Eating right is an absolute necessity for a thru-hiker. Planning and experience can help you maximize nutrition and calories while minimizing cost and weight.
Probably nothing you carry on a bush-hike represents your personality and style more than your food bag. Here’s an example of a typical day’s food during my last bush-hike.
1. The Nutrition Facts panel on every food item sold is an excellent source of objective information for the backpacker. Compare and contrast your favorite food items to figure out what packs the most punch for its weight and cost. Don’t forget to consider the ratio of calories from carbohydrates to protein to fat: shoot for about 50% calories from carbohydrates, 15% calories from protein, and 35% calories from fat. Take a clipboard to the local supermarket and write down the nutritional information for all the foods you think might work during your hike. If you’re thinking about buy-along-the-way, go to a small market and then a convenience store and try the same thing. It can be fun to try and fish a resupply out of a very limited selection.
2. It’s really hard to get enough fat and protein in your diet. Many of the foods sold today are the dreaded “low-fat” variety; I avoid these foods like the plague. Squeeze oil is my main source of fat. It does not contain the trans-fat that has been linked to arterial plaques and comes in a bottle convenient for trail use. For protein, I eat Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) when I can get it to supplement the protein in my diet from other sources. Some carry tuna fish, but I can’t bring myself to carry anything that comes in a can. Were I to find a can in a hiker box, I’d be more apt to eat it right on the spot than to put it in my food bag.
3. Many of the pasta and rice dinners contain dried vegetables. Often I can find dried tomatoes and other dried vegetables in the supermarket. These really help add variety, and there are some vitamins and nutrients as well. Unfortunately, though, dried fruits and vegetables have lost much of their nutrition due to oxidation. Fresh vegetables are a much better source of vitamin and nutrients. In addition, taking a multivitamin every day can help ensure that your diet isn’t lacking in some essential vitamin or mineral.
4. Think simple. Every food I buy can be cooked by the boil and soak method. Stay away from non-instant rice and uncooked beans at all costs; they’re both incredibly fuel intensive and will take forever to cook. At the end of the day, most thru-hikers are interested in eating quick to prepare, calorie laden foods.
5. Freeze Dried Meals are very expensive. The manufacturers take advantage of people’s inexperience when it comes to backpacking food. You can buy two whole days worth of food for the cost of a single freeze dried dinner.
Don’t expect your nutritional needs to be the same as mine. My weight is not the same as yours, have a fast metabolism, and carry a very light pack. Your caloric needs are particular to you; do your own research and figure out what works for you. The information in this article can help to point you in the right direction but should not be considered a blueprint for what to buy.
This recipe, a Spicy Peanut Soup is from my private collection and I never shared with anyone earlier. I made this soup ever since the late 70s and it is still as popular Start with fresh or dried ingredients and what is great with soups is that weight is most times a small problem, because you can take water in the wilderness.
Spicy Peanut Soup
A thick and warming vegetable soup, flavored with cayenne and peanuts.
2 T oil
1 large Onion , minced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp mild cayenne pepper ( or 1/2 tsp hot)
2 red bell peppers , seeded and minced
1 1/ 2 cups minced carrots
1 1/ 2 cups finely chopped potatoes
3 celery stalks , sliced
3 3/4 cups vegetable stock ( I prefer chicken stock )
6 T peanut butter , crunchy is best
2/3 cup whole corn kernels
salt and pepper to taste
Garnish with coarsely chopped peanuts and cilantro
1 Heat oil in a large soup pot . Add the garlic and onion and cook about 3 minutes . Add the cayenne and cook one minute longer.
2 , Add the red pepper, carrots , potatoes and celery . Stir well and cook 5 minutes , stirring occasionally .
3 , Add the stock , peanut butter , and corn , stir until thoroughly combined .
4 Salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil . Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until vegetables are tender.
This makes a quick side dish to feed you while waiting for the food or to eat with the soup, a bread That you can make without an oven , and a great trail bread . You can double or triple the recipe depending on how big your tribe is.
- 4 cups white flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 cup dry milk solids
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/ 2 cups warm water
- Enough vegetable oil to fill the frying pan to 1/2-inch deep .
Mix the dry ingredients together. Form a depression in the dry ingredients and slowly pour half the water out . Mix and add the Remaining water as needed to form a soft but not sticky dough . Knead the dough lightly . Cut pieces from the dough and shape them into round discs about 1/4-inch thick .
Heat the oil until hot . When the oil is hot enough, a small piece of the dough placed in the oil Should brown quickly but not burn . Slip the dough pieces into the hot oil , fry them until brown on one side , and turn. When done , remove them to paper towels . Serve them hot as a bread or with syrup or honey as a side dish .
Anders Klint is a well known wilderness chef, who is educating of wilderness-, mountain-, canoeing- guides etc in cooking, to include schools in Sweden and many other countries and in between keep cooking for event and travel company’s in the outdoors. Follow me at https://www.