Time for my state-of-the-backpacking-kitchen blog. I don’t get over here much anymore since I worked most of the kinks out of the backpacking eating situation, but I do have some protein notes to share since we’ve starting eating paleo at home. You can bet I’m doing my best to transition that onto the trail!
I have noticed many more paleo backpacking blogs out on the net lately; can’t say that most of them have been very helpful to me, but it’s always interesting to read what other folks consider good backpacking practice. There’s a lot of difference, as you know, between doing an overnight or 2 where you might get away with pouched or even canned tuna, some pre-cooked meat and fresh fruit and veggies, and the kind of backpacking that involves mailing boxes to yourself several weeks down the trail.
Our big plan for this summer is revisiting the JMT with a few detours courtesy of the High Sierra Route. Should be fun! One big change will be that instead of mailing ourselves re-supplies, we’ll be recovering boxes of food pre-stashed in bear boxes at camp sites. It’s a little unsettling to consider than an unscrupulous camper might make off with our re-supply, leaving us in the difficult position of having to hitchhike into town and buy whatever food might be available at the local grocery down from Onion Valley or North Lake campground, but I have been assured by those who have used this method that such an event is extremely unlikely.
We will be re-supplying at Red’s Meadow — that will be our one chance to eat a restaurant meal and scrounge through the abandoned resupplies of other backpackers. Always an adventure!
In 2009, Jack & I hiked the entire JMT and it was that adventure that inspired me to begin this blog. Our at-home diet has changed a lot since then; our backpacking diet not so much — we still eat beans, rice and quinoa on the trail, as well as plenty of dried fruit. Our protein percentage, however, has increased not only at home but also on the trail over the past year or 2, although unless we have trail buddies who fish, we rely on what we bring, not what we forage!
Remember my original protein post when I was concerned that 90g of protein might be too much? Since adopting a more primal diet, I’ve come to believe that 90g of protein for such sustained physical exertion is not enough. So as I’m putting together the 24 hot lunches, supper porridges and day snacks for the July get-away, I’m trying to squeeze in even more via dehydrated ground beef and an assortment of protein powders and a new protein bar we’ve been enjoying for the past year. Oh … didn’t I tell you?
Our friends who supply us with the truly delicious organic green food bar also make a protein bar! This is not a perfect paleo protein bar — it contains agave syrup (boo hiss) and although I love the 22g of protein, the 22g of sugar are a bit much. Even so, since we avoid soy and whey, this is the best bar I’ve found for backpacking. Or for pre-workout. Or for road trips … (see my review on Amazon). So now you know. If they ever make this bar without agave syrup, I will be ecstatic!
Back to those 24 hot lunches? I’ve determined to limit each one to 7 oz each, with the breakdown of 2 oz of the beef protein powder, 2 oz of the tiny rice/quinoa mixture, 2 oz of dried beans, and 1 oz of vegetable/flavoring. That last part is the trick. I am actually writing down my recipes again this year because my notes from last year’s meals were so vague. Yes, we loved the basil-lemon bean dish, but how much basil was really in that? And how much lemon? Oh well. Luckily, we are not picky eaters on the trail …
Jack & I started our JMT backpack with an average of 1.24 lbs of food per person per day for the first 11 days and about 1.34 for the next 11 days, including the 10 oz of secchi salami Mr. Jack threw into the Muir Ranch re-supply box for “emergencies.”
Aside: In all fairness to Jack, although I whine mightily about his intractable penchant for bringing along salami, I am first in line when he starts slicing it up at the end of a long day. On this hike, as on so many others, the salami did not survive to fulfill its function as emergency rations unless one considers overwhelming desire to consume salami at the first opportunity an emergency!
In addition to the food we packed into our bear canisters—nearly all of which was gone by the time we got to our car, as I mentioned in the introductory blog—I also ate on the trail 3 chocolate-based food bars (avg 1.6 oz each @ 190 calories) given to me by Karen from Vermont and a handful of raw cashews (probably also about 1.6 oz @ about 260 calories) donated by a couple on top of Forrester Pass who were on their way out. She was eating a Snickers bar; I had politely declined to accept any candy.
You’ll notice that our daily food weight is slightly lower than the suggested range of 1.5-2 lbs per person suggested by most backpacking experts. How do we get away with such low food weights? It comes from understanding that all calories are not created equal and planning a menu that optimizes nutritional density and eliminates—as much as possible—empty calories and ounces. Which is not to say we are ever going to give up our tea!
We know this menu works because we’ve used similar food plans in the past
- In 2008, on the 8-day High Sierra Trail backpack, ending over Whitney Portal (107 miles, 2 passes) Jack lost 5 lbs he was happy to see go, and I lost none, coming home at the 135 I’d left with.
- In 2007, on the North Lake-South Lake semi-loop (55 miles, 3 passes @ 11,000’+ in 5 days), we came home with no remarkable weight loss.
So why, this year, did Jack lose nearly 20 lbs & I lose just over 5? Maybe it was the considerably longer backpack with many more passes, but I particularly suspect the unseasonably cold weather, particularly the hail storm through which we hiked for nearly 2 hours, including 3 frigid high-water crossings.
Next blog, I’ll provide a sample day’s worth of backpacking food with calorie count and the percentage breakdown of fat, carbs and protein, including a fiber report. First, though, I’ll have to plug all the foods into the Red Elephant’s Daily Plate account over at Mr. Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong.com. Once all the information’s in, we can check details to see how our backpacking food plan compares to yours … and to the experts’ recommendations.