Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Vegan Backpacking Adventure and Eats

Oh Hello!

(disclaimer - I wrote this post last year but never published it. 
I thought it would be helpful in case any of you are planning camping trips too!) 

Have you ever gone backpacking? I go camping every year, but we usually stay in tent cabins, which is quite delightful... we even have a little wood-burning stove and we can bring all the books and scrabble games we want. But this year, our favorite campground is closed because of covid. I was feeling sad to miss out on my beloved mountain time, when a yoga student/friend of mine invited me to join her for backpacking in Yosemite! YES. It was a a big adventure for me, as I had only gone backpacking one other time in my whole live -when I was just 16 years old. In a lot of ways, this felt like my first time ever.

Packing all my food, gear, clothes into one pack, and having to carefully consider the weight of everything I brought was a whole new experience for me! I was very lucky to have many kind and loving friends who were happy to trust me with their gear. I literally couldn't have done it without them! 

We had a couple truly perfect and sublime days on our trip, an Extreme Smoke Experience from the wildfires, and then one smoky-but-worth-it day. In the end, we came home one day early, due to all the smoke... but it was still a grand adventure and we both felt that we got a bit of the "reset" we were hoping for... in addition to a bit more drama than we hoped for. Ha ha. But we got along great and made good decisions together, which was lovely.  There are all sorts of tales I could tell, but this post is mostly focused on the food we brought and ate! 

In Yosemite, you have to bring all your food, and any scented toiletries, into a bear-proof canister. I borrowed a couple, and ended up using the smaller one, because it was much lighter. However, that meant cramming 4 days of food into this tiny little canister! I poked the air out of some of the more "poofy" packages, and just puzzle-pieced everything in there until I got it all in.

Coffee & Breakfast on the Trail
One of the best things about backpacking was quiet mornings in the great outdoors with a sense of peace. Also, hot coffee. Actually, it's really not the best coffee you've ever had in your whole life, but it hits the spot in a way that is immensely satisfying. We had two kinds of coffee - Starbuck's Vias and Alpine Start Instant Coffee + Cream. I really only like coffee with cream - so I was unsure how to manage this while backpacking. I bought some Laird Creamer, which I used on the trip, but I would never ever use under other circumstances. The Starbuck's Vias are good but pretty strong and for me, I definitely need creamer... the Alpine Start was also pretty good for me, but a little too creamy for my backpacking pal - I probably would have liked a mix of the two! 

(update: this year I see that Nescafe is making instant coffee + nondairy creamer packets that might be fun to try!)

Power Bars
At home, I sometimes enjoy a power bar like a candy bar with a bit of protein. But at home I'm always looking for low-cal options, since I'm undoubtedly eating all sorts of other stuff too. For backpacking, it was fun to check out some of the high-calorie options on the market - I had one each morning for breakfast with my coffee. After reading labels and asking around, I decided to get GoMacro Bars - so good! I bought several different flavors, so that I wouldn't get bored. I think my favorites were: "Smooth Sanctuary: double chocolate+peanut butter chips,"  "Sweet Awakening: mocha chocolate chip," and "Heartwarming Retreat: oatmeal chocolate chip." 

Hydration Packets
I also brought along some hydration packets from Immune Oxylent, which were recommended by a friend who goes on much longer backpacking trips than what we did. They have vitamins and powdered coconut water for more hydration. It was also kind of a treat to have a flavored drink along with all the water we were drinking. They tasted kinda little CoolAid! ha ha. 

One thing that bummed me out about backpacking was that you're going out to have a lovely nature experience - but all the food you bring is heavily packaged in individual serving sizes and plastic. I never, ever buy stuff like this under normal circumstances. If I were going to be a regular backpacker, I'd have to put more thought into ways around this or at least ways to buy in bulk and then use reusable ziplocks...? 


When I was preparing for my trip, I did a lot of reading online and asked lots of my friends about food, specifically. So, it turns out that backpacking food really isn't all that exciting. Especially lunch. You're just kinda cramming some food down that's quick and easy and doesn't require heating or too much time. At home, lunch is always my biggest meal of the day - so this was a weird switcheroo to my usual eating rhythms. 

Many people suggested Tortillas with Peanut Butter. Yum? Truthfully, not really, but when you've hiked a a whole lot, you can actually find yourself really looking forward to that tortilla and PB. ha ha. My friend and I still laugh about tortillas and peanut butter. The tortillas were good because they were maleable and easy to cram into my bear canister. Less good was that by day 3, some of them were starting to get little moldy spots. ICK. We ended up coming home one day early and I was grateful to not eat those last couple tortillas with torn-off sections.

I really loved these Once Again PB packets - excellent flavor, no added sugars. I would have bought crunchy if they had it, but I was content with this! 

Before leaving, I bought a bunch of Lightly Damaged organic peaches and nectarines at the farmers market and cut them up and dehydrated them. It was great to have a sweet and fruity snack, and as you can see, I usually added a few into my lunchtime tortilla sandwich. Happily, I made way too much, so now I have lots of dried fruit to enjoy.

Soy Curl Jerky!!

I was trying to think of high-protein, lightweight snacks I could bring along and of course I thought of vegan jerky! But like I said, I really didn't want to buy a bunch more goodies wrapped in single-serve plastic.

... and vegan jerky is always packaged in plastic. So, I decided to make my own. I used this excellent recipe from thehiddenveggies.com and it uses one whole package of Butler Soy Curls. These were a runaway hit with my hiking pal Sue, and with me! I cooked them for even longer than the recipe suggests, just to make sure they would be very dry and wouldn't rot or go bad on the trail. Extremely delicious, and I just ordered more soy curls and look forward to lots more of these tasties, even when I'm not on the trail! 

Highly recommended! 

Dinner in the Mountains

For dinners, we brought along packaged dinners. It turns out that there are a lot of pretty good vegan options out there, with wholesome ingredients that you know and recognize from your own kitchen.

We brought two meals from Good to Go - which a handful of people recommended. Not all their meals are vegan, but they make several that are. We had the Kale & White Bean Stew, and the Mexican Quinoa Bowl (Butternut Squash and Black Beans in a Mole Poblano Sauce). Of these, I preferred the quinoa bowl - it was really well-seasoned and actually pretty yummy. To be fair, I had a little snafu preparing the kale stew, so I didn't experience that dish at its finest. These meals were both roughly 350 calories, which isn't all that much after lots of hiking. Also, they were +/-15 grams of protein. It was good enough for us since we weren't doing a billion miles a day!

We both agreed that the one of our favorites was the African Peanut Stew from Heather's Choice, it was so actually delicious! Chunks of sweet potatoes, warming spices that were prefect for a cold alpine night, and just really tasty and fun to eat. This is their only vegan offering, but it's a good one! (also gluten-free)

As I was shopping for meals, I was looking for one last meal and was eventually tipped off to check out a new company called Nomad Nutrition - all plant-based backpacking food! I had already purchased all our other meals, but if I go backpacking again, I would love to support an all-vegan enterprise! We had the Indian Red Lentil Curry, which was very satisfying with nice spices and some coconut milk to boost the flavor. Their other flavors also sound good, and nicely varied, so that you wouldn't be having the same flavors over and over: Ukrainian Borscht, Canadian Barley Soup, Kathmandu Curry, Hungarian Goulash, and Caribbean Curry. Cool! 

Cookin' and Eatin' in the great outdoors! 

We had so much fun together. Sue has done lots of camping and backpacking and she was really generous with bringing along a complete newbie and showing me the ropes. 

I love this picture that Sue took of me boiling water for dinner. This night we camped at Evelyn Lake and we were the only human beings there. However, we weren't alone - there were SO many marmots, loads of various chipmunks and ground squirrels, so many Clark's Nutcrackers (eating the pine nuts out of the pinecones in the trees right over our heads), coyotes barking and howling at night, and we even saw a flock of blue birds in the morning. It was a really special part of our trip.

Sometimes after dinner we would make ourselves a cup of hot tea. Other than the crazy amount of smoke at the end of our trip, we got lucky with the weather - temperature-wise. Even on a nice day in summer though, it gets COLD up at that altitude, once the sun goes down. And because of fire risks, we weren't allowed to build fires while we camped. So a nice cup of hot tea felt good before hunkering down for the night. 

We wore our N95 masks (THANK GOD for those!) for two days and two nights straight! 
We even slept with them!
Apparently for California camping, N95 masks are now the 11th of the "10 Essentials."

Have you been backpacking? I hope to try again someday! It was a lot of work to prepare - but my favorite part was getting to be so far out in the wilderness, and see such glorious and pristine spots. And the wonderful sense of accomplishment! 




  1. Wow, this trip sounds incredible. And I'm sure people will find this post helpful- I would have no clue what food to bring on an adventure like this. I just looked at that jerky recipe and it looks easy- I'm going to try it!

  2. Backpacking and camping at school taught me early on that this is not the activity for me. But I am glad you had a good time!
    I do really like tortillas with peanut butter... I hope you don't think less of me. ;)

  3. Bianca Phillips1:42 PM

    Love this post!! What a fun trip! I am kind of obsessed with camping food, so I loved reading about all the little packaged wonders (and as much as I hate the idea of packaging, I also get excited about single-serve things ... I feel bad about it, but it's true!).

  4. I loved this post even if it is a year old. You approached the food challenge with curiosity, intention, some personal standards and an open mind. Good combo, and excellent documentation. All that planning was really just the means to an end; so glad it was such a success. Loved the camping photos.


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