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Backpacking with Stress Incontinence

Not a polite subject perhaps, but it’s what’s been on my mind since the Skyline to the Sea backpack Mr. Jack & I did with some neighbors.

I don’t think I’ve seen this issue addressed in a backpacking forum. What? None of the estimated 25 million folks in the US who suffer with urinary incontinence backpack? Most of us (75-80%) are women, so I’m so I’m not alone here. And yes, I knew I had a problem, but I had no idea how bad it would be.

Okay, sure, the day before the backpack I’d had a big delicious mug of coffee and a chocolate bar. The morning before the hike (after a lovely evening in a tent cabin at CostaNoa), Mr. Jack had brewed up some extra strong tea. YUM! You’d think I’d know better … Word on the street, as you may or may not know, is that coffee, tea and chocolate are culprits in the UI world. Well, okay, but I’d been doing my kegels and maybe (maybe?) I still would have been okay if I hadn’t munched a big ol’ bowl of grapes our neighbors brought to the trail head as treat. Who knew that grapes, of all things, were also on the “don’t eat” list? Amazing what some dedicated web browsing can uncover … 

But back on the trail, unaware of the total food whammy I had brought on myself, I hoisted my 27-lb pack and started walking downhill. OH NO! The leaking began in the first few steps and did not stop. Hopeless. I had only 2 choices — go back to the car & meet my backpacking pals at the end of the trail 3 days later … or keep hiking, wet pants and all. 

I don’t know what you would have done, but I was not willing to miss the backpack. So I kept hiking. And I kept leaking. It was not a pretty story. I couldn’t decide which was the most uncomfortable — the physical discomfort or the social discomfort.
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In an attempt to alleviate the social discomfort, I made a big announcement at our next stop that I sure would be glad to get to camp to get out of these wet trousers. There wasn’t much to do about the physical side until we actually did get to camp, where I rinsed out my soaked pants, threw them over the clothesline, and declined the after-dinner chocolate treat. The next morning, avoiding my usual cuppa black breakfast tea, I hiked on, a little drier.

By then, I had made the decision to “fix” the problem, no matter what it took. What I wasn’t so clear on was exactly what I needed to do or if it would even work. I was willing to give up chocolate, coffee and tea forever, do kegel exercises morning and night, and — as it turned out — give up a few others foods, including — yes — grapes.

The most specific list I found was at the University Women’s Health Care site. I especially loved the reassuring line that “if bladder symptoms are related to diet, you should see significant relief within 10 days.” Ten days I could do.

So I did. But before I started, I did a jump rope test as a baseline. Turned out I could do 20 jumps before the leaking started. Ten days later? I was up to 50 before I stopped because I broke a sweat.

And for the record, I didn’t strictly avoid all the foods on the UW list. I kept taking B vitamins and had salad dressing with vinegar; I also ate plums & peaches, as it is stone fruit season here in California. But I strictly avoided chocolate, tea and coffee, as well as grapes and apples. Some of the other foods on the list were easy to avoid just because I don’t eat them: mayonnaise, carbonated drinks, melons, strawberries, guava and nutrasweet, for instance.

Just a few days ago, I was sorting through some backpacking food, assembling a menu for next week’s Desolation backpack, and I absentmindedly popped a delicious block of Dagoba 100% organic chocolate in my mouth. Oh the delight! But oh the disaster later that evening when I pulled out the jump rope … 

Ready to Go? & Raves for a New Dehydrator!

We’re just about ready to go here with 22.5 pounds of food for each 8-day section. This includes vitamins, our variety of teas, the inevitable salami, and (of course) some packaging. Doing the math gives us an average of about 1.4 lbs per person per day, considerably heavier than the last 2 years (2009 @ 1.24 & 2010 @ 1.08), at least a pound of which will be the beef added to supper (see below). But the big difference makes me wonder if I was including the vitamins & teas last year … sometimes my notes are not as clear as I’d like when I look back. Anybody else have that problem?.dropcap:first-letter{float:left;color:black;font-size:250%;}

This backpack’s food prep has been plagued by “do-overs” & I won’t be completely sure I am done until the box goes to UPS on Wednesday for its Kennedy Meadows destination.

First do-over was the dried ground beef. I had already composed & taped up most of the hot lunches when I realized how much easier it would be on-trail to already have the beef in the lunches. So I opened them all back up & added a carefully measured ounce to each one. And shouldn’t I have done that with the pease porridge suppers (aka “gruel”) as well? Well, yes. So I opened up each one of those, added the beef and re-taped. Turns out I had just enough beef for the 15-day backpack.

And that’s when I hit the second do-over. Sunday afternoon, putting vitamins & such into little pill bags, I compared my inventory to the itinerary we’d sketched out Saturday night and discovered we were doing 16 days on the trail, not 15. Huh. So we’ll need one more day of food? Well, at least one more day of trail snacks, so out come the bags of nuts, dry fruits, backpacking bars and … oh my! Hang on a minute! I’ve forgotten the extra EmergenC! I’ll be right back …

Hopefully, that’s the last do-over. At least the box wasn’t taped up yet!

Excaliber Dehydrator Report

I got one. At last. And I am in love! If I’d had any idea how much easier, quicker & more enjoyable dehydrating would be with this 9-tray, no-hole, adjustable temperature dehydrator than with my well-used Ronco, I would have upgraded years ago. In fact, I would not have bought a starter-dehydrator at all. If you are still struggling with your donut dehydrator, I gotta encourage you to get out your money and get the right tool for the job. I’ll rave more later – right now I have to go unload 9 trays of white nectarines I picked from a neighbor’s tree this weekend.

Yes, We Survived!

Here I am, feeling overwhelmed with prepping food for this year’s 100+ walk through the Sierras, and also wanted to touch base on this long-neglected site. I came back from last year’s backpack full of ideas, but got distracted by work. Boo for me!

Obviously, we did not starve to death on the last hike. I didn’t even get the hungries. I was, however, sluggish & peevish the first week of hiking. Maybe I just didn’t have my groove on yet (or maybe it was hormonal timing), but after our re-supply at Red’s Meadow where I found a foil-pack of PackItGourmet Freeze Dried Roast Beef Dices, my energy levels & my emotional doldrums lifted. Thank you, surplus box!

I ground the dried beef to dust in the foil pack & added a big heaping spoonful to my pease porridge each night. Amazing results.
So this year, of course, I am drying my own ground beef. I’ve discovered that my little quart-size crockpot will quickly & easily cook up 2 lbs of grass-fed ground beef. I drain off the juices for another use, break up the lump o’ meat & spread it thinly on dehydrator trays lined with parchment paper. It dries overnight! Then I pop it into the food processor & grind it to dust. An ounce of this “meat dust” provides just over 15.6g of protein, so I’m planning to add that amount to both the evening and the mid-day hot meal.

Another way I’m planning to add a little extra protein this year is by substituting rice protein powder for the hummus mix in the Ginger Bars when I start whipping them up next week.

This year I am feeling especially rushed because not only have I (as usual) put food prep off until the last moment, but we are going to be out of town for a conference for 11 days in August, returning home just 2 weeks before we head out for Tuolomne Meadows.

I hope to make at least one more post in the meantime, but just in case, remember to carefully calculate your protein needs for your backpack! I am discovering that 1g of protein per each pound of lean body weight is not excessive!

Beautiful, Bountiful Chard

Dehydrating experts recommend using produce that’s in season, fresh & bountiful. In my garden this summer, that produce is chard. So of course I’ve been putting it into backpacking meals now that I’ve finally started dehydrating for this summer’s Sierra excertion.

While chard is not high in calories or protein (7 & 1g per cup, respectively), it packs a real
nutritional wallop:

“… a good source of Thiamin, Folate and Zinc, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.”

Chard is an especially potent source of Vitaman A, offering up 44% of the RDA in one cup! Most of us are in no great danger of a Vitamin A defiency, but still, there’s something comforting about eating delicious leafy veg that not only promotes healthy vision, but may also, as the Mayo Clinic states, “prevent some types of cancer, aid in growth and development, and improve immune function.”

A cuppa chard also provides 77g of sodium, which adds to its tastiness quota and is never amiss on the trail, at least, where we are generally sweating out all the salt we consume.

And chard is so visually attractive! That vibrant green leaf ribbed in red, gold or white! I’ve been chopping up raw chard to add to the pre-cooked Tasty Bites* and noticing how much more appealing the fresh veg is than the pre-cooked meal from the foil pouch.

While appreciating the bright green, however, I couldn’t help but ask myself: “What will dehydrating do to all this Vit A?”

Nothing. apparently, as long as the product is kept out of the sunlight:

“Vitamin A is retained during the drying process. Because vitamin A is light sensitive, foods that contain it-like carrots, bell peppers, mangoes-should be stored in a dark place.”

The same site points out that “Minerals … such as potassium, sodium, magnesium, and so on–are also not altered when [produce] is dried.” So we don’t lose the mineral load of chard on the trail.

Some vitamin C, most of us realize, is lost in the dehydration process, but that’s easily remedied by imbibing a daily dose of fizzy flavored EmergenC in your choice of fruit flavors.

My next dehydrating adventure with chard is going to involve chicken stock, polenta, black-eyed peas with oregeno & lemon. I’ll keep you posted!

*More on That: To veg-up the flavorful & convenient Tasty Meals, I use 1 lb of fresh veg to 2 packs of Tasty Bites. With the addition of a dried grain, this makes 2 meals for 2 people, or a total of 4 individual meals. I do not use all chard. The combination so far is 1/3 each by weight of peas, green beans & chard. I use frozen peas & green beans for convenience; all the veg is put into the food processor & chopped into smaller bits for future ease of hydration. The green peas & beans add protein, especially important this year as we are going to be back-packing vegetarians … well, except for the half-pound of “emergency” hand-made fennel sausage (finocchiona) we picked up in San Diego’s Little Italy farmers market this spring.


Fructose: Friend or Foe?

Earlier this month, Mr. Jack & I planted 3 fruit trees in our yard. Two of them are multi-graft stone fruits and #3 is a Fuji apple, the only apple which is recommended for our slightly-too-warm gardening zone. We plan to have a fancy new dehydrator by the time the crops start ripening next year, adding a whole new dimension to trail food prep!

We do eat a lot of dried fruit while backpacking, mayb
e more than a ½ cp per day. That’s considerably more than we generally eat at home.Our average fresh fruit consumption is one lone apple–less than 9.5 g of fructose, since we tend toward the tangy rather than the sweet. I did binge on persimmons earlier this year, which average 10.6 grams, and then there are those summer stonefruits, plums (1.2) & apricots (1.3). Last year I was a little concerned about the relatively high sugar content, but I got over it. Dried fruit remains one of the simpliest, tastiest ways to consume calories on the trail.

But recently I read an article about agave syrup on Dr. Mercola’s website (you might have to sign up to read the whole thing), which mentioned the dangers of eating more than 25g of fructose a day. Now, that sure seems like a lot of fructose to me! But it got me to thinking: how much fructose might be in that half-cup of dried fruit? I do my best to avoid sugar at home. Am I overdoing it on the trail just because I’m super-burning calories?

So guess what I did? Yep: I did the math. Turns out that half-cup of dried fruit could contain between 34g (all apples) or up to 87g (all raisins). Whew. Easy on the raisins, there, when you’re mixing up that fruit.

Turns out, though, that if I’d kept reading, I could have spared myself the word problems:

“Exercise can be a very powerful tool to help control fructose in a number of ways. If you are going to consume fructose it is BEST to do so immediately before, during or after INTENSE exercise as your body will tend to use it directly as fuel and not convert it to fat Additionally exercise will increase your insulin receptor sensitivity and help modulate the negative effects of fructose.”

Despite the fact that backpacking might be considered an intense exercise (if done correctly), I’m still going light on the raisins.

And I’m still going to stay away from the agave syrup. What will I use instead?

Lundberg’s Organic Brown Rice Syrup. That’s right: rice syrup. Not just because I love rice, but because it is remarkably thick, golden & sticky (just like honey) while being less sweet than sugar, honey, agave syrup or maple syrup. So it provides the same delicious binding with a lot less, well, sweetness. Some of us like that sort of thing.

Here’s the sugar breakdown for Lundberg’s Brown Rice Syrup, thanks to Diana Lopez-Vega!

Glucose (dextrose) 20-25%
Maltose 25-30%
Other Carbohydrates 26-36%

Of course, it’s all still sugar, but as a tablespoon of the syrup has only 11 grams of sugar, even I would have a hard time agitating against it. Now, you still might want to account for all the fructose in that dried fruit, but please don’t make me do any more math!.dropcap:first-letter{>float:left;>color:black;>font-size:250%;>}>

Cold & Calories

This is the entry I tried in vain to post in February. Thank you for coming back!

The photo below shows all the “ingredients” for the quilt I mentioned in the previous blog; over the course of 2 weekends, these ingredients became our “cold weather” sleeping quilt. This one, with its 2-layer .9 insulation and the head & neck cozy, should keep me much warmer on next year’s hike and so help avoid the horror of “the hungries!” I’m betting that a mere 8 extra ounces in insulation will be a better choice than more food.

Have I mentioned “the hungries” in an earlier? blog It’s a technical term among through-hikers, Len told me at Wallace Creek told me, when I mentioned that every mid-afternoon I became ravenous, devouring all my trail snacks & looking longingly at every backpack we passed. I even went so far as to mooch snacks! Each night when we stopped, waiting for supper was torturous.

Len explained that “the hungries” kick when when a hiker’s body fat falls below the “safe” level,* usually around day 21. So what had caused my body fat to fall below “safe” level? My calorie count seemed reasonable. Why was I so hungry? After much consideration, I determined that I’d simply gotten too cold too often; in response, my body had, indeed, cranked the furnace all the way up, burning off all the excess fuel (read “fat”).

Fact is, backpacking in cold weather burns more calories. We’re supposed to increase our food intake & gobble even more fat than usual. Some folks say double your food consumption; others suggest 250-500 calories more a day, reminding that “your body will be running the furnace at full blast to keep your core temperature within reasonable limits.” Okay, she’s talking about really cold, but she’s also assuming we are dressed for the weather & not ambushed by a hailstorm followed by several frosty nights in an inadequate sleeping quilt. Something like that (says the girl raised on a tropical island) could push some of us right over the edge.

On day 7, coming down off Silver Pass, Mr. Jack & I hiked through a hail storm. When the clouds initially built up, and even when the rain began to spit, we thought we were in for one of those traditional mid-afternoon Sierra thunderstorm we’d walk out of in about a half-hour. We were wrong. The rain gave way to hail as we started down switchbacks toward Silver Pass Creek crossing.

Streams of ice cold water gushing across the trail froze our feet as we approached this creek crossing that, according to Ms Wenk in her JMT trail guide, even in fair weather “can be a very dangerous crossing because of the dashing cascades above and below.” So frightening did the hip-high crossing appear in the hail storm that if we could have found a flat spot to pitch the tent, we would have stopped. Instead, after a shivering consultation, we plunged through.

Hardly catching our breaths, and now completely soaked and numb-footed, we reached the North Fork of Mono Creek, which the same text describes as “another dangerous ford … the creekbed is rocky and the water turbulent, making footing difficult.” The third crossing, while as frigid & deep as the others, was at least relatively calm. And the hail had stopped. By the time we made camp high on a Quail Meadows flat, the sun was coming out. We set up camp & a clothes line, made hot tea & basked in the late evening warmth as our clothes steamed dry.

We ate hardily at Vermillion Resort, took hot showers and slept well, but the damage had been done.

“The hungries” started after the Bear Ridge climb and persisted the rest of the trip. It certainly didn’t help that several nights’ temperatures dipped below freezing, including one memorable night just below Mather Pass, when we woke to a frosted sleeping bag inside the tent & frozen water hoses outside.

Although this new sleeping quilt will not be able to keep the tent frost-free, I am hoping that it will keep us warmer at night, increasing both our sleeping comfort and our calorie-conservation abilities.

*More About That: The minimum percent of body fat considered safe is 5% for males and 12% for females.

Past & Future

Just spent the last hour trying to post an entry regarding calorie needs in cold weather and the need to sleep warm; I wanted to share my new sleeping quilt pictures with you! But the html gods could not be appeased and the post will not go up tonight.

Please be so kind as to content yourselves with a few photos:

These are the dried persimmons mentioned in a previous blog. You can see the difference in texture of the dried fruit bits in the lower row & the fruit leather, above, fortified with ground flax seed. I wish you could also see how delicious they taste!

The following photos are of the sleeping quilt project.

In the first photo, you can see the various parts of the project, including instructions,before the cutting, sewing &, yes, swearing began.

The red object under the insulation is our old quilt, which I made back in the previous century. It is rated at about 50 degrees; the new one at 28.

The photo below shows the almost-finished quilt being knotted. Be thankful that you have been spared all the drama between these 2 steps!

I hope to get the aforementioned new post up in a few days. Thank you for your patience!

Persimmons: A Winter Treat

On these grey & chilly days, I long for sunny days & starry nights in the backcountry. And the dampness deters much dehydration since my equipment is set up in the detached laundry room, sans benefit of central heat.

Frankly, I’m feeling a little … oh, let’s just say unmotivated regarding trail food. My last outdoor adventure was a 10-mile run on Angel Island, thanks to the Pacific Coast Trail Runs folks , but I sure didn’t need to pack any food for that.

If I had packed some food, however, it would have been some sweet, bright orange chunks of dried persimmons! Whoo-hoo! Now there’s a treat to brighten up a soggy winter day. If I were as handy with a camera as I am with a dehydrator and knife, I’d be able to show you pictures of these little gems. Instead, you get a story.

First, for weeks, maybe months, I lusted after the persimmons hanging coyly from my neighbors’ trees. Yes — 2 trees on my street, neither of them in my backyard. And everytime I stopped by to knock on the door to beg some extra fruit, no one would answer the door.

Certainly I could have stooped to buying persimmons, but somehow that seemed wrong. I have not yet bought a single persimmon in my decade in California. Somehow, they appear in my kitchen without monetary exchange, although this year I was starting to have doubts.

Back in 1999, the first winter I spend in California, already wondering about the intellegence of living in a place that had non-stop winter rains, Mr. Jack took me over to visit an old friend of his, a charming retired Scoutmaster. As we stood in the kitchen, making small talk, he turned to me & announced, out of the blue, that he had a bumper crop of persimmons this year. Would I like some?

“Oh yes!” I gushed. “I love persimmons!”

He grabbed a bag and stepped out the door to fill it for me.

I turned to Mr. Jack with just 1 question: “What are persimmons?”

To this day, I find it hard to believe that I spent the first 3 decades of my life without these lucious fruits. And here I was, this winter of 2009, about to miss out again.

Until I noticed the heavy-hanging fruit on a tree almost in my backyard. One of the neighbors on the adjourning street had not yet harvested the persimmon tree. I scooted around the corner and scooped out the house. Hmmm. An as-yet unmet neighbor. I’m an introvert. This could be difficult. I scooted back around the corner & knocked on the known-neighbor’s door. Nope.

I stuffed a plastic shopping bag with handles into my jacket pocket. I jammed the garden clippers into a back trouser pocket. I took a walk around the corner, took off my wool cap and knocked on the unknown -neighbor’s door, rehersing my pitch … and came home with pounds of slightly overripe Fuyu persimmons; much longer and they would be as juicy and soft as an edible Hachiya.

Traditionally, persimmons are dried whole or in “cartwheels,” as shown in the picture to the right.

Since I wanted a finished product that would work well in a backpacking fruit mix, however, I used 2 different methods: whole fruits chopped into big chunks and some pureed and dried into fruit leather wafers. Of course, I overate both kinds trying to decide which was more delicious. I did save a few cups for next year’s backpack fruit mix.

And of course, I ate several pounds of fruit without benefit of dehydrator. And why not? Persimmons are not only sweet, sticky, delicious and beautiful, but also remarkably good for us, despite the high sugar load of 18.6% (bananas have 20.4%, blueberries only 11). Each fruit is loaded with Vitamins A, Bs & C, as well as important minerals & anti-oxidants. And did I mention that the dehydrated chunks are chewy like gumdrops?

My next door neighbor’s tree is still unpicked. As soon as this rain stops, I might be knocking on her door for just one more batch.

Economics & Self-sufficiency

I like to think of myself as economically sound & self-sustaining, don’t you?

A person can’t really do much backpacking without being somewhat self-sustaining. After all, on the trail, there’s no take-out Chinese or pizza delivery, no movie rentals, coffee shops, or pharmacies. Not even hot water on demand (my personal weakness). And certainly no motorized transportation. Could any activity be more self sufficient than walking?

But it wasn’t backpacking that started me thinking about self-sufficiency; it was a recent city council meetings with many involved citizens talking about economic growth in our little town. One of the participants later posted an article reflecting on the economic theories of Jane Jacobs. I recommend jumping on over after you’ve finished this blog & reading the whole thing. This is the sentence that stuck with me:

According to Jacobs, the engine of economic life is “import-replacement.” What this somewhat clunky term means is making the products you have been buying.

While Jacobs is talking on a societal scale rather than the personal, her ideas, in combination with another article by the thoughtful Peter Bregman, started me thinking about my how the concept of making what I have been buying might apply to my life.

Not that I buy much: food from the farmers market, the co-op or the garden; clothes & housewares at the local thrift store; most of my books from the local library or used book store. I’m not quite ready to start raising all my own food or sewing my own clothes, much less weaving blankets, towels & dishclothes! Neither am I committed to biking the 14 miles to work or concocting household cleaning supplies. According to the various solar engineers who have sadly shaken their heads at my home’s southern exposure, I can’t even make solar hot water.

But one thing I can do is make my own backpacking food.

As we hike along with our self-sufficient backpacks, most of the items that we carry along have been produced by other folks, even if some of us have gone so far as to stitch up our own sleeping quilts, backpacks and tents as proposed by lightweight backpacking guru Ray Jardin.

And we are grateful to the folks who cobbled our shoes, wove our socks, spun our primaloft, stitched our backpacks, produced our flashlights & cooking pots & stove & water filters! Very grateful indeed to those dear workers who made the batteries, filled the fuel tank, finished the shoe laces, hemmed our bandanas! Take a moment here to send your gratitude to all of those who make the practical, hardworking objects that make our backpacking possible.

And then reflect:

Our food can be different. Our food can be hand-made.

I make my own food for many reasons, not least because it’s the most entertaining and absorbing method of ensuring optimum nutrition and deliciousness on the trail. Organic, mostly whole food meals, free of wheat, soy & sugar, are not so easy to come by on the wall of foil packs in our local backpacking store. I like to think my way saves money, too. This might not actually pencil out if I calculated my “earning” rate for the hours I’ve spent laboring over the blender, food processor, chopping block & dehydrater. Since I’m leveraging “hobby” hours into food, however, my assumption is probably true.

Turns out that preparing food for the trail is something more than a hobby. (No, compulsion is not the word I’m looking for, she says–perhaps a tad defensively). It’s more like sewing my own clothes, making my own furniture, or growing vegetables in a backyard garden (there she is with the food again!). It’s a way to be somewhat self-sufficient. Admittedly a very small way–but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step right?

For this new year, I hope that you will continue your forward journey into self-sufficient backpacking food production!

Next blog, I hope to tell you the story of the next door neighbor’s persimmons and what became of them.

Protein Pow(d)er?

Couple of weeks ago, responding to external stimuli, I conducted a few hours of superficial research on protein powders, comparing and considering the merits of rice v pea after dismissing whey & soy for personal reasons.

I’m still puzzling over protein and thought I’d share my ruminations with you, starting with a few facts about protein from The New Optimum Nutrition Bible:

  • protein is the basic material of all living cells
  • the human body contains approximately 25% protein
  • protein is made of nitrogen-containing molecules called amino acids
  • 25 different amino acids combine in various combinations to form different kinds of protein
  • the 8 essential amino acids can “create” most of the remaining 17
  • the balance of these 8 amino acids in the protein of any given food determines its quality or usability

The last 2 facts given, regarding the combinations of amino acids, are familiar to most of us, i.e., eating beans & rice to form a “complete protein.”

Originally, word was that beans and rice had to be eaten at the same meal in order to form a complete protein. Now that we know the body can combine amino acids over a period of time, the relative importance of whether a food is a complete protein (all 8 of the amino acids) or an incomplete protein starts to break down.

Many vegetable protein sources, it turns out, are just as “complete” as the traditional animal protein sources of meat, dairy & eggs. Two of my favorite veg protein sources are quinoa & chia seeds, both of which are considered “complete.” Neither of these two sources, however, have the concentrated protein punch of the brown rice protein powder at 6g per tablespoon.

But do I really need 6g of protein per tablespoon? After all, how much protein can one woman really need, even when carrying 20+ pounds on her back while striding up a 10,000′ pass, day after day after day?

WHO (the World Health Organization) estimates that most folks need to consume 4.5% of total calories from protein sources and suggests, with the realization that all proteins are not created equal (see above), that we consume 10% of our calories as protein. I may be going out on a limb, but I would speculate that since our calorie needs expand while on the trail, that increased 10% would adequately cover our protein needs.*

Reviewing my personal menu for 1-day on the JMT & discovered that I ate close to 90g of protein per day! Yikes! That seems like a lot to me, but let’s do the math using a 2-part word problem:

  1. If Jo ate 89g protein per day, and 1g protein = 4 calories, how many calories of protein did Jo eat?
  2. If Jo’s daily total caloric consumption was 2,158, what was the percentage of protein calories?

89 x 4 = 356 daily protein calories
356/2,158 = 17%

Okay, that’s a little high in protein according to WHO standards, but well within the 20% limit suggested by around by other folks, including the good Doctor Andew Weil.

A caveat is that the 20% should be mostly vegetable protein, per Mr. Jack’s query about foregoing beef jerky. Is this where the protein powder comes in?

One last 2-part math problem before I go, using the formula provided by

  1. If backpackers need to consume .5g protein per lb of body weight to maintain muscle mass and Jo weighs 125 lbs at the trail head, how many grams of protein should she be carrying per day?
  2. What would be the percentage of calories that that amount of protein would provide?

125 x .5 = 62.5g daily
62.5 x 4 = 250 calories
250/2,158 = 16%

Happy holidays!

*MORE ON THIS: If you want some absorbing reading on protein to hold you over to the next blog, delve into this WHO report.