Looking for backpacking meal ideas? I was recently invited to hike a section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which required putting together a 5-day meal plan. I’m sharing my meal plan here because some hikers are looking for ideas and because some of these options are also suitable for winter backpacking.
Some hikers ask me, “Do I hike in the summer?” Yes. Despite my focus on winter backpacking and my dislike of the bugs and hot weather, I try to get out year-round, even in the summer and early fall when there is minimal or no snow. The goal is to camp on snow whenever possible even in July and sometimes in August. This usually means going farther and higher up, but it allows our group to experience some excellent views. It also provides a comfortable clean surface and allows us to leave no trace where we stay.
The Mariposa 60 backpack is Gossamer Gear’s bestseller. Here are my thoughts and first impressions. With a 35-pound weight and 60-liter capacity, it passes the bar for winter backpacking. It has a removable internal frame, 7 pockets, a comfortable hip-belt and shoulder straps, and weighs only around 2 pounds. You have a choice between small, medium, and large and you can configure the hip belt size as needed.
In my ongoing quest to find the best ultra-light backpack for winter backpacking, I recently tried Outdoor Vitals’ Shadowlight™ Ultralight Backpack. This is my first impression.
Most ultralight packs are designed for light loads and 3-season thru-hikers. In recent years larger size ultra-light packs have become available. The challenge is finding ones that are adaptable to winter backpacking requirements, such as a 30–35 pound weight limit, 50–60 liters of capacity, and the ability to put all liquids, a closed-cell pad, an ice ax, and snowshoes on the exterior. The Shadowlight Ultralight Backpack is one such option.
One of the best ways to lower the amount of weight you are carrying in winter is to get an ultralight backpack. Years ago when I set out to find a light winter backpack, I settled on the Granite Gear Leopard A.C. 58. Up until now, it was my gold standard. It was built with Granite Gear’s award-winning “AC” (AirCurrent) suspension, made with durable 100- and 210-denier high-tenacity Cordura nylon, and has a 58 liter/40-lb. capacity. At around 3 pounds (lid removed) it allowed me to keep my total winter pack weight at around 28 pounds, or 32 pounds with snowshoes attached (both base weight + consumables). It worked so well that when my pack began to show signs of wear, I resisted the newer Granite Gear packs and instead picked up a second-hand Leopard that I kept around as a backup.
The French outdoor gear company Samaya sent me one of their groundbreaking ultra-light Radical 1 tents to try out. This is a minimalist 4-season solo tent.
I don’t review gear that I wouldn’t myself use, and there are not many tents I would even consider, but this one meets many important criteria, so I agreed. I took it out to the Mount Baker area, which gets an annual average of around 16 meters of snow. This was a short trip in deep snow conditions and almost constant snowfall. The persistent snowfall wasn’t our expectation. We assumed the clouds and snowfall would clear in the morning as forecast but that never happened. It was an enjoyable trip anyway.
If you have been looking around for a four-season tent, you have probably already discovered that lightweight versions, such as the MSR Advance Pro 2 costs around $800, and the Big Sky Chinook 1 cost around $600. The Chinook 1 is really the only light solo 4-season tent available on the US market that has a double-wall construction to mitigate condensation, but it has been out of stock since the pandemic.
The Leipen Air Raiz 1
I have long maintained that the 4-season tent most ideally suited for backpacking in PNW winter conditions is the Snow Peak Lago 1, once made by Snow Peak and originally designed for mountain climbers. The good news is that there are other companies in Japan making a similar tent, one of which, the Leipen Air Raiz 1, that can be shipped to the USA.
A creamy sauce with savory mushrooms and pasta is perfect after a hard hike. This dish has the added virtues of being simple and easy to make. This recipe will work well mild winter conditions (above freezing).
Doubanjiang is a super delicious spicy bean sauce made with chilies and fermented bean paste. It is more salty and umami in flavor than Gochujang. This Ramen broth will be satisfying with or without the optional ingredients of veggie stock and Kombu. This recipe will work well in the winter conditions we typically encounter on our coldest trips (0–15ºF).
This is similar to Pad Thai but has a peanut tasting sauce instead of Tamarine. You can use Tofu or peanuts for protein. Sometimes I use both. Works best in temperatures above 20ºF.