Even if I was to wild camp my way along the eighty-seven mile trail and utilise available water taps as I go, I am still going to need a regular serving of food in order to complete even a single day on The Ridgeway (especially Day One, which still looks like it’s going to be a twenty-six miler…)
So, in this post, I’ll be looking at my current plans and thoughts towards feeding myself while following this National Trail, next month.
It’s a well-known belief that breakfast may be the most important meal of the day (unless you work regular night shifts, perhaps). My plan for this backpacking adventure is almost as simple as it is when I go camping with a car:
It’s easy to do, warm and slowly unleashes energy throughout the day. I’ve made it with 250ml of water before (although, I do prefer to use milk – which would mean extra weight and the impossibility of keeping it cool). I’ll also carry raisins for added flavour.
Currently, these sit in small plastic tubs, as you can see above and I know that five spork-fulls of oats are enough for a single serving. But I’d rather keep them in plastic bags, to save on space and weight.
What do backpackers normally use?
Likewise, I’ll be packing bags of tea for an evening and morning drink. These will be herbal (redbush, camomile; possibly early grey and green tea) so that again, I don’t need to worry about milk.
This is actually where I’m most uncertain with my food preparation plans.
I’m used to packing and eating a reasonably sized (but not necessarily healthy) lunch involving sandwiches, chocolate and fruit. For my first day of walking, I could certainly pack the same and perhaps also a second serving for Day Two.
In reality, that could equate to a lot of food, where I’ve noticed that other backpackers (and wild campers) rely on simple things like ‘trail mix’ and energy bars…
Above, you can see some of the options available from Lidl and Aldi, all of which I am comfortable eating. If I happen to pass any shops along the way, I could buy the odd piece of fruit – maybe even a sandwich (I should look in to potential shop stops and minor detours to local villages).
On a regular basis, I also make my own flapjacks based on an energy-boosting recipe that’s available online (I’ll tell you more about this in a separate post, one day). Likewise, I could easily bake a handful of these and stuff them in to a plastic bag, while the others bars live in their own sack.
A warm meal is going to be essential in the evening, given that it’s now pretty much black (in the south of England) at 21:00 and the temperature will drop long before then. Carbs are supposed to be good.
This year, I’ve become a big fan of Firepot’s dehydrated meals. They’re a company based in Dorset selling a small range of dishes that only need to have water added. I’ve tried all three of their meals now and I have to say that their orzo pasta bolognese tastes better than the one I make at home!
Their Outdoor Food range is endorsed by a number of recognisable names and they’re regarded as being more healthy than most (I’m not a huge fan of the brands available in most outdoors stores). With two of their meals already ‘in stock’, I don’t need to buy any more. I do find it convenient to order a quantity at a time, due to the postage cost.
While camping in the Peak District recently, I cook a bag of instant noodles for the first time in many months, if not more than a year. I found the bag of risotto on offer in Lidl last week (I haven’t tried the brand before) and I could even add a ‘pasta in the bag’ type meal, which would save me having to carry the pasta and sauce separately.
All going to plan, I only need to carry four meals with me for this trip but I’m just sharing my thoughts.
Every time I go walking, I equip whichever backpack with a 2.0lt capacity hydration bladder (mine is an Osprey Hydraulics, purchased in 2015). I rarely fill it above 1.5lt or come close to emptying it by the end of a walk. Naturally, this is very convenient for any kind of walk.
You may notice that I’ve fitted a blue Camelbak PureFlow tube to my bladder – this is a very recent addition, as the clear Osprey hose (supplied as standard) had been a bit green (and impossible to clean) for too long.
While the Camelbak hose fits at one end, I can still use my Osprey bite valve at the other. What I will do soon is a pick up a pack of replaceable silicone bit valve covers, which probably isn’t a bad idea, after two years of regular use.
In addition to the hydration pack, I’ll also be carrying a bottle or flask (this happens to be a Camelbak Chute with about 750ml of capacity) to ferry water to my tent each night and from the nearest tap (for cooking and warm drinks).
Not pictured; I’ll be carrying two flavours of electrolyte tablets (banana and cherry) to add taste and energy to my hike.
Drinking tea each morning and evening will mean having to store this mug (even if it’s bagged up and dancing from the outside of my rucksack), while I also need to think about washing up liquid and a sponge… I wouldn’t need much soap. Can I decanter it in to something smaller?
Again, what do experienced backpackers do?
Last year, I bought my first Jetboil stove, after my £10 compact Vango store suddenly gave up without warning.
At the time, I only had camping in mind and not a long-distance trek. One of the key selling points of the Jetboil range is that the complete unit with all of its accessories is more compact that some other systems.
I purchased the Jetboil MiniMo, on the basis that the main unit is wider than the other products and therefore, easier to get a spork in to…
However, after recently switching to a brand-new gas canister, I’ve suddenly found that you cannot get the lid on with everything (including the gas) store inside the tin. I was completely unaware of this in 2016. None of the reviews I’d read even hinted at it.
Most reviews praised it for the ease of being able to eat from the pan with an average spork. If I could have my time again, I might shop around to find that you can buy extra-long sporks and also consider that a slimmer Jetboil may fit in to a rucksack more conveniently… Jetboil’s MiniMo definitely will not fit in to my 28lt Osprey Manta AG daysack, for what it’s worth.
This is something I’m going to have to live with. I’m not about to rush out a buy a second stove, whether it costs another £100 or much less. I’ll probably add a spare gas canister, to be on the safe side but, I’m going to have to adapt and learn with this setup. I doubt it’s going to be a major issue. Although, it may be something you would like to consider for your own adventure(s).
That’s all I really have to say on the subject of food. I may well add a stash of trail mix to one pocket of my hip-belt. My only remaining concern is my minimal planning for lunch.