There is such a thing as the perfect trail food - if you're willing to make it.
I’ve found that there are basically two types of hikers. Those that like a hot meal (who bring cooking utensils) and those that go for simplicity (bringing food they don’t have to cook). This article is directed at the second personality.
Hiking all day and then coming up on a shelter where there is actual cooking going on can really drive you crazy if you let it. “How dare anyone heat their package of ramen noodles where my nostrils can smell it so clearly! All I’ve got to eat is this pre-packaged granola bar that tastes a little like cardboard!” You can try to go over and strike up a conversation in the hopes that they’re willing to share, but those odds are always low (I know this from personal experience). So, what does one choose when they want food on the trail that tastes good, is relatively light, gives you plenty of energy and doesn’t need cooking? The answer may surprise you.
Logan Trail Bread
Logan bread is a chewy, dense bread that has an extremely long shelf life and very high in calories. One of the hiker’s biggest worries for any hike is making sure they have the energy to make it back to civilization. A lot of amateurs don’t realize that when you are doing endurance activities such as hiking, appetite may actually decrease as the body focuses on getting blood to your legs and cooling the body through sweat. You burn a lot of energy in this hobby, so don’t let high calories keep you from re-fueling. Logan bread will give you the energy you need for the toughest trails while taking up only a small part of your backpack and is perfect for cold weather trips. Don’t worry, you’ll still have room for your emergency dehydrated food, energy bars or guilty pleasure snacks (for me it’s Pringles).
The bread’s origins date back to 1950 when an expedition was planned to climb Canada’s 19,550 + ft. Mount Logan. The expedition leader of the University of Alaska group, Gordon Herreid talked a local baker into creating a durable, high energy bread for the party. He agreed and thus Logan Bread was born.
The Recipe for the Perfect Trail Food
A word of warning, I’ve had this recipe for over 15 years. I can’t even come close to remembering where I got it, but it’s supposed to be the same recipe used back in the day. I have noticed that there other recipes out there that are different from mine and although I haven’t experimented much with the one that I have, that doesn’t mean that you can’t.
The following ingredients yield four 9” x 9” loaves. A single serving (4 inch square) has about 718 calories and 10 grams of usable protein to keep you on the trail.
• 3 cups of whole wheat flour
• 3 cups of white flour (plain, not self-rising)
• ½ cup of powdered milk (I use skim)
• 2 and ½ cups of rolled oats
• 1 and ½ cups of brown sugar
• 3 teaspoons of baking powder
• 2 teaspoons of salt
• 1 cup of soy grits (buy at a health food store)
• 1 and ¼ cups of chopped nuts (walnuts are my favorite)
• 2 cups of raisins (you could use other fruit just make sure it is dried)
• 1 cup of honey (any kind you want)
• ½ cup of molasses (your choice of dark or light)
• 2 cups of softened margarine (butter could probably be substituted)
• 1 cup of oil (I use canola)
• 6 large eggs
• large mixing bowl (enough to hold at least 8 quarts)
• medium mixing bowl
• four 9” x 9” pans
Mixing and Baking
• Combine all the dry ingredients into the large mixing bowl and mix well.
• Combine the rest of the ingredients in the medium bowl and beat until mixed.
• Fold the wet ingredients into the dry and stir well. You may be tempted to add more liquid to make it easier to stir, but this is not advisable. Part of what makes this bread so durable and perfect for long hikes is that it is dry; there’s not a lot of moisture in it so it doesn’t spoil as easily.
• Divide it out among the four pans and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes or until done. The bread won’t rise as much as regular bread and will be dense and chewy.
• After baking let sit for about 5 minutes and then remove from pans. Cut into 4 inch squares and let air dry for 24 hours to get rid of any excess moisture. You can then store them in plastic Ziploc bags (be sure to squeeze the excess air out).
Storage, Use and Miscellaneous Thoughts
• The squares should easily last several months without refrigeration, but most people find all the bread gone within one. I have known people who have eaten it up to 6 months later! You can also freeze it to make it last even longer, though I would probably wrap it in some plastic wrap before placing it in the Ziploc bag to help it avoid as much moisture as possible.
• The most I’ve ever eaten on a full day hiking trip has been five bars and that has been all I’ve ever needed. I’m a little heavier than your average hiker (around 300 lbs), so 3-4 bars would plenty for those of an average weight. Just make sure to keep it reasonably dry while on the trail and it will last for the duration of your trip.
• Since I started using Logan Trail Bread I’ve found that deciding what foods to take on my hike became a lot simpler. When it comes down to it the only thing I really worry about now is water.
• Before finishing up I would just like to remind you how important eating is while on the trail, especially before laying down for the night. You’ve got to get a good meal in you or there is a real risk lethargy and loss of coordination and you don’t want that when in the mountains.