10th Annual PCT Days: Food for Thought

PCT Days Trail FoodI just returned from the 10th Annual PCT Days in Cascade Locks, Oregon, about 40 miles each of Portland where hundreds of locals and PCT thru-hikers gathered to sample the wares, play games and enjoy the weather (sunny compared with last year’s spritzing rain).

Many years ago, I gave up food produced commercially for wilderness travel (pouches of ingredients that require hot water and a few stirs). Mostly, they were tasteless and expensive. Like many ultralight backpackers, I make up my own combinations of my favorite foods.

At PCT Days I sampled several types of trail food –mostly new to market — and purchased a some for future trips. A few that caught my eye:

Backpacker’s Bistro – the bags are lightweight and feed two people for $12. I sampled the bean with bacon and found it pretty tasty so I purchased Spaghetti Bolognese for a future trip. What caught my eye were the ingredients: handmade pasta, grass-fed beef, bacon, red wine, garlic, diced tomatoes and a few more goodies. Here is something eye-catching from the website: “2008 winner of the French Culinary Institute’s Top Chef award, Melissa Lynn Lieser combined her passions for backpacking and food when she founded Backpacker’s Bistro in 2016 with a simple philosophy: we believe that the most satisfying and healthy meals begin with whole, real foods. We believe in finding quality products from sustainable sources, locally if possible.”  To learn more:  http://backpackersbistro.com

Vasque Sturdiwheat Pancake Mix – the package says it makes a half dozen small pancakes. They appear to have healthy ingredients. A six-ounce package of buckwheat pancakes costs just $2. They also offer almond pecan, banana and apple cinnamon. Although I’m not likely to carry a frying pan on a backpack, I might consider using the Sea-to-Summit collapsible cookware and take the pancake mix with me. To learn more:  https://www.sturdiwheat.com/store/new-products.

Trail Butter – the label claims: “all natural energy nut butter” and notes it is “low sugar,” which will be happy news for those trying to avoid sugar-rich foods. Trail Butter, the love child of Jeff and Brad Boggess, two outdoor enthusiasts who have traveled the world biking and skiing, comes in handy 4.5 hand-size pouches and in jars. I bought two pouches for the PCT days discounted price of $5 each: Mountaineer Maple with real maple syrup and the Ozark Original chunky variety. Both were mouth-watering.  To learn more: http://trailbutter.com/shop/

Huppybar – an energy bar created by river guide Lyndsay Hupp. she boasts her bars, which are very tasty (I had the espresso chocolate), are non-GMO and free of soy, dairy, gluten or refined sugars — good news for health conscience outdoors people. You can buy online and at some Whole Foods and other health-oriented retailers. Here is a list of where to find them:  http://huppybar.com/buy-bars.html
Be Light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Sea to Summit X-Set 11 Ultralight Camp Pot and Cups

At REI’s Portland Store — in my never-ending search for the newest and lightest backpacking equipment — I discovered the Sea to Summit collapsible pot and  cups. The set is just 11 ounces. I didn’t weigh the pot alone, but I’ll guess 5 ounces (142g) — a weight easily qualifying it to fit in any ultralight backpacking pack.

Sea to Summit X-Set 11 Sea to Summit X-Set 11 OpenBesides the weight, I was very impressed with its packability. From the Sea to Summit website:

“The innovative X-Kettle collapses to 1 3/8” (35mm) and has a 1-liter safe boiling capacity. A wide base absorbs maximum heat from the stove while protecting the silicone walls. Two glass-reinforced Nylon 66 handles support the upper rim and improve control when pouring. The two X-Mugs nest perfectly inside the Kettle to create an exceptionally compact cook system.”

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.




Snow Peak Gigapower Stove a Great Choice for Ultralight Backpacking

GigaPower Stove from Snow Peak on Vimeo.

Some extreme ultralight backpackers may think the Snow Peak Gigapower Stove, at 3.75 ounces (106 grams), is a brick. LOL. I think of it as a trail warrior worth a look.

This minimalist stove has been around for a long time, no doubt because it has proved its value and reliability. The Snow Peak Gigapower Stove is 4.2 inches long and 2.6 inches wide and is about as simple as they come.

Snow Peak offers a manual version (light with a match or other fire source) and an automatic version (which lights with the push of a button, no batteries required).

Boiling time with a canister of gas is just under 5 minutes. You get a lot of cooking time out of even the small canister.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Bullet-Proof Alcohol Vargo Titanium Decagon Stove Just 1.2 Ounces

I was at REI today, looking at the latest and greatest ultralight backpacking equipment when I came across the Vargo Titanium Decagon Stove. I have tried just about every type of stove there is: Esbit, alcohol, propane and ethanol gel (but not biomass). I’ve made alcohol stoves out of soda cans and purchased the custom-made variety for a fortune.

Alcohol stoves are ultra light, but I found that by the time you carried the stove and a enough fuel to run it for several days, there is really no weight advantage over the fuel-canister-powered variety — assuming the stove itself is light. But that was 10 years ago and the “technology” seems to have advanced light years.

The Vargo Titanium weighs just 1.2 oz (34 grams) and takes 1.5 ounces of fuel. All one piece, the manufacturer boasts the ultralight backpacking Decagon Stove is so strong you can step on it with all your weight and it won’t break. In my hand, it did seem extremely strong and impossibly light.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Backcountry Coffee: Three Ultralight Backpacking Options

I recently visited Snow Peak’s USA headquarters in Portland to check out all the lastest goods and gadgets. One of the items that caught my eye was the Snow Peak Collapsible Pour Over Coffee Brewer.

A tasty cup of trail coffee

A tasty cup of trail coffee









Weight 4.9 oz (140g)

I got a fresh-brewed cup of coffee out of the visit (very good) and hands-on experience. It is solid and folds flat. Worth checking out at $29.95 if you love good trail coffee.

Jetboil Coffee Press

Weight 0.8 oz (22g)

Jetboil Coffee PressFor my birthday, my wife bought me a coffee press for my Jet Boil. In my home try-out, I added 8 ounces of water, which boiled in one-minute. I stirred two tablespoons of fresh, dark french roast (#4 grind), let it sit for 3 minutes, then inserted the press to push down the grounds. Coffee was excellent. Fits inside the Jetboil cup. About $10.

Starbucks VIA® Intant

Weight .02 oz (3g)

Finally, a few months back, a friend and fellow backpacker brought Starbucks VIA® Instant coffee packets. If you like good coffee, like me, the thought of instant coffee gives you the shivers. Surprise. Surprise. Starbucks is excellent and the Dark French was strong the way I like it. Each packet costs less than a dollar and a fraction of an ounce — a dozen grams maybe. There are 15 flavors, including decafs, flavored (like Caramel Latte) and light and medium-bodied roasts.  Here is a Weblink for a look-see: Starbucks Instant Coffee.

My Choice

I like and recommend all three.

  • The Snow Peak is sturdiest and heaviest (4.9 ounces).
  • The Jetboil is a great trail coffee solution for the Jetboil Cooking System.
  • The Starbucks VIA® Instant is lightest of the “ultralight backpacking” trail coffee solutions.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.


Ultra-Sil Kitchen Sink just 1.5 Ounces, But holds 2.64 Gallons

Ultra-Sil Kitchen Sink for websiteAlthough I often just use my finger and a little water to clean my bowl and mug after breakfast or dinner on the trail, having a “wash pot” is nice. But too much weight and bulk, right? I recently discovered the Ultra-Sil Kitchen Sink (1.5 inches thick and 4.5 inches wide) as a great alternative. Packs down really small in its own case and is feather light. Best of all you can fill it with water, move away from the lake or stream to avoid contamination and use a small amount of biodegradable soap. Check it out.

In the meantime, be light. Be Safe. Be one with the pack.

The Perfect Backpacking Holiday Present: The Jetboil Stove System

My desire to have presents under the tree, no doubt, is a leftover from when I was a kid. As a kid, the sky was the limit. Now, I will be content to see just one: the Jetboil Sol Advanced Cooking System.

I’ve had my eye on the Jetboil for several years, but felt the original version was was just too big and heavy; not quit perfected.  The newer models are improved versions of the all-in-one concept of fuel, stand, stove, cup and cover nicely integrated into one lightweight unit.

The Sol is 10.5 oz. (300g) according to the specs, will hold 27 ounces (0.8 liters), and will bring the whole thing to a boil in 4 minutes, 30 seconds. You can even see through the side so you know when the water is boiling–a nice feature. Check it out.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.

Super Ultra light Esbit Titanium Stove … Not New, but Worth Repeating

A few years ago, I posted a review of my Esbit Pocket Stove, a small metal box that weighs 3 oz and burns a single Esbit hexamine tablet.

In culling 14 years of backpacking equipment, I came across my Esbit Titanium Folding Stove ($12.28 at Amazon), which weighs a mere 0.40 ounces (on a very accurate electronic scale); less than 1/2 ounce (11.3 grams). The esbit fuel tablet that powers it weighs 0.45. Together, they add up to a mere 0.85 of 1oz (24 grams)! Does it actually work? I thought I would do a 2013 re-test for you super ultra lighters who like their trail food hot.

Test Results
I fired up the tiny Esbit, added one cup of water (enough for a single serving of oatmeal or a cup tea or coffee) and got a rolling boil in about 3 1/2 minutes. A neat feature: you can blow out the flame and save what’s left of the fuel tablet for another meal. This test left more than a half tablet.

For two cups of water (enough for your oatmeal AND tea or coffee), it took about 8 minutes and used about 3/4ths of one fuel tab. Note: these tests were done at sea level.

If you are rehydrating food with water for dinner, you can figure 3 tablets per day (2 for dinner and one for breakfast). That adds up to 9 tablets for a three-night trip. Tablet weight: 4.5 ounces (9 @ 0.45); stove weight: 0.4. Total for three days: 4.9 ounces. Add a couple of more tabs for backup (less than 1 oz). You can buy a box of 12 Esbit 1400 Degree Smokeless Solid Fuel Cubes for just $4.99.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.


Ultralight Backpacking Camp Coffee

Backpacker Magazine emailed me a link this morning to its review of a “field tested”  backpacking coffee. It’s instant! Ugggh! My choice is fresh ground Peet’s French Roast or Thanksgiving’s Mirembe Kawomera (Delicious Peace) coffee in a one-cup filter (lightweight and as good tasting as home). To read Backpacker’s review of the instant they are raving about, follow this link.

Be light. Be safe. Be one with the pack.