6 day backpacking meal plan - north cascades

Corso Solo II – Part 1

By Chef Corso

Planning for any trip is exciting.  

You’re getting out there and enjoying nature, seeing some place new or revisiting an old favorite.  But there are challenges for any trip.

See more of the CORSO SOLO I in 2019 through the Olympic National Park.

Follow along as I share how I planned for my 5 night/ 6 day solo trip into the North Cascades National Park in Washington state.

For my trip, there are many important details to consider in planning.

The main thing for my trip, is I’m going by myself.  I have to carry all equipment and food I’m going to need.  The other thing is length of time.  This is not the longest trip anyone has ever taken, but it’s a good chunk of days.

Water availability, weather, meals and hours of daylights are all factors.

Check out our planning PDF.  After a few trips, I put this together for my own planning as well as for you. This is a good starting point for trip planning but know that every trip is so different and everyones’ needs vary.

The first thing I nailed down, was where I was going.

I wanted to explore a chunk of the North Cascades National Park.  I often call this the forgotten national park.  Olympic and Rainier dominate the Washington landscape and for good reason.  They are both very pretty.  But NCNP has some amazing pockets that shouldn’t be missed.

When I was going: 

I’ve been wanting to get this trip on the calendar for many weeks and frankly, a large amount of anxiety was building around it.  August/September were busy work months.  Beginning of September brought weeks of smoke into the Pacific Northwest region which made hikes a bad choice and getting later into the season, rain, wind, snow and daylight become more concerning.  I slated this trip for the first week of October and crossed my fingers for no weather issues. 

Now that I had my general destination and length of time, next was how many miles I wanted to travel each day. What I learned from my last solo is to back off a little on miles to be able to enjoy the experience rather than just charging, setting up camp, eating, sleeping and repeating.  8-10 miles per day was my target.

I started writing down potential routes and campsites along the way.  I made sure to note any large elevation gains as this can make for longer, more challenging days.  I used 4 resources to workshop some ideas.  

Online National park map, printed map with topographic lines, Washington Trail Association site/All Trails site and GAIA mapping app.  All of these are helpful for different reasons.

Online map- general route planning, miles, campfire status, food storage status

Printed map- double confirm miles and note elevation and potential water sources

WTA/All Trails – see if any issues users have shared for this season.  See pictures of routes or campsites  

GAIA – really deep dive into routes.  Noting elevation gain and potential water sources

Water:  I can’t stress this enough folks.  Water matters. And you really need to research your water sources in the backcountry.  Rivers, streams, creeks, waterfalls and lake can be options, but don’t assume all are potable options as late in the season or in specific areas they could be dry.  The route I am planning has many options for days 1-3, then becomes a bit of a question mark for 4-6.  Always be cautious and conservative.  Have your pump or filter handy on the outside/top of your pack and fill up even when you think you don’t need it.  You might thank yourself tomorrow.

What’s on the menu:

I like food more than most people.  And I really enjoy a fast, tasty meal in a pretty spot.  This trip I wanted a new challenge. I was on the road and wanted to see if I could meal plan and pack up with no home pantry.  Meaning, all ingredients needed to be store bought, no special ingredients, no pre-prep or dehydrating. I also wanted to take ZERO dehydrated packaged meals, because frankly…theyre terrible and don’t provide great satisfaction.

I was also testing a new set of recipes for longer haul hiking. 

Live action trailgate packing. 

Equipment & Clothes 

Here are some shots of my equipment piles.  Also check out some equipment/clothing checklists.

Backpack:  Osprey Atmos 5o.  Tent:  MSR Hubba 1  

Pad: Thermarest NeoAir Xlite  Sleeping Bag: Thermarest Oberon 0 degree

Stove:  MSR pocket rocket.  Pot: Timberline 300 ml pot/mug.  

Water:  Katadyn HikerPro & Steripen 

Trail logistics

A thru hike has it’s challenges.  Mainly start and end point very far from each other.

I need some help with drop me off and pick up.

Starting point – Sahale/Cascade Pass trailhead

Ending point – Lake Chelan ferry terminal

Special thanks to recipe testers Mom Jeans and MountainMateo for picking up and dropping off.

Packing it all up

Now it’s time to pack it all up and get out there.  

Total pack weight – 40 lbs

Total food weight – 10 lbs

Stay tuned for Part II as I get on the trail !


Categorized in: Journal, Trip Reports