Food can really make or break a trip and the West Coast Trail (WCT) is no exception. Great meals will keep you energized and increase morale. In my opinion, the keys to successful food planning are:
- Make sure you have enough (but not too much).
- Have lots of flavour.
- Keep things convenient.
- Keep it light.
I was in a 3-person “meal group” for the trail that shared responsibilities for dinners – each of us did our own thing for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. I will have a chart with my full meal break-down at the end. Let’s address each of the 4 key points first.
1. Make sure you have enough (but not too much).
To make sure I had the right amount of food, I created my daily menu and then looked at the calories for each of the food items. I then tweaked the quantities of each food item to land at 3000-3500 calories a day (my basal metabolic rate is ~2200 calories). I knew I would be in a caloric deficit, which is fine for a week or so. I also knew, based on other trips, that I would not be hungry enough throughout the day to consume much more than 3000 calories. Here’s how the amount of calories usually broke down over the course of the day:
Breakfast – 400cal
Lunch – 500cal
Dinner – 750cal
Snacks – 1700cal
Total – 3350cal
2. Have lots of flavour.
Bland food can really ruin a trip. Getting creative with meals and snacks so they are flavourful and you do not get sick of them is a lot of fun. I did a pretty good job with my meals, except the lunches. I would have had different flavours for my lunches. Let’s take oatmeal as an example of a good approach to a meal – I ate it every day for breakfast; but each day, I had different dehydrated fruit or nuts or chocolate chips that I added in to make it more edible.
Having each of the three people in the “food group” cook a dinner let the differences in cooking approaches shine through and added variety to meals. We made and dehydrated all of our dinners ourselves. For dinners, good sauces/spices is key! Bring extra salt and pepper in little baggies.
3. Keep things convenient.
While pancakes for breakfast or pizza for dinner sound great and fun, the last thing you will want to do before or after a long day is deal with the intricacies of a complicated meal and all the dishes that you will need to wash. Being able to cook a meal all in one pot or just needing to add hot water to a bowl is quick and easy and results in few dishes to wash.
While hiking, have quick grab and go snacks and lunches. Pre-portioned snacks in little baggies or bars are great snacks. Avoid lunches that need to be cooked unless you have an especially short day that allows you to take your time on the trail.
4. Keep it light.
One person in my group brought an entire jar of peanut butter “just in case” and did not eat any of it; this comment leads back to point one where having the right amount of food is key. You do not want to be bringing heavy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables or canned food. Your best bets are dried/dehydrated food. I would actually recommend picking up a dehydrator and dehydrating your dinners yourself. If you plan on doing any more backpacking trips, it will be well worth it. A quality dehydrator that I have and recommend is the Excalibur 4-tray, 5-tray, or 9-tray (depending on your needs). The four tray can dehydrate an entire meal for 2 people easily. Experiment with dehydrating and rehydrating/cooking before the trip if you haven’t done it before.
Each day of food, for me, weighed approximately 700-750g.
Tip: Buying dehydrated fruit from the store is often cheaper than buying fresh fruit and dehydrating it yourself because it costs less to ship dried fruit.
Alright, here’s my food list for the trip:
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Day 4||Day 5||Day 6||Day 7|
|Breakfast||N/A||Oatmeal, bananas, nuts, instant milk||Oatmeal, chocolate chips, nuts, instant milk||Oatmeal, strawberries, nuts, instant milk||Oatmeal, cranberries, nuts, instant milk||Oatmeal, chocolate chips, nuts, instant milk||Oatmeal, strawberries, nuts, instant milk|
|Lunch||Triscuits, pepperoni, babybels||Tortillas, honey/peanut butter spread||Triscuits, pepperoni, babybels||Chez Monique's||Crab at Nitinat||Tortillas, honey/peanut butter spread||Triscuits, pepperoni, babybels|
|Dinner||Steak and potatoes||Cheesy beef and broccoli noodles||Chicken fajitas||Pad thai||Chicken and couscous||Chicken cashew rice curry||N/A|
|Snacks||Kind bar, jerky, almonds, peanut m&m, dried mango||Lara bar, jerky, cashews, snickers, dried apricot, snyders pretzel||Lara bar, jerky, almonds, peanut m&m, dried mango, snyders pretzels||Kind bar, jerky, cashews, snickers, dried apricot, snyders pretzel||Lara bar, jerky, almonds, peanut m&m, dried mango, snyders pretzels||Kind bar, jerky, cashews, snickers, dried apricot, snyders pretzels||Kind bar, jerky, almonds, peanut m&m, dried mango, snyders pretzels|
- The pepperoni sticks, triscuits, and babybels got old really fast. I rather of had tortillas and spread for every lunch.
- I did not eat as much jerky as I thought I would.
- A fresh lime was a nice treat for the pad thai.
- The guy who brought steak and potatoes for the first meal was hurting after carrying all that weight the first 5km. Was super tasty though.
- Fajitas was a hit.
- I brought 3 different flavours of the snyders pretzels, honey mustard, buffalo wing, and jalapeno.
Hi guys. Justin here. I hiked the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, Canada in the summer of 2018. It was an amazing trip with ups and downs (but mostly ups). Hopefully, with some of these blog posts, I can help people have as an amazing of a trip as I did by taking some of the questions and stress out of planning.