Note: Part 1 of two articles on trail food options is designed for day-trip wheeling, when leaving and returning home the same day. Most of these items also require a cooler. Part 2 will focus on trail food options for wheeling while camping, multi-day wheeling trips, or those times when a cooler isn't desired.
Recently a reader contacted me and requested a post on food to make for four-wheeling trips. Since it’s always good to have different meal ideas for the trail, here are some options to consider!
The sky’s the limit on these babies. On your tortilla of choice, place toppings and condiments, roll, devour. You can make these in advance if desired, or just toss everything in a cooler and assemble during lunch break on the trail. Here are some combos:
Ham, cheese, mayo
Turkey, cheese, ranch
PB and banana
Almond butter and raisins
Tips: Next time you’re at the store, buy some extra tortillas, packaged lunch meats, and pre-sliced cheeses. Throw it all in the freezer and the next time you head out on a last minute trail run you’ll have lunch ingredients ready to take along. I also like to grab a couple extra mayo, ketchup, or mustard packets if I’m at a fast food place as they make great squeeze-on condiments for trail food. Also, I buy the small tubs of individual Ranch dressing/dip specifically for trail and camp outings as they are easy to use and transport. These have more packaging (waste) than a bottle of Ranch but since I don’t wheel every weekend I’m ok with it. While you’re stocking up on individual condiments to use on trail food, also look at packets of peanut butter or almond butter (Justin’s is a good brand). Consider keeping all these small non-perishables stored in the cooler you take wheeling – that way you don’t have to gather them all together before a trip. If you eat low-carb, forego the tortillas and just make roll-ups of meat, cheese and condiments - maybe add lettuce too. And lastly, before you head out the door, include some fruits or veggies (apples, oranges, or baby carrots all transport well), water or other beverage, and some snacks. Enjoy the trail!
As with tortilla roll-ups, these can be made the morning of your trail run, or built during lunch on trail. All that’s required is bread of choice, toppings, and condiments. The drawback is that most bread isn’t as durable as a tortilla, but sandwiches are still delicious. And, if you’re running short on time or ingredients you can stop by a Subway or sandwich shop on your way out of town, and pop a ready-made lunch in your cooler to enjoy on trail. Everybody’s got their favorite sandwich, but here are some combo ideas:
Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato (BLT) – with mayo or ranch
Chicken Salad and Apple (make an easy chicken salad - chopped chicken, sliced celery, sliced green onion, dried cranberries, mustard, mayo, salt & pepper - mix)
Turkey, Cheese, Avocado – with mayo or ranch
Tips: Take along portable individual condiments, such as mentioned above, and wait until just before eating to add them. This way sandwiches won’t get soggy. Bring along some chips, fruits or veggies, water, and snacks. Enjoy!
Chili or Soup
Perfect for trail runs at high altitude or a snow run… dust off that old thermos and fill it with HOT soup or chili right before heading out the door. Soup is ridiculously easy to make (chop a bunch of stuff, throw it in a pot, add some salt and seasonings, and cook it for awhile) or you can buy pre-made at the store. Here’s a chili recipe I like (if you make it the day before you can take leftovers wheeling!). Never underestimate the awesomeness of warm food when it starts to snow during your trail lunch break at 11,000 feet!
Tips: Take along crackers if you like, and a chunk of good cheese to round out your meal. Add water and snacks and don’t forget a spoon or spork!
This option takes a little more work on trail but it’s good to have extra food just in case you need it, so keep a couple pre-packaged dehydrated meals in your rig just in case. Don’t forget extra water, a JetBoil or similar, extra fuel, and a reliable fire-starting method. This option may not work for all trail runs (often lunches are wolfed down while standing around for 15 minutes somewhere around noon). But, if the group plans a longer lunch you could enjoy a hot meal – I discuss several backpacker meal brands here.
WATER. Bring way more than you think you’ll need. I also keep a water filter and iodine water treatment in my Jeep at all times – just in case.
Snacks – jerky, nuts, trail mix, Cheetos (my son’s favorite trail food), dried fruits – all of these items transport well and don’t need a cooler.
Garbage bag or old grocery sack – to collect all your individual condiment waste or other garbage.
Pocket knife and spork – the knife you should always have anyway. The spork is nice if needed.
Food for four-legged friends! Don’t forget about the pups! I keep extra dog food in my Jeep all the time, and I bring even more along on trail runs if our dogs are with us. We never know when the trail will turn interesting and make for a longer day than planned...
As you can see, trail food really depends on a person’s personal taste and preferences. I like to keep things simple for both prep and eating – that leaves me with more time to WHEEL!
What do you like to eat on trail runs? Leave comments below!