Adequate Nutrition for the BackPacker
Careful planning is essential ... you want enough to eat, but you don't want to carry something in that you'll have to carry out.
Look for these types of items:
- sturdy ... they won't crumble to bits
- minimal weight and bulk
- ease of preparation, or better yet, no preparation
- things that won't spoil ... for example, choose jerky over hamburger
- food that will provide enough calories to keep you going
- a complete vitamin tablet per day
An average diet of about 2,800 to 3,000 calories per day per person is a good rule of thumb. That's about a pound of dried food. If you're going to be out a number of days, and there's fishing opportunities, that's a great way to supplement your provisions. Also, take a look at my other guides for ideas for berry picking in the wild and other "found foods."
Try to strike a balance amongst carbohydrates, proteins and fats to provide sustained energy. The carbs can give you quick energy, while the proteins and fats take longer for your body to turn into energy. Think of it as Now and Later.
Carbs are the easiest of items to pack. Consider cookies; especially those made with oatmeal, nuts and raisins; or breakfast and energy bars. Trail mix and nuts are a good choice too. Avoid or minimize high sugar snacks that will spike your sugar, but leave you hungry in a half an hour.
If you take any food that can spoil, plan on using it the first day. Freeze your cookies and similar items to use as "ice" to keep the first-day perishables cooler.
Coordinate your meals with others in your party so that you're not unnecessarily doubling up on utensils.
If you purchase dry packaged food from your local grocery store, repackage it into zip lock bags. Don't forget to include any instructions. Purchasing specialty freeze-dried foods generally is very expensive and not really necessary. Your local grocer carries lots of varieties of foods, from potato flakes to rice and bean mixtures, which only need an addition of hot water to become a satisfying addition to your meal. The little packages of crackers and cheese are nice, since that cheese doesn't require refrigeration.
Purchase some heavy-duty aluminum foil and cut off a generous section. Fold it and put into a zip lock sandwich bag to keep it clean and protect it from getting torn in your pack. On the trail, you can wrap fish (for example) in the foil and slow roast over coals. Dried onion is a fun surprise to have along and will add a nice flavor to the fish.
Save any packaging that isn't reusable and use it to help start a camp fire. Zip lock bags take up little room and might be nice to hang onto incase you find some nuts or berries along the trail.
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