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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Backpacking Tips: How to Obsessively Plan and Organize Your Backpacking Food

When I was a kid, my brothers and I hiked Mt. Whitney and ended our multi-day hike in Sequoia National Park. We ran out of food before we ran out of trail. I’ll never forget the hunger pangs and the pangs of guilt for not taking enough food.
Follow these steps for fastidiously well-planned trail food management.

A Ziploc plastic bag.
Image via Wikipedia
1. Start saving different-sized plastic bags for your backpacking food.
2. Plan on carrying approximately one and a half to two pounds of food per day. Choose dried and condensed foods as much as possible to conserve weight.
3. Hiking is an activity that burns lots of calories, so you’ll need to replace them with protein, fats and carbs. Look for calorie-dense foods, aiming for 100 calories per ounce of food. Don’t worry about putting on pounds. You’ll walk off practically anything you eat unless you plan to just saunter along.
There are many sources of protein that you can take advantage of. Beef jerky, nuts and prepared dehydrated meals are all good sources.
Pack olive oil, granola and peanut butter for healthy fat.
You’ll be expending lots of energy, so take along lots of carbs. Cereals, gorp, energy bars, candy bars, pasta and crackers are good sources. Sugared drinks also count for energy-packing carbs.
4. Plan your meals by using a matrix with columns and rows. You can do this roughly with pencil and paper or more neatly on a computer.
Across the top, label your columns: Column 1 = “Breakfast”, Column 2 = “Morning Snack”, Column 3 = “Lunch”, Column 4 = “Afternoon Snack” and Column 5 = “Supper”.
After you have figured out how many days you will be on the trail, make a row for each day. Label the rows “Day 1”, “Day 2” etc. Add an extra day just in case.
Where the columns and rows intersect, you will have cells or boxes to write in. Make them big enough to type or write the contents of each snack or meal. In each cell, write meals or ingredients you plan for that meal. Also include any instructions necessary for preparing the meal.
5. Bag your meals intuitively.
Put the ingredients for one dish in a plastic bag (Ziploc® or twist tie work well). For instance, if you plan on cereal with powdered milk for breakfast, pre-mix the powdered milk with the cereal in a bag ahead of time. Group the plastic bags that contribute to one meal, like the main dish, a desert and a powdered beverage, together into a larger plastic bag.
Label all bags with instructions. Color code all meal bags with a different color for breakfast, lunch etc.
Put all of your food in a stuff sack, a bear bag or a bear-resistant canister according to where you will be hiking.
6. On top of your dehydrated food, pack some fresh vegetables, carrots, celery stuffed with peanut butter or cream cheese and fresh fruit for the start of the hike. Soon their weight will be transferred from your pack to your digestive system and transformed to needed energy. If you are on a thru-hike, pick up more fresh produce along the way as you can.
7. Pack out everything you packed in including your plastic bags. Some of them you will be able to reuse on another wilderness outing.
Start out prepared. Come back . . .well, at least not hungry.
by Richard Davidian, Ph.D.

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