Packing, prepping, and planning for a backpacking adventure with two small children has become routine for me but that has not always been the case. When we first starting backpacking as a family three years ago, hours were spent figuring out where to go. Then it would take me a week to sort out the gear and decide what we would need. Once that was taken care of the menu had to be set. The challenge was coming up with the right food combos to satisfy the appetite of two adults and two energetic hungry children. (Who are now 7 and 5 years old.)
Searching for where to backpack is a breeze now. The Backroad Mapbook combined with a few blogs and trail guide websites I trust and find to be reliable works great. Packing our gear is done the day before we head out. A big improvement compared to a week. Unfortunately planning what and how much food to bring still is a challenge, even after three years of trial and error. BUT…. I feel like I am on the verge of a breakthrough. Our last backpacking trip to Mt. Colonel Foster and Landslide Lake (which I still need to blog about) turned out to be the best food combination to date.
I have tried the freeze dried backpacking food that caters to backpackers. Upside is how compact and light weight they were. Downside is they are expensive and as a family of four we could never agree on which ones we liked. I then tried to prepare my own freeze dried meals of sorts. Upside is it was tasty and priced right. Downside is it required far too much preparing for my liking. My last effort to fuel our tired hiking bodies was scouring the grocery isles for anything that required only water to cook with. Upside is a variety of choices and again priced right. Downside is using pre-packaged processed foods and it is not going to be lightweight.
I am well aware that there are many MANY backpackers out there who pack wonderful gourmet meals. I am envious and one day I hope to get to this point. There are also those who eat just enough to get by. This does not work when backpacking with Ben and Liv, nor me for that matter. We need plenty of snacks to offer the kids to keep their legs moving. We also need foods that will fill them up and fuel their tired bodies. So after three years of experimenting with a variety of food sources, here is what a typical two night backpacking menu looks like for our family of four.
We have three choices for breakfast. Oatmeal with raisins, granola & milk, or scrambled eggs. (We rotate which two we bring) I have found that these work best for us especially since we are all big breakfast eaters. Plain old bagels or granola bars are just not going to cut it. A big breaky really helps the kids make miles for the first half of the day. You may be thinking it is odd to pack the liquid egg mix. Yes, it is odd but it works. I suspect if it ever were to break or leak in the backpack it will not be used again. I have tried to find powdered egg mix (other that the freeze dried backpacking food) to no success.
By the time supper rolls around, Ben and Liv have worked up an appetite from hiking all day. Good old KD & tuna or rice & beans fill them up. What you see in the photo is doubled. (Except for the can of beans and tuna) Not the most lightweight combination but we are not ultra lightweight backpackers. Our pace is that of a 5 year old.
Lunch and snacks:
Key to backpacking with kids is snacks and lots of them. We pack trail mix, dried fruit, jerky, carrots, bagels and sausage. Not seen in the photo is either cream cheese or peanut butter to go with the bagels. For a two night backpacking trip, we are usually arriving at the trailhead mid day of day 1. This allows us to eat sandwiches and fresh fruit en route taking care of one lunch that does not need to be packed. Same goes for day 3. We arrive back at the trailhead where fresh fruit and fixings for sandwiches await us.
No backpacking trip is complete without a few treats. Sometimes this can be chocolate bars. Sometimes it is granola bars the kids pick out. Of course coffee makes the list as well as hot chocolate. For our upcoming backpacking trip, I chose CLIFand LUNA bars.
Somehow I also seem to find room for wine. No matter how heavy the pack is wine finds its place. The problem we are faced with now that we backpack for two nights instead of one is not enough wine! Time to get a second Platy Preserve!
I know all you hard core backpackers are probably shaking your head thinking that is a lot of weight to carry. (I do portion out everything. We do not take make 5 liters of milk!) Yes it is a lot of weight but this is what works for us. I have found that having food that the kids enjoy makes the backpacking experience that much better. So, if we want to explore remote areas and experience outdoor life, this is how we make it happen.