Friday, May 25, 2007

Loss of appetite

There's an ongoing discussion on about appetite loss when on the trail. I've found this to be true on higher altitude and/or hot, dry weather hikes. You hike all day, but when you get to camp you find, in the words of the original poster, that you "just can't choke down dinner."

I've never had to address this on sea-level hikes, or in cooler climes, but was honestly amazed that my usual insatiable appetite was gone for the first few days in the Sierras. Not only does not eating affect your energy levels, ability to stay warm, and sleeping patterns, but you have to carry that extra food for the rest of your hike!

Some of my own tips, and some suggestions from other forum posters:
  • Pack accordingly: lighter dinners for the first few nights, progressing to more satisfying meals once you aclimatize.
  • Meals that work as leftovers: I usually make burritos my first night, then if I don't eat them, they make a great cold breakfast snack.
  • Pack tasty food: If you don't truely crave the meal at home while packing it, you probably won't crave it on the trail: only pack your favorite meals, especially for the first few nights.
  • Stay hydrated: bring juice crystals, koolaid, iced tea, whatever will encourage you to drink more water.
  • Get to camp early: Spend some time relaxing in the shade, swimming, slowly drinking, and your appetite may return. Nibble on some trail mix or other easy to eat snacks.
Some other tips from the forum include packing a favorite treat (pudding!), having a heavier lunch and lighter dinner, or having a cold meal instead of cooked, rehydrated food.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Trip Report: San Javier, Mexico

After this past weekend's cold and wet hike, I'm feeling the need to revisit warmer memories. The following is a report of a hike I did with Rebecca and my parents in December.

The Plan...
Rebecca and I flew to Loreto, Mexico, to spend Christmas with my parents who were spending 3 months camping and travelling around the Baja. After a few days of local sightseeing and beachcombing, we were all feeling the need to see the real Baja, and get some exercise to boot. A guidebook article suggesting the cave paintings at San Javier, about 30km away, caught our eye. Checking with the very helpful hotel concierge, we found out that guided tours to the cave paintings were over $100 per person, much more than we were willing to spend. My parents had heard of some people who drove to San Javier and asked at the police station for a guide, so we decided to give that a shot.

The Drive...
We started out with a hefty breakfast at Del Boracho, where my parents already had established a rapport with the Canadian owners. When we told them what we were up to, they scribbled out a note in Spanish to hand to someone in San Javier explaining that we were looking for a guide to the cave paintings. They also offered to make us a bagged lunch, but we had already prepared sandwiches and snacks.

The road to San Javier starts in various locations, depending upon who you ask or what signposts you believe. After 10 minutes in the wrong direction, we eventually got onto the right road and were on our way. The road is quite rough, and were were thankful for being in my dad's four wheel drive pickup. Winding our way uphill, through riverbeds, up snake-like switchbacks and over washouts, the 32km drive ends up taking nearly two hours. The area is desolate, with only the occasional shrine or ramshackle house as signs of life.

Eventually we arrive in San Javier, and are amazed by the difference in scenery. The immaculate streets are paved in cobblestone, and well tended gardens grace every sidewalk.

We find the tiny police station, grab the phrasebook, and begin an interpretive dance outlining what we're looking for. The officers chuckle over our note, and after a bit more sign language, we finally convince them that we're looking for a guide. They signal for us to wait for 5 minutes or an hour, and drive away in a cloud of dust. Some time later, a dusty gentleman shows up and we begin negotations for the price. We seem to agree on 300 pesos ($30 US), and begin the introductions. Miguel, our new friend, starts to climb into the back of our truck. As we have no idea where we're going, we convince him that he's welcome to sit in the front and offer directions.

About 20 minutes later, we arrive at a small farmhouse at the base of what we assume is to be the hill we're climbing. Miguel finds the owner of the house and obtains permission for us to cut through the farm to the start of the trail. We leave the truck at the farmhouse and begin our trek.

The Hike...
I'm not sure if they have mountain goats in Mexico, but they have Miguel. Our intrepid guide led us up a steep, rocky trail for two hours without breaking a sweat. When we stopped for water or a breather, Miguel stopped for a smoke. We took countless pictures of cacti, lizards, and other such flora and fauna, which made Miguel grin as it was probably like someone taking pictures of dandilions and mosquitos where we live. We gained considerable elevation, and were treated to incredible views of the valley below, and the Sea of Cortez far in the distance. Eventually we reached the top, and had a brief rest while our guide hunted around for a lost memory of the location of the caves. We were then waved on, and made our way along a narrow ledge to the first of two small caves.

The Paintings...
Although they don't look like much in the photos, the faded cave paintings emitted an almost overwhelming sense of history, timelessness, and awe. Seeing ancient art in its original location, without tour busses and interpretive signs, made the experience unforgettable. I'm not sure how much time we spent in the caves, taking photos and discussing the motivation and meaning of the paintings, but we finally had to leave as we still had a long hike and drive ahead of us. We had a quick bite to eat while Miguel had a smoke, then slowly picked our way down between the prickly cacti. An hour or so later we were back in the truck, and heading back to San Javier.

The Mission...
We didn't have too much time to spend in San Javier as driving at night is not desirable in this area, but the Church of San Francisco Javier, built from 1744 to 1759, was a must-see. Not really dressed for church, we timidly poked our heads in the door, where we were welcomed by two friendly ladies. Flash photography was forbidden, and so was not signing the guestbook. I abstained from my usual cheekiness and wrote a quick hello, then we explored the church and surrounding grounds. The architectural detail was fascinating, and the surround grounds were a tranquil combination of gardens, farm, and open space. A few more photos, and it was time to go.

Although I saw many things and have many memories of my trip to Mexico, I think the hike in San Javier was the most enjoyable experience. From the confusion of getting there and hiring a guide, to hiking in terrain I've never even dreamed of, it had all the elements of a perfect adventure. Thank you and gracias to the owners of Del Borracho, the San Javier Police, Miguel, and all the residents of San Javier for allowing us to share your treasure!

Monday, May 21, 2007

The best laid plans...

Every May Long Weekend for the past three years, my hiking partner Ian and I have hiked the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. The JDF is our home turf, and is often the destination for day hikes with our friends and families. We normally spend one night near the trail head (Mystic Beach) and then two more on the trail. This year, we decided to try to cut it down to two nights total by hiking in further from the trailhead after work on Friday.

We were packed and ready to go, the tides were in our favour, and we had an itinerary we were happy with. Unfortunately, plans to leave work early were thwarted by Ian's boss, and he ended up working overtime rather than leaving early. By the time he picked me up it was close to 6:00pm, and the trailhead was an hour's drive away. We weren't comfortable with trying to make it to Bear Beach before dark, and as the trail is muddy and slippery at the best of times, had no interest in night hiking. We decided to adjust our itinerary and camp at Mystic Beach near the trailhead once again.

The hike down to Mystic Beach is quite simple, and took us 30 minutes. Mystic is a popular beach for camping, so we staked out a spot quickly before the cooler-toting crowd took all the good spots. It's important to know the tides when camping on the beach, and we made sure we were well above the high tide line. The previous year, some teenagers were camping below the tide line, but didn't seem interested in any advice from the rest of us. We heard shouts during the night, and woke up to see them sleeping in the trees with wet gear hanging from the branches. But I digress. While getting dinner ready, I reached into my pocket to discover our payment envelope that was supposed to be deposited in the box at the trailhead. Whoops. 45 minutes later, we were back at camp just as the light was fading. We stayed up a bit longer to meet our neighbours and their dog, Duncan.

Saturday morning, we revisited our itinerary and tried to figure out if we could still finish the trail by Sunday evening in time to catch the trail bus at around 5. It wasn't critical that we did, as we had made arrangements for my girlfriend, Rebecca, to meet us at Botanical Beach midday Monday. Still, we like to set lofty goals, so we figured we'd try to make it to Sombrio Beach, 25.5 km away. I have been training quite a bit lately, and was feeling optomistic, but Ian hasn't been active for the winter and was a bit less eager. We decided to get to Chin Beach, 19 km away, and decide then.

We left Mystic Beach at 8:45 after a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, and arrived at Bear Beach at 10:25. There we had our second breakfast to give us energy for the most gruelling section of the trail ahead. Between Bear and Chin, the trail goes away from the ocean and over 8, 9, 0r 17 (depending upon who you ask) steep hills, tumbling back down to cross a creek, then back up again. Through the old growth areas the trail was in good shape, with a slight mist to keep you cool. In areas that had been clearcut many years ago, the ground was muddy, wet, and lacked the bright green undergrowth so prevalent in the old growth portions. Some of the river crossings were in need of repair after this past winter's violent storms. On the third hill climb, we stopped for a snack and Ian mentioned that his knee was starting to bother him. We slowed our pace, and pushed on to Chin.

Coming out of the forest at Chin Beach at 3:45, we could see off to the South West and the huge storm clouds blowing our way. Heavy rain was inevitable, and Ian's knee was no better, so we quickly set up camp before the rains came. We managed to set up our tent and a small tarp for a sitting area literally seconds before the skies opened up. For the rest of the evening, the rain came and went, and our view gave us 20 minutes warning before each downpour. Ian got a nice warm fire going despite the lack of dry wood, and we spent the evening under the tarp relaxing and eating. At 10 we let the fire go out, stashed our food in the provided bearproof lockers, and went quickly to sleep.

The rains came in earnest Saturday night, and didn't show any sign of stopping on Sunday. The tarp let us eat breakfast and pack up our gear in relative comfort, then we raced to take down the tent without it getting too wet. Finishing the trail tonight was no longer an option, so we planned to head to Payzant Creek, 19 km away. This would allow for a short 7 km hike on Monday morning to meet Rebecca at noon.

The rain was heavy, but this section was mostly forest hiking so we were somewhat sheltered. Our pace was slowing, and Ian's knee was really starting to bother him. At Loss Creek there's a side trail up to highway 14, and I let Ian decide if we should quit or keep going. He wanted to keep going, so we made for Sombrio Beach for elevensies.

At Sombrio, it was obvious Ian wasn't going to be able to finish the hike. We had a quick snack under a tree, then made our escape from the trail. Sombrio is accessible by car and is a popular beach for surfers. We made our way to the parking lot, then headed up the long gravel road up to the highway. Half an our later we arrived at the highway, dropped our packs, tried to look as miserable and pathetic as possible, and stuck up our thumbs. For 20 minutes we obviously didn't look pathetic enough, but finally the rain soaked every last bit of us and we reached the point where nobody with a heart could ignore us. Two very kind people and their puppy told us they were going to China Beach, which was perfect as that's where Ian's Jeep was.

Ian dropped me off at home, shivering at wet. I gave my dog a wet hug then crawled into a steaming hot shower. I'm disappointed that we didn't complete the trail, but also happy that we made the right decisions throughout and didn't risk any more injury or misery.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sleeping Bags: down vs. synthetic

A good sleeping bag can last you many years, and at $200 or more is a considerable investment. Before purchasing a new sleeping bag, do as much research as you possibly can: read reviews, talk to an experienced outfitter, and get recommendations from people who hike in the same conditions and areas as yourself.

In this entry I'm only going to address one issue: my preference of fill (down or synthetic). I've tried both kinds of bags in all kinds of conditions, and have definately joined the pro-down team, for the following reasons:

  • Weight: A quality down bag is lighter than a comparable synthetic fill.
  • Compactability: Down bags compress well, freeing up valuable pack space. (Don't use a compression sack if you can avoid it, check with the manufacturer for packing guidelines)
  • Loft: With careful storage and maintenance, a down bag will retain its loft for many years. Be certain the bag has adequate baffles to avoid any shifting of the fill.

  • Down offers no insulating value when wet, so it's very important to keep your bag dry. Use a quality stuff sack, then wrap in a garbage back. If you're going into very wet conditions, consider an overbag.
  • Down is more expensive than synthetic fills, but as a sleeping bag will last you many years, the extra value here is worth it.

For the past few years I've been using a GoLite 700 fill down bag, in all sorts of conditions. I'm careful about keeping it dry, but the exterior has a moisture-resistant coating so a small amount of condensation doesn't do any damage.

  • Treat your sleeping bag with more care than any other piece of gear. Check the manufacturer's web site for cleaning and care instructions, and only use the highest quality cleaning products. I use Nikwax Down Wash once a year, handwashing in the bathtub with lukewarm water, then tumble drying on low until 100% dry. Your requirements may vary.
  • At home, always store your sleeping bag in a large cotton bag (the good bags will come with one), hung in a ventilated closet.
  • On the trail, unpack your sleeping bag as soon as you arrive at camp, and allow it to regain its loft in the sun if possible, or in your tent. Keep it away from the fire, one small hole will allow moisture to penetrate the outer layer.
  • Compact with care: don't use a compression bag.
  • Don't assume that because it isn't raining, your bag can't get wet (see photo below!)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Leatherman Squirt P4

Last summer I bought a Leatherman Squirt P4 multitool, and have been quite happy with it. It was the smallest, lightest tool I could find within my price range, and the Leatherman brand came well recommended. I was worried that I would miss a longer knife blade, especially as the only cutlery I take hiking is a lexan spoon, but I haven't really missed it.

This past winter, while walking the dog in my neighbourhood, I stopped to help a little boy who was quite distraught and near tears. Somehow, while on an errand to the mailbox for his mom, he had gotten the mailbox door locked with the keychain halfway inside. His eyes lit up when I pulled out my Leatherman Squirt, unfolded it to magically create pliers, and, with some effort, freed his keys. Unfortunately, and possibly due to the below-freezing temperature, one of the arms of the pliers broke off in the process.

Yesterday afternoon, while packing for this weekend's hike, I realized I hadn't replaced the Squirt yet, so started to research a good replacement. A lot of reviews remarked on Leatherman's generous warranty. It hadn't occured to me to take it back, as I figured the Squirt, being a "miniature" tool, wouldn't be covered for breakages involving force. Deciding it couldn't hurt, I took it into MEC today where they happily exchanged it for the display model (they were out of stock) with no questions asked. I didn't have my receipt, but they were able to verify the purchase through my membership number.

Leatherman and Mountain Equipment Co-op definately earned some points with me today.


It's 3 sleeps until we hit the trail, so time to do a test pack to see how everything feels. I am a big fan of checklists, and keep a text file on my computer with a general list, modify it for the season and duration of the hike, then save it with the trail name and date for future reference. I also like to make notes of possible ways to reduce weight for future trips, and after the hike will update it with any wishes.

This packing list should only be used as a guideline, as everyones needs will vary. I'm including the weights of items so it's easy to target the biggest culprits. The first useful pack list I saw on my discovery of lightweight backpacking was the 27 pound, 7 day checklist at It gives me something to work towards, and lets me know I'm on the right track. Before I made my discovery, my pack was probably over 50 pounds (I wish I'd weighed it back then.. oh well.) and now averages around 20 without food & fuel.

Weights are in ounces, although I think I'll be switching to grams as math is hard. Do you see anything else that I should highlight in red? I'm not prepared to spend $100 to save an ounce or two, but each year I like to reduce one or two things when possible. Luxury items are things I've decided, for this specific hike, are worth the extra weight in the name of enjoyment or comfort. This is a bit of a balancing act, and it's easy to get into the "just one more [random item]" trap.

I should also note that every item listed here goes inside the pack, I don't like anything strapped to the outside. Gear that swings around puts undue strain on your muscles, and on hikes like the Juan de Fuca, which involve lots of scrambling and navigating between trees, nothing should protrude above my head, below my belt, or be wider than my shoulders. On a longer hike I'll start out with the Z-Rest strapped to the outside, but will move it inside as soon as my food bag shrinks a bit.

Colour Key:
Necessary Item (for me)
Luxury Item
Candidate for Weight Reduction

Silnylon pack cover (2.8)
Gregory Z backpack (50.0)

Tent & Sleep System
5x8 Siltarp [we're hiking in a coastal rainforest, after all] (7.4)
Tent poles, pegs, guy lines in bag (24.0)
Tent body [fly and groundsheet carried by hiking partner] (36.6)
Golite Down sleeping bag in bag (26.2)
Thermarest Z-Lite mattress (14.4)

Gaitors (7.0)
Waterproof poncho (10.7)
Gloves (4.5)
MEC Pamir jacket (16.4)
PJ bottoms (10.1)
Fleece top - mid layer (8.1)
Warm, quick-dry shirt (8.5)
Warm camp socks (2.7)
Hiking socks (2.1)
Hiking socks (2.1)
Hiking shirt (4.5)
Hiking shirt (4.5)
Waterproof stuffsac for clothing (4.0)
Sandals (25.8)
Fleece toque (2.1)

First aid kit (7.4)
Toothbrush (0.7)
Toothpaste (0.5)
Knee brace (2.3)
Toilet paper in waterproof bag (1.8)
Fast-drying towel (0.6)
Sunglasses (2.9)
Water filter and maintenance supplies in mesh bag (17.7)
Alcohol cleaning pads (2.1)
LED headlamp (1.1)
Bug spray (1.5)
Sunscreen (1.0)
Lip balm (0.4)
3 pairs of earplugs (0.1)
Floss (0.1)

Fire starting [lighter, waterproof matches, 2 tealights] (2.0)
Stove in plastic case (3.8)
Fuel (16.0)
Titanium cooking pot in bag (5.4)
Insulated mug with lid (4.5)
3 litre bladder [empty] (8.2)
Lexan fork (0.2)
Lexan spoon (0.2)
Water bottle (1.9)

Hankerchief (0.8)
Spare boot laces (0.7)
Sharpie marker (0.3)
Camera in waterproof bag (11.6)
Book [thick 1000 pager] (16.7)
JDF Marine Trail Guide + Map (7.2)
ID & Cash in ziploc (0.2)
Cel phone in waterproof bag [off except for emergencies] (3.7)
Notepad & pencil (1.6)

Meals & snacks for 3 nights (48)

Total dry (before food, fuel & water) pack weight is approximately 21 pounds. Of that, nearly 4 pounds are "luxury" items. I'm comfortable with this pack weight, but if it were a longer distance I would definately start to pare down the luxury items. I find an evening around camp with a good book will do wonders for my energy level and motivation, so easily justifies the extra weight. Ideally, I'll find a smaller book to take with me, but I just started Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and am enjoying it. The camera and notepad are so I can document the trip to entertain you fine folks, and the rest of the luxury items are for my own comfort in the damp coastal conditions.

Monday, May 14, 2007


When I was outfitting for my first High Sierra Trail attempt, most of my gear advice was from the staff at an outfitter chain. When it got to footwear, they were quite adamant that a good, sturdy pair of hiking boots was a must for trekking in the mountains. I ended up with some waterproof, all leather mountaineering boots weighing in at just under 4 pounds for the pair. I can't imagine why I got blisters...

For my second Sierra attempt, I did a lot more research, mostly on the Web. A common adage I noticed was "A pound on the foot is worth 5 on the back" or other similar variations. Although the issue seems to be continually debated, hiking shoes were definately winning out with lightweight backpackers. I went to a local, knowledgable outfitter and ended up with a good quality, breathable pair of hiking shoes weighing just over 2 pounds for the pair. If the adage is true, I just shaved nearly 10 pounds off my load! Not to mention they were less than half the price of the boots.

Not wanting to go blindly this time, I tested out the hiking shoes on a lot of local trails, and was absolutely thrilled with the results. They didn't need to be broken in, my feet stayed cool and dry so I didn't get blisters, and the flexibility made scrambling up steep rocky trails much easier. I wore them on my second High Sierra Trail hike, and I'm sure they're a big part of why I enjoyed that hike so much.

I should mention some drawbacks. Not being waterproof, I don't enjoy wearing them on coastal hikes where mud is an issue, and it also takes some getting used to a thinner sole and feeling sharp rocks beneath your feet. For people with weaker ankles or very heavy packs (we'll talk to you later..) you won't get any ankle support with hiking shoes.

For coastal hikes such as the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail and the West Coast Trail (both to be reviewed here soon) I prefer to go with a lightweight boot. I have a pair of Garmont boots that are Goretex and leather, and I absolutely love them. At about 3 pounds for the pair, they aren't too heavy, they are waterproof, and they have ankle support for the slippery coastal rocks and boardwalks.

Summary? Hiking shoes for dry, mountain hikes, and lightweight boots for wet, coastal hikes. Always look after your gear with the appropriate cleaner and waterproofing - I'm personally a big fan of Nikwax products, but I will usually check the manufacturer's web site to see what they recommend.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Menu Planning

The upcoming May Long Weekend we will be doing our third annual hike of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. As we're going to leave Friday right after work, I decided to get my meal planning and preparation out of the way today.

We're spending three nights on the trail, so we'll need 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 3 dinners, as well as the usual assortment of trail mix and snacks. My goal is to have each day's food weigh under 2 pounds, and cost under $20. I like to have a combination of commercially packaged and homemade meals. A second breakfast is something I'll add for shorter (less than 4 day) hikes as the extra weight isn't noticed. The mornings on the coast in May are cold and wet, so the extra food helps you stay warm. I have gotten away with around 1.5 pounds per day, but was often hungry in the afternoons.

I find it a good idea to label a large ziploc bag for each day you're on the trail, and fill it with all the snacks and meals for that day, with dinner at the bottom and pack up to breakfast at the top. This saves a lot of rooting around in your food bag, and makes carrying food to and from the bear lockers much easier. Additionally, if anything leaks, there's an additional layer to protect the rest of your gear. I'll also label each meal with the amount of water and instructions on a piece of masking tape.

Friday [0 lb 10.5 oz]
  • Dinner: Forever Young Macaroni & Cheese w/Veggies (AlpineAire Foods); 6 oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Saturday [2 lbs]
  • Breakfast: 2 packages of Nature's Path Organic Apple Cinnamon instant oatmeal with a handful of dehydrated blueberries & strawberries; instant coffee, Emer'gen-C instant Cranberry juice (vitamin supplement); Kettle Valley organic fruit snack
  • Second Breakfast: 2 small flour tortillas with Nutella
  • Lunch: AplineAire Tuna & Crackers, trail mix, granola bar
  • Dinner: Ez Matt's Burritos (see recipe here)

Sunday [1 lb 10 oz]
  • Breakfast: high energy cereal and powdered mil with a handful of dehydrated blueberries & strawberries; instant coffee, Emer'gen-C instant orange juice (vitamin supplement); Kettle Valley organic fruit snack
  • Second Breakfast: 2 small flour tortillas with blackberry jam
  • Lunch: Ramen noodles, cheese, trail mix, granola bar
  • Dinner: Instant mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy (see recipe below) , stuffing, 3 squares of dark chocolate

Monday [1 lb 5 oz]
  • Breakfast: 2 packages of Nature's Path Organic Flax n Oats instant oatmeal with a handful of dehydrated blueberries & strawberries; instant coffee, Emer'gen-C instant citrus juice (vitamin supplement); Kettle Valley organic fruit snack
  • Second Breakfast: 2 small flour tortillas with nutella
  • Lunch: Thai Kitchen Garlic & Vegetable noodle soup, crackers & cheese

Misc: [5 oz]
  • Gatorade powder, sugar, powdered milk, tea bags, 1 emergency meal (soup), extra snack

Well, I spent under $60 and altogether it weighs about 6 pounds. Success! When I get back I'll post a summary of what worked well and what didn't (and why.)

RECIPE: Instant Mashed Potatoes
1 cup instant potato flakes
1 tablespoon Kraft Parmesan Cheese
1 pinch of garlic salt
1 tablespoon skim milk powder
half of a 21g package of mushroom gravy mix

At home: package the first 4 ingredients into a regular ziploc bag, and the gravy mix into a ziploc freezer bag.
On the trail: boil 1.5 cups of water, then carefully pour half a cup into the gravy bag and allow to reconstitute. Pour the potato mix into the remaining cup of water and mash with a fork. When the gravy is ready (about 5 mins) pour onto the potatoes and enjoy!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Book Review: Lip Smackin' Vegetarian Backpackin'

Full Title: Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpackin': Lightweight Trail-tested Vegetarian Recipes for Backcountry Trips
Author: Christine and Tim Conners

This book is the sequel to the top-selling Lipsmackin' Backpackin': Lightweight Trail-tested Recipes for Backcountry Trips, which I'll have to get Ian to write a review for as I'm a tree-hugging vegetarian.

The book begins with an introduction to using the book, and a primer on dehydrator use. The next chapters are divided into recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, breads, snacks & desserts, and drinks. With more than 150 recipes, it helps to spend some time reading through them all and place some post-it notes on recipes that catch your eye.

When I first started using this book, my choices were fairly limited as I didn't have a dehydrator. I was still able to make quite a few meals, but probably less than 1/3 of the book. While some of the dehydrator recipes are quite fantastic, I would suggest trying some of the non-dehydrator recipes before you make a purchase. I eventually did buy one, and eventually plan to write a dehydrating guide.

OK, let's eat!

The most important advice I can offer with this book is to TRY the recipes first, either at home or on a weekend hike. Not heeding this advice, Ian and I had to dip into our extra rations after burying a batch of Green Dragon Pad Thai. Needless to say, if a recipe calls for lime Kool-Aid: skip it and try the next one.

Speaking of the next one, my absolute favorite recipe in this book has to be Ez-Ed's Burritos, page 92. As with most of the recipes, I had to adapt them to my taste, and to what products were available in my area. At the bottom of this review is Ez Matt's version of Ez Ed's Burritos. (Props to Ed Molash for the original recipe.) Some of my other favorites include Black Mountain Potatoes (page 97), Cheese Coins (which are so good they will become trail currency - page 56), and Fuji Feast (page 88).

Overall, I have now added about 10 recipes to my regular list of backpacking food. A lot of the recipes are for drinks and desserts, which are luxuries I normally don't find necessary for a truely lightweight backpacking experience. There are also a fair number of trailmix recipes, which I found inspired me to try some different combinations in my usual GORP - especially dehydring my own strawberries!

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys cooking, and is adventurous with their flavour combinations. If you are kitchen-impaired, or happy with ramen noodles, it might not be such a good purchase. The binding on the book leaves something to be desired, as it doesn't lay flat. Recipe book publishers who don't twin-loop or spiral bind their books need to spend more time in the kitchen and less in the print shop. That aside, it is still the book I reach for when beginning to prepare a meal plan for an upcoming hike.

Ez Matt's Tent-Warming Burritos

1 cup Uncle Ben's instant rice
2 packages (cup of soup style) Nile Spice Black Bean Soup
2 packages (cup of soup style) Nile Spice Sweet Corn Chowder
1/4 cup dried chopped onions
3 tablespoons textured vegetable protein
1 tablespoon dried cilantro
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried seaweed flakes/crumbled nori
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon tomato cheese sauce mix
1 teaspoon dried chili peppers

Mix all ingredients together and divide evenly into 4 ziplock freezer bags. On the trail, add 1.5 cups of boiling water to the bag (caution: read the book's primer on using Ziploc bags with hot water!), wrap the bag in a towel and knead for a minute. Leave wrapped, and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes with an occasional kneading. Try a small amount to make sure the rice is soft, then squeeze onto 2 tortillas and roll. Add fast-food hot sauce packets if you have them, or dehydrate some salsa.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thursday afternoon hike

Every Thursday, Ian and I take Shadow on a hike from my house to Mill Hill. As we have decided to hike the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail on the May long weekend, we figured we need to start increasing the intensity of our Thursday hikes. Today we did a little over two hours, hiking over Mill Hill to Thetis Lake, over Seymour Hill, then back over Mill Hill and home again. My guestimate is 6km round trip, but I'll need to borrow a GPS to verify that.

Mill Hill is in full Spring bloom, and is one of my favorite places on the Island. There's Garry Oaks, Arbutus, and panoramic views of Victoria and the Sooke Hills. Unfortunately, neither of us brought a camera, so I'll tease you with a photo from last fall.

While hiking, we decide that we'll do the entire Juan de Fuca Marine Trail on the long weekend, rather than just a one-nighter as we had originally planned. I am optimistic that we can shorten our usual duration on the trail and complete it in two nights rather than three. Ian is feeling a bit out of shape after a somewhat lazy Winter, and isn't quite so certain. We're leaving the scheduling open, and will have a few options for dealing with tides and transportation. I'll post a full report when we get back!