HIKING FOOD: We are always working on this: one thing is pretty certain: those dehydrated meals sold in hiking shops & etc are almost universally inedible. We did a survey of them, cooking them up and sampling them at lunchtime at home, rating them: edible, palatable, inedible, disgusting etc. Then we fed them to our dogs. It was incredible how many were considered inedible by dogs – which will heartily eat their own vomit and even your faeces if they can get at it! Not recommended – same goes for the hiking food. Dehydrated supermarket food is much preferable. Of course it is a good idea to work out a variety of this (and not to eat it very often except when hiking – so that anticipation doesn’t spoil it for you). In the wilderness you have no other choice (save what you can catch or shoot etc – more about that later), AND you are almost always universally hungry at mealtimes, so there is less of a problem on the day than you might think. ‘Mix and match’ is a good axiom: it is surprising what an appetising repast you can have from combining a variety of foods which you would not normally put together. A young American friend, Steve Hutcheson concocted a memorable banquet in this way on the final night of our Dusky walk in 2012 in the Upper Spey Hut by basically combining all the ingredients all of us had left-over.
RECIPES: You can often combine Cup-a-Soup with two minute noodles to make a reasonable lunch. Examples are Continental Asian Lakhsa, Sweet Potato & Bacon, and Mexican flavours. Continental Dutch Curry and Rice is VERY tasty. Similarly, some of the powdered sauce mixes eg Continental Tuna Mornay actually makes a reasonable mornay if (perhaps a third of a pack) is combined with a sachet of tuna and some Surprise peas and a pack of two minute noodles. You can do the same sort of thing with dehydrated mince, especially your own! Some dishes can be supplemented (eg with some salami – we find the Hans Twiggies good for this as they require no refrigeration: it guarantees this on the packet, unlike other brands – food poisoning is dangerous, especially up the bush, and your own risk!) We have found eg Continental Four Cheeses meals good for this, and Ainsley Harriot’s, Lentil Dahl. Try out some of these dehydrated meals from the supermarket at home: the pastas, the rices, the lentils, the couscous, etc and experiment with some favourite additives. Write down what you like and use it as the basis of your hiking days’ menu list. Naturally what you eat in the backcountry will depend (just as it does at home) on your own (dreadful) personal taste. One clear thing to remember is: CALORIES PER GRAM. As you have to bring all the food with you (except what you catch/collect – as above) the more calories per gram, the less weight you have to lug in. READ THE PACKET INFO! Some things are wonderful as far as this is concerned, eg nuts. Some are 7 to 1 ! Sometimes we have Arnott’s 9 Grains Vita Wheat biscuits and peanut butter for lunch. Instant porridge and muesli with powdered milk make excellent easy breakfasts. You can now buy powdered eggs in every Coles supermarket (in the cake section). These reconstitute (with a little powdered milk) into as good a scrambled egg as you are used to at home. Goes well with Continental Dehydrated Potatoes (best with onion!) I am quite fond of ‘Coconut Rice” which we make by combining a little coconut powder with the rice when you are cooking it. You can boil the rice, then dry it so that it reconstitutes with less fuel out in the bush (more about this below). You can boils some water up at breakfast time, pop it into the snap-lock bag with the rice and have it for lunch eg combined with a sachet of flavoured tuna. I can still taste the excellent meal which we had at ‘Little Deadman’s Bay’ on our Tassie walk, for example – and what a lovely spot it was, too, though no dead men, thank goodness, especially me – though I WAS hungry enough! We usually have snacks such as nuts, fruit leather, muesli bars, jerky, dried fruit mixes etc. A few ‘boiled’ lollies – such as Werthers are nice. I always take Bacardi 151 rum (75% alcohol) in a Platypus bottle as it is the lightest way to carry booze (and who would BE without it?) I usually mix about 20ml of rum to a cup of water. Della prefers her own liqueur ‘poison’. Some people add some powdered milk eg to Kahlua. Some chewing gum is excellent as ‘dehydrated water’! Most important; plan your three daily meals before you leave home and STICK TO THE PLAN. Don’t eat all your favourites FIRST!
WILD FOOD: In the Victorian bush (and in NZ, Tasmania etc), just about every valley has tree ferns. The heart of the tree fern is several kilos of starch which becomes edible (if not particularly palatable) when roasted – it MUST be roasted. Under practically every log and stone there are beetle larvae (or grubs). You can roast these too. Grubs and worms are always very nutritious. You only need about 100 grams (half a cup full) to supply all your protein and most of your daily fat requirements – so there is no need even to go hungry. There are heaps of other edible plants, but you need to be able to identify them as some will cause diarrhoea (or worse – particularly fungi!) If you don’t know whether plants or fruit are edible it is probably best not to eat them as getting sick is more debilitating than being hungry. Greens are probably the safest plants rather than fruits. There are many books offering identification of the edible plants of your district – it might be a good idea to buy one of these and study up on it before your next trip. Burke and Wills DIED at Coopers Creek surrounding by a cornucopia of food which McDowell Stuart grew fat on when he spent several weeks there looking for them. Every waterhole for example was full of cumbungi whose roots are a starchy tuber very similar to potatoes. The water teemed with freshwater crustacea and fish, and the birdlife was astonishing – AND they had guns. Yet these ignorant men died of starvation and exposure. Don’t join them anytime soon!
Incidentally, there are pretty much NO animals whose flesh is poisonous (including mammals, reptiles and birds) especially if cooked to kill any parasites which might (unlikely) be present. Similarly there are practically no scaly fish (which LOOK like fish) which aren’t perfectly edible. Pretty much all crustaceans are edible too. BUT, you have to catch them! Surprising how many things can be caught with a forky stick: crustacea, lizards etc. Wallabies are SO stupid you can walk right up to them (pretending to be a wallaby), catch them by the tail then dash their heads against a tree – BUT you have to move very slowly and patiently – I HAVE demonstrated this for people (letting the wallaby go free as I wasn’t hungry and have eaten just about enough wallabies anyway!) Fish can often be stunned by slamming a large stick down on the water near them. There are usually water insects under stones in streams. Many other creatures can be knocked down with a thrown stone: water dragons, possums, koalas, small birds…or clobbered with a stick: lizards, echidnas etc. You might think you need to develop the skills involved in making and throwing a spear, but you do not need to in order to survive ane eat well. The womenfolk of hunter-gatherer tribes bring in the most food, mostly with just their bare hands and a stick or two picked up along the way.\
FOR MORE HIKING FOOD IDEAS GO TO: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/category/equipment/food/