By Matt Stone
It’s that time of year again, and I’m up to my usual antics. I’ve got two big, 10-day backpacking trips coming up ? one in the Maroon-Snowmass Wilderness Area in Colorado, and one in Coyote Gulch in Southern Utah. These trips are the longest I’ve been on in a while. I’m with my girlfriend and her 8-year old daughter as well. Those two factors equate to a backpack that promises to be epically humongous.
Yes, I’m their pack animal. Basically. And I’m a little bit scerrd. The first trip is a long one, starting 10,000 vertical feet higher than Florida (where I live), and covering some truly grueling terrain and lots of it. I’ll be pretty much totally out of shape when I hit the trail, probably heaving with at least a 75-pound load on my back. This is what we suburban-born white people do for fun, strangely.
So, what’s in my pantry?
A backpacker faces a tough challenge. You burn 5,000 calories or more on a hard day. You also have to carry all your food. It’s a tough dilemma ? needing to eat a lot while needing to pack lightly.
Another dilemma when it comes to backpacking nutrition is that you need a monstrous amount of carbohydrates to backpack without performance suffering. Carbohydrates, however, contain 4 calories per gram. The three of us together will need close to 10,000 per day. If you brought all carbohydrates that’s 5.5 pounds of food per day. 10 days = 55 pounds = I hurt just thinking about that. And that’s bringing all dehydrated food. Nothing fresh at all.
Fat is much denser however. One of the biggest mistakes I ever made with my backpacking nutrition was embarking on a 50-day trip with only 4 pounds of fat (roughly 15,000 calories). I brought approximately 46 pounds of carbohydrates (about 85,000 calories). That’s 100,000 calories for 50 days. 2,000 a day, supplemented with as much trout as I could eat and berries that I could gather. Stupidest thing ever, as you can confirm by reading my old post The Wind River Diet.
If I would have brought 20 pounds of fat and 30 pounds of carbohydrates I could have had an extra 600 calories per day while carrying the exact same weight. Would’ve been nice.
Native Americans understood this, and ended up packing pemmican, roughly 80% fat, with them on long trips. When it comes to modern-day backpacking, it’s about choosing performance vs. weight, and this usually boils down to bringing a really good balance of fat and carbohydrates to get a little bit of the best of all worlds.
So it looks like I’ll probably be bringing 40-ish pounds of food with me on these trips, which is about the maximum that I’m capable of carrying with all the gear I bring with it. The three elements I’ll try to pack are fat, carbohydrates, and palatability. Here’s probably what my food bags will end up containing?
- A few onions
- A few pounds of potatoes
- A few heads of garlic
- A couple apples or oranges
- Several pounds of hard cheese
- Pack of American cheese slices
- 2 packages of beef hot dogs
- Lots of cream cheese
- 5+?pounds of butter
- Pancake mix
- Lots of maple syrup
- White bread
- Several cans apple pie filling
- Minute rice
- Weight gainer powder (trying this out for the first time)
- Gatorade powder
- Powdered hot chocolate
- Tons of dates, raisins, dried mango, and other dried fruits
- Dried coconut
Yeah, that’ll be fun carrying all that. To this list we’ll add lots of trout from the local ponds and streams (in Colorado, not in Utah), as well as eating enough breakfast to almost vomit the first day of the trip and a dinner when we come out of even greater magnitude. Despite the big load, the trips should otherwise be great if I can refrain from talking like Boomer from the Adventures of the Wilderness Family the entire time – easier said than done.
As a final note, if you are a reader of Natural News, many of the principles that?apply to backpacking nutrition also apply to preparing for global nuclear holocaust and complete economic disaster at the hands of globalist swine. Stock your underground nuclear fallout shelter with plenty of these calorie-dense dry goods.
Matt, LMAO!! I love your reference to Natural News :) Don’t forget the dried GojiBerries from David “Avocado” Wolfe!
Damn it Kate, you beat me!!!!!!
Victory is mine :)
Hey Matt! Let’s chat on skype and I can show you how to carry that back pack so you work smart (and not soooo hard.)
It wasn’t that hard at all actually. And we had plenty of food. Don’t know if I’ll ever be able to eat another chocolate chip pancake in my life though.
I hope your girlfriend and her daughter are at least taking some of the weight. Anybody who’s reasonably fit can handle 15-20% of their body weight pretty comfortably. Of course, on an 8 year old that’s probably only 10-15 lbs! But everything helps.
The best thing is always feeling that pack get lighter as you get into shape and eat up the food weight. Have fun Matt!
Also, have you ever trekked with a kid in tow before? I hope you’re planning conservatively on mileage and that she’s at least gone on some shorter weekenders before. 10 days is a little ambitious for most newbies. I know you’re an experienced hiker though so I’m sure this has occurred to you. :-)
Yeah, they both carried some stuff. But the terrain was tough and I’m the only sure-footed one. Making them carry more just means more falls and injuries.
omg that picture has like 40 megabytes and it’s a bitmap
you’ll be back from the trip when it loads on my computer
and now I’m going to read it
Whoops! Dunno what happened there- I shrunk the file by 90%.
Matt, I forgot to mention in my previous comment, don’t forget your Chlorella tablets and the Berkely Water system (so you don’t get some strange pathogen from the Colorado water).
The backpacking image is a 40MB bmp… WTF?
Home page thumbnail is still a 40mb bmp.
OK- fixed X 2.
Dang- haha, who uses BMPs anymore?
Yeah I thought it was kinda cool :)
put it all on an alpaca or mule
I don’t always go backpacking with 70 pounds of food, but when I do, I prefer to make Matt Stone carry it all.
Ok, that was lame. Anyhow, have fun out there!
queenbee stole my comment. I second that motion. Really, not kidding, find yourself an animal that can pack some of that weight, or invite another backpacker friend.
I had some friends who set their little Dachshund up with a tool belt, and he carried his own food with him for a weekend hike. It was awesome.
You might consider trying dried apple pie. It used to be really common. In fact one old timer told me his mother always used dried apples for pie and preferred it. That may have been because it was sweeter though. The couple I’ve made have been pretty good. It’s certainly lighter and you don’t have to pack out the cans. They reconstitute quickly when cooked. I’m really into “gorp” “or trail mix” for packing, that just being a random mix of nuts, dried fruits and chocolate chips. No preparation time is great for the trail. it goes down really easy and of course both calorie and nutrient dense. Have fun, I’m jealous.
there is an old saw about dried apple pie.
I loathe, abhor, detest, despise Abominate dried apple pies!
I believe the Amish call it snitz pie
Sounds wonderful, I’m sure you all will have a great time.
When I go trekking, I avoid cans if possible as I try and avoid as much trash as possible since I will have to carry that also and it gets smelly and attracts animals.
I used to carry creamed coconut bought in vac sealed packs – more calorie dense than chocolate and yummy on its own.
I have also known some people who have done food drops ahead of time; they go into the bush and bury supplies so that they are there when they arrive.
Every time i try to backpack with butter, I get melted butter. Do you have a secret??
Squeeze tubes/bottles. Try GoToobs or similar. Keeps messy semi-solids out of your gear and in your mouth where they belong. :-)
Yah didn’t you watch Iron Will… he lived off his momma’s apple pie!!! You Forgot the Micro Brew… You only need pemmican, butter to cook trout in, and beer… lots of beer!!!
Matt, I am new to your site. Discovered you in my effort to question, understand, and educate myself about a Vegan diet, (mostly from a nutritional perspective) that many people believe is the way of life. I am not Vegan, but have considered it, as I have been introduced through family members who have adopted and adapted it wholeheartedly into their lives. I wasn’t certain which medium within your website to best contact you, so I thought that I would use this latest post of yours. Since researching in your post these past few days, I came across RBTI and wanted to know your current stance on that. In my research to find simple, staightforward, commonsense practices for a healthier life, RBTI is intriguing. I first discovered you when googling such searches as “is Veganism the solution”, which led me to your book “The Vegan Solution”, Which I bought as an Ebook and read. Since then I have been pouring through your website.
Thank you for your time and info.
Wow, Matt really did well on the SEO there. ;) Katy, if I understand correctly, the big take-away from RBTI was just to not over-hydrate and eat plenty of salt, as detailed in Eat for Heat. Many of the other details seem to have fallen away.
Not completely positive I have that right, maybe someone else will jump in to correct.
That’s about right. Matt also continues to avoid pork, as he wrote about here: http://180degreehealth.com/2012/09/why-i-dont-eat-pork
Basically RBTI was useful in putting health in a context of keeping the body in balance and avoiding peaks and valleys when it came to thinks like sugar and salt levels. By acting to bring the body back into a non-stress hormone dominant state when you start to fall there (you get cold or anxious, your urine becomes clear and more frequent, etc.), and spending more hours of the day in this state, you can do repair and rebuild your overall metabolic health.
RBTI might still be valuable for someone in a very bad place health-wise, who has few options for recovery. But for the average person, you see most of the benefit by reading biofeedback and tweaking food/beverage/salt ratios and timing as Matt writes about in Eat for Heat.
It is interesting, as Rob pointed out, that RBTI may be more of an option for one who is in bad health. I’ve read the post on “why I don’t eat pork” …and the information “that pork fat has the highest concentration of arachidonic acid of any known fat. Arachidonic acid is a type of fat that is highly involved in many inflammatory processes”. Didn’t know that, but it could explain then why it irritates one of my family members psoriasis. Again, I very much appreciate the feedback.
Thank you for your response. I will be reading Eat for Heat next.
I find that chocolate bars, dried cherries, goldfish crackers and beef jerky make for the best hiking fare. Now I just need some schmuck to load it all onto and I’m good to go. Incidentally, my bomb shelter is also full of these items. I’m no fool.
I’m glad to say that it was a camping trip that first broke the orthorexic fear-grip in my mind from stupid paleo. Got fed up with being starving and made and ate s’more after s’more … best sleep in months after that! (Unfortunately, I didn’t give up on restrictions in normal life for a couple more weeks … but the marshmallowy seed was planted.)
Seriously, the amount of calories a person burns through hiking and sleeping in the great outdoors ironically reveals the wisdom of eating some processed foods. At this time, I was reading the really charming and wise camping guide by San Francisco outdoors writer Tom Stienstra. This burly, stout, middle-aged guy was embarking on backpacking and fishing adventures that a then-thin, much younger me couldn’t even contemplate. And the camp food he described included (besides fresh-caught fish) jerky, instant oatmeal, boiled macaroni, granola bars, candy … in other words lots of carbs, most of it processed! A solid testimonial for both the importance of carbs and the pointlessness (I’d even go so far as to say terrible mistake, for some people) of latching onto thin-ness as a valid objective, rather than living well, full stop.
I think the operative phrase is “concentrated foods.” Yeah, we ate 12 sticks of butter, several pounds of chocolate chips, 2 bags of ginger snap cookies, 2 bags of oreos, 2 packs of hot dogs, a couple pounds of cheese, a loaf of white bread, several pounds of white flour, and a bunch of other crap and were all constantly pulling our pants up while hiking by the end. I think we had to have lost about 15 pounds between the 3 of us in one trip, and did so eating until we were sick of food.
Not being a cook. I liked Louis L’Amour’s camping diet of cheese, nuts and dried fruit.
I see you’re bringing protein and plan to catch fish, but why don’t you mention it as an important element? Do you consider you’ll be getting enough protein with what you mention? Pemmican is dried lean meat + dried berries + rendered fat. Perhaps 80% fat by calories but certainly not by volume or weight.
I don’t think of protein as being that important of an element. With the appropriate amount of energy, adequate protein intake is virtually guaranteed.
Can weight gainer shakes be used to help get in the calories during a RRARF? Or does the water they have to be mixed with make the shakes too cooling to be productive?
How did it go Matt? I am a 30 year veteran of high altitude backpacking…week long trips with 50 pound pack. (which of course gets lighter and lighter every day a you eat your food). Sorry but some of that stuff sounds incredibly inefficent. Canned apple pie filling? Actual potatoes. Sticks of better and hot dogs? How do you keep it form metling/going rancid. For one week: going dehyrated/freeze dried is the way to go. And if you know some good recipes incredibly tasty. Pad thai with chicken, turkey vindaloo, chicken mole with rice and beans. Shepards pie, etc. Breakfast burritos: instant mashed potatoes, rehydrated eggs, bacon bits. and of course: dried fruit, oatcakes, jerky, lots of nuts. I mixed chia seeds, whey protein powder and raw cocoa to make a morning drink.slurry that was delicious. Great trail sanil,: that sesame seed brittel you can find at Asian grocery stores. My problem is making myself eat enough, I tend not to have a huge appetite at altitude.
It was great. Colorado in fall allows for many refrigeratables (sp?). Temps ranged from 25-55 on the trip, perfect for most foods. I have taken butter to the point of rancidity once. Took about 10 days. Ghee is better. But pound for pound, hot dogs, cheese, butter – they contain a lot more calories than most freeze-dried foods. And taste much better obviously. We didn’t take the apple pie filling on this trip. But when I do take it I put it in a Ziploc. Also remember I’m packing with 2 girls with very particular tastes not used to backpacking. The food has to be pretty damn exceptional for them to eat enough to hike and stay warm.