View Full Version : Thru-hiking as a vegetarian

06-26-2018, 16:15
Anyone have experience thru-hiking as a vegetarian? Any thoughts about it?

06-26-2018, 16:34
I'm a section hiker, not a thru-hiker, but I am a lifelong vegetarian - not tempted by meat at all. Since thru-hiking is nothing more than a series of section hikes, and I've completed almost 85% of the AT, maybe I can offer a little help.

First off, vegetarian doesn't mean healthy. Potato chips and Oreos are vegetarian. It's up to you to decide how healthy your food will be. Many thru-hikers gorge in towns. If you follow that pattern, your hunger can be satisfied with a mushroom-and-onion pizza instead of the pepperoni.

Re-supply at convenience stores is pitiful, vegetarian or not. Honey buns and ramen are vegetarian (if you throw out the seasoning packet), still it's nice to get to a real grocery store. Fresh produce is heavy and doesn't keep well, but it's wonderful to have. After a lunch of snack bars and crackers, an apple, a real apple, juicy and flavorful, is a special treat and worth its weight.

Cheese keeps well enough, but usually gets eaten pretty quick.

Dehydrated veggies are available. I haven't been happy with the peas/corn, but other stuff was alright.

Let us know what other questions you have.
And welcome to WhiteBlaze!

06-26-2018, 16:58
First off, no-one has ever digested cellulose... so vegetables are basically not digestible, they just pass through without releasing all those wonderful vitamins and minerals (not much actually).

The elephant in the room question is how do you expect to be nourished by low-nutrient plants that contain toxins and anti-nutrients that prevent you from using what they do have? You will likely be malnourished and underpowered. I won't say it can't be done, but it's brutally rare and involves carrying a boatload of supplements.

You know what natives call a vegetarian don't you? "Poor Hunter".

Crushed Grapes
06-26-2018, 17:36
I'll be NOBO next year on the AT, and will stick to my vegetarian diet. Many thru-hikers are vegetarian and even vegan these days. It's not out of the ordinary and can be done with the right amount of research and planning. There a many options for sticking to your diet now, much more so in years past.

06-26-2018, 17:49
No meat since '77. The only issue you will face is fresh fruit & veges. If you are planning on resupplying every 3-4 days, just eat fresh on resupply day and carry enough for the next day. That might add a pound for the first day but certainly not a deal breaker.

06-26-2018, 18:21
Anyone have experience thru-hiking as a vegetarian? Any thoughts about it?
Check out Harmony House for dehydrated fruit, veggies and beans. Put those in drop boxes, or a bounce box, and buy nuts, grains and dried fruit during town visits.

Oats or granola, dried cranberries, raisins instant milk, Carnation Essentials are easy to get in town and make a great first breakfast.

Quinoa, instant rice, and pasta all cook relatively quickly. Use a lot cozy to conserve fuel. Pack a few spices to change up flavor profiles so you don't go insane. Carry dried cheese powder to make Mac n cheese. King Flour makes a great one out of real cheese.

Pack coconut or olive oil in a good 8 oz container. Add it to everything for quality fat and calories.

Nuts, Lara and Kind bars, dried fruit, nut butters on tortillas, banana chips, sesame sticks all make for great lunches and snacks.

Good luck!

L Dog

map man
06-26-2018, 18:50
Nuts and nut butters are good trail foods that are high in healthy fats and calories for both vegans and vegetarians. Unlike some veggie options they are usually easy to find at camp/convenience/grocery stores where most hikers resupply. You won't want to live off of that alone, by any means, but it's a good "core holding", as the investment gurus say;).

06-26-2018, 19:12
The Barefoot Sisters are vegetarians, and they hiked the trail twice.

06-27-2018, 00:06
I'm a TCer and 30K + trail and off trail miles hiker as a pesce whole food vegetarian. Love it. The lifestyle supports my health, life, and backpacking. It allows for a friendlier ecological footprint than a typical SAD(Standard American Diet) Diet, diet high in meat consumption, or diet high in highly processed "dead" food like products with ingredients one needs a food science(lab science) or chemistry degree to even pronounce. On trail I always have "live" non dehydrated fresh produce. - greens, garlic, onions, turmeric, ginger, etc. An option to consider including even if not a vegetarian is to grow easy peasy nutritious trail sprouts. https://outdoorherbivore.com/trail-sprouts/ hand a small hemp fabric bag with some organic seed of the back of the pack. Rinse in water 2-3X daily. Ouila. Nutritional powerhouse sprouts with diversity of tastes. Great for on trail wraps or added to chili.

I typically like to mail a few resupply boxes and buy also some live" food to supplement at resupply stops. On the AT and the other TC trails, since resupply logistics are so well documented, especially the AT, it is easy enough to buy along the way as a vegetarian at larger grocery stores or health food stores. I mail because I like having most of my food costs budgeted for pre hike. Plus, I do mail some items hard to find.

06-27-2018, 07:57
Works for me, too, both thru-hiking (TC and many others) and long distance bike touring, for the past 35 years. Nuts, nut butters, rolled oats, bread products, dried fruit, fresh fruit and veg are easy to resupply almost anywhere.

I'm mainly plant-based, but not a strongly ethical vegan, so a little cheese will creep onto my plate. It's really hard to turn down a pizza in town.

I do not resupply with bars or other preserved, stable products in sealed wrappers. As Dogwood notes, much of that stuff is dead and/or toxic.

The search function is cumbersome on this forum, but this topic has been discussed at length in other threads.

06-27-2018, 18:54
I met a hiker who was vegetarian/vegan (not sure which, I know he ate pizza?) and he successfully had a thru hike. He lost some weight I think but not much. I met him in GA at the Hiker Hostel and we started the same day (I was out for a section). I saw him again in Sep in NH when I was visiting my son. He looked great and was doing great. I know he dehydrated a LOT of his own food and had it shipped along the way. He was very much into a "plant based" diet and wanted to pursue something with athletes and nutrition when he was done with the trail. He moved along quite well I must say. His trail name was GoMo (cause he had a great "go" motor).

Odd Man Out
06-28-2018, 08:11
I am not a vegetarian, but tend that way on the trail. My go-to hiking meal is curried lentils and rice with olive oil. If I can find dehydrated vegetables, I will throw those in. Cooks fast if you use red lentils and basmati rice. I'm also partial to Bobs Red Mill Muesli with Stonyfield whole milk plain (not Greek) yoghurt. These things are widely available in larger grocery stores, but probably not gas stations. BTW, our local Target has an impressive selection of dehydrated vegetables and fruit. I had not seen that in a non-hiking oriented store before.

06-28-2018, 08:23
Goodness, in my close circle of about a dozen avid hikers, many of which are double-crowners, about half of them are Veggies, with a couple Vegans in that group, zero worries doing long hikes as such. The vegans have to work a bit harder, but the veggies have no issues.

I'm a life-long meat eater, and will remain as such BUT I'm practically a veggie on the trail, only maybe half the days does a BP meal I eat contain meat, it would be trivial to go full Veggie on the trail. Well, though, in the towns, this would be a different matter....