A Thruhiker’s Advice on Short-term Prepping

To everyone who’s asked me for advice on which dehydrated meals to stockpile:

1) Thruhikers don’t usually eat those.

When you’re eating 6,000 calories a day, you can’t afford it; when you’re hungry enough to eat 6,000 calories a day, you’ll eat anything; good luck finding them in some triplecrown *trail towns,* let alone further afield.

2) YOU don’t need them.

We carry our food on our backs, for days and days at a time, and prepare it over tiny stoves by headlamp-light (the power or batteries for which, we also have to carry). We need food that is light and easy to prepare.

You have… cupboards. And… stoves. And… refrigerators.

Buy… food.

3) Also it doesn’t matter because they’re basically sold out everywhere


4) It’s never a bad idea to have a few weeks’ emergency supply for every person and pet in your family.

This includes food; water; medication; any other necessities; and, yes, a few rolls of toilet paper.

My “necessities” are toothpaste and coffee. Sit down and make your own list.

I also recommend tons of ziplocs and trash bags, in case trash collection is interrupted.

5) For food: determine your caloric needs. 2000kcal/day is a fine assumption. Multiply by number of days. Then buy that much food.

Read the nutritonal panels. Count the calories. Do the math.

OR break it down as: 1 breakfast + 1 lunch + 1 dinner + 3 snacks x #mouths x #days.

Thruhikers tend to eat lots of cheap and calorie dense foods: ramen noodles, instant mashed potatoes, pasta sides, instant oatmeal, powdered smoothies, peanut butter, foil packets of tuna or chicken or the like. Then add oil/clarified butter to… everything. Calories abound. This is a cheap and easy way to meet your caloric needs via easy-to-cook nonperishables.

However, if you want to buy canned soup, or tinned meat, or jarred pasta sauce – flaunt your backpack-free privilege. Buy it up.

You could also look at other nutrients. But A) even a ramen-heavy diet will give you a pretty well-rounded nutrient intake, especially for a period as short as a month; B) if you’re housebound, you probably won’t need a lot of protein (or calories); C) if you’ve ever eaten like a thruhiker… I wouldn’t worry about needing more sodium.

6) Buy a variety of food.

You surely could eat the same stuff for a week, or even a month. Why? Buy variety. Two weeks into The Purge and you will thank me.

In this same vein: think of adding some hot sauce, or soy sauce, or Mrs. Dash, or anything else that can turn cheap instant food into a satisfying meal. When I’m on trail, my ramen (about every night!) includes toasted sesame oil; ground ginger; powdered habanero; a True Lime packet; an ounce of bulk dried veggie flakes; and sometimes seaweed, sesame seeds, and even dried or cured meat. If I can do that at 11,000′ on Day 6 of a food carry, you sure as hell can do it in your own home.

7) Store the food well.

If you’re interested in long-term storage, make sure you put it in pest-proof containers. You don’t need bear cans. You have walls. Pet food containers are cheap and work great.

There are worse things to have around than mousetraps, ant traps, etc.

8) If you want to prepare for water scarcity:

If there’s a natural source nearby: get a filter. A gravity filter system will be easiest – Katadyn is great for fairly clear water sources; Sawyer is slower but can be backflushed. If there’s a risk of freezing – store the filter in an insulated container, preferably on your body at all times.

If filtering won’t be an option: I budget 2gal/person/day (1 to drink, 1 to cook). YMMV.

You can also orient your food purchases towards things that don’t require water to cook.

9) If you want to prepare for power scarcity:

Either buy food that doesn’t require cooking… OR, get a cook system and enough fuel.

On the trail, I use canister fuel (cheap and easy to store) and a tiny stove (Ubens BRS; about $15 on Amazon). This is a fine option for the home. For a cookpot, your regular pots will be fine ^.^

You could also purchase something that burns other fuels – or even a multi-fuel burner, like the MSR Whisperlite system.

Power scarcity has other effects. There are worse things than owning a bunch of Anker power banks – the 26800mAh are delightful – and keeping them fully charged. You might consider investing in a solar charger – 21W *minimum*, 40 or more will be delightful – or more than 1, depending on number of people in your household.

10) If you want to prepare for air scarcity:

My dude, I cannot help you.

9) Other gear you might want:

Warm clothing and sleep gear, if cold weather + loss of power are both being prepared for.

Clothing that doesn’t require frequent washing. Especially if water/power scarcity is being anticipated. Especially especially if warm weather is in the offing. The answer, here, is “merino wool.” As it is on the trail, so it is off of it.

Rechargable gear. Good headlamps (I can vouch for Petzl and Black Diamond) and/or flashlights (THRUNITE IS LIFE). A radio is delightful, especially one with other features – look up the Kaito KA900 for what I would call “features porn.” Or you could rely on batteries, or handcrank gear, or candles, or nothing. But – come on, if I can carry it for thousands of miles, you probably want it in your literal house.

First Aid equipment. When thruhiking, I carry somewhere between “nothing” and “some gin,” but um, your mileage may vary :-)

10) And to any thruhikers who are reading this

My “4 week supply of emergency rations” is just my “four resupply boxes for the CDT.” How’s that for dual-purpose gear?





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