One of the bigger challenges in preparing for our Alaskan adventure was wilderness food. Some of the bigger considerations were:

  • Planning and gathering 35 days of food. We wanted a 5 day buffer for bad weather delaying our pick-up.
  • All the food and anything else scented (toiletries, soap, cookware) must fit inside a 30 gallon bear canister. Really, it was a steel drum that Dan found from Unitech of Alaska.
  • Because we had limited space for food, it meant we had to maximize calorie-to-volume and weight for each food. Details are below.
  • Everything must be stored at room temperature. Nothing fresh or perishable within a few weeks.

It’s really really great that Dan is organized and detail-oriented. He made this spreadsheet to figure out how much food we needed for 30 days in the wilderness:

30 Days Wilderness Food Spreadsheet
Not enough margarita.

If it were up to me, I would have guessed on everything and we would have ran out of food on day 15 and died. Or we would have just brought chocolate covered almonds and died of scurvy. Really, any scenario in which I planned the food would have resulted in our demise.

So we [Dan] carefully considered our food to ensure we would have enough food and some variety. And then we bought food at either Costco, Trader Joe’s, King Soopers, or Amazon (for some of the specialty dry products). Then we hauled it 3,500 miles and hoped it wouldn’t be discarded at the border crossings. It wasn’t! But we did have bell peppers confiscated on the way home…

Then we flew it into Alaska. And thus began 30 days of guarding it with our lives against all the thieving, wily Alaskan creatures.

Last, we had to allocate it correctly (ie, not eat it all by day 17) and not cry on day 29 because we only had gel shots left for breakfast.

30 Days Wilderness Food Planning
We spent our first night in an abandoned cabin on the lake. Here I am re-organizing the food before we float away in our canoe.
30 Days Wilderness Food Planning
The bear canister enjoying the view.

So here is what we came up with:

30 Days Wilderness Food Planning

And we also made 27 freeze fried meals:

30 Days Wilderness Food Planning
I never want to see one of these again.

Here is a closer look:

30 Days Wilderness Food Planning
I wish we had brought 5x more coconut strips. Sugary + french fry shaped = perfection.
30 Days Wilderness Food Planning
Coffee and tea took the place of more food because they are morale boosters? Same with margaritas…
30 Days Wilderness Food Planning
Found these treasures at World Market. The Busseto Salamini and the mini cheeses were the favorites.

What we liked the best:

  • We brought 10 lbs of flour and ran out! That’s a lot of biscuits and pancakes…
  • Our lower calorie per mass foods (“treats”) like tortillas, English muffins, and one plastic container of jelly were consumed quickly.
  • Dried fruit – we wish we had brought more, especially the Costco dried mangoes and Trader Joe’s cranberries and berry medley mix and coconut strips.
  • Nut mixes – like Costco’s dark chocolate coconut almonds and Costco trail mix and Costco honey roasted nut mix. I like Costco…
  • Some of the “instant” foods we liked best were the Santa Fe Bean Company’s refried beans and Idahoan instant mashed potatoes.
  • Ramen was awesome on the rainy, cooler days.
  • Beef jerky and salami were welcome protein sources as we had few otherwise.
  • Orzo! This went well with fish and sun dried tomatoes.
  • Bear Creek minestrone soup. We added some Harmony House dried black beans for more protein and it was delicious, served with biscuits of course.
  • Whiskey and margaritas. That’s a given.

What we liked the least:

  • Plain cashews. We would have preferred more Costco trail mix.
  • Chorizo pictured above. Blech.
  • We liked the freeze-dried meals, but we could have done with less since we enjoyed cooking meals.
  • PB2 powder. I would have rather brought regular peanut butter.

And here’s what we had left on day 30:

30 Days Wilderness Food Planning
The stained mattress in the abandoned cabin is unveiled.

As you can see, the top left is just spices and baking soda and the bottom right is tea and coffee. So we didn’t have too much left and our buffer for a potential 5 days more was pretty accurate. We had 7 of the 27 freeze-dried meals left:

30 Days Wilderness Food Planning
Freeze-dried meals. The red stuff is rust from the inside of the bear canister.

Overall it was quite the task to plan wilderness-appropriate food. But we didn’t die of starvation so I’d say it was a success (low standards much?).

The end.


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