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 gluten free desserts such as cookies and desserts that are lower in carbs and higher in fats than traditional products. A good assortment of paleo cookies can be found here on Amazon.com. They are also available at www.gourmet-paleo.com. You can even find their gourmet paleo chocolate chip cookies on Etsy.
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.