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Eating Well On the Trail

GORP is great...for a snack. Backpacker offers some pointers on keeping your energy up while on the trail.

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Eating well on the trail is the key to hiking with vigor and, after the day’s workout, being able to relax. It enhances every part of your day. This section dovetails with everything we have said about pretrip planning. When gorp is not enough, it is your pretrip efforts and creativity that will save your taste buds and boost your spirits.

Dorcas S. Miller, frequent Backpacker contributor and author of I explains, “Many hikers just eat to survive, but if you put in a little time before the trip, you can have at-home meals with little fuss in the backcountry.” While eating well requires more shopping, repackaging, and measuring at home, the rewards–stoking your engine to go the extra miles, and actually enjoying your food–more than pay off on the trail.

  • Spend a little extra time and money on food you really enjoy–spicy dinners, trail mix, roasted almonds, dried cherries, your favorite chocolate, whatever will boost your spirits.
  • Plan for variety. Raisins, nuts, and M&M’s might be a great snack for a weekend trip, but on longer outings, your taste buds need a break. “Include variety in texture as well as taste,” advises Miller. Pack crunchy foods–nuts, pretzels, crackers, sesame sticks, corn nuts, malt ball–and chewy things–dried fruit, licorice, fruit bars, cheese. She recommends chocolate bars, hard candies, hearts on Valentine’s Day, and candy corn on Halloween for something different.
  • Think lightweight. Dehydrated or freeze-dried food is far more efficient. Some freeze-dried foods can be costly, so shop around for what fits your budget. Supermarkets offer a smorgasbord of inexpensive dehydrated foods like couscous, instant grits and rice, Chinese noodles, instant hash browns and refried beans, dehydrated chili, as well as good old noodles with sauce.
  • Dry your own. It’s easier than you think, and you’ll be able to reproduce mouthwatering home-cooked meals on the trail.

Beyond The Bagel

A mega-hike burns mega-calories. In fact, once body fat reserves are gone, a long-distance hiker can burn up to 5,000 calories a day. Gram for gram, fat delivers twice as many calories as carbohydrates, which explains why hikers on lengthy treks have been known to slurp squeeze-bottle butter. With these two points in mind, plan your food supplies accordingly.

  • Boost your calorie intake by 25 percent after the first 2 weeks on the trail.
  • Consider adjusting your carbohydrate, protein, and fat ratio to 50:20:30 for the last half of the hike.

Return to the Backpacking 101 home page.

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