“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” –Hippocrates
As a kid, one of my fondest memories was my mom arming me with enough snacks to last through an 8.0 earthquake. For school, I had a morning snack, an after-lunch snack, and a late afternoon snack and when I went to sleepovers she always packed me a bag full of snacks, as if the host parents of the sleepover were going to intentionally starve me overnight. Granted, I do have a severe dairy allergy so I was always the weird kid with brown bread, vegan desserts and granola (before all this trendy hipster food became popular. I guess I truly was born a trend starter). Jokes aside, over the years after living in Tanzania for a year, I became completely opposed to any form of processed or packaged snack and here is why. While living in eastern Africa, I lived with the most amazing and loving family of six plus me (because I did become their family member), made seven. Africa lives on fresh food that you purchase at the daily market so processed and boxed goods were only available in large commercial touristy grocery stores that nobody living in Tanzania (including myself), could afford to buy. I became used to never having food to snack on and when I was hungry between meals I would eat leftovers from the previous day, a very affordable and sustainable way to live. Upon moving back to the United States, I adopted this way of living and anyone who comes into my kitchen and opens up my pantry will not find one single packaged snack. When it comes time to hiking, backpacking, and camping, the shitty processed bird food that we are supposed to consume makes me cringe. So although I may have a couple of expired Cliff bars at the bottom of a box in my pantry (do Clif bars even expire?), these are deemed for “emergency hiking food only”. However, my love for the outdoors and my hatred for processed bird food snacks do not mix well, especially when I am in the backcountry. Over the years I have learned some tips and tricks to eating somewhat fresh food while I am out in nature.
While hiking in the outdoors we should consume 200 calories an hour and if we are on a backpacking trip, we should consume 1.5 to 2.5 pounds of food per person per day which is the equivalent to 2,500 to 4,500 calories per person per day, of course depending on your size, weight and exertion level. Without the proper food and electrolytes, our bodies will become exhausted and we will most likely experience dizziness, muscle cramps, headache and let’s not forget HANGER. Nobody in the outdoors wants to be around a hangry person. I have compiled a list of my favorite day hike snacks as well as my favorite backpacking meals and recipes. Keep in mind, I do not eat meat or dairy so this if you love beef and cheese, you can substitute my protein choices for your own.
Favorite day hike snacks
Dark chocolate covered espresso beans
Pita hummus avocado sandwich with fresh smoked salmon and micro greens
Soft pretzel bagel
Peanut butter filled apple (with apple core removed)
Bumps on a log (celery peanut butter and raisons)
Don’t forget your favorite electrolyte tabs, gels, powders or jellies
Favorite backpacking meals (Backpacker’s Pantry is my jam)
Backpacker’s Pantry Chana Masala (V)
Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai (V)
Backpacker’s Pantry Cuban Coconut Black Beans and Rice (V)
Backpacker’s Pantry Katmandu Curry (V)
Backpacker’s Pantry Mango Sticky Rice (V)
Backpacker’s Pantry Three Sisters Stew (V)
Backpacker’s Pantry Louisiana Red Beans and Rice (V)
Homemade oatmeal mix (oats, dried blueberries, dried coconut flakes, brown sugar, dried bananas, crushed pecans)
Favorite make-your-own backpacking meals (no cooking or dehydrating necessary for most of these)
Georgian chicken stew (cooking and dehydrating required)
Trail chili (I omit the beef, cooking and dehydrating required)
Veggie yellow curry (cooking and dehydrating required)
I always keep a couple of energy bars, Clif bars, Luna bars, Rx bars (pick your poison) in my emergency kit just in case I need more food.
There are lots of backpacking stoves on the market. I prefer a stove with a wind guard, an auto igniter (no lighter or match necessary), and a mechanism that allows for attachments. Backpacking stoves are made to just boil water, however, there are many on the market that have attachments where you can attach different types of pots and pans in case you want to fire an egg or warm up food that does not require boiling water.
MSR pocket rocket (super lightweight but with no wind guard)
Jetboil (my favorite)
MSR WindBurner Stove System (very similar to any Jetboil)
How to determine how much fuel is left in your fuel canister
The float test: Place your fuel canister in any still water source (like a pot), making sure to tilt it slightly to get rid of any air bubbles in the concavity underneath. Since a full canister weighs more than an empty one, it will sink deeper in the water than an empty canister. By rule of thumb, a full canister will sink to where the sides start to round over the top, while an empty canister will have a water level that hits about 1/4 or so up the side of the canister.
Tips and tricks for packing, storing and cooking food
- To save space and weight, take all of your, Backpacker’s Pantry, dehydrated meals out the original bag and place each meal in a FREEZER SIZE Ziploc bag. You can pour the boiling water into the Ziploc bag and eat out that bag
- Don't forget your coffer or tea ( I prefer Yerba Mate)
- Make sure to always carry an extra fuel canister
- You can buy Backpacker’s pantry meals in bulk to save money and divide each into freezer bags
- Dehydrated food takes much longer to cook at higher altitudes. Read instructions on the package and also make sure to mark how much water is needed on each freezer zip lock bag.
- Your JetBoil stove and some MSR stoves have a measuring cup on their device. If you are using a stove without measuring lines, make sure to bring a measuring cup.
- Bring an extra freezer bag to store your meal trash in
- Make sure to bring reusable lightweight utensils
- SeaToSummit makes the best camp utensils and kitchen products on the market
- Bring small packages of tobacco, ketchup, hot sauce or mayo for seasoning and extra flavor (you can usually collect these at fast food restaurants or gas stations)
- Make sure to wash your camp utensils and kitchen products 200 feet way from a stream or river and pour out the wastewater away from your camp (you don’t want to attract critters)
- Store your food properly in a bear bag or a bear tin away from your tent
- Don’t forget that electrolytes are part of nutrition
- Always remember to pack out what you pack in
Thanks for reading and hope to see you on the trails