Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Great Divide Trail hike – Routines, food and gear

Daily deeds

Maintaining daily routines while hiking helps to optimize the time you use for hiking and resting. Our daily routines were established during the first week and they stayed pretty much the same the whole way. Usually our day started around 6 or 7 am when we woke up and Julien went to get our food from hanging or bear caches. Then we had a breakfast in our tent while packing our stuff, mainly because usually the mornings were pretty cool and it was just so comfortable eat first before heading out.

Breakfast of champions

Ready for a new day

After breakfast we backed our gear, brushed our teeth and headed to trail. Usually we stopped a few times to drink or fill our water bottles, especially when it was hot or the route was steep. Normally we had one snack pause in the morning and then ate lunch around 1-2 pm. 

The next snack pause was usually after three hours and then one or two more before calling it a day, depending on how hard the day was of course. We tended to eat less snacks just after resupply, because we always wanted to make sure we wouldn’t run out of food. So usually a day or two before the next resupply we realized we had saved snacks worth of many days and could also eat more of them. And surely we did. A chocolate record for one day must be about 500 g. At the end that didn’t feel so good.

Break while reading the map and eating chocolate

Chocolatepause, waterpause and toe-airing-pause

More toe-airing

Taking-care-of-my-feet -break
We were rarely out of water

After finishing the day Julien put up the tent and Piia prepared the dinner. We used a small wood stove for cooking, so depending on how dry sticks we could find and how patient Piia managed to be we could either eat fast or a bit later.

Anyhow after the dinner was eaten and dishes cleaned it was time to hang the food from the bears. If we were in well-equipped campground there usually was a food cache that made the hanging or storing so much easier.


YBut if we were, like was usually the case, randomly camping it could take us a lot of time to find a suitable tree and get the rope over a branch that was strong enough to hold our food bags. If we were lucky the branch held, the rope slid nicely over and we could lift the food bags out of reach from bears. If we were not so lucky the branch broke, the rope got stuck and it got dark and cold before it was done properly.

After we brushed our teeth and were then able to dive into the tent.

Before sleeping it was time to do necessary stretching, first aid, heal wounds, blisters and massage sore feet, and repair ripped pants. Then we recorded the top and not so top stories of the day, usually filled with phrases like “it was a nightmare”, “so beautiful”, “wet feet again”, “more chocolate, I’m hungry”, “it’s so nice without people” and “we have no idea where the trail is”. Usually we were ready for bed around 10 or 11 pm.


Our daily menu varied a bit depending what we could find from the resupply stores but the basic items were always the same so we knew how many calories we were eating. Usually we purchased 15 days’ worth of food to be sure we won’t run out and that meant we were both carrying 10 kg of carbs, protein and fat. Of course our bags slowly got lighter as we went further.

For breakfast we had muesli that we mixed ourselves. It contained oats and variety of peanuts, walnuts, rice krispies, shredded coconut, sunflower seeds, dried banana slices and chocolate and peanut butter bits. We mixed it with chocolate and baby milk powder and added water. It was delicious!

For lunch we had peanuts (or potato chips a couple of times) with dried sausages. At the beginning the peanuts were hard to swallow but the further you got the hungrier you became and the more you could eat those too!


And for dinner we ate egg noodles with barbeque peanuts and sausage bits mixed with olive oil. And that was the meal we were thinking of the whole day!


This menu was finalized with snacks that meant chocolate, cereal or cookie bars. Sometime a lot of them! And even though it may not sound appealing, as the saying goes, hunger is the best seasoning and we ate everything that we carried with happy smile and would have always wanted more. Even the peanuts.

The resupply days were one of the highlights of the hike. Not because we missed being in civilization, but because it always meant reaching one milestone. And more importantly it meant unlimited energy input. We purchased bags full of bread, cheese, fruits, yogurt, chips, cookies, soda, ice cream and dognuts. For a moment it felt like a real summer holiday!

Energy input and sleeping in Banff

Leaving Banff

 Energy input in Saskatchewan River Crossing

Treats in Jasper

Leaving Jasper


We tried to keep our gear list as simple and light as possible, since we wanted at least 15 days of autonomy with food.

In general we were happy with our selection of gear and nothing too unexpected happened with it.

When you are on a hike over a month and you go through tough areas you know some of your things will get ripped, wet and dirty. For example we selected small running or trekking shoes and knew at some point we would have to replace them. But on the other they hand dry fast and are really light, the qualities we appreciated on this trip.

Piia's first and second pairs of shoes

Julien's shoes passed away

The tent took everything the hike had to offer and handled it well

They made you ears ring, those **** mosquitoes

Only major problem were wet conditions that followed us from the beginning until the end. First we basically swam in water after the storm hit the southern parts of our hike. Then we crossed huge snow fields for a few days and then ended up in Willmore’s huge swamps where our feet didn’t dry for almost two weeks. The conditions were too rough for the waterproof socks to hold all the water so for the future we are still looking for solutions for securing our feet from moisture.

Wet, wet, wet...

Drying our gear under the sunlight
Useful poncho, for reading a map especially

Other than that we can say our gear went through heck of a hike with us in water, snow, bush, rocks and swamps and it held it together as well as you can expect in those conditions.

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