The Perfect Picnic Lunch
We almost always pack a picnic lunch for our Saturday shenanigans in the hills.
Tuna sandwiches are lovingly prepared and then stacked into tupperwares, or in a pinch, we will pick up boxed sandwiches in the shop on our way out to the countryside, taking part in the ubiquitous meal deal in the UK & Ireland, which comes with a sandwich, a snack (usually a bag of crisps) and a drink for less than a fiver.
I love having lunch with me on a long walk. I usually pack a few snacks in my bag even if I am just having a wander around town. I just feel like I can wander further when I have trail mix and clementines in by backpack, and if I happen to spot a bench in the sunshine, well, so much the better.
But lately, I am finding that we often end up eating the bulk of our lunch back at the car (or at home) when the hike is over, after having carried it all day in our packs.
This is, of course, because of the weather.
On a wet day or even just a really cold and windy day, we don’t stop much while we’re walking. We might pause for everyone to grab a very quick small bite, washed down with a swig of hot tea from the flask. Sometimes we eat without even sitting down, just shoving food down to keep up our energy, like a car swinging through the service station.
We press on quickly before our legs get too stiff.
Often, I have just managed to get my sandwich out before Taido and Simon have already scarfed theirs down and are saying it’s time to go. I take two quick bites, wrap it back up and put it away. I swing my pack back on as I start walking, trying to catch up to the boys, who are already disappearing around the next bend.
Taido doesn’t much like to dilly dally even on the sunniest of days, but in bad weather, he really keeps you moving.
On days like these, I find that I miss the stops. I like to pause for a rest as much as I like to finish my whole sandwich.
When I plan a hike, I intend for the picnic lunch to be more of an event than this throwing-down-a-snack-while-walking business. But this past September, I ran into the same problems Taido tries to keep us from facing.
Several days we had our lunch in the rain, and folks were getting too cold when we stopped. The wind and rain kind of spoil my picture of the perfect hiking picnic, so in such circumstances, I guess it’s not too terribly bad to eat the rest of your lunch at 4pm in a hostel lobby. At that point, you’re just glad to be warm.
Still, nothing quite beats being able to sit down, spread out and rest in the sunshine while leisurely eating a few simple items that are miraculously improved in taste just by how tired and hungry you are. And also a good view doesn’t hurt.
My pursuit of the perfect picnic lunch is part of the joy of hiking, and maybe it’s made that much more special by the fact that it only comes along once in a while.
I will keep carrying my sack lunch, just in case the sun comes out.
BONUS: Here’s a list of all the things I might put in a picnic lunch:
Sandwiches or wraps:
Fillings include tuna, egg salad, peanut butter and jelly, hummus and roasted red peppers, pesto and omelette.
If I am in Spain, Italy or France, I often just buy a big baguette and some local cheese.
Apples, oranges, grapes, pears.
Chips/crisps, nuts, trail mix, raisins, protein bars.
My favorite homemade trail mix right now is dark chocolate, coconut flakes and pecans.
I carry water and a flask of hot tea when the weather is cold. I also carry those tablets (Nuun) that you can put in your water for extra electrolytes on hot days.