Saturday 10 December 2016

Yosemite Valley to Death Valley: Food & Water

Dinner cooking

Resupplying with food and finding potable water to drink are important factors in planning any long distance walk. Requirements vary from person to person but everyone needs food that provides enough energy and plenty of water. It helps if food is tasty too. So planning for both these is essential.

Four days of supplies. Items in cardboard were repackaged into Ziploc bags.

On my recent Yosemite Valley to Death Valley walk I resupplied along the way. This meant there was no need to purchase, package and post food in advance but also meant that choice might be limited, especially in places with just one small store. There were five places where I could buy food – Reds Meadow Resort, Vermilion Valley Resort, Cedar Lodge in Kings Canyon, Lone Pine, and Panamint Springs Resort – and all bar one, the town of Lone Pine, were very small places. However the first three were in the High Sierra and used to catering to walkers so the choice of foods suitable for backpacking should be reasonable, as it turned out to be.

One of my favourite freeze dried meals rehydrating.

Generally I went for cereal for breakfast – granola or instant oatmeal; various bars, dried fruit and trail mix for during the day – no long lunch break, just lots of snacks; and a dehydrated or freeze dried meal in the evening, sometimes enhanced with dried milk and cheese. Drinks were coffee, hot chocolate, spiced apple cider and, during the day, water. Some meals were hydrate-in-the-bag specialist backpacking ones, some were ten minute simmer pasta meals, some instant dried potato meals – the last great on very long days when I didn’t want to wait long for food. 

I didn’t calculate calories – after all these years I know roughly how much food I need – and I got it just about right as although I lost some weight I never ran out of energy. I did have to think more than usual about the bulk of food as it had to fit into a bear-resistant container for the first three weeks of the walk in the High Sierra. Of course the food for the first day out of a place didn’t need to go in the container, just the food that would be stored overnight. Once the first breakfast and day snacks had been removed from the container there was room for other stuff in it too.

Filling up in town with  tasty pizza and some good beer

Whilst most of the trail food I had I enjoyed – there were a few meals I wouldn’t buy again – it was always good to eat more substantial food whenever I could. And drink some beer too!

The first water for 55 miles at Darwin Falls

In the wilderness I drank directly from water sources as all those I found looked okay. I carried a Sawyer Mini Filter in case I needed to treat any dubious water but never actually used it. In the High Sierra there were plenty of creeks and lakes – though some of the former were dry in the Eastern Yosemite Wilderness at the start of the walk – and I mostly only carried a half litre or so except when climbing to a high waterless pass or continuing beyond a water source to camp. That changed completely in the desert section of the walk. With the first guaranteed water source some fifty-five miles away I left Lone Pine carrying eleven litres of water, a heavy load. I needed it all and reached Darwin Canyon with about a half litre left. 

Water for the desert


  1. Spiced apple cider? Sounds rather nice! Is this an American thing or is it available in the UK too?

    1. I've never seen it in the UK. I'd buy it if I did!