163: Is it a Good Match?

Show Notes: Episode 163

Today on the First 40 Miles, incredible trail reports peppered with phrases like stunning views, photographer’s dream, and crystal lake can almost make you ignore other phrases like aggressive ascent, grueling, or sheer rock.  How can you tell if your hike is a good match for your skill level?  Then, we’ll share a fun trip report from a listener in Australia where our winter is their summer.  Next, a recipe from our new book “Trail Grazing” that will keep your fueled and happy on your next outdoor adventure.


From listener…“My 40th birthday trip is to New Zealand, and a friend and I are signed up for two long hikes… Here’s my question: we’re getting conflicting initial advice on how do-able these hikes are. We don’t want to sell ourselves short but we don’t want to be an emergency waiting to happen. We both have not a ton of backpacking experience and I’m worried about being someone else’s cautionary tale. How do you decide if the route is a good match for your skills and experience? How can I decode some of the buzzwords on trail reviews and get a REAL sense of whether this is worth the attempt?”

Top 5 Data Points You’ll Need to Know to Tell if the Trip is a Good Match

How much weight will you be carrying?

  • The rest of the tips here are assuming you’ll have about 30 pounds.
  • Adjust the other questions accordingly.

What is the distance?

  • Figure on 5-10 miles a day unless you’re a thru-hiker (they do 20+ mile days routinely).

What’s the general elevation?

  • You’ll have less oxygen at higher elevations (over 5,000 feet), and it will take a couple days for your blood to adjust.

What’s the elevation gain/drop?

  • Anything under 1,000 feet per mile is pretty standard stuff. Over 1,000 feet per mile is getting strenuous.

What’s the weather like?

  • Wet and cold weather (below about 45 degrees Fahrenheit) are harder on you
  • You need more clothing and calories, and everything takes longer.

Clip from the Trip

Story from listener in Australia


Backpack Hack of the Week™: Microwave Black Bean Brownies

Recipe from Trail Grazing

These brownies have black beans and chocolate—an unlikely but inspired combination. Warning: feeding these brownies to people you love without disclosing the fact that there are beans in them may cause trust issues. Proceed with caution.

Makes an 8″x8″ pan of bars
1,733 calories
92 calories/ounce

15-ounce can (1½ cups) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup dates, pitted
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips (for topping)

Add all ingredients, except for chocolate chips, into a blender or food processor. Blend until all ingredients are pureed. Then spread brownie batter in a parchment-lined microwave-safe 8×8 baking dish.

Microwave for 4 minutes 30 seconds.

Sprinkle chocolate chips on top and wait for them to melt. Carefully spread melted chocolate on top of brownies and let brownies cool completely before cutting.

Wrap individually and store in an airtight container.

NOTE: Theses brownies can also be baked in the oven instead of the microwave. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes.

Trail Wisdom

I never imagined that existence could be so simple, so uncluttered, so Spartan, so free of baggage, so sublimely gratifying. I have reduced the weight of my pack to 35 pounds and yet I can’t think of a single thing I really need that I can’t find, either within myself, or within my pack.
—David Brill