UHT—Meal planning

UHT—Meal planning
 (Rating: 4.4/5, 8 Votes)

Read about my complete Uinta Highline Trail experience, including prep, gear, logistics, and post-hike impressions.

My hike on the Uinta Highline Trail will cover 65 miles over 5½ days. That’s much slower than normal for me, but I’m hiking with a less seasoned backer and I want her to enjoy herself. We will arrive at the eastern trailhead (Chepeta Lake) around 4:00 pm on August 24. We hope to get 7 miles in before sunset in order to shorten our average mileage for the next five days. That will leave us with around 12 miles per day. I secretly hope to grind out enough miles that we’re done before lunch on the fifth day, but I’ve told my hiking partner that she can pick the campsites each night. Who knows what’ll happen?

We’re taking dinner for the first night, but not the fifth. There’s an all-you-can-eat sushi place in Salt Lake City that we’re planning to visit on the way back from trail regardless of our hygiene. That means we’ll need to stick to the schedule. I’m used to pushing myself hard to finish early, but my hiking partner isn’t. Still, when all you have to do all day is walk, you end up doing a lot of it. So I don’t think we’ll run into any problems with our itinerary or our meal planning.

Meal planning

The best thing about a 5-day hike is the fact that you don’t need to deal with the messy logistics of a resupply. And every day that you eat, your pack gets lighter. I’ve written at length about my unique meal planning. I won’t reiterate it here. The short version is that I don’t like sweets. That means no chocolate, peanut butter, vanilla, honey, etc. Whole categories of commercial backpacking food are off-limits to me. I also only like to cook at dinner. The rest of the day I prefer to be moving. So that means cold food until nighttime for me.

I’m used to maximizing calories for big miles. But I’m only doing 12 miles per day on this trip, so I can afford to pack a little lighter. I’m not taking my usual trail pizzas or any other heavy lunches. I am planning to increase my caloric intake as the days go on, but I don’t think I’ll be as hungry as I am when I do 25-mile days.

I’m planning to eat my usual energy gel each morning when I wake up. Then I’ll snack on dried fruit and assorted jerky flavors until lunchtime. At lunch, I’m planning to eat some tuna salad with crackers for the first couple of days. This is a new thing that I’ve discovered. I probably wouldn’t keep these processed meals around the house, but they’re great out on the trail. They’re wet and canned, so they’re relatively heavy and bulky in terms of calories per ounce. But if you eat them early on your hike, there’s not much of a weight penalty. These are the flavors that I like.

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They’re not the most filling snacks in the world, but they taste like luxuries when you’ve been eating so much dried food.

After the first couple of days, I’m switching to assorted sausages and cheeses. I’m even adding olives the last couple of days to give myself a sort of backwoods charcuterie platter. World Market is the best place to find small-portioned, shelf-stable meats and cheeses. You can buy them online, but they’re overpriced compared to what you’ll pay in the store.

I added a handful of wildcard snacks to get me from lunch to dinner, but I don’t usually eat in the afternoons. I will have some leisure time on this trip, but I’m planning to do some fly fishing. When I get hungry, I’ll simply go ahead and cook my dinner.

Dinners are my usual fare. I’ve planned for the portions to get larger each day I’m out on the trail. I’m using condiments to spice up the pre-packaged entrees, and I’ve dressed up some ramen-style dinners with extra proteins and electrolytes. Learn more about how I augment my freezer-bag meals here: JMT thru-hike meal prep.

Food storage

Despite owning the BV450 and BV500 bear canisters, I’m not taking either on this trip. Canisters are not required and there shouldn’t be any bears at our altitude. We’ll be between 10,000 and 12,000 feet for the most part. Much of that is above the tree line. I did purchase two 12×20-inch Opsacks for the trip. They’re supposed to block the odor of the food in the bags. I’m much more worried more about rodents gnawing their way into my food supply than predators stealing away with it in the night.

I’m also taking my Zpacks Bear Bagging Kit (see my gear UHT gear list). Our food bags will get smaller every day we’re out there. I’m hoping to camp below the tree line near the lakes. That way I can hang our food away from our tent each night.

Pre-hike impressions

Meal planning causes me a lot of anxiety. In an ideal world, I’d finish my hike with zero food left in my pack. In the real world, I’ve always had some kind of food that I started out liking and ended up hating by the end of each trip. I never quite know if I’m taking enough food to compensate for this contingency. And I’m not taking a spare ramen packet or anything else in case we end up spending an extra night in the wilderness. So we’d better stick to our hiking schedule or ration our food.

My Opsack weighed in at +/-6 pounds, meaning I’m taking a little over a pound of food per day. That seems light to me. Then again, I’m not doing big miles, so I don’t need a lot of food. Only time will tell if I’ve planned well. Either way, I’ll report back after the trip.

Post-hike impressions

I did not pack too much food. Because of our evolving timetable, I ended up packing some food out, but not much.

The hail/sleet/rain storm on day 1 only allowed us enough time to boil water for one hot dinner. I hydrated my girlfriend’s Mountain House Chicken and Dumplings (it was really good) and figured I wasn’t very hungry anyway. I had a big lunch on day 4, so I didn’t eat dinner that night either. Or, you could say I drank my dinner calories instead.

We actually ate that dinner for breakfast on the morning of day 5. It was a double helping of Mama Tom Yum Flavour Instant Noodles with added chicken, TVP, and powdered milk and my girlfriend said it was her favorite thing she had eaten on the trail so far.

I ended up getting sick of all the dried fruit except for the apples, but I still ate most of it. I loved the chicken/tuna salads but was very happy to break that packaging down and move on to the sausage and cheese for lunch. Overall, I think I’ve dialed in how much food I need on trips like this.

I lost several pounds even after accounting for the post-hike feasting, but that was to be expected. I probably burned around 4500 calories per day and I only consumed around half that.

The Opsacks worked very well. We slept with our food in the foot of the tent. I’ve never done that before and was wary of it at first. We never had any animals show any interest in our food bags that I know of. We saw rodents and deer checking out the spots where we had cooked (and probably spilled) our dinners, but no creatures seemed to be attracted to the odor-proof food storage bags mere feet away.

I will complain that the zip tops on the bags became more difficult to close as the trip wore on. I don’t know if that’s normal or a result of user error. I’ll keep the bags for the occasional overnight trip, but I would probably buy new bags for multi-day trips requiring lots of food.

Next: Day 1—Chepeta Lake to Taylor Lake

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UHT—Meal planning
 (Rating: 4.4/5, 8 Votes)

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I'm the C.C. in C.C. Hikes. I'm a digital marketing specialist by trade and an avid weekend explorer. I built this site to log my travels to interesting parks, trails, and roadside attractions. You can use my travelog to discover fun places to visit and then use my interactive map to navigate there. Or browse through the categories to find something you like.

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