By Renee Patrick, Triple Crown thru-hiker, Oregon Desert Trail Coordinator

One of the aspects I love most about long distance backpacking is the eating. After a few months on the trail hikers have usually burned away all the extra padding that has fueled the first few hundred or thousand miles, and the body enters a stage I like to call “eat all the things” phase.

I love the idea of preparing my own food ahead of time. Of spending hours cooking some of my favorite dishes, lovingly dehydrating my meals and carefully placing them in vacuum sealed packages for resupply boxes that will be sent up and down the trail, but in reality I never have the time, or inclination to cook. In all honesty I don’t really cook in real life, so cooking to get ready for a hike just doesn’t happen.

On the first few long trails I hiked I subsisted primarily on ramen, instant potatoes, and Lipton side dinners. The best I can say about those food choices are they filled my belly. In reality they were calories void of nutrition and any real substance. Filling your body with empty calories might get you the next mile down the trail, but that deficit adds up over the weeks and months.

Since discovering and eating Backpackers Pantry dinners on the trail I don’t feel as lame for not preparing my own meals ahead of time. I let them test and perfect the perfect meals to feed my hiker hunger.  Fortunately many of their options come in servings of 2, which is an ideal amount for 1 hungry girl on the trail.

Some of my favorites: Chana Masala (curry, yum!), Beef Stroganoff with Wild Mushrooms (oh so hardy), Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce (so much yes) and Fettuccini Alfredo with Chicken (carbs!).

On a recent packrafting trip on 140 miles of the Owyhee River (a paddle alternate on the Oregon Desert Trail) temperatures ranged in the low 100’s. It was hot. Fortunately I was paddling and could jump in whenever I wanted, but at times I just couldn’t bring myself to fire up my stove and make a hot dinner, so I packed a few cold soak meals for the first time…AMAZING! The Cold Pasta Salad with Vegetables and Cold Black Bean Salad were the perfect solution and I didn’t have to sweat more than I needed to.

Then there are the desserts: Dark Chocolate Cheesecake and Coconut Key Lime Pie. That is all I need to say... you can imagine how exquisite those treats are after a 30 mile day in the mountains.

I’m all for making your own backpacking gear, and getting creative with your hiking meals, but if you are like me and would rather look at maps than hover over the oven, try out some Backpacker’s Pantry meals some time! They know how to feed the hiker hunger.

Renee “She-ra” Patrick has a serious hiking addiction and has hiked over 10,000 miles on 9 long distance trails. She is the Oregon Desert Trail Coordinator for the new 750 mile route through Oregon’s high desert. When not hiking, she can be found packrafting, skiing, rafting or looking at maps in Bend, Oregon. Read about her adventures here: www.sherahikes.wordpress.com.