Trail Food Taste-Off: Backcountry Beverages
We’re getting close to the end of our Trail Food Taste-Off series with just two more categories to go. This week, we’re veering away from food items and featuring a variety of beverages to enjoy on the trail and in camp. And while cold, clear mountain spring water is truly delicious, sometimes you just need a little extra—a morning boost, a heavy slog thirst-quencher, or an after-dinner indulgence. Our Taste-Off crew sampled several drink mixes and supplements that are lightweight and easy for packing along, whether on an extended weekend outing, or a multi-week sectioner. Here are our favorites.
“Just the right amount of cream and sugar.” – Bright
There’s lots of options for instant coffee, and most of our panel have sampled many of them. The common comments are too strong, too weak, too sweet or too caffeinated. Here’s where Trader Joe’s Instant Coffee comes in. Our panel found that this was just the right amount of sugar and creamer in a smooth, tasty brew—without standing your hair on end or spiking your heart rate! Each serving comes in a small, portable tube, and a box of 10 servings is just a few bucks. To prepare, just boil 8 ounces of water, stir in and drink up. It can also be made with cold water for iced coffee, which makes a nice afternoon pick-me-up on trail. $4
“Fantastic Flavor!” – Freefall
Bringing teabags on the trail is a hassle. Use them a couple times, then you’re just hauling them as trash. With 10th Avenue Teas, you can pack along 45 servings of tea, all in a hyperlite, recyclable container that’s a breeze to pack along. Just shake 4–5 dashes of tea powder into your bottle of cold water (less or more, depending on your preferred intensity), give your bottle a shake and enjoy. Our panel favored the Dirty Matcha, a bold blend of Japanese Matcha tea with a touch of ground coffee! (Matcha—fine-ground green tea—is a great supplement for boosting your metabolism.) We also liked their Green Tea, which is a milder, refreshing option. $12
When you’re going long distances and working up a sweat, you need more than water to replenish your system. You also need electrolytes, vitamins and essential minerals to maintain optimum health and performance. Our panel sampled several varieties of hydration supplements and found NUUN hydration tabs to offer the best flavor and most refreshment. Each NUUN tab is packed full of the nutrients you need—including sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium—and doesn’t overdo it on the sweetener for a light, refreshing boost. We liked the Citrus Fruit flavor the best, but the Tri-Berry and Strawberry Lemonade are equally tasty. $7 ea. or $25 for 4
Here in Oregon, the PCT maintains a fairly moderate elevation range (<7,000′), so adverse effects to elevation are uncommon. If you have your sights set on some peak-bagging along the way (e.g., South Sister at 10,300′), or perhaps some of California’s High Sierra (<13,000′), you may want to consider an elevation exposure supplement. This can help ward off loss of appetite, headaches, nausea and insomnia. Acli-Mate supplements combine rhodiola root and schizandra berry extracts with calcium, magnesium and electrolytes to counter the negative effects of elevation exposure—and it works! We like the Orange and Cran-Raspberry flavors. $30
“More please!” – All
After a long day on trail, sometimes you just have to treat yourself. And what better way to do that than with a frosty margarita? Just fill your bottle with 24 ounces of ice-cold water, pour in the drink mix, shake, kick back and enjoy. For a non-alcoholic marg, it’s pretty darn tasty—cool and limey and not too sweet. You can go for the real thing by adding a splash of your favorite tequila. Our tasting panel went gaga for the Moonshine Margarita, each giving it a perfect 5/5 score. Whether you’re heading out for a weekend or several weeks, pack along a few of these and reward yourself after the big days—you’ll deserve it! $6
PCT hiking is almost synonymous with beer. If you’re finishing your hike in Bend, or just hopping off the trail in Bend for a few days, a visit to Crux Fermentation Project is a must for beer drinkers. For quenching that big after-hike thirst, we like PCT Porter. This delicious, dark elixir is highlighted by its roasted chocolate malt, giving it a smooth and creamy finish. Crux takes its inspiration for this tasty craft brew from the many PCT hikers that pass through the area. Plus, they’re a sponsor of the Pacific Crest Trail Association. Not going to Bend? You can find PCT Porter in all three PCT states. Look for it at your local craft beer shop.
Do you have a favorite backcountry beverage? Let us know in the comments below.
We’re wrapping our Trail Food Taste-Off next week with mouthwatering meals!
PCT: Oregon’s Trail Foods Taste-Off panel consists of a selection of seasoned Pacific Crest Trail section- and thru-hikers, each with years of on-trail experience. Selections and rankings are based on aggregated scoring of a variety of factors, including flavor, texture, ingredients and nutritional value. This post contains affiliate links. All purchases made through affiliate links help support the costs and operations of PCT: Oregon. Photos by Eli Boschetto, taken on location at Lava Camp Lake, McKenzie Pass, Oregon.