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Food For The Trail

By Joan Westlake - from Sweat Magazine

You've been hiking, mountain biking or paddling for miles and miles. Finally it is time to answer the question that has been burning in the back of your mind all day - What's for dinner? A meal cooked under the stars is always a treat. Here are tips from experts to make that fare as tasty and convenient as possible.

Freeze-dried meals have come a long way. Peter Rocco of REI, said one of the new brands on the market is an organic line, Mary Jane's. Offerings include vegan and vegetarian items such as Ginger Sesame Pasta, Organic Mac and Cheese, and Organic Santa Fe Pasta. The earth friendly concept is carried through in their packaging. Entrees are in paper bags, which are biodegradable and can be burned in the fire or recycled at home.

Carl Anderson, 43, Fountain Hills, is an avid hiker and touring kayaker. Journeys to Lake Powell, the San Juan Islands and a few trips to central Baja qualify him as a pro in dining in the wilds. Over time, he said he has moved from freeze-dried packaged meals to creating his own using a food dehydrator and vacuum sealing system. Anderson said that doing it yourself allows more variety to meals and, after the initial investment, it is less expensive than store-bought meals. Food dehydrators run around $50 while vacuum sealing systems cost approximately $125 plus the cost of bags. Cheaper and reusable, if you clean them thoroughly, are heavy-duty, zipper freezer bags.

For information about outdoor cooking Anderson recommended Kayak Cookery - Handbook of Provisions and Recipes by Linda Daniel and Trail Food by Alan S. Kesselheim.

Another avid paddler and hiker, Don Bender, 66, Phoenix, also makes his own meals for the trail. He said he originally purchased a food dehydrator for jerky but progressed on to complete dinners. Since then, he too has progressed to more satisfying, and complete meals on excursions. Anderson and Bender both endorsed camp pizza. Top a Boboli shells with sauce you’ve secured in a zip bag, some dried sausage or pepperoni that does not require refrigeration, cheese, (cut into a small piece, wrapped in cheese cloth, then dipped in paraffin to seal), a bit of onion, maybe some mushroom, and a touch of oil. Wrap in foil or place on a pan and heat over a grill. Add some fruit to packaged oatmeal and you have a hearty breakfast. Peanut butter and tortillas make a great, midday energy booster. Tuna packaged in pouches works for sandwiches. Avoid stinking cans you would have to pack out. Classic camp fare are the military-style MRE’s (Meals, Ready to Eat). Packaged in heavy-duty foil bags, you cook them in a pot of boiling water. Both campers said that they brought these only for emergencies because they have high sodium contents. Remember, the delicious food you are enjoying is also appealing to critters. Clean up after meals and stash food away from where you are sleeping [up in trees is a good spot]. Bears are an obvious threat but raccoons, mice and coyotes also enjoy a midnight snack. On a paddling trip in Baja, Anderson and Bender said they enjoyed a pizza dinners and then stashed their new T-Fal cooking kit under a cockpit cover in one of the kayaks. The next morning, they went to cook breakfast and found the kit gone. Footprints told the tale -- somewhere around Playa San Rafael, Mexico, a proud pack of coyotes has some trendy cookware.

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