Musings on IT, data management, whitewater rafting, and backpacking

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Backpacking food

I've tried all kinds of systems for planning, preparing, and eating backpacking food.  At one point, I could tell you how many calories, how much fat, how much protein, yadda, yadda, for every part of my backpacking diet.

Useless.  Totally useless.

Old Army saying:  Doesn't matter how many calories you give a man if he won't eat it.

Absolute truth.  Start there.

Here's what worked for me, and what I'd like to try for future trips.

On my last long trip, my menu looked like this:

Grapenuts 4 oz
Milkman 1/2 pouch 2 oz
Raisins 0.8 oz
Vitamins 3 each
Larabars 4 each
Baked cheese 2 oz
Hardtack 2 oz
Dinner #1 – Rice Pilaf
Freeze-dried dinner 1 each
Olive oil (1.5 TB) 0.5 oz
Dinner #2 – Couscous
Couscous 4 oz
Pine nuts 1 oz
Parmesan cheese 1 oz
Sundried tomatoes 1 oz
Coconut carob bar 1 oz

Average 27.2 oz per day

A little light, but I enjoy all these foods, and gorge when I get to a town or restaurant.

If I felt the need to bulk up, I would add more snacks and a bigger lunch.

Do not add more Fat to your diet thinking calorie density, e.g. adding more oil to dinners. Your body will reject it after a week or so.

About the meals and ingredients:

If I have the fuel and the time, I love making breakfast with hot water.  Let the raisins and Grapenuts soak for a little while.

Milkman was off the market for a few years.  Just a few months ago made Milkman available again.

Fortunately, Nestle Nido is a great substitute, and higher in calories since it's full-fat. Expensive online, hard to find in regular stores, try the Hispanic foods section.  Also try Walmart, or larger Hispanic grocery stores.

Larabars are perfectly packaged for my long distance hiking needs.  I eat one every other hourly rest stop, sometimes every rest stop.  They taste good, come in a wide variety of flavors, keep well, and they are real food – a rare combination! Much better than the chemical soup energy bar products on the market.

Specialty Cheese Company's "Just the Cheese" brand baked cheese is wonderful. Crunchy cheese goodness, high in calories, well packaged, and no funky chemicals.

Hardtack is from my own recipe.  You'll find some commercial alternatives there if you aren't into simple baking.

Looks like Mountain House has discontinued Rice Pilaf, the only freeze-dried dinner I've ever liked. I'll try their Pasta Primavera, or reach back into my recipe archives for a new Dinner #1.  I like to have a little variety at dinner.

The Couscous dinner is my new favorite.  One great feature is no wasted water – all the water you use for cooking you eat with the food.

The Dessert is available in the bulk bins from some local natural foods stores, but I could never find the original manufacturer. Like a Mounds bar made with carob and without sugar. I rarely eat dessert at home, but highly value that little snack just before bed time on the trail.  Helps me stay warmer at night.

Backpacking Foods I want to try:

Bear Valley Pemmican or Meal Packs have been around for decades. I ate too many of them when I was younger, but recently discovered that they taste good again. Like Larabars, simple real food, well packaged, variety of flavors. I want to try eating one of these for breakfast-while-hiking.

I've become addicted to tea. At home, I was fussy about what I drank, until some diet changes forced me to try something new.  Much to my own surprise, I love Lipton Unsweetened Instant Iced Tea Mix, with lots of Nestle Nido, made hot (not cold).

Just discovered  Lots of new, backpacker friendly items to try!

My Diet Restrictions

Everyone has dietary preferences or requirements.

I'm a lacto-ovo vegetarian by strong preference for health, ethical, and ecological impact reasons.

Sugar, artificial sweeteners (especially Aspartame), and excess salt make me sick, so I avoid those, too.

I've eaten this way for over 30 years, while hiking thousands of miles, and guiding whitewater rafts on many challenging multi-day trips.  You don't need to eat a standard American diet to be healthy and vigorous.

Hike your own hike, live your own life.

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