The proliferation of meal replacement bars, camping food, and other packaged meal products in recent years gives hikers and backpackers more options than they’ve ever had before. Products range from the ubiquitous protein bar to dehydrated food of practically any sort. Let’s take a look at some of the foods that are best suited for a both a day trip hike or a longer trek in to the wilderness.
If you’ve been in an REI in the last few years you’ve probably seen the amazing assortment of dehydrated foods they now carry. As crazy as it may sound, you can have anything from roast beef to a bowl of pasta by simply adding a bit of boiling water to these products. One of the more popular brands is Mountain House.
Mountain House was originally incorporated in 1963 as Oregon Freeze Dry. They started out freeze drying fruit for General Mills cereals. They then became involved in improving rations for the military. Shortly thereafter they began producing their own product. And let me tell you, their selection is completely astounding.
Since everything is dehydrated, the weight of the product is reduced significantly. All of them come in pouches or cans and are extremely easy to pack. The only downside is that they tend to be a bit expensive, so it can feel like a week in the woods takes a significant chunk out of your salary. But when compared to a prepared meal out, it’s relatively inexpensive.
Higher Fat Foods
Fat is the most efficient form of energy. And while most of us think of carbohydrates when we want to replenish our bodies energy levels, fat actually contains more than twice as much energy as carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are great for short intense exercises, but our bodies were designed to use fat for more prolonged activities such as hiking.
It makes sense if you think about it for a minute. Our muscles can hold only a very small amount of glycogen (what our bodies produce from carbohydrates). However, unfortunately, we have an almost unlimited capacity to store fat. This is because our bodies know that we will then have a fuel source should our regular food supply run out.
So foods that are higher in fat are a great choice for going on a hike. This is nothing new. Fur trappers and explorers utilized pemmican all of the time when they traveled. It was a mix of dehydrated meat, dried fruits, salt and other herbs, and loads of cooked animal fat. Some early explorers literally survived on this and very little else.
Now days you can find things that might sound a bit more appetizing. The Paleo diet professes a higher intake of fat, and several products developed for that lifestyle are great for hiking. There are pemmican products that are made for modern palates. There are also Paleo products such as cookies and desserts that are lower in carbs and higher in fats than traditional products.
Standard Dried Foods
Last but not least are the old fall backs. Dried foods have been around for thousands of years and for good reason. They’re a great source of protein and carbohydrates. While they shouldn’t make up your entire diet while hiking, they are great ways to recharge while on the trail. Beef jerky and dried fruit are some of the most popular. Since it’s dried, these foods take up much less space. It can be tough to travel with a bag full of apples. But a bag full of dried apples, bananas, or peaches are healthy, lightweight, and don’t take up much room in your pack.
Whatever you decide to take with you into the woods, just be sure that it can be sealed airtight so that it doesn’t attract animals. And as always when camping store your food in a safe location away from your campsite. If you do have a bear come to your campsite you want them going after your food, not you.
One of the best part of being in the great outdoors is the connection with nature. In a previous post we discussed the health benefits associated with spending time in nature as well as some of the essential gear to carry.
Today we’re going to talk about some other must have gear. A great set of minimalist hiking shoes. Hiking shoes have been around forever. The trappers devised their own shoes for their journey deep in to the wilderness in search of beaver and other pelts. These were often simple moccasins with little protection from the elements.
However, they did provide these pioneers with a very accurate connection to the ground. What do we mean by this?
Most of today’s shoes offer a great deal of cushion. This is done to make the shoes as comfortable as possible. However it also disconnects us from the ground. It also has the adverse effect of raising our entire foot higher off the ground, making injuries such as a sprained ankle more likely.
Moccasins on the other hand provided a small layer of protection, and a great connection to the ground. This makes walking in more treacherous terrains much easier. Of course, in moccasins you have to watch out for sharp rocks and other objects since they didn’t offer a great deal of impact protection.
Now days however, that is not the case. There are several manufacturers of shoes that are considered minimalist shoes. This means there is as little as possible between your foot and the ground. Most of the shoes in this category have a thin layer of cushion or none at all. They do incorporate a sole that is made of very tough and durable material that is designed to protect the foot from sharp objects.
One company that has been making minimalist shoes for years now is Inov-8. They have a whole line of lightweight hiking shoes that are perfect for your next outdoor excursion.
So how does this help you when you’re on the trail? Simple. When you walk in a minimalist shoe, you can feel everything that’s going on between you and the ground. If one part of your shoe starts to slip, you can immediately feel it and correct for it. In addition, your heel is closer to the ground. This means that even if you did roll your ankle, you have no distance to travel. It is actually pretty difficult to roll your ankle in a good pair of minimalist hiking shoes.
Another great benefit is that they are extremely lightweight. Some minimalist shoes weigh in at under 8oz per shoe. This means you won’t wear yourself out trudging in a heavy pair of hiking boots. You will feel the impact in your thighs and your hip flexors.
The only drawback to minimalist shoes is that they’re not really made for cold weather conditions. If you’re going to be hiking in areas with snow and ice, you’ll want a warmer option. But they’re so small and light, that you can easily pack them on any trip.
For more information on minimalist shoes, shoes for CrossFit, and other specialty shoes check out this webesite. At Efficient Gains you’ll find lots of great information on exercise gear and outdoor equipment.
There’s nothing quite like getting out into the woods and reconnecting with Mother Nature. So much of our lives are now spent indoors that we often forget how much we need to be outside, in the fresh air.
Getting into the woods allows us to clear our minds and get back to our instinctual roots. Not only is it good for us, but we need it. At Marksdailyapple.com, Mark Sisson goes into a number of reasons why it’s good for us to get out. Here are a couple of his articles.
He even talks about How To Work Outside.
But one thing to keep in mind is that nature has it’s dangers as well. And there are few things that you can take with you to protect yourself while in the woods.
While it is unusual to run into bears in the wild, it can be a terrifying experience. A friend of mine was recently walking along a fairly busy path and came face to face with a male brown bear. Luckily he was downwind, and the bear never even noticed he was there. But he estimates he was only about 3o feet from this 500 pound behemoth.
Bear spray is a great way to protect yourself during an attack. But be aware of a couple things:
1. When you need bear spray, you need it FAST. DO NOT store bear spray in your backpack. By the time you get it out, it will be too late.
2. Bear spray becomes less effective in rain and windy conditions. Use common sense and be very aware during these types of conditions.
3. Attacks rarely occur from the front. They often come from the side, or worse, from the rear. Always have your spray in an easy to access place.
Taking plenty of water with you on a hike is common sense. But anything can happen when you are deep in the wilderness. The human body can survive for well over a week with no food, but without water, you can die in 36 hours under the wrong conditions.
Life straw is a device that allows you to drink out of practically any water source without having to worry about parasites. It works just like a straw, you simply place one end in the water source, and draw water through the microscopic filters. You can get clean water from a mud puddle with this gear.
A survival knife is a great tool to have with you when out in the woods. Knives can be used for any number of things, and can be a life-saver in certain conditions. Always make sure that your knife is properly maintained. Carrying a small knife sharpener is a good idea as well. Heavy usage can cause a blade to become quickly dulled.
There are literally hundreds of survival knives on the market. For a great list, check out the BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com. Here you’ll find reviews on knives ranging from $25 to $500. Some even come with a magnesium strike so that you can light a fire when necessary.
While we always delight in the hiking in and around Vancouver Island, it is often nice to get out and see new places. Recently we had the opportunity to travel to Central Oregon and explore one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in the U.S.
The Cascade Lakes area is located east of Bend, Oregon. Bend is most famous as the home of Mt. Bachelor, one of the premier skiing and snowboarding mountains in the Northwest. Bend is best accessed by car if you live in the Northwest, and via Redmond Airport if you live more than 5 hours away. Redmond is about 12 miles from downtown Bend, so the trip is quite easy.
Once you’re in Bend, you simply follow the Cascade Lakes Scenic Highway to the west out of town. From here you can explore any number of trails.
One of the most popular hikes is the South Sister. which rises to a height of 10,358 feet. It is the tallest of the Three Sisters mountains, and also the easiest to summit. The trail to the top is actually quite reasonable with the exception of the last 1000 feet. This part of the trail is made up entirely of volcanic scree. For every step up you take, you’ll slide back down a half step. Both the Green Lake and Devil’s Lake trailheads will allow you to reach the summit of the South Sister.
Broken Top mountain is another popular hike that can be accessed from this area. Broken top offers both great hiking and novice climbing. No ropes are required unless you want to get to the very top. Broken top an be accessed from the Green Lakes trailhead.
While there are dozens of lakes spread throughout the Three Sisters Wilderness, if you follow the Cascades Lake Highway further south, you’ll find even more lakes. One of the most scenic is Waldo lake. From the Cascades Highway you can either take an extremely bumpy fire road (which is what we did) or you can drive further south and then loop back north to the lake on all paved roads.
Either way, the lake is worth the trip. There is plenty of camping on both the north and south side of the lake. Just be aware that in the early summertime mosquitos can pretty bad, especially at the south end of the lake.
All of these areas are within the Deschutes National forest. You can find more information on hiking, climbing, camping, and other outdoor activities at their website located here.