backcountry, come with the easiest of all preparations. ie. Open and stand up the pack, pour in boiling water, close the pack for 10 mins, then eat. Many of these are surprisingly tasty. You can buy packs for all meals, but you might just want to grab the evening meal and substitute it with your supermarket options below.

Enjoying the view from Mt Solitary whilst the billy boils.

Enjoying the view from Mt Solitary whilst the billy boils.

3. The “I’ll grab what I need when I’m shopping and save money” option

DIY Supermarket Option

No offence, but if you can go to a supermarket, you can organise easy overnight hiking meals. Here’s my super simple meal plan for a weekend trip. (Australian available product names used.)

And to make it even easier, you can Download my Hiking Food Shopping and Prep List here, and take it with you to the shops!

Seeds, Fruit & Nuts - The foundation of every good Scroggin.

Seeds, Fruit & Nuts – The foundation of every good Scroggin.

Saturday

Breakfast

  • N/A. Eat it at home super early before you hit the road for the track or take it with you. I usually take a coffee and toast in the car.

Morning Tea

  • Muesli Bar and handful of Scroggin (nuts, dried fruit, etc)
Muesli Bars - Loads of choice!

Muesli Bars – Loads of choice!

Lunch

  • Crackers or flat bread of your choice (Vita-Weats, Rice cakes,  Mountain Bread, Lebanese Bread)
Crackers are easy and lightweight.

Crackers are easy and lightweight.

  • Cheese (Baby-Bell, Laughing Cow, Picon, etc)

Processed cheese like these can be kept out of the fridge.

Processed cheese like these can be kept out of the fridge.

BabyBel Cheese

BabyBel Cheese

  • Salmon/Tuna sachet (smaller 100g) or little 95g tin eg. Tuna with lemon pepper, tuna with tomato and onion, salmon with smokey flavour
Salmon or Tuna slices in sachet.

Salmon or Tuna slices in sachet.

      • A few slices of Salami (1/3 of your supply)
      • Handful of Scroggin if you’re still hungry

Afternoon Tea

      • Muesli Bar and handful of scroggin
      • Jelly snakes/sweets
By late afternoon, you might appreciate a sugar hit to get you up the last hill.

By late afternoon, you might appreciate a sugar hit to get you up the last hill.

Dinner

      • Happy Hour to share (eg. Bag of soy chips, tube of Pringles)
Pringles or similar keep well in your pack. It's nice to have something to share with your mates before dinner!

Pringles or similar keep well in your pack. It’s nice to have something to share with your mates before dinner!

      • Cuppa Soup
You can now buy individual sachets of Cuppa Soup. Perfect if you never touch the stuff in the city.

You can now buy individual sachets of Cuppa Soup. Perfect if you never touch the stuff in the city.

      • Pasta and sauce sachet (eg. Continental – Napoletana)

Packet Pasta & Sauce - loads of options

Packet Pasta & Sauce – loads of options

The tomato based flavour ones work best with your salami

The tomato based flavour ones work best with your salami

      • Salami (non-heat treated)
      • Chocolate to share for dessert

Chocolate - every hikers perfect dessert!

Chocolate – every hikers perfect dessert – How to make friends around the campfire!

And if you really want something to drink before bed (think about it), a hot choccie could be nice.

And if you really want something to drink before bed (think about it), a hot choccie could be nice.

Sunday

Breakfast

      • Muesli or cereal of your choice in ziplock bag (add dessert spoon of powdered milk to bag at home)
      • add some dried fruit if you wish for some flavour and fibre!
There's great varieties of dried fruit now available. Add it to your brekkie.

There’s great varieties of dried fruit now available. Add it to your brekkie.

      • Moccona coffee sachet or coffee bag or tea
There's also coffee bags available, which tend to have a stronger flavour.

There’s also coffee bags available, which tend to have a stronger flavour.

Morning  Tea

      • Muesli Bar and handful of scroggin

Lunch

      • same as Saturday (different flavour tuna)
I've been known to use the lid and ring pull as a spoon to scoop out the salmon… be careful though!

I’ve been known to use the lid and ring pull as a spoon to scoop out the salmon… be careful though!

Afternoon Tea

      • same as morning tea

…and if you screw your nose up at having the same thing 2 days in a row, or no fresh food, suck it up Princess. It’s two days for goodness sake!

This gives you a shopping list (Which you can download here) for the weekend as follows:

      • 1 box sandwich size ziplock bags
      • 500g fruit and nut mix (the yummiest looking you can find)
      • 1 bag  M&Ms
      • 1 bag snakes or sweets of your choice
      • 1 box muesli bars
      • 1 packet of crackers or flat bread
      • 2 small packets (100g) or small tins (95g) of flavoured tuna or salmon
      • 1 x 20cm salami (non-heat treated)
      • 1 bag Baby Bell cheeses (‘little baby cheeses’) or similar
      • Happy Hour (1 large tube of Pringles)
      • 1 packet Pasta and Sauce
      • 1 sachet Cuppa soup
      • 1 family block chocolate
      • 1 box Moccona coffee sachets (I like the cappuccino ones, but wouldn’t drink them in town)
      • Dried fruit (option) I like dried mango or blueberries
      • 1 packet 2min noodles (emergency food)
Every hikers best friend.

Every hikers best friend.

Now the key is not to just pack everything above in your backpack. Here’s the simple prep that I do with these items before I start packing. It’s all about breaking it down, removing the packaging and only taking what you need.

Preparation at home

SNACKS

      • Remove muesli bars from box.
      • Take 4 only and leave the rest.
      • Put 3 large handfuls of fruit and nut mixture into a ziplock bag. Leave the rest.
      • Add 1 handful of M&Ms to fruit and nut ziploc bag. Leave the rest.
      • Take your packet of snakes/sweets as is.

BREAKFAST

      • Put one serve of muesli/cereal in ziploc bag.
      • Add 1 heaped dessert spoon of powdered milk
      • Add sugar if you must
      • Add small handful of dried fruit (optional)
      • Put 2 tea bags or coffee sachets in a ziploc bag. Leave the rest.

LUNCH

      • Put salami in ziploc bag and make sure you have a small pen knife to cut it with. You might even want to put the knife the bag.
      • Take salmon/tuna tins as is.
      • Take 4 baby cheeses. Leave the rest.
      • Count out the number of crackers you will eat for each lunch and put into one ziploc bag. (I take 4 rice crackers for each lunch = 8)

DINNER

      • Take happy hour as is (Pringles tubes are a good way of protecting the chips).
      • Take 1 cuppa soup and leave the rest.
      • Take pasta and sauce packet as is.

Oh and don't forget to take something as emergency food, just in case you get back late or are benighted.

Oh and don’t forget to take something as emergency food, just in case you get back late or are benighted.

Beef Jerky makes a good alternative to salami, especially if you're hiking in the tropics or hot weather!

Beef Jerky makes a good alternative to salami, especially if you’re hiking in the tropics or hot weather!

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Where’s your hiking home?

Following on from last week’s post about living in small spaces, I’ve been thinking about where I feel most at home.

I’ve always said, that ‘home should be your refuge’. It’s the place where you can go and shut the door, relax, truly be yourself and be at peace.

I kinda feel like I’ve got two homes… one indoors and one outdoors.

I know I do go on about them, so it’s no surprise that I’m pretty much at home in the Blue Mountains National Park, just west of Sydney. It’s got a great mix of tracked and managed areas, along with intensely wild, untracked wilderness, gorges and canyons. Lots of variety and being a massive 268,987 ha (664,681 acres) in size, there’s plenty of choice and opportunity to get away from civilisation.

So what about you? Where’s your wilderness home?

Leeches – That slimy, slippery, itchy, sinking feeling

Can you feel it? Nah, you probably can’t. If you’re anything like me, sometimes the first thing you feel is the damp trousers against your calf as your blue blood oozes, unrestrained, into the fresh wilderness air. Last Monday, Australia Day (Invasion Day), I set out to walk a historic, somewhat invisible, track in the Blue Mountains.

Around a waterfall is a prime spot to find leeches

Around a waterfall is a prime spot to find leeches

Although the day started grey, it wasn’t long before the blue sky broke through and my companion and I were bathed in beautiful sunshine. However, down at ground level, under the lush canopy, the mystery of the disappearing track and recent downpours had the earth beneath our feet become the unmistakable home sweet home of Euhirudinea – the Leech.

Lush and ferny - a perfect home for leeches

Lush and ferny – a perfect home for leeches

Like something from Alien, the Australian version of these hermaphrodite little darlings have 2 toothy jaws, (3 in other countries) and seek out a tasty dinner which can keep them going for up to 3 months. They do this by producing a secretion called Hirudin, which stops the blood from clotting… hence the unstoppable flood of our precious, red stuff.

A leech can go without eating for 3 months!

A leech can go without eating for 3 months!

Like most people, I used to get pretty grossed out by these little critters, however, over the years I’ve come to admire their tenacity, patience and curiosity and am happy to reward them with my ample B positive. I’m no Buddhist, but find it quite unnecessary to smother them in salt, which causes them to sizzle, froth and die – surely a bit over the top. I simply get my finger nail under them and flick them off, making sure not to flick them in the direction of my friends.

The evidence of Hirudin, the anti clotting agent

The evidence of Hirudin, the anti clotting agent

Sure, I bleed. Big deal. And for the next 5 days I am scratching into the wee hours of the night, whilst reaching for my trusty spray of Stingose, but I kinda think of it as being part of the Circle of Life, like something from The Lion King.

Leeches? Just smile and get over it.

Leeches? Just smile and get over it.

Not to get too sentimental about these suckers, as they can cause infections such as cellulitis, but for me I don’t give them a second thought. Get over it… move on – oh, unless of course you’ve got one on your eyeball!

Oh and with gonads in their heads, I should probably start calling them Dickheads, instead of my usual expletive… bastard (as per the video)!

Q:  What’s your favourite method of dealing with leeches?

Six Foot Track Project Launch!

Ok, so you know how they always say, ‘Never start with an apology – it’s too negative.’?

Well, here I am breaking with tradition because for the last couple of weeks, I’ve taken leave of my blogging senses to concentrate on a very exciting new project that is launching this week!

For the past year, I’ve been working with the fabulous Matt McClelland (www.wildwalks.com and bushwalk.com) and Geoff Mallinson (geoffmallinson.com and Dad of danmallo.com) on a new approach to multi-day hike websites. We’re getting down to the pointy end of the work these last two weeks and we’re racing to get it all ready in time!

We all share the same aims of wanting to encourage people to get out into (and enjoy) the bush in a safe and fun way, so we pooled our collective skills into this project.

Geoff goes for a slide at Norths Lookout

Geoff goes for a slide at Norths Lookout

The Six Foot Track is one of Australia’s best known multi-day hikes and although the 45kms is usually done as a 3 day trip, it is also run during the annual Six Foot Marathon in around 5.5hrs.

The book, website and associated YouTube channel are full of information, photos, track notes, videos and an exciting new development called, ‘EmuView’ which adds a 360VR experience to the interactive maps on the site.

Guess who on the bridge?

Guess who on the bridge?

We’re launching this Thursday night with a shindig at the Hornsby RSL, so once that’s out of the way, I hope to return you to your regular weekly blog programming!

Hope you enjoy it!

Hiking Food : Dehydrating Hummus

Of all the meals that I plan for the bush, the one that I always struggle to feel inspired by is lunch.

For the times when I’ve been busy in the week and can’t be bothered to plan too hard, I’ll go for my ‘standard’ of a small foil packet of salmon or tuna, some rice crackers and cheese. After 10 years, this gets pretty boring, especially if you’re on an extended walk of 4 days or more.

Recently, (after being inspired by reader Bernie Boo in a comment) I decided to experiment with making my own hummus at home and dehydrating it. All I can say is, “yum”! Sure, you can buy commercially made dehydrated hummus, but why bother when it’s so cheap, tasty, quick and easy to make your own.

Staples in my pantry

Staples in my pantry

P1020352

  • 400g can chickpeas (drain & rinse)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves crushed
  • 2 tbs tahini
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp lemon rind
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup fresh coriander
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Sprinkle of smoky paprika
  • 60ml water (or enough for good consistency)
  • 100ml olive oil
Wizz until consistency right

Wizz until consistency right

Basically, I just chucked everything except the oil and water into the blender and wizzed it until the consistency was good, then just drizzled in the oil/water until it was smooth and lump free.

Then it was simply a matter of spreading out the dip on the dehydrator flat tray (or use aluminium foil to make your own inlays for the ‘holey’ trays) and dry until crumbly like kitty litter.

The time it takes will depend on a variety of factors like the power of your dehydrator and the humidity in the air. Mine took about 8 hours during a Sydney Winter’s day.

Spread out thinly on inlay trays

Spread out thinly on inlay trays

Don’t forget to use the other trays for drying other savoury items at the same time. I dried some red capsicum (peppers) to go with the dip!

Yummy happy campers

Add water to bag at camp and enjoy! (Oops – a bit too much water in this first test!)

When it’s finished, pop into portion sized ziploc bags, label and store in the freezer for your next outdoor adventure.

Then at camp, simply add water to the bag and squish/squeeze it around to rehydrate and enjoy with crackers or whatever takes your fancy!

I’m so excited by the outcome that I’m now going to experiment with dehydrating some babaganoush (eggplant dip) and a few other combo’s to keep the variety up.

TIP: Before putting into the ziploc bags, put the dehydrated hummus through the blender again to reduce it to a fine powder. This will help it to rehydrate quicker with a smoother consistency.

Hello Macpac!

Who doesn’t love outdoor gear, eh? Until social media came along, I didn’t know that anything could be more addictive, time consuming (or dangerous to the credit card!) than wandering through an outdoors store.

P1020359

My Macpac collection! Can you guess my favourite colours!

Since falling in love with wild places I’ve accumulated quite a bit of stuff, but when I was just getting started, I was simply looking for advice to get through the gopple-de-gook of retail shop assistants desire to get a sale. I just needed good stuff that was tough enough to handle the Aussie bush and wasn’t going to break the bank.

On the advice of much more experienced people than me, my first purchase was a backpack from Macpac, and I haven’t looked back. In fact, I now own three of them and they’ve all got adventures and stories to tell.

MacpacLogo_WebTherefore, I’m super excited to announce that I’ve been appointed one of Macpac’s ambassadors.

I thought carefully about aligning myself with any brands, but as you can see, this is a product that I genuinely use every time I go out bush and one that I’m happy to be aligned with.

One of the things that I’m looking forward to, is being able to provide them with honest feedback on the products from gear tests, along with suggestions of how the products could be made even better than they already are.

Don’t worry everyone, I’ll always be honest. If I don’t think something is up to scratch – I’ll say so!

Dinner in a Bag!

I’ve always been pretty fond of the cook-in-the-bag concept out in the bush. Besides doing away with the washing up, it’s another reason not to take a plate/bowl with you, reducing the bulk and weight in your backpack.

Our fabulous Kiwi cousins at Backcountry pretty much have this concept sewn up with their tasty freeze dried meals (I totally rate the Roast Lamb and Beef Curry!). In fact, I pretty much reckon that their meals are the bench mark when it comes to tasty meals in the wilderness.

The other day, I made the decision to head out bush at the last minute and not only had my own stash of dehydrated meals run out, but I didn’t have time to get to a camping store to grab a Backcountry. Sniffing around the supermarket I thought I’d experiment with something that wasn’t promoted as cook-in-bag, but as it was in a foil lined sachet, I thought I’d give it a red hot go!

Not designed for cook-in-bag

Not designed for cook-in-bag (and the wine bladder has water in it… honest!)

Voila! Ainsley Harriott’s Roasted Vegetable Cous Cous, cooked in it’s own sachet!

I knew that the ‘roasted vegetable’ component of the product would be pretty light on, probably needing a magnifying glass to find the vegies, so I took a ziploc bag with some dried vegies (dried peas and dried shallots) from the supermarket and two types of dried mushrooms from the Asian supermarket, added herbs & chilli powder and some good ol’ Biltong, which I threw in before adding the water.

Then, just like a Backcountry, I simply added boiling water, folded over the top and sat upright for about 10 mins, waiting for it all to get hot, gooey and tasty – then ate it right out of the bag. Easy!

P1010538

Adventure: Kanangra-Boyd Wilderness

A Big Sky Place

A Big Sky over Kanangra

A Big Sky over Kanangra

It would really suck to suffer from vertigo. And I don’t mean watching Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak run amok in San Francisco only to discover the DVD is missing the last 10 minutes.

I’m talking about having an unhealthy urge to throw oneself off of cliffs when it has nothing to do with mental health or abseiling.

Thankfully, neither myself nor my 5 other intrepid adventurers from Sydney Bush Walkers Club suffer from such a fate. Just as well really, considering what we planned on doing over Easter 2013.

I planned this Easter trip to start on Saturday, which meant that Good Friday was spent as a leisurely day packing and slowly heading up to the Walls carpark where we camped for the night. Checkout a 360 of the sunset which I enjoyed with just one or two glasses of red. Ah, a great start to a holiday!

Saturday morning dawned bright and clear and we tucked into a quick breakfast at the shelter shed before heading out.

After a quick briefing, I broke the news to the 3 newer members of the club that I wanted them to really work on their navigation skills and take the lead with map and compass. Nothing like being thrown into the deep end. Kind of like Celebrity Splash… But thankfully not.

Not feeling in too much of a rush and slightly delirious from the amazing Autumn day we were having, we took our time passing Dance Floor Cave and headed up onto Seymour Tops to take in the views across to Kanangra Main Canyon.

I was a tough leader and pushed the new members to work on their navigation

I was a tough leader and pushed the new members to work on their navigation

The navigators located the correct turn off and we headed off towards Coal Seam Cave. As the video explains, this is a great little spot, where some far-sighted individuals installed a bucket underneath one of the (almost) permanent water drips from the cliff lines above. This bucket has quenched the thirst of many tired hikers, after lugging themselves up one of the many alternate ridges from the Kowmung River on a hot day. The water is a little brackish, but I’d be happy to drink it.

Speaking of these alternate ridge routes, this was what our trusty navigators now focused on. For the rest of the day, they followed the toppo diligently and after what seemed longer than I thought it should have (an elastic ridge no less!) we arrived at the river for a refreshing dip, just as the sun was sinking over the tops.

It was here that the newer members of our club also narrowly avoided one of the little known hazards sometimes associated with the dear Sydney Bush Walkers Club.

You see, there’s been something of a tradition in the past of some members, well… getting their members (and other bits) out.

Not just a young person's game...

Not just a young person’s game… DR on the right, will be 80 in 2013.

You’ll notice from the above pic that our club has an incredibly diverse age range, having started in 1927, with an influx of younger people in their 20s and 30s joining in the last 5 years or so.

I love it when new members come on their first walk and see what they perceive as “elderly” people at the briefing in the morning. I can see what they’re thinking. What they don’t realise, is that these ‘old dears’ have been walking their arses off since they were teenagers, with exceptional fitness and endurance. These grey haired gurus can carry a full pack up and down any Kanangra 850m ridge, for 10 hours without blinking or breaking a sweat, whereas most gym junkies only workout for a couple of hours… tops.

I then have a secret delight when about 3 hrs into a walk, the Crusties (my term of endearment for the older members) are going strong and the 20 something’s are struggling to keep up.

So… Back to the, ahem Member’s member…

DR thoughtfully went ahead on the track and beat us younger types to the river, allowing himself to feel the breeze, splash in the river and truly be one with nature, without scaring the younger, Member’s members.

Finding a campsite was next on the agenda and although there was one nearby our swimming spot, I would only give it a 2.5-3 star rating. Surely we can do better than that! You know when you just “feel” that there’s got to be somewhere better… just a little further along? Now sometimes that type of thinking can lead to disappointment and plodding by head torch, “just another 500m”, through thick scrub for another 5kms or so. Thankfully, we didn’t have to go that far before we came upon a truly amazing clearing with lush green grass – a true 5 star campsite and just as the sun was disappearing behind the hills.

Sorry... this one's a secret!

Sorry… this one’s a secret!

After a deep nights sleep, we woke up to Easter Sunday and what was going to be the hardest day of the trip. There was a whole lot of UP involved and a fair bit of navigating by map and compass to ensure that we hit the old pass in exactly the right spot.

The lower ridges were pretty clear and the going was fairly easy, with only the last pinch up one of the buttresses of Ti Willa Plateau causing us all to huff n’ puff. We pulled ourselves up through rock falls and through scrub, occasionally experiencing the two steps up, one slide back on loose scree, constantly checking our compass bearing and reading the terrain, before magically… we looked up… and right in front of us was the bottom spike of the pass. Our navigators had done extremely well!

Up we went, making use of the chains and spikes along the way and being super careful on the very slippery Casuarina needles on the ledges. One slip and… well…

Steve coming up Compagnoni Pass

Steve coming up Compagnoni Pass

Lunch was had at the cairn on the top of Ti Willa plateau as a cool change moved in from the south. The temperature dropped about 10 degrees in 10 minutes and a gentle wind picked up. Off we headed (to warm up again!) to walk across of top of the Plateau and head for the sleeping cave. In the past, there have been stories about impenetrable scrub and Hakea making this journey not very enjoyable. Thankfully, we found this not to be the case. Sure, there were a few pockets of the stuff that made the going slow and painful at times, but generally speaking, it was good going.

We made good time and only felt a few of the raindrops from the threatening sky, before arriving at cave and starting the fire. Drinking water was flowing well in the usual place and before long we were enjoying a lovely afternoon’s cuppa.

As there was still at least 3 hours of good light left, I offered to take everyone to a great lookout to take in our elevated surroundings. This did involve a bit of scrub, but we be hardy types in Sydney Bushies, Argh!

P1010930The evening was calm and still at the cave and we all enjoyed the hot rum and lime drink that I brewed to a secret recipe, which no doubt helped us sleep very well. It was at this point that I broke the news to the group that I wanted to leave the cave at 7am. Oh the shock of it! They’d clearly gone soft. You’d have been forgiven for thinking that I’d told them to sacrifice their first born on the morning fire… Sheeesh. Get used to it guys – I’ve started to enjoy early starts!

Resting around the fire

Resting around the fire

The lazy bunch didn’t quite manage 7am, but around 7.20am we slogged up the hill out of the cave and made Mt Cloudmaker in good time, where we signed the logbook before heading off along the footpad towards the Walls.

This stretch of track-ette, is the most used piece of terrain in the Kanangra-Boyd Wilderness Area and forms part of the traditional Kanangra to Katoomba (K2K) route. Although there is a footpad, there are no signs and the track does disappear here and there along the way. For those experienced types, you might find it hard to believe that there have been people lost between here and the carpark, even in recent times.

The views along this track are truly amazing, not only north or south into the valleys and gorges, but all around – I am a big fan of grass trees (Xanthorrhoea) and spots along here literally explode with them.

Looking down Kanangra Gorge

Looking down Kanangra Gorge

All too soon, we found ourselves having lunch on the top of Gordon Smith’s Pass which always signals to me that the end is nigh… the Kanangra-Walls carpark is just a few kms away.

Back at the cars, we changed clothes and decided to head to the Gardener’s Inn at Blackheath for a well deserved cooling ale before heading home.

A truly wonderful Easter break and a great adventure!

So what’s your favourite big sky place?

Adventure: Trip Reports

When I started this blog thingy, I didn’t really know what people wanted to see. To be honest, I’ve been a wee bit surprised when digging around in the background and seeing which posts turned out to be the most popular!

Surprise, surprise. You lot quite enjoy reading trip reports. Really? Huh.

Huayhuash Circuit - Day 9

Huayhuash Circuit (Peru) – Day 9

So I’ve decided to start posting rants and raves about my various outdoorsy adventures… and as I tend to get out around 7 times per month, I should have plenty of fodder for you my pretties!

Ah, but before I get cracking, I should warn you. I’m not going to be writing too much about the specifics of tracks, routes, grid references and locations, etc. As many of my adventures are off track and require traditional compass and topographic map navigation, it would be pretty dodgy of me to be putting that type of stuff out there and potentially leading people astray… nay!

If you’re an experienced hiker / bushwalker from the Sydney region, you’ll probably recognise many of the places and photographs. I just ask that you be a bit circumspect in your comments to avoid over-sharing of the details of our precious places 🙂

Don’t worry – I’m not elitist though! If you’d like to know more about these places and experience them for yourself – I recommend you join a bushwalking club. Not only will you meet a bunch of like-minded people, but they’ll teach you all you need to know and take you out into these wild and wonderful places. To find a club near you, visit Bushwalking NSW or Bushwalking Australia if you’re from another state.

8 Tips to Using a Dehydrator to make tasty hiking food!

One of the questions I get asked most is what do I eat in the bush? It might also explain why my Basic Food for Hiking Video is the 2nd most popular on the channel. Us hikers love our food!

With all that fresh air and exercise, we sure build up healthy appetites and I’m not convinced that all of it is about ensuring correct nutrition (see A Little Tipple in the Bush). So how do we guarantee tasty, healthy food, whilst keeping pack weights to a minimum? How do we enjoy such treats as Mussaman Lamb or Spag Bol in the middle of the wilderness?… The answer is dehydrating!

If alchemy is the art of turning lead into gold, then dehydrating is like some strange kind of bushwalking alchemy. Here’s some tips to get you started!

  1. The Dehydrator

    Dehydrators - like a series of trays with a hairdryer!

    Dehydrators – like a series of trays with a hairdryer!

    Dehydrators are made up of a number of trays.  In this example there are 5 trays sitting on the base tray. The bottom of each tray is grids which allow for air to flow freely throughout the various trays and around the food. There are also inlay sheets which sit inside the trays and allow you to dry liquids, sauces or fruit leathers. The dry air is generated in the lid section, which is very similar to a low voltage hair dryer. There are quite a few options out there on the market, this one (Sunbeam Healthy Food Dryer) is one of the cheapest at around AUD$100 new. You can pay up to $400+ depending on the model and the functions available. For instance, this model doesn’t have a timer, which would be a helpful thing.  However, you can get around this by using a basic electrical timer that you use between the powerpoint and the plug of the dryer.

  2. Preparation

    Broccoli keeps it's colour if it's blanched first!

    Broccoli keeps it’s colour if it’s blanched first!

    Before placing your food in the dehydrator, you will need to do some preparation.  At the easy end of the spectrum is simply slicing fruit or veggies into small pieces, whereas at the other end of things, is cooking and preparing a full meal. Check your instruction manual which contains loads of helpful advice and tables about the necessary preparation.  Some veggies or fruit need prep such as dipping in lemon juice or blanching in hot water first.  From experience, these simple steps certainly enhance the end product – so if possible, don’t skip this step.

  3. Choosing what to dehydrate

    When choosing meat to dehydrate, the best way to get the most effective drying (and let’s face it, we don’t want to get sick out in the bush) is to use mince meat.  Thankfully, there are lots of options available at your local supermarket – beef, chicken, lamb, turkey, pork and for us Aussies, kangaroo.  (If you ask your butcher nicely, he will mince almost anything for you. Tripe anyone?) Almost everything that goes into the dryer will need to be sliced small to ensure that you get the most surface area, allowing the warm dry air to circulate around as much of the food as possible.

    Butter Chicken after drying

    Butter Chicken after drying

  4. Cook it up!

    For this example, I cooked up a big pot of lamb mince and used a packet sauce mix of Mussaman Lamb.  I followed the recipe on the packet (except for using mince instead of pieces of meat), but also added a stack of my own (small cut) vegetables and fresh herbs.

    Just make a normal meal - but use mince!

    Just make a normal meal – but use mince!

  5. Drying

    Slice things thinly and uniformly for best results

    Slice things thinly and uniformly for best results

    Once the preparation or cooking is done, place the food onto the trays in a single layer.  Again, this is to ensure maximum space around the food to aid drying.
    Dishes with sauce or liquid need to sit on the inlay tray and obviously not onto the normal hole covered trays.  With my dehydrator, I can use the base tray for saucy dishes also.  Note that this base tray dries food quicker than any other area in the dryer. Check the manual that came with the appliance for estimated drying times.  There are no definitive drying times for each type of food as times depend on not only the size of each piece of food, but also the humidity and outside temperature.

    For example:  I once dried Mussaman Lamb in December (Aussie Summer) and it took 14 hrs to dry.  Then, in April (Aussie Autumn) I also dried Mussaman Lamb and it took 8hrs 15mins.

    To make the most of your drying time, don’t just fill one or two trays.  Put a meat dish into two trays, then fill the others with veggies and fruit.  As each type of food will dry at different times, it is important to keep checking on them throughout the process. Each person will find a way that works for them in this, however I tend to check after 6 hrs which will give me an idea of what the overall time is going to be. If you’re doing this overnight, your alarm clock will become your noisy partner in the dehydrating process. The finished product will differ for each type of food. Your instruction manual will give you a description of what to expect and how to know that it is done. The best description I’ve heard for correctly dried mince meat, is kitty litter. Meow!

    Dried Mince looking a bit like kitty litter!

    Dried Mince looking a bit like kitty litter!

  6. Storing the dehydrated food

    Once the food has finished drying, store them in portion sized Ziploc bags. You’ll find that when it is dried, it’s hard to figure out how much a portion is. So make this calculation before you dry. Look at your cooking pot and decide that how many dinners it will cover. Then divide the dried food into this many Ziploc bags.
    Write the date and contents on the bag with indelible pen and place in the freezer.

    Keep notes on your dehydrating efforts

    Keep notes on your dehydrating efforts

    Check your instruction manual for details on storage life. Keep a record of your dehydrating history, rating the humidity on the day and the start/finish times, along with any pre-treatment needed.  This is how you can learn and tweak for your next time.

  7. Out on the track 

    To make it easier for yourself, you may wish to add your other dry ingredients to the Ziploc bag before you head off on your trip.   For example:  Add in other dehydrated veggies such as Surprise Peas or Beans or rice noodles.  This way you have a full meal in a bag. When you arrive at camp, simply pop all the contents of the bag into a billy and cover with cold water.  Put the lid on (to keep the craw

    P1010541

    Meal in a bag!

    lies out) and set aside for an hour.  Perfect time to light the fire and have happy hour! After an hour, simply place the billy over the heat.  Check by tasting the meat.  If it’s still chewy, continue to heat through – leave the lid on and simmer.  Stir frequently. Bon Appetit!

  8. What not to dry

    Being a regular eater of tofu at home, I thought I’d give this a go for the track as well.  Yes, it dried quite successfully, however (thankfully) I gave it a test rehydrate at home before risking taking it out into the bush.

    Whatever you do... don't dehydrate tofu!

    Whatever you do… don’t dehydrate tofu!

    This photo shows the slice of tofu after sitting in water for 24hrs. The best way to describe the texture of it at this stage would be like the bicycle inner tube that I take as an emergency fire lighting tool. Sorry vegetarians… I tried.

  • HOT TIP! Mince represents the major tip in choosing what to dry – Good things come in small packages!
  • HOT TIP!  If you’re a busy person (who isn’t these days?) and you are trying to get a stack of dehydrating done for an upcoming extended trip, I suggest cooking up enough for dinner that night, and then putting all the leftovers into the dehydrator and letting it run through the night.

Goodluck with your dehydrating efforts. I’d love to hear your experiences, recipes and other tips!

Thanks to Swantje and her lovely family (from http://textileshed.wordpress.com) I met at Kanangra Walls over Easter for the inspiration for this post!