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What Stays Good in a Cache?

Have a favorite trail recipe or technique you'd like to share? Please do! We also like reviews of various trail food products out there. The Backcountry Food Topix forum is the place to discuss all things related to food and nourishment while in the Sierra wilderness (as well as favorite trail head eateries).
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What Stays Good in a Cache?

Postby BSquared » Fri Jan 09, 2009 9:08 am

I'm plotting a JMT through-hike this coming summer, and I'm wondering what kinds of food people have found to last particularly well in caches. In 2004 we found that in the cache we had mailed to JMT Ranch our pita bread was moldy, the peanut butter had leaked out of its tube and plastered itself all over the inside of the plastic bag we had (thankfully) double-bagged it in, and about half of our cheese was inedible. We had to throw a bunch of stuff out at the Ranch, so we were nearly starving for the last several days of the trip. Certainly this time we'll keep the PB in its original plastic jar and try to find Pita that's not in the refrigerated section of the store, but what cheeses keep? What other recommendations do people have?

I'm also curious about how people minimize food bulk. We were OK with weight on that trip, but we had a helluva time getting even a week's worth of food for one person into a large Bearikade. Since then I've discovered vacuum-packed trail foods (e.g., Enertia <http://www.trailfoods.com/>), which have a lot less bulk than the big bags we bought in 2004 (e.g., Mountain House, Backpacker's Pantry), but what other tricks do people use to get the advertised 10 days worth of food into one of those canisters? Also, any organizational tricks? We had some very frustrating packing/unpacking sessions with food strewn all over the meadows while looking for particular food items from our canisters.

-B2



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Re: What Stays Good in a Cache?

Postby balzaccom » Fri Jan 09, 2009 9:15 pm

First of all, I always rebag the freeze-dried dinners into ziplock bags. They take a LOT less space that way, and on a longer trip that makes a big difference.

We don't eat anything for b'fast that spoils---just dried oatmeal and dried fruit, so that's not an issue. And dinners are freeze dried---we also really love instant Miso soup as a first course. It's quick, easy, tasty, and very good for re-hydration.

As for lunches...we do pack salamis, and they if they are in their original casing they last a long time. So does really dry cheese like Regiano. And some dried fruit, chocolate, and something like rye krisp, and that is lunch for us.

But if it were me, I would leave a list with someone I trust, and ask them to mail the stuff a little closer to the date...would that help?
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Re: What Stays Good in a Cache?

Postby Mike McGuire » Fri Jan 09, 2009 9:29 pm

Flour tortillas come in a sealed bag while pita bread is usually in bag closed with a twist tie which is why it's more vulnerable to mold. Dry cheeses like dry jack seem to hold up better long term. Mold can be scraped off them if need be. I mostly don't use commercial "trail food". Dinners are based on some sort of carb source like instant rice, couscous, instant potatoes, or pasta--angel hair cooks quickly. It's flavored with some sort of sauce--curry powder, soup mix etc., dried vegetables, sometimes a bit of tuna or or chicken or other stuff that's available in foil pouches. Bulk stuff like rice, I put in plastic produce bags, with as much air excluded as possible, but tied off a twist tie with a bit of slack. That way I am filling the canister with bean bags which conform around each other and the around the unavoidable hard angular stuff, rather than baseballs which have waste space between them. With the bag closed like that, I then cut away any surplus bag material. In general, I discard all possible packaging material. You don't have to fit you first day's food into the canister because unless you leave your pack unattended, you will have it under your control until that food is used. You might not need to mail your food so far ahead if you sent it to Vermillion Valley rather than the Muir Trail Ranch.

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Re: What Stays Good in a Cache?

Postby gary c. » Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:35 pm

Something that I have considered but am not really sure about (maybe someone here knows?) is one of the many cheeses that are dipped in wax when you buy them. Someone told me that they keep very well until you break the wax seal. For lunches and sometimes a dinner I like to take the ramen noodles in a bag and break them up while they are still sealed in the bag. Once they are loose they pack great. I usually have at least one pop open while crushing the noodles but they are cheap so who cares, chuck it. I leave them in the original bag because it's lighter than a ziplock. By adding a foil pack of tuna or salmon it makes for a good meal.

As for the peanutbutter leaking out of it's tube I think it can be prevented by doing like I do with sunscreen. I sqeeze all of the air out and even some of the contents if I think it's necessary to allow room for expansion from increased altitude. I once had the bottom of a sunscreen tube blow open from being taken from 3k to 10k and I had forgot to double bag it :retard:
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Re: What Stays Good in a Cache?

Postby rlown » Sat Jan 10, 2009 2:50 pm

Ok,

I agree with the rice cache, and repacking the freeze-dried stuff, but here's my sierra lunch:

Slices of Hickory Farms summer sausage (they store well until you open them)
Canned (spray) cheese (ok, it's heavy, but they're good for 5 days of lunch!!)
fresh small sourdough rolls. they last a good 5 days, no mold.

I admit this all doesn't fit in a standard Yose Bear canister on a 7 day trip, but bears haven't really been a problem for that. i separate my food into what fits in the canister and what i could lose. I sleep with what i might lose. 20 years.. no loss. Only 1 bear i had to pelt with stones. Still had my food.

Russ

I agree that if you get stuff mailed to you at the last possible moment on the trail, that's best.
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Re: What Stays Good in a Cache?

Postby gary c. » Sat Jan 10, 2009 3:18 pm

B2, I've never had the "Enertia" meals, are they any good?
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Re: What Stays Good in a Cache?

Postby BSquared » Sat Jan 10, 2009 3:58 pm

gary c. wrote:B2, I've never had the "Enertia" meals, are they any good?
Gary C.

In a word, "OK." I've had some bean stuff (I forget what it's called) that was great, spaghetti that was only so-so, and cheesecake that was absolutely terrific. They have a sampler pack you can get to try at home, but of course freeze-dried food doesn't taste nearly as good at home as it does at 10,000 ft after hiking 15 miles!

-B2
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Re: What Stays Good in a Cache?

Postby dharter » Sat Jan 10, 2009 4:48 pm

RE; the cache - best cheeses are the harder, drier cheeses - parmesan, sonoma dry jack. Any dry cured italian salumi - you see them hanging in the shops - will last. I love ready to eat bacon - prefer the thin. For snacks, the 100 calorie bags of cookies, crackers are a treat. The lower the moisture content, the longer the cache life.

I did purchase the Enertia sampler and later some of the meals. I thought the speghetti was the best I have eaten; cheesecakes are fantastic, shendoah soup, mckenzie chowder, moosilauke goulash (really good) and sierra scramble were good. Boosted my hot chocolate mix and oatmeal and blueberries (favorite mountain house breakfast) with a couple extra tablespoons of the 26% dry milk.

Another item I really like is the Nuun hydration drink tablets. Compact, packed in a plastic tube, drop one in a 16oz nalgene bottle and let it fizz - ready to drink a couple of minutes. Much less messy than the powdered drinks.
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Re: What Stays Good in a Cache?

Postby balzaccom » Sun Jan 11, 2009 8:51 am

I have to comment on this:

'I sleep with what I might lose. 20 years.. no loss. Only 1 bear i had to pelt with stones. Still had my food.'

Years ago a bear went straight through a tent wall to get the toothpaste and candy bars in it near me. The two women inside were severely mauled and ended up in the hospital. And the bear had to be destroyed. And I was in LYV once and had a bear walk straight through a group of six people and dog to eat their dinner. Your suggestion here is simply foolhardy, and ultimately depends on your ability to fight a bear with stones. If the bear gets angry, you don't stand a chance.

Last year we spend about two and half weeks in the back country and never even saw a bear. That's doesn't mean that I am going to tell people there are no bears, or that they don't need to worry about them.

When we have food or cosmetics that won't fit in our bearvault, we run them up a tree in a stuff sack. It may not satisfy the rangers, but it seems far safer to me than sleeping with them under my pillow.
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Re: What Stays Good in a Cache?

Postby markskor » Sun Jan 11, 2009 10:47 am

Got to agree with Balzaccom on this post…just a bad idea to sleep with food in bear country. I know a lot of people that do this often, but I feel strongly that they are just tempting fate.
Here is the rub however, in YNP, it is illegal to hang food…or so it says. Realizing that often, all food will not fit in a bear can the first few nights, especially if off on an extended trip, (at least for me anyway) and I carry a Bearikade Weekender.
Thus, I too make a choice among food items and hang those few day’s worth that do not fit. I would much rather face an irate ranger and try to explain my reasons, than be surprised by a bear coming through a tent wall in the dark of night. I would hope he would see that I do also have a can with me full, and understand why I chose to break a law…for safety.
Hike safe.
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Re: What Stays Good in a Cache?

Postby rlown » Sun Jan 11, 2009 11:04 am

I guess i should be more specific in my posts. When i said, I sleep with my extra food, i meant we tend to put it somewhat close to us (maybe 10' away), and then put our pots/pans, anything that will make noise if touched, so as to be alerted if it is touched. I completely agree that food is not a pillow. And if a bear does come and get's any food, it belongs to the bear at that point.

I have hung extra food in trees in YNP as well as a last resort, when there were tall enough trees around the places we chose to camp.

I like the idea of taking a spare container, but on extended trips, I'm already pushing my pack weight and strap capacity.

Sorry if i wasn't clear before,

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Re: What Stays Good in a Cache?

Postby Haiwee » Wed Jan 14, 2009 8:03 am

For our last JMT trip, we mailed our cache to Vermillion about a week before we left. By the time our trip was over, our last dinner had been out of the refrigerator for three weeks and was fine. Here's what we did for meals:

Breakfasts: Instant oatmeal or instant Cream of Wheat, maybe with some dried fruit. Shelf life: forever.

Lunches: Homemade Power Bars, vacuum-sealed, along with either salami or summer sausage, crackers and cheese. As has been mentioned, sausages and salami have an indefinite shelf life and wax-covered cheeses (I like smoked Gouda) keep well.

Dinners: We dehydrated our own food and stored it in vacuum-sealed bags. Home-made dehydrated food tastes better and is far cheaper than freeze-dried. The vacuum-sealed dehydrated hamburger we ate with our spaghetti the last night showed no signs of going rancid. You can dehydrate cooked pasta, too. To rehydrate, just put it in boiling water, take it off the stove, and let it sit in a cozy for three or four minutes. Saves on fuel.

We also ate lots of couscous with dried veggies as well as instant rice (keeps forever). Dehydrated hamburger, refried beans and chunky salsa make a great burrito mix. You can safely dehydrate almost anything -- use your imagination. Before drying, cook meats completely and squeeze as much fat out with paper towels as possible (some people rinse their hamburger, but I personally think this is unnecessary overkill). If you want your vegetables to look pretty, blanch them in boiling water for a couple of minutes before drying.

IMO, the vacuum sealing is the key. This completely removes the oxygen that fosters mold and spoiling. My vacuum sealer is the best gift my ex-wife ever gave me. One caveat: don't vacuum seal fruit leathers, like the dried tomato paste that forms the base for our spaghetti sauce. The vacuum sealing process renders it a solid rock of dried tomato that takes forever to rehydrate. Instead, I've learned fruit leathers will keep fine for several weeks in a zip-lock bag.
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