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Backpacking 101: Getting Started - Finding a Hiking Group

I get email messages like this all the time:
"I'm interested in backpacking but don't know where to start.  I don't have any gear, anyone to hike with, and don't know where to go.  Please help!"
This article will focus on finding someone to hike with.  By hiking with other people, you can ask questions about hiking and backpacking, gaining knowledge to make you more prepared for hiking and backpacking.

I am by no means an expert, but I possess a passion for the woods.  When I was 11, while other girls played with dolls, I pretended to be lost in the woods, making sassafras tea to "survive."  Living in Colorado at the age of 12, our church took some kids to Breckenridge to climb mountains, where I bagged my first "fourteener."  

Mt. Quandary, Colorado.  My First Mountain, 1980.

DIY Cozy for Freezer Bag Cooking: Gusseted, Stand-Up Bottom, Velcro, and Fashionable!

So, I am not a girl that needs to look very cute in the woods. Just camp out with me and you will see that I am anything but "put together" after a night or two in the wilderness. 

But there are a few items in my kit that are almost Objets d'Art, like my Zpacks Arc Blast Backpack and my kilt.  To the untrained eye, fellow hikers think "hey, that girl looks like she knows what she is doing..."

The Height of AT Fashion - NOT!

Now I have added yet another weapon to the backpack to beat trail doldrums.  And it has to do with food.  Who knew that some reflectix, duct tape, velcro, and 15 minutes can turn out so cooool.....

I am now the envy of all my trail food FBC friends

Check out my latest youtube video on how to make your own super fashionable freezer bag cozy and let me know what you think.  Please feel free to post pics of your own Pièce de Résistance in the comments!!  And don't forget to check out my Amazon Store for all your DIY needs!

Quinoa "Grits" for Olddog

Quinoa, Not Just For Dinner

Check out backpacking blogs or forums and the breakfast foods often mentioned are instant oatmeal, bagels with peanut butter, and instant grits. 

The Holy trifecta of trail food breakfasts. All easy and ready in minutes. Unfortunately, a dilemma exists for backpackers who follow special diets; whether they eat "clean", gluten-free, or paleo.  Instant oatmeal and grits are no-no's because they are grains, and nothing "instant" is good because of the processing, which usually removes vital fiber. White bread is just plain gross. Just sayin'.
Just say "NO" to white bread!

DIY Trail Foods. Quinoa Preparation

This weekend was supposed to be spent in the wilderness with my DH (my Darling, Delightful, Dedicated, Daring, sometimes Damnable Husband), and our children.  The one-to-two inches of rain in the forecast made the decision to go questionable.  Then, my kids decided their idea of fun isn't huddling under a tarp in a downpour, and they wanted to stay home.  Unattended.  

This put DH and I in a little of a quandary: do we leave the 16 year-old at home with the 18 year-old to supervise, or not?  After all, I asked off for this weekend months ago. 

Hmmmm. NOT! We scrapped the trip at the last minute.  On the upside, I get to sit around the house all weekend in my jammies and work on blog posts!

On backpacking forums, we frequently discuss meal ideas.  As I have talked about to death in my DIY Trail Meal series, bases such as potatoes, rice, and pasta are often found in store bought trail dinners, but not suitable for those of us who want to eat "clean."

So we look to quinoa for our trail meal salvation. Quinoa can be used as a base in DIY trail dinners in lieu of potatoes, pasta, or rice. The great thing about quinoa is that it is very easy to work with, taking very little "hands on" time.  Quinoa is a little chewier once rehydrated, so it bulks up a meal very easily.

Simply cook according to package directions, dehydrate in a single layer for about 6 to 8 hours, or crisp dry, and store.  

Here is my Youtube video on how to prepare, dehydrate, and store quinoa:

Please visit my Amazon Store for your DIY trail food products!

Chile Relleno Casserole on the Trail

Good food should be a feast for the senses as well as the stomach, but does good food need to be complicated? Do you need a shopping bag full of ingredients to make a mouth-watering wonder? I am not a gourmand or slow foodie by any means, but a tired, shift-working, stressed out mom with the desire to have more free time to pursue my passions. I love good, simple food.

Simple food can be found in any culture, and playing with the different cultural flavors adds variety to your DIY trail meals without complexity. Chiles Rellenos is my favorite traditional Mexican restaurant dish: a union of flavors that screams "South of the Border." Poblano chile peppers stuffed with cheese, dredged in masa flour and egg batter, then fried golden brown and topped with red sauce. Simple, slightly spicy, and scrumptious!

DIY Trail Survival Backpacking food
The Cheesy Oooey Gooey Chile Relleno

Our local Mexican restaurant makes Rellenos with a potato and cheese stuffing. At first, I was like "Potatoes? This isn't real rellenos. Where's the cheese?!" But now I am totally hooked. I make a version of this at home as a casserole: layers of Hatch green chiles, mashed potatoes, and cheese, with batter poured on top and baked.
My Homemade Chile Rellenos Casserole

Fortunately, the flavor of the rellenos is fairly easy to replicate on the trail. The peppers dry easily in a home dehydrator, rehydrating very well in a freezer bag. The recipe can be made simply with tomatoes, or more elaborately with the addition of some homemade enchilada sauce that has been dehydrated.
The Chile Rellenos can be made simply in a freezer bag with instant potatoes, or layered in a baking dish.  I prefer the simple method, since I am usually very hungry and tired by the time I get around to make dinner in camp.

An aside about green chiles. Hatch chiles are grown in the Hatch valley of New Mexico and Mexico.  On the east coast we don't have the luxury of Hatch chiles, unless you can find a Tienda that supplies them. Should you live in the west, the chiles are available in the grocery store in a #2.5 can.  If you don't have Hatches, you can use the little 4 oz cans of Old El PasoThankfully, my parents live in Arizona six months of the year, and when they come back to Maryland in the spring they bring me a case or two of Hatch chiles. 

Chop the chiles in a food processor then dry them in a thin layer in the dehydrator.  The chiles take very little time to dry - perhaps 8 hours or so until crisp.  Add the versatile chiles to soups, casseroles, Chinese, Mexican, and Italian dishes. One of my DIY Trail Food posts - Spices, Toppings, and Putting it All Together - shows how the addition of some simple spices can completely change the flavor profile of a meal.

Chile Rellenos Freezer Bag Recipe:

  • 1/3 cup dried green chiles
  • 1/4 cup freeze dried cheddar cheese (or 3 T cheese powder)
  • Instant mashed potato flakes
  • Ova Easy egg mix
  • Nido instant milk powder
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder
  • French Fried Onions for the topping (separate baggie)
  • Packet of salsa or taco sauce (I like Taco Bell's mild sauce)

Place all ingredients in freezer bag except fried onions and taco sauce. Rehydrate with just enough boiling water to cover ingredients, plus an extra quarter inch or so. Add more if needed.  Place in cozy for 10 minutes. Top with onions and salsa and enjoy!

Visit my Amazon store for your DIY trail food needs!

Backpacking 101: An Introductory Guide For New Packers

Are you interested in breaking into backcountry travel, but not sure you have the physical fitness?  Want to walk into the wilderness but worried about wildlife and safety?  How about going to the bathroom and take care of simple hygiene in the woods? Wondering what gear to purchase and who you should buy it from?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then my next series of articles is for you!

Red Creek, Dolly Sods, WV
Safely Crossing Red Creek, Dolly Sods, WV

My Full Monty (A Blogging Disclosure)

I like to write about things that interest me, and if you have read any of my blog so far, you will find it primarily about food preservation, foraging, backpacking, blah, blah, blah. I also like to talk. So blogging has become a natural extension of this love affair with the wild; when I am not outside because the weather stinks, or life constrains me indoors with work or family obligations, I can always revisit my outdoor experiences with my blog.  Not nearly so blissful as that last walk in the woods, but, hey, bloggers beggars can't be choosers.

Anyhoo, what I am getting to, is that in order to help fund some beer money, I have monetized my blog. I am telling you this to be nice and transparent to my readers. I am definitely NOT doing this to get rich, but since I spend hours every week writing about the stuff, I figure I may try to make a few cents in the process.  Moreover, I promise not to write about or recommend stuff just to make a few cents off the product.  Although I am an admitted gear junkie, and I spend way more on freeze-dried food than anyone should, I am actually a value-driven cheapskate at heart.  

So here goes!

1.  I provide links to Amazon products that I use and would recommend, and in return I get a [very] small commission.  You don't pay any extra to buy these products from the links I provide. As an aside, my 16 year-old purchased an Amazon Prime membership without telling me a few months ago. To say I was pretty upset when I saw the $99 charge at the time is an understatement.   Once I recovered from my apoplexy and realized 2 day shipping is included with the membership (Christmas purchases were delivered on Sunday!), I am very happy with the purchase.  And right now I am in a hotel on a ski vacay with the kids and watching the "Harry Bosch" series based on the books by Michael Connelly. You can only get this as an Amazon Prime subscriber.  Love it! 

2.  So far I have paid for every product I have reviewed in my blog, but from time-to-time in the future (hopefully the very near future), manufacturers of these products may shower me with gifts of the newest stove or a new Caldera Cone (hint, hint), and I will write a review.  If I write a review of an item I received for free, I will be sure to mention that in the blog article.

3.  I have been buying and recommending freeze-dried food from Emergency Essentials for a long time.  Just recently I found out that they have a Linkshare marketing affiliation program.  If you link to their website through mine and buy something, I get a kickback.

4. I allow Google Adsense to be displayed on my site. I don't always use those products (especially if it has something to do with hygiene, lol), but so far I have made a whopping $18, so I am almost to a 12-pack of my favorite craft brew. 

Now that I have some housekeeping out of the way, it's time to get outside!

Just in case you ran out of interesting things to read on my blog, you can check out the FTC disclosure rules for yourself!