Posts Tagged ‘road trip’

Food for the road

June 1st, 2011 7 comments

There are three basic needs: food, shelter, and clothing.  Of late, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to satisfy the first of those while on the road: what should I eat?

The easy path would find me going from fast-food joint to fast-food joint, never cooking for myself and swelling up like a beach ball.  That would be disgusting, not to mention expensive.  Instead, I have three requirements when it comes to supplying myself with metabolic fuel on the trip:

  1. Inexpensive
  2. Reasonably healthy
  3. Easily prepared

Inexpensive.  Eating nothing but restaurant food would quickly wipe out my budget.  When I can make a really nice sandwich for $1.00 that would cost me $6.00 in a place like Panera, the motivation to do it myself is very strong.  Sandwiches, stir-fry, eggs, cold cereal, burritos — these are all things that can be prepared on the cheap.

I’ll have to be careful about the costs of raw ingredients, since I won’t have the facilities to keep much fresh food from going bad.  The prevalence of supermarkets will help.

I will still stop at restaurants every now and then, particularly to search for the world’s best cinnamon roll, but I plan to limit such decadence to a handful of times per week.

Reasonably healthy.  I want to stay healthy on the trip, and an important part of that will be filling my belly with good foods.  That means minimally processed shelf-stable items and plenty of fresh foods.  I’ll have to be careful to time my purchases around my numerous transits of the US-Canada border, since bringing across most unprocessed foods is forbidden, but that’s an easily managed task.

It turns out that eggs, hard cheeses, and many fruits and vegetables don’t really require refrigeration, so as long as I don’t leave them in my car, they should all be good options.  Thus, a cooler may or may not make the cut.  If I bring one, I’ll have to deal with getting ice and emptying water, which I consider a hassle.  Those reusable cold packs won’t be an option since I won’t have a way to freeze them, and the common thermoelectric coolers don’t work very well.  The main reason I’d want a cooler would be for milk, which would otherwise spoil quickly, but it might end up being less of a headache to simply buy pints of milk for immediate consumption.

I’m going to try very hard to avoid eating in the car.  That shouldn’t be too difficult, since I almost never eat in the car anyway. (In fact, I can’t remember the last time I ate in a car.) By avoiding in-car consumption, I will be forced to interact more with my surroundings and minimize boredom eating — not to mentioning removing the source for irritating crumbs and stains.  Drinking in the car will be fine, but only water, coffee, or tea.

Easily prepared. I’ve learned to be reasonably competent around a kitchen over the past few years, so the prospect of preparing meals for myself is not only comfortable but also enjoyable.

Now, I will not have the kitchen sink for this journey.  What I will have is my MSR backpacking stove, my MSR Blacklite cookset, and my favorite chef’s knife.  Oh, and probably a polycarbonate storage container and a spatula. Compared to my normal cooking tools, that’s a minimalist set, but it should be sufficient.

I’ve been practicing cooking with these limitations for the past few weeks, and I think it will work.  The biggest change is the size of the pan in the cookset compared to my normal big, heavy saute pan.

All of this presumes that I’m in a place where I can cook, which will probably be a campground.  Most motels would frown upon the use of a backpacking stove indoors.

That about sums it up. Worth noting is that most of the above won’t apply when I’m putting together food for the backpacking legs of the trip.  For those, the main considerations are energy density, simplicity, and cost (in that order), which typically leads to highly processed sugary, salty, and fatty food-like substances.  But that’s a post for another time.

Will it fit?

May 2nd, 2011 Comments off

One of the questions I often get asked is, “Will everything fit?” (That’s what she said.) Until today, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to stuff everything needed for the trip into my Outback. I’m happy to report that I did a dry run this afternoon, and everything fits nicely.

With the seats up, no less.  And without blocking the view out the rear window.

As you can see, the hockey gear (giant red bag) dominates the cargo area

Unfortunately, a couple of things don’t quite fit in the cargo area.  My hockey sticks, for example, need to ride in the rear seats.

The hockey sticks have to ride in the back

Then again, they don’t fit in the cargo area even when they are the only items present; they’re just too long.

Likewise, my camera gear is in the main passenger area, but that’s part of the plan to keep it easily accessible for impromptu photo opportunities.

During the actual trip, I'll probably keep the camera out of the bag so that it's even more handy

I’ll admit that a few things were missing from this experiment.

First, I forgot about my hiking boots.  Those will probably go in one of the rear footwells.

Second, I’ll probably want to have a cooler and a cache of reasonably healthy food so that I can cook for myself.

Finally, I haven’t actually tried traveling with this configuration of equipment.  I’m planning to do a couple of short test trips before the main trip, so it’s possible that I’ll need to radically alter my gear manifest.

Still, this early result is quite promising.