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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Trail Chef: GoodBelly ToGo Probiotics Review

Fortify your immune system (and avoid GI distress) in the backcountry with these tasty powder mixes.

by: Pete Takeda

Photo by goodbelly_445x260

Backcountry trekking requires stamina, health, and high spirits, and there's nothing worse than a bout of the runs to ruin the happiest hike. Other than practicing good hygiene (purifying your water, washing your hands, and not double-dipping), one surprising thing that can help you avoid Montezuma’s revenge (as well as colds and other bugs) is probiotics—the good bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract.

Doctors estimate that between three and five pounds of bacteria dwell in your gut. It’s a classic symbiosis: In exchange for habitat, these friendly flora bolster your immune system, fight infection, help you digest food and absorb nutrients, and generally police the gut by displacing harmful bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

The problem for backpackers, of course, is that one classic source of probiotics—yogurt—doesn’t keep in the backcountry. The solution: new GoodBelly ToGo Probiotic Fruit Drink Mix powder ($12.50 for eight packets;, which deliver live active bacteria in the form of Lactobacillus plantarum299v (Lp299v), plus a healthy whallop of vitamin C. These travel-friendly packets join GoodBelly’s juice-drinks line, and I tested them on a recent climbing expedition to India (the Zanskar Odyssey) to see if they'd actually make a difference.

They did, a big one—not so much in what happened as in what DIDN’T happen. By and large, we were spared the indignity, discomfort, crud, and exploding bowels that, after a dozen South Asian expeditions I'd grown to dread. Dairy-free, soy-free, and vegan, the ToGos mixed well with water (no annoying clumping) and tasted yummy (flavors include Mango and Blueberry Acai). Side benefit: When we mixed the powder with a little water, the paste worked like duct tape for blisters.

Probiotics aren’t just relevant to exotic destinations. Even domestic travel exposes your digestive system to all manner of ungodly jive, the worst of which are the bacteria that thrive in the absence of a strong population of good bacteria. So I’ve made these a staple in my kit and bring extra for my teammates. Trust me, your bellies will thank you.  —Pete Takeda



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Reader Rating: -


Feb 18, 2011

Awesome! I try not to go more than a couple of days without yogurt, which as the author stated is not possible on the trail. I will certainly be taking these with me on a trip to China this summer.

Feb 18, 2011

"Side benefit: When we mixed the powder with a little water, the paste worked like duct tape for blisters."

Seriously??? A) Why on earth did this occur to you? B) What is the logic behind your statement?

Feb 18, 2011

I can't recommend probiotics enough when travelling. I don't go anywhere without them, there's nothing worse than getting ill when you've got lots to do and see abroad. I'm not familiar with this particular product but I took a capsule probiotic which was fantastic, check this out...

Jason Ryz
Feb 17, 2011

Thanks for the great article. There are specific probiotics aimed to help the Traveler. The website has a product called "Travel Health" - I take it whenever I travel more than 100 miles outside of my hometown since the bacterial content in the water may be different (even in the USA). My GI system is very sensitive when I travel and I found that the product offered by ProbioticsMD helps reduce my symptoms. Keep up the excellent articles!


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