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Hiking Food and Drink
Going hiking? Gather the gear, layer on the (appropriate) clothes, fill the water bottles. And above all, even for a short hike, don't forget the food. One must keep the body fueled! And the psyche happy. Good trail food, and drink, is a must.
We enjoy our trail food but it is usually simple fare - easy to prepare, quick to get in the packs, enjoyable to look forward to on the hike. It is also mostly food that is common in our kitchen and pantry, and in our everyday lives. Since most of our hiking is day hikes, lunch and snacks are usually all we have to take along. And we never head out without water even for a short near-to-home walk. In the winter we appreciate hot, food or drink, or at least warm, and unfrozen snacks.
Easy-to-eat healthy snacks are at the top of our hiking food list. And the first is probably the simple "trail mix", sometimes known as GORP - good old raisins and peanuts - though our mixes are made up of any number of, and often experimental combinations of, ingredients that are easy to toss into one's mouth while on the move. There is no one recipe; we each make our own and probably the only constant for both of us is raisins. The other ingredients depend on personal preference and a great deal on what is on hand. Here is a typical mix:
Raisins, slivered almonds, chocolate chips, a few peanuts, cheerios, cheddar bunnies or fish crackers, sesame sticks (the skinny ones)
We both like a trail mix container that is an easy hand size and, particularly in the winter, one that travels comfortably in a jacket pocket. Many of the ingredients get hard to eat when frozen so an inner pocket helps. It's also nice to have the mix handy when stopping for a quick drink or layer change.
Homestead Hiking Cookie
I’d been making my basic Homestead Cookies for over 40 years, the recipe that is in our "Homesteading Adventures" book, and they served us well all those years. They were sturdy, hearty, healthful (I think), and they suited. We liked them. But this past year I decided I wanted a less firm cookie, easier to eat, a cookie with a few more ingredients, one that would be good energy on the hiking trail even when cold (thus far successfully tested down to the low teens). And, of course, be good eating every day on the homestead. This is what I came up with. They appear to be quite popular based on how fast they disappear. I’d like to blame this on LilliB but to be honest, I’ve never seen her eat a cookie, though she’ll give it a try and thoroughly lick one if it’s found un-attended, or the owner’s attention temporarily averted.
This is a highly adaptable and variable recipe. What I put in depends on what I have on hand and preferences at the time. No eggs? Leave the eggs out. Have some shredded coconut? Put some in. But this is my latest basic recipe:
2-3 c whole grain flour
1/4 c chocolate chips
Then add liquid. It helps to let it set a bit unless your flour is very fine (mine isn’t).
Adjust by adding water or flour for a moderately soft & sticky but not too dry dough.
Put spoonfuls on cookie sheet. Flatten somewhat with a wet fork, more if you want a firmer cookie, less if softer. Bake till done.
Since I’m mostly using the wood cookstove I don’t have a temperature or time. It takes longer if the fire isn’t too hot, quick when it really gets going, and takes a really long time if you let the fire go out.
Sometimes I use an electric "toaster" oven in the summer, with a temperature of 350 - 400.
The "Hiking Cookie" has proven itself on the trail, holding together quite well, unless they migrate to the bottom of the pack and you’ve vigorously stuffed a jacket or something on top of them. Leaving a little air in the ziplock bag they are in helps but mostly they are on top within easy reach for a quick snack. They are easy eating when it’s cold, especially appreciated when your trail mix has turned into hard cold bullets. In the heat of summer you may want to leave out the chocolate chips or substitute mm type candies. But overall they are suited for and welcome in any weather and at any time.
(note: the spoon in the photo is for lunch, not for eating the cookies!)
Hot (or at least Warm) Food for Lunch
For Christmas we bought ourselves small Thermous food containers - the 10 oz "Funtainer" (though we passed on the many fancy graphics versions available and went for plain silver/black (Steve) and teal (me). Last month we had taken warm food in a regular tupperware type container which was nice to have but it didn't stay warm very long, even buried in our packs. We thought we'd try the insulated option. This was our first trial [an early January hike] and they worked well with our simple meal of rice and tuna. Though certainly heavier than a sandwich it was real nice to have warm food on a cold day, and 10 oz was a good size - eat half now on the trail (it being a bit cold to sit very long to eat), then the rest later when back at the car, hungry but a ways from home and supper. I like that the Thermous Funtainer is simple and easy to clean.
Based on our experience with our water bottles I plan to make neoprene or foam kozies for them (see article below) which should keep the food even warmer, especially in colder weather. I had put mine in a simple wool blanket pouch and my food was a bit warmer than Steve's at lunch. It also helps to pre-heat the containers with hot water before filling, and make sure the meal is hot to begin with. How important that is depends on how cold it is out on the trail. Neither of us are picky about having hot food but having a warm lunch has turned out to be an appreciated treat.
We take wooden spoons to eat with which are much more comfortable in mouth and hand in the cold weather. For us it is our normal "silver"-ware (as is wooden bowls and plates our every-day dishes) and they sure beat a cold metal spoon.
Inexpensive DIY Custom Drink and Food Container Kozies
Steve has had a neoprene kozie on his favorite insulated stainless steel coffee mug since soon after he bought it. He happened to find a real nice tall one at a thrift store that fit perfectly. It wasn’t for warmth that he wanted it, this particular travel mug does a great job of keeping his coffee hot, but mostly it was for a better fit in our car’s cup holder and to keep it from rattling.
But when we began hiking regularly in the cold weather it soon became obvious that his kozied mug was doing a much better job of keeping his drink hot on the trail than my insulated, but bare, Klean Kanteen water bottle. Up to now I hadn’t been impressed or enticed by his "hot" coffee mug, since my preference is for comfortably room temperature drinks (except for maybe a bit of "quite warm" herb tea in the morning, or after a particularly cold, windy outdoor gig). I decided I needed to up my Kanteen’s insulating factor. Happily those common, inexpensive, ubiquitous, logo’d foam kozies happen to conveniently fit easily our every-day stainless steel Klean Kanteens (Steve has one and I have two). So I soon gathered a supply at the thrift store, picking through the pile for some that weren’t too obnoxious in color or logo, to cozy up the KK’s. Steve’s KK is his secondary drink container (carried inside his pack), while I used both of mine, one in and one out.. When it is colder they both travel inside our packs, being warm being more important than convenience.
The first Kozie conversion was simple -- slip one on the bottom, cut a second to size and slip over the top to settle up against the first. The fit was pretty good on the KK's. Steve wasn’t picky and didn’t much care what color or logo. I fussed a bit about it until I realized all I had to do was turn them inside out -- they were all black on the inside. A couple were much nicer smooth fabric and were made of better foam, but I never found many of those. So I used one nicer smooth one, and one cheaper textured one. All I wanted it to do was keep my drink warm in the cold and I figured that would do. The seams being on the outside did bug me a little though.
The kozied bottle that traveled inside the pack was fine. But I soon discovered a problem with the "current use" one that went into my pack’s stretchy outside pocket. When I shoved the bottle in, the top kozie slipped off, and when I pulled the bottle out, the bottom one came off. This wasn’t an issue with Steve’s tighter one piece cover on his coffee mug. Obviously I needed to unite the top and bottom, and do it with a smooth transition so there would be nothing to catch on the top of the pocket. I thought about tape but didn't think it would work that well. I decided to sew the pieces together.
My first try was a bit clumsy but it worked -- by cutting the shorter top piece along one side I could zig-zag stitch it onto the bottom piece. The clumsy part was trying to manage these two fairly stiff pieces under the sewing machine’s foot, but it did work. Then I zz stitched down the top’s cut edges bringing them back together. I used a wide setting and a moderately tight length stitch.
For the next one I came up with a much easier way. These customized kozies can be for water bottles, travel mugs, drink containers, insulated food containers, other bottles. For convenience sake, I’ll refer to all of them as mugs or bottles in the instructions below. I realize I could simply have purchased some nice neoprene material and saved a bit of work. But we both like being able to use what we find at the thrift stores; and support their missions at the same time. It's more fun.
* First collect a supply of kozies. For most mugs you’ll need two (one above the other); possibly four if your mug is larger diameter.
* Check the fit of the original kozies around your mug. They do vary in size so check the fit of both of them.
* Measure how much of the top kozie you need to cut off to come to just below the cap or screw area.
* A rotary cutter and cutting pad makes easy work of cutting the foam pieces, but a sharp utility knife or scissors work, too.
* If the kozies fit as is or are too big cut the seam off both sides along the stitch lines. If they are tight and you only need a little bit more material then take the stitching out and save the extra seam allowance. If they are too small then cut apart another kozie to seam onto the others to make enough width.
* Cut across the middle of the bottom, flattening the kozies.
* Cut the top kozie (both pieces) to size.
* Trim the tops, bottoms, and edges straight and square.
* Butt and tape (on what will be your inside) the top and bottom pieces together. Paper tape works nicely -- it is thin, you can see the edges to stitch along, and it doesn't gum up the sewing machine needle. You can also sew without the tape, keeping the edges butted close as you sew. I found it easier and I did a better job with the pieces taped together. I didn't remove the tape.
* Using a wide width and fairly narrow length zigzag, sew the pieces together along the butted and taped edges, making sure the zigzag stitches equally on both sides of the seam. Test your zigzag stitch first on scraps and adjust length and width of stitch if needed. There will be a fair amount of stress on this joint.
* Now butt the edges of your two pieces together, tape and stitch the same way. See photo.
* Wrap and test fit the sewn-together piece around your container. If too tight then stitch on another piece. If too loose, trim off the extra. Maybe it will fit just right and you won’t need to make any adjustment.
*** Possible top edge binding -- In use the common foam kozie will eventually get a bit ratty at the top exposed edge, with the fabric face pulling away from the foam. A simple solution, before sewing the final seam, while the piece is flat, is to run a zigzag stitch around the top edge. A neater solution is to sew on a stretchy binding tape or fold-over elastic. Use a zigzag stitch to maintain some stretchiness.
* Now fold the sewn piece together with inside edges facing. Pin or clip (craft clips work well for this) in a few places to help hold the edges in line. Slowly zigzag with a wide stitch along the edge making sure that the right side of the zigzag stitch goes just off the edge of the material. It might help to test on a scrap first; you may need to loosen the thread tension a bit. When done, pull firmly on both sides on down the seam, flattening the seam and pulling the edges to butt against each other.
* Test fit on your bottle. If no adjustments are needed then stitch the bottom seam back together as you did the side. Slip your bottle in, fill with hot drink of your choice, and enjoy that hot, liquid many hours later.
Food Containers and Larger Water Bottles
Larger container kozies are made essentially the same way, it just takes another one or two to go around. The one thing I did different for our 10 oz Funtainer Thermouses was to sew on a solid bottom. This is a bit trickier but do-able. You could make cut-outs and sew it just in three or four places which would be easier. But I do like the solid bottom.
* Cut, trim, stitch pieces together as above. Measure around container, cut to size, sew final seam.
* Put on container, set on another kozie piece and mark around, straight down. Cut out circle.
* On both bottom piece and side piece -- Fold in half, mark opposite points. Fold other way and do same.
* With outer side out (just as it goes on container), position bottom circle inside (as it will go when finished.
* With bottom on top, and roughly "pressed in" pin first quarter. Slowly ZZ stitch along edge.
* Then pin and stitch next quarter, etc. Or if it is going well for you, go ahead and stitch all around just by holding the pieces together (this didn't work very well for me).
We found the extra insulation of the kozie did keep food hotter longer on cold weather hikes and was worth it. Now I have to get some more kozies to make sleeves for our new 16 oz containers (longer hikes need more food!).
Longer Hike, Colder Weather -- More Food (and Drink)
Of course, it is just common sense when one thinks about it. But these things can sneak up on you. After a winter of two hour hikes due to cold, snow, ice, and/or snowshoes, we suddenly found ourselves with bare ground, good muscles, milder weather, and a longer hike, the first of the season. For us that was ten or eleven miles and almost 5 hours. It was still cool (end of March) but we could walk easier, enjoy sit-down breaks, go longer. And ... eat and drink more. If we had brought more. So used to the winter routine I didn't think beyond that. It wasn't a big deal, we certainly didn't go hungry (there are always the trusty backup Panda bars in our packs!; we had enough drink but no leftover, and when done were only a short drive to the grocery store where we bought cheese and bread and drove down by the Lake for a welcome pleasant quick dinner. But when we got home we ordered 16 oz insulated Thermous food containers for our post (and pre) winter hikes. The 10 oz were not quite enough now. It won't be long before weather will be warm and sandwiches or the like will be great for trail food. But while it's still hovering around freezing, or warmer with a cold brisk wind, hot food and hot drink is the cat's pajamas on the hike.
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© 2021 by Susan Robishaw and Stephen Schmeck
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