Most trip reports seem to gloss over the food preparation. But I thought I’d try to cover some of the detail of taking food for a few days walk, particularly since I tend to point people at this blog who are just starting out.
We really would have preferred to have simply carried boil in the bag freeze dried meals (that’s probably how other trip reports gloss over this!). But with LB’s potato allergy and my discovery that tomatoes, sweet peppers and chillis are what caused my painfully swollen sinuses – there aren’t any that work for us. (Though it seems antihistamines may be a work-around for me in future…).
We still wanted the weight saving and “fresh” tasting food that freeze drying gives. So we simply went for single-ingredient freeze dried items and made up our own meals.
We carried a fair amount of food for the main walk since there is nowhere to buy anything between Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk (Thorsmork), and although there is a small shop at Þórsmörk we weren’t at all sure of what it would have in stock. And since we originally planned a night at the top between Þórsmörk and Skógar we actually carried enough food for six full days.
So we bought from two sources; (Edit Dec 2012: European Freeze Dry don’t sell direct, instead go to Mountain House’s single ingredients page) and the excellent Wilderness Dining.
Getting the food there
The restrictions on bringing food into Iceland are not too onerous. There is an allowance of 3KG (not exceeding the value of ISK 13,000) below which you are not required to pay tax. Above that a percentage of the value of the food that you bring with you is charged. We had a very friendly email exchange with the Icelandic customs when we were trying to establish exactly how the charging worked. In essence we never did find out and they finished by saying “Don’t worry about it!” – so we didn’t.
One thing to ensure – that all your meat is cooked. Just being dried is not good enough (though one customs email implied it was…). So when we bought our freeze dried chicken we asked European Freeze Dry to label it specifically as cooked (it is cooked – but the standard label doesn’t normally say it is).
We kept most food in its original packaging so that any customs official looking at it wouldn’t bin it because they couldn’t identify it. We also brought spare bags to repack it in on the first night.
||One thing that we found well worth doing is making a list of all the food that we planned to eat, on which day.Not that we stuck to it – just for ensuring you have enough. And then ticking it off against the list as you put it into a bag. It’s surprisingly easy to think you’ve kept it all in one place, all ready to pack, when you have actually left some in another cupboard.
And then, and this sounds nuts, do it again. We did and inexplicably noticed two things we’d somehow missed on the first pass. (My theory is that it’s so plain boring doing this that you simply make mistakes – but I’d rather go through the boredom twice than be without some food).
We bought some food like porridge and chocolate in a supermarket in Iceland (in Kringlan) and discovered just how expensive food really is in Iceland. Or perhaps was? The Krona is not really that strong at the moment for some reason.
A lot of the detail of what we ate is in the spreadsheet linked below but for some of the thinking and methods we used see below.
(Spreadsheet was created in Open Office. It edits the same files as MS Office. It’s free and it works really well).
||BreakfastWe had porridge, in bags that are intended for roasting (the bags are intended for roasting – not the porridge!) mixed with nuts, freeze dried fruit or chocolate.
Pour the boiling water in the bag (hence using ones suitable for roasting – less likelihood of plasticisers leaching into the porridge) and stick in the pot cosy for five minutes before eating from the bag.
I find it surprisingly easy to eat too much porridge and carrying too much would go against the grain – I’m trying to save weight here. On the other hand carrying too little has even worse consequences. So we’ve been weighing what we use and deciding on how much is just right: 75gms + 30gms of “other bits” seems to be the Goldilocks Value.
So, whilst we were still at home with access to digital scales, we weighed out one of our normal bag 75 gram bags of porridge (just the porridge). Then we pushed it all into a corner and tightly rolled up the bag, as if we were about to cut the corner and “pipe” icing onto a cake from it.
Then we took a permanent felt tip marker pen and drew around the rolled up bit. After emptying it we had an easy way of measuring out roughly 75 grams of porridge without using scales.
It’s much easier to do than to write down believe me!
For lunches we wanted things that needed no cooking. You don’t want to get a stove out and wait for water to boil in lashing rain.
We counted our GORP as part of the lunch food. About 100 grams a day of whatever you fancy does wonders to lift the spirits after battling through the clag.
We keep it in a Simblissity Unslack Pack so that it’s really easy to get to.
||DinnerThe dinners all started with a simple “soup” made from Kallo Organic Stock Cubes. We’d boil enough water for two cups of that and for re-hydrating the dinner.
The dinner was re-hydrated in the large pan, and then halved into the smaller pan and we ate directly from there.
On thing that the much-mentioned two French guys introduced me to that I really enjoyed was buttered Harðfiskur (dried fish). Carrying the butter might be fiddly but it was extremely tasty and not very strongly fishy.
We also took dried herbs and home-made curry powder (no chilli!) as well as ground black pepper and sea salt (it’s stronger flavoured and has more potassium and less sodium than table salt). They were all packed in tiny Backpacking Light MicroZip bags.
Dessert was usually a bag of freeze dried strawberries. One 100 gram bag apparently re-hydrates with 900ml of water – meaning you’re effectively carrying a kilo of strawberries per bag!
We find that one last us for two nights (four desserts). Once you’ve opened a bag you’ll need an freezer bag or Aloksak to keep it in. You’ll also need a rubber band so you can roll the top down and wrap the band around to keep the contents from dusting themselves everywhere (strawberry dust is almost as insidious as volcanic dust – but far tastier).
I am generally fairly paranoid about water but even though I carried a couple of tiny bottles of Aquamira I never decided to use them.
Mostly our water came from the supply at the huts, but failing that we used melting snow-pack streams. Would I carry the 25grams of Aquamira again? Well… probably – since the weight is so small and it does mean you could drink something suspect if you had to.