View Full Version : Food ideas for section- and thru-hiking

03-16-2005, 10:30
How NOT to eat on an AT thru-hike IMO...

"AT Diet"
by Carol Moore, 1989 AT thru-hiker, on page 102 of Roland Mueser’s book:

On the Trail:
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Snack: GORP
Lunch: Peanut butter on moldy bagel
Snack: Snickers bar
Dinner: Lipton Noodles (Deluxe: add can of tuna)

In Town:
Breakfast: Left half of menu
Snack: Chocolate milkshake, any pie Ala Mode
Lunch: Salad bar (3 trips)
Snack: pint Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, liter soft drink, ½ case cheap beer
Lunch II: Pizza (large with everything)
Snack: pint Ben & Jerry’s (different flavor)
Nap (optional)
Dinner: Fried chicken, French fries, veggies, bread
Drinks: water, milk, coffee, wine, beer
Dessert: Chocolate pudding – NOT!

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Note that this list of thoughts I have compiled is from the point of view of a nonvegetarian non-ultralighter who prefers to eat healthily (i.e., lots of vegetables, no white potatoes, no white bread, no celery or lettuce, no potato chips, no lard or margarine, no soft drinks or coffee) and has a fondness for Oriental food and seafood, with some special options for winter mentioned. There are some possible ideas here for ultralighters as well.

Nuts (all unmixed, shelled, raw and unsalted)
Sunflower seeds
Pine nuts
Peanut butter (no added oil or salt in ingredients)
Defatted dried coconut flakes (mix with other food items)
For variety: Brazil nuts, filberts (if can find shelled), cashews
Flax seeds: ground up (so will not pass thru system undigested) and added to other dishes; desirable due to high Omega-3 oil content

Fruits (unmixed)
Good-quality purple raisins (stems too likely in generic brands)
Chocolate-covered raisins (not during summer heat wave)
Pitted prunes (no, they don’t affect me that way)
Pitted dried apricots
Dried mango slices (occasionally)
Dried whole figs
Pitted whole DATES (often)
Blackberry jam/preserves (not jelly, which is less substantial); look for brands in plastic jars so weigh less; get small containers in warmer weather
Banana chips (look for unsalted without added fat)
Fresh apples (not in winter, as apples are unpalatable after they have frozen, even if later thawed)
Fresh bananas (green when leave town); occasionally; spring/fall only
Frozen bananas; winter only; peel and put in plastic wrap before leaving town; especially good with peanut butter, with bite of chocolate, or added to hot cereal or oatmeal
Tangerines (spring/fall only; rot in summer, freeze in winter)
Frozen blueberries: (one pound in plastic bag standard size); mix with aspartame, water, and powdered milk (winter only); leak-prone
Frozen blackberries A/A
Frozen raspberries A/A
Canned fruits – 2nd/3rd day out maximum (weight issue)
Hard green pears (not commonly sold in groceries); in season in South U.S. only, occasionally at roadside stands or via friends with trees; eaten while still quite hard; will not smash even in warm weather when regular types of pear rapidly turn to goo
Wild berries along trail in season (blackberries, blueberries)

Homemade beef/venison/bison jerky (best made with soy sauce & ginger powder)
Dried spiced sausage (if can find)
Canned meats -- sardines, SPAM turkey, corned beef, tuna, crab, oysters, clams (NEVER regular SPAM/potted meat product or Vienna sausage – those are just lard with traces of meat); note that the small flat cans of shellfish seafood are lower water content than the larger ones (esp. oysters and clams), so pack better, but are often smoked (less healthy)
Low fat summer sausage (if I can ever find any)
Protein powders – look for ones with no milk/whey in 1st 3 ingredients (otherwise, get cheaper powdered milk/cheeses); from health food stores
Foil packs of salmon (NOT the tuna foil packs, which are much inferior in taste, Omega-3 oil content, and have higher heavy metal levels)
Sandwich spreads ala Underwood? (occasionally)
Dried and/or salted fish: (esp. herring or cod)
Dried chopped cuttlefish/squid (Oriental food stores): no fat, very low water content, high protein content, no cooking required, mild taste, eat as jerky; comes as mild and hot varieties; I much prefer the mild; you’ll have to ask a store employee which is which, as it’s not obvious on the packages
Frozen raw meats (deep winter or first few hours out of town only); much risk of leakage and nasty mess, high water content
Fresh fish: caught by stealth fishing (rarely an option on the AT) or yogied from nonhiker fisherman
Egg whites, especially dehydrated; note that while whole eggs keep fairly well without refrigeration in all but the hottest weather, they are fragile and high in water; also, only the whites should be eaten (discard all yolks), as yolks are mainly just water and fat (lots of saturated fat, at that); whites go well with noodles, in soups, mixed into casseroles, cooked as part of sandwich spreads, etc.
Brewer’s yeast: either as tablets, or used in cooking; see note about yeast at bottom

Drinks/broths (other than water)
Decaf green tea: Celestial Seasonings brand widely available [Wal-Mart carries] and inexpensive; milder taste than Lipton’s green tea; ones in Oriental food stores often adulterated with various herbs (not desirable)
Miso soup powder: Oriental food stores; is Japanese; some protein content; see comment on soy products below
Hot apple cider mixes (can make similar product from cinnamon, Tang, ground cloves, brown sugar, instant tea powder, lemon flavoring, etc.)
Beef bouillon (low-salt variety often available in grocery diet food section)
Fish bouillon (health/Oriental food stores)
Onion soup powder
Powdered milk (in cereals, cocoa)
Cocoa powder
Concentrate nonfrozen cans of nonblend grape/orange/cranberry juices
Lemonade (from ReaLemon; use plastic ½ -cup bulbs); can bring fresh from home for first day out, or longer in cool weather
Tomato/V-8 juice: best brought cold from home in thermos on first day out; palatability drops if frozen, not good warm, too high in water to carry far
Chambord (French black raspberry liqueur) – rarely, not when hypothermia a possibility
Mead (wine made from honey; prefer English brand, ~17% ethanol) – A/A

Dried tomatoes (grocery produce section)
Dried mushrooms (A/A)
Dried parsley flakes (grocery spice department)
Dried onion flakes (A/A)
Spinach powder (Walton Foods?)
Fresh bunches of watercress (dependent on weather/days out from town)
Fresh bunches of cilantro (A/A)
Fresh bunches of parsley (A/A)
Fresh bunches asparagus (A/A)
Frozen broccoli (first meal out, except during winter/near winter, then longer out)
Frozen peas (A/A)
Frozen spinach (A/A)
Frozen Brussel sprouts (A/A)
Frozen lima beans (A/A)
Cans asparagus (occasional; 1st day out)
Canned whole tomatoes; for first day out only due to high water content; ideally, keep in refrigerator until just before leaving for Trail so will be cool and refreshing to eat; if in trail town overnight in cool weather, can place can outside during night so is chilled for next day’s hike
German vegetable sausage (if can find; read about in a book on WWII)
Seaweed (black much better than green; best is from Japan, esp. sushi type); lots of minerals, extremely dehydrated so ultralightweight, lasts indefinitely

Olive oil (try to find in lightweight container)
Canned butter tubes (if can find)
Tubs of unsalted butter (nonsummer weather only)
Miniature chocolate bars (not during summer heat wave)
Hard cheese
Grated lowfat cheeses (cool weather only)
(Nuts and some meats also qualify)
Fish oil capsules (sold for Omega-3 oil content)
Wheat germ oil (do not use for frying due to low heat tolerance) (health food stores)
Avocado --first day out only (spring/fall only)
Other cooking oils such as sunflower, safflower, peanut, etc. (limit corn oil)
Flaxseed oil due to Omega-3 content (do not use for frying)
AVOID: Margarine, Crisco and other shortenings, lard, hydrogenated oils, coconut oil, powdered coffee creamers if not nonfat, fatback, bacon, regular SPAM, potted meat products, Velveeta and other pasteurized cheese product (most sliced “cheese” in dairy section is this), Vienna sausage, cheap nonlowfat sausage (esp. if pork), pork rinds, potato chips, beef tallow, deep-fried foods (especially if grease old/heated to high temperature, as is usual in most commercial restaurants) such as fish sticks, breaded fried fish filets (such as in fish sandwiches from fast-food restaurants), French fries, hash browns, Tater Tots, etc.

Cookies (nonhydrogenated oils, no animal fats; compare fat content)
Shredded wheat with extra bran (has extra protein as well as more fiber); get the non-sugarcoated
Low-fat granola (can be eaten dry as GORP substitute, or conventionally as cereal with dry milk)
Raisin Bran/Bran Flakes (as cold cereal, or mixed in casseroles)
Fat-free whole-grain wheat/rye wafers/crisps such as Havli (usually imported from Scandinavia); have to spread dips on them, as too fragile to dip with; very low water content, so good UL food
BAKED (not fried) whole-grain corn chips (unsalted preferred); good to dip into bean and other casseroles, esp. as trail lunch
Noninstant oatmeal (add nonfat dry milk, raisins, cinnamon, molasses, brown sugar and bananas [chip or fresh] if available)
Noninstant brown rice (cooked over wood fires only due to long cooking time unless ground before trip)
Japanese polished rice such as Kokuho Rose (make sure has no talc, so no need to rinse before cooking)
100% Whole-wheat bread (not Roman Meal/Colonial/Sara Lee) – mainly for sandwiches
Whole-grain mixed hot cereal – rye, triticale, etc. (health food store)
Whole-grain coarsely-ground mixed grain hot cereal; buy, or make; I like ones with rye, wheat, oats, and triticale; may add amaranth, millet, brown rice, nuts, spices, etc. as Jardine does; I don’t think ones with soy are wise (see comment below); I normally add brown sugar/aspartame, dark cane molasses, and a bit of butter or olive oil to it
Cans nonfat refried beans (1st or 2nd day out only due to weight); good for stove meals; like all beans, eat with meat and/or rice to complement amino acid profiles
Wheat germ (bags lighter than jars); almost a meat, it’s so high in protein; ultrahigh in B vitamins, too
Whole-wheat blueberry Newtons
Whole-wheat macaroni/spaghetti noodles
Sweet potatoes/yams (wrap in foil, toss in campfire; take long time if boiled)
Wild rice (cook over wood fires only due to LONG cooking time); no-rinse kind only; like wheat germ for vitamins; may usefully grind up before trip
Mixed dried beans (wood fires only if whole); may grind up before hike; heavy on garbanzos (amino acid profile)/green split peas (vitamins); w/. rice
Lentils (cook quickly); mix with rice
Mixes such as Near East brand (lentil pilaf, etc.)
Saffron rice
Taro root (as yams)
Cattail roots (once only, just to say you did it)

Dried garlic powder or minced (meats, starches)
Dried ginger powder (meats)
Bouillon (beef, tomato, chicken)
Small cans tomato paste
Cinnamon (hot cereal, occas. toast via foil over fire)
Dark brown sugar (hot cereals)
Molasses (hot cereals, beans)
Soy sauce (meats, beans)
Japanese powders to flavor polished rice (Oriental food stores, international markets); I like the purple and green ones best (ones with bonito are too strong-tasting)
Lemon juice (drinks, fish, on greens)
Vinegar (A/A)
Onion soup powder (beans, as broth to drink)
Honey for sweetening (drinks, cereals); buckwheat and basswood best types
Aspartame (“Equal”) for sweetening (drinks, cereals)
Tiny packets of condiments (catsup, mustard, mayonnaise, pickle relish) from fast-food restaurants; note that Arby’s also has horseradish packets, pizzerias have Parmesan cheese ones, Taco Bell has chili sauce ones, and Chinese restaurants that offer take-out have packets of soy sauce, sweet-and-sourt sauce, and hot mustard; Sam’s Club sells some condiment packets in quantity (Costco may as well)

Freeze-dried whole meals (Mountain House, Alpine Aire)
FD vegetables/fruits: pineapple in particular is very good; would love to try FD figs and persimmons one day
MREs (very occasional)

1) Start hikes with 2-3 days worth of sandwiches made up; meat only in sandwiches eaten on the 1st day unless the weather is very cool; sliced poultry keeps worse than beef; no mayo/salad dressing except in first 4 hours (use butter/mustard/catsup); only peanut butter and jelly after first day unless very cool; put spinach/watercress/cilantro on meat sandwiches in quantity; no fresh tomatoes on sandwiches (they make the bread soggy); may make up sandwiches complete but short of meat, later adding canned/foil pack meat on the trail.

2) Start hikes with ½ or 1 gallon of frozen-solid grape juice; alternatives: frozen-solid orange juice, frozen-solid homemade lemonade made from scratch, or (in winter) a hot drink in a thermos such as green tea, cocoa, or hot cider.

3) Breakfast/Dinner – may prepare extra to eat for next meal, or even make a second different meal; put in Rubbermaid containers.

4) Always leave town with at least one meal purchased at the last moment.

5) In cool weather, leave town with at least one quart skim milk and orange juice.

6) Salads and sandwiches in town should include fresh spinach if at all possible (watercress, cilantro, etc., acceptable substitutes), with NO raw peas (has nutrient-blocking chemicals while in raw form) and no celery or lettuce of any kind (negligible nutrients).

7) I WANT to lose weight on the Trail; that is why I have aspartame and many low-fat food items listed.

8) Note that fried chicken from town will keep over 24 hours in almost all weather, especially if you do not open the container after you buy it, and it is cooked just before you buy it; this way is usually easier to get in fast-food restaurants than in groceries/convenience stores.

9) Nice adjunct to sandwiches at the start of a hike is apple slices with (hard only) cheese slices in between them (make at home).

10) Note that many thru-hikers have reported significant loss of lean muscle mass, especially in their upper bodies; if adequate protein is consumed every day, this may conceivably be reduced or avoided. Powdered milk, protein powder, and/or dried meats are IMO the most UL-compatible protein sources when far from resupply. (Doing a few pushups at the end of each day might help, too, but I doubt many hikers will ever do this after a long day on the Trail.)

11) Roasted nuts do not generally last as long as unroasted ones do once the container is opened; unroasted nuts are better for you, too.

12) People get more than enough salt through consumption of food, so there is generally no need even when hiking in hot weather to take salt tablets, salt shakers, or seek out salted versions of normal foods.

13) The clearest explanation of how to mix protein-containing foods so as to complement amino acid profiles (to get the most out of your food) is in the overly environmental “Diet for a Small Planet” by Frances Lappe (lots of vegetarian recipes in it too). If you remember to mix rice with beans, milk with grains, try to generally eat a little meat or egg whites when eating other foods, go heavy on garbanzos (chick peas) in your bean eating, mix corn with beans, and often eat some rice with other cereals (due to its high lysine levels), you’ll do OK.

14) The human body cannot absorb all the calcium it needs for one day from a single session in one day. Therefore, try to space out your milk consumption, cheese-eating, calcium supplement taking, etc., each day. Also, meat (including fish) is very high in phosphorus, which interferes with calcium absorption if eaten at the same meal during which major calcium sources are consumed. Therefore, try to avoid meat and fish at least one time each day (better two) when you do a major milk drinking/cheese-eating/vitamin & mineral tablet-taking that day. I don’t know whether eggs are high in phosphorus, but suspect it. Certain vegetables such as broccoli have a fair amount of calcium.

15) A study of thru-hiker diets in Roland Mueser’s book on AT hikers found that calcium and Vitamin A were the nutrients in shortest supply. Vitamin A is an oil-soluble vitamin, so the body can store it for as much as 3 months (much longer than for water-soluble vitamins). I personally suspect the main nutritional shortages among thru-hikers would include adequate intake of complete amino acid profile protein, C and B biologic-origin vitamins, fiber, and whole-grain carbohydrates (white bread, white potatoes, Ramen, Lipton, Campbell’s soup, non-wholewheat spaghetti/macaroni, white flour tortillas, etc., don’t fill this need). Also, while water-soluble vitamins such as C and the Bs just go out in the urine when consumed in excess, that is not the case for fat-soluble vitamins such as A and D. Those can cause harm when grossly overconsumed (mainly a risk for supplement abusers). Vitamin E is fat-soluble, but nearly impossible to overdose on.

16) Pure vegetarian diets tend to produce borderline deficiencies of certain minerals such as zinc and magnesium (as these are not nearly as easily absorbable by the human body from plant as animal products) even under normal circumstances, so vegan thru-hikers will likely need mineral supplement pills on thru-hikes.

17) Vitamin supplements are not as helpful as one might think. The reason is that the chemical definition of what constitutes a particular vitamin is overly loose. Synthetic-origin vitamins are typically less effective than are biologic-origin (that is, originated in food) vitamins. Therefore, try very hard to get all the vitamins you need via food; certain foods such as wheat germ, pure wild rice (not the 10% mixtures such as Uncle Ben’s sells), yeast (in moderation!), dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, and (occasionally) organ meats such as liver are invaluable.

18) Yeast has very high levels of nucleic acids, which when consumed in excess contributes to contracting the painful joint problem called gout. This is especially a risk for people who are heavy meat eaters who eat few vegetables. Therefore, don’t go too heavy on yeast consumption, although modest amounts are valuable B vitamin sources.

19) A good source of dietary info: www.paleodiet.com (http://www.paleodiet.com)

20) The human diet does require a certain level of fat, aside from certain necessary unsaturated oils it cannot synthesize. If you don’t eat enough, you can eventually get a debilitating condition known among Arctic explorers as “rabbit diarrhea”, named for rabbit meat containing negligible fat. The traditional remedy was to eat some fatty bear meat.

21) Corn that has been treated with lime has its niacin made nutritionally available, which otherwise would go to waste when eaten. The Hispanic custom of using lime in preparing their corn tortilla flour makes their tortillas nutritionally preferable over traditional American corn meal products (most of which are degermed and near-worthless in any event); make sure they have not been fried before you buy them, though.

22) Whenever possible, wash fresh fruits and vegetables (even leafy ones such as parsley and spinach) in soapy water, with a final potable water rinse. This removes much pesticide and other undesirable residues (think of the likely unwashed condition of the many hands that have touched those plants between coming out of the soil and landing on your plate…). Such washing reduces spoilage time, so do so as short a time as possible before cooking or eating.

23) In general, the smaller the fish, the lower the content of heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury, etc.). This makes sardines preferable to many other fish, and tuna less desirable than almost any other “oily” fish. To get Omega-3 oils that help reduce arteriosclerosis, try to limit fish intake as much as possible to fish that contain them (“oily” fish) such as sardines, herring, cod, all types of mackerel (Spanish over King due to size), salmon, and tuna. Fish NOT on that list: bass, bluefish, catfish, pollack (fish sticks and fast-food fish sandwiches), snapper, panfish/brim, redfish, flounder, grouper, mahi-mahi, wahoo, etc. Salmon have such a high Omega-3 content that IMO their somewhat larger size can be ignored. Also, the heavy metal content of saltwater fish is more constant than for freshwater fish; the latter may be better or worse, depending on downstream/downwind status WRT to cities or industry (water near mining and coal-fueled power plants is notorious for association with this issue).

24) Apples produce a gas called ethylene (C2H4) that speeds up ripening of other fruits and vegetables such as bananas, tomatoes, etc. Use this capability to advantage by interspacing apples with other produce that needs ripening together in a paper bag. Avoid apples making other produce rot prematurely by keeping them separate otherwise.

25) For a good home grinder, I recommend the Country Living Grain Mill (one of which I own) to make dried beans, wild rice, brown rice, etc., cook much faster on the Trail (so that they become practical to cook over a stove a hiker can carry, rather than just over wood fires), or to grind your own wheat. A cheaper one that still works so-so is the Family grain mill. Www.waltonfeed.com (http://www.waltonfeed.com) (www.waltonfood.com (http://www.waltonfood.com)?) has a large info section on related issues.

26) Soybeans have several chemicals that make me question the wisdom of eating soy and its products when they can be avoided. First, soy that has not been severely processed (miso, tofu) has some antinutrient compounds that inhibit utilization during digestion of some vitamins and minerals; ordinary cooking or drying does not deactivate these compounds in soy as it does related ones in beans and green peas.

Even then, there appear to be analogs to estrogens (certain hormones mainly found in women) in them that will survive such processing. These E.A.s may protect against circulatory system disorders in women to some extent, but there is increasing evidence that these are undesirable for males of any age to consume.

Even soybean oil is likely to have drawbacks. Soy oil is normally partially hydrogenated (made more saturated) to slow down the rate it goes rancid; look on the back of any inexpensive cookie package or baking mixes to check this. However, this produces a chemical not found in nature for which there is no reason to consume it, it being significantly less healthy than the original.

For all these reasons, I try to avoid soy nuts, textured vegetable protein, soy milk, and above all soy oil (whether as the pure oil or as an ingredient in purchased mixed foods), just occasionally having a cup of miso soup or using soy sauce in cooking, which add only a tiny bit of soy to my diet.

03-16-2005, 11:42
In Jardine's book (which I just finished reading for the second time), he notes that no matter what GORP recipe he uses, he ends up cherry-picking the stuff he is more in the mood for out of a mix. As I kind of prefer to eat one thing at a time anyway (except for obvious casserole/salad recipes), his point made sense to me.

03-16-2005, 12:21
Knowing what to eat that grows along the trail can greatly enhance your experience. For example:

Onions: (Including Leeks, ramps, etc.) Fresh onions grown EVERYWHERE. Learn to use them to add a fresh veggie to all your soup mixes or a sauteed vegetable for other meals.

Starchy Foods: If you're lucky enough to find Jerusalem Artichokes, Arrow Root, CatTail, Daylily or any of the other starchy roots and tubers then use them.

Salads: Purslane, Sorrel, Dandelion, Plantain, Red Clover, Chickweed, Cow Pea, Burdock, Lambs Quarters, Chicory ..etc..etc... Put it in a bag when you find it, rinse it at dinner, add a little olive oil and you're in business with fresh salad!

Teas: Sassafras, wild strawberry, wild Comfrey...all there and all yummy.

03-16-2005, 12:30
It contains lots of sassafrol, a known carcinogen. Better IMO to bring more green tea or purple grape juice concentrate, which make cancer and heart disease less likely.

03-16-2005, 12:39
that UNCLE RAY....there he goes pickin' @ his food again...

i take ALL freeze-dried entrees...just add boiling water...you'd be surprised how great they taste NOW! try Mary Janes Food (http://www.backcountryfood.org/) or Mountain House (http://www.mountainhouse.com)...they're both very tasty. :D

hope to see u out there Apr 28-May 20 as i sectiob-hike Hot Springs NC to Pearisburg,VA

03-16-2005, 12:39
that UNCLE RAY....there he goes pickin' @ his food again...

i take ALL freeze-dried entrees...just add boiling water...you'd be surprised how great they taste NOW! try Mary Janes Food (http://www.backcountryfood.org/) or Mountain House (http://www.mountainhouse.com)...they're both very tasty. :D

hope to see u out there Apr 28-May 20 as i section-hike Hot Springs NC to Pearisburg,VA

03-16-2005, 12:43
OOOOPS...i guess i hit that submit button...one too many times!

Hey MinnesotaSmith...i notice on your by-line...you're now saying you're doing a THRU-HIKE in 2006...but, your'e listed as a 2005 THRU-HIKER...


03-16-2005, 13:11
I was originally going to do it this year. However, I landed a GREAT job that lets me take several weeks off every couple of months. I can't ask for enough time off until the second half of next year to do a thru-hike (so can't go this year). However, I CAN do section hikes of up to 100 miles or so at a time, each time off, and that's what I'm going to do. In 4 weeks or so, I'm going to do the whole AT in GA. The next time, I'll do from the GA/NC line to the edge of the Smokies, and the time after that, I'll do the whole Smokies. Aside from having a good time, these are good gear and procedure practice runs. I've been walking up to 3 hours a day, 2 days on, 1 day off, with a 20-pound pack to train for this. So, that's my story.

03-16-2005, 14:22
It contains lots of sassafrol, a known carcinogen. Better IMO to bring more green tea or purple grape juice concentrate, which make cancer and heart disease less likely.
Yes, some scientits took lab rats and dipped them in 80 percent extract of Safrol and lo and behold the rats got cancer. I question whether humans can actually metabolize the actual substance fed to those rats. The reason the FDA came after naturally occurring Sassafras is so that chemical companies could make money synthesizing a replacement for root beer flavor. Stop me before I turn into a Democrat.

If you make a little sassafras tea the more likely negative effect is a hot flash. If this happens just stop drinking it.

03-17-2005, 09:35
I put down a whole bunch of ideas I've come up with (originally, or thru my research) about how to eat practically and more healthily while on section- or thru-hikes. Even if you guys disagreed with something I wrote, I'd like to hear about it; just tell me your reasoning.

Spirit Walker
03-17-2005, 11:07
You have some good ideas - but the reality is most thruhikers are a) on limited budgets; b) buying along the way and c) looking for foods that are reasonably lightweight. A lot of your stuff doesn't fit the bill. I don't carry cans or fresh fruit, except for weekend trips. I certainly don't carry freeze dried dinners - way too expensive. Also, for some people, a diet with lots of nuts and dried fruit has unpleasant consequences. (My husband said it felt like someone rubbing sandpaper through his stomach lining.)

I'm working on ways to add more protein to our trail diet based on food that you can find at your average 7-11 store - i.e. more cheese, jerky, sausage, etc. Since Jim can't eat nuts of any kind, and meats get old really fast (10 years ago, we liked Spam and summer sausage, but at this point just the thought makes us gag), cheese seems to work best. And that way we get fat and calcium too. I love dried fruit, but getting much variety is hard to do in small trail towns.

03-17-2005, 11:36
If someone doesn't have enough money to buy the food that is better for them, I have a couple of suggestions for them:

1) Stuff like whole-wheat spaghetti noodles/macaroni are not that much pricier than the ones made of white flour, which are so cheap as to be practically free. For many mixes (such as tuna helpers), all that is neccessary is to give away or discard the white flour noodles that come with the mix, upgrading with whole-wheat noodles bought separately. (The sauce mix is packaged in a separate bag in many mixes.) I do this all the time.

2) If someone tells me that they don't have enough money for the better-nutritive value foods, but meanwhile they drink alcohol, use tobacco, have cable TV, eat regularly at restaurants when in their home town, give money to "causes", have useless pets like cats/fish/reptiles/arachnids, keep their home heat/air-conditioning set to luxury levels, pay credit card interest, drive a huge gas-guzzling vehicle for ordinary paved-road commuting in good weather, etc., I would say that their issue is priorities, not resources.

As far as the items I listed not being lightweight... The tiny (4 - 6 oz.) cans of sardines/other seafood and cleaned chicken/turkey don't really weigh that much. I intend them to at least complement amino acid profiles when eaten along with bean and/or grain dishes, as a once-a-day at most occurrence, and often to be added to them to improve the appeal of the main dish. Especially if eaten in the first couple of days after resupplying, small amounts of canned or fresh foods don't have to add much to pack weight over "make a nutritionist gag" Ramen and other garbage masquerading as food. Yet, if the first two days out of town a hiker always or almost always ate nutritious food, what a difference that would make in the average quality of his diet!

WRT your personal choices, cheese often is pretty heavy in saturated fats to eat a whole lot of. A number of hikers now take a small bottle of olive oil along to add to many meals; it's relatively cheap, easy to find, and just about the lowest in saturated fats of any common cooking oil.

Why don't you consider trying dried fish, foil packs of salmon, nonfat powdered milk (you can even add it to many casseroles), ground-up dried mixed beans, powdered egg whites (put in casseroles, too), protein powders, and the like?

Spirit Walker
03-17-2005, 14:58
Again, the issue for most thruhikers is what can be found in small towns along the trail. Dried milk, of course everyone does that, dried beans -- not so easy to find. Dried fish - impossible. (And besides - yech!) Even tuna/salmon/chicken in foil packets is not likely to be found in Lima, Montana.

Spirit Walker
03-17-2005, 15:03
A game that is fun to play, and realistic training for the trail - walk into a gas station mini-mart and pretend you need to get a week's worth of food out of what's on the shelves. Sometimes it's easy - sometimes you buy a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and a dozen snickers bars. On the AT in the south, you're lucky if you can even get wheat bread.

03-17-2005, 18:06
In my limited experience, I'd say that the type of food eaten is not super important. Rather, it is the raw numbers: Fat and calories. The more fat (doesn't matter what kind), the better. Now, some foods, I've found, are really poor at generating energy. The worst offender is a Pop-Tart. Besides being weighty, eating two sleeves (about 800 calories) seems to provide as much energy as a 200 calories Oatmeal square. In a similar vein, a Snickers bar seems to provide me with less go than a Clif Bar, although they have a similar number of calories. I almost always buy the Snickers bar, though, as it is cheaper and always available.

Now, this is rather contrary to what RayJ writes, or what MinnesotaSmith puts forth, but it works well for me. And, it seems to work well with many other hikers, particularly those hikers who are hiking further than average. Consider, for example, Brian Robinson or Andy Skurka (who recently broke the Minnesota stateline on his C2C trek). Moreover, the convenience of buying as I go, and the simple preparations, make the basic method of resupplying, in my eyes, rather advantageous.

Moreover, remember that most nutrionists have no experience with long term physical exertion. Here, long term means more than a few weeks and does not refer to a marathon or triathlon. So, why should they know anything more than the people who actually engage in long distance hikes? In summary, I'll keep my ramen, Mac and Cheese, stuffing, Liptons, and Snickers bars, along with their convenience.

03-17-2005, 18:55
Do you deny the validity of diseases such as pellagra, scurvy, rickets, beriberi, goiter, kwashiorkor, etc., being caused by insufficient specific dietary nutrient intake?

03-17-2005, 20:19
Do you deny the validity of diseases such as pellagra, scurvy, rickets, beriberi, goiter, kwashiorkor, etc., being caused by insufficient specific dietary nutrient intake?Any long distance hikers ever suffer from these maladies, please speak up.

03-17-2005, 20:38
I've read multiple accounts on trailjournals about how thru-hikers lost lean muscle mass, and they concluded it was thru inadequate protein consumption. They generally vowed to bring a protein powder, more jerky, etc. if they did a long-distance hike in the future.

03-17-2005, 20:43
protein shortage is not a problem in the general long-distance hiker type diet,
or american diet as a matter of fact americans consume TOO much protein.

most hikers probably consume excess proteins..what is needed is fat and carbs.

03-17-2005, 20:54
Most Americans get 5 -10x what they need. However, for hikers, I'm not convinced. Hikers, like most Americans, need more vegetables, more fiber, more whole-grain carbs, and a very different makeup of the fats in their diet.

03-17-2005, 21:54
doesn't matter if your convinced or not MS...

what U think is really of no consequence to the truth,

I am saying this from my heart and with love and compassion one human being to another,

MS you need some serious psychological help. it is quite evident from your ranting and raving, seriously man get some help.

Back away from the computer MS and go out and take a real hike, you'll feel much better.

03-17-2005, 22:23
Fat is good. Luis L'Amour had a good bit on "Rabbit Starvation" in Last of the Breed. Basically if you eat just high protien rabbits you die for lack of fat. Something to consider?

03-17-2005, 23:11
I have heard, and this may be no more true than what Minnesotta Smith suggested, that losing lean muscle mass has more to do with how many calories a hiker eats than with protein.

The theory is, a long distance hiker burns 6000 calories a day and eats far less than that, even with town splurges and high fat foods. His calorie depleted body, over time, burns virtually all of its spare fat (think of a NOBOs in NH and ME, if you're ever seen one) and starts using muscle for food, because it's the last food source available.

03-17-2005, 23:22
yep...that's about right.

03-18-2005, 08:36
Man, how did Earl Schaeffer ever make it back in 1948!? Hiking isn't rocket science, right? It does require some common sense and practical experience but Minnesottasmith, you've got to be kidding about all this food! I've seen grocery stores that don't have that much stocked! And who has time to prepare elaborate meals after hiking for 8 or 9 hours a day? Sorry, Minnesotta, I think you need to stop planning things to death and over analyzing everything. Listen to the experienced folks on this forum. They have been there, done that and got the T-shirt.

As for me.....For dinner I usually take Mountain House dinners, Lipton Rice/Pasta meals and Ramen (the good Korean kind, not the bland stuff you get in the supermarkets). I usually eat Pop Tarts or Bagels with Peanut Butter for breakfast. Tortillas with Peanut Butter ain't too bad either. I like to take along some beef jerky to snack on because I really crave the salt. Of course, who can leave out the obligatory Snickers bars and Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies (the big ones!). Despite eating all this junk food, I usually loose around 5 - 8 lbs on a week long trip. Okay, so I've only done 2 sections but, hey, I lost the weight on both of them.:rolleyes:


03-18-2005, 12:14
i take ALL freeze-dried entrees...just add boiling water...you'd be surprised how great they taste NOW!
You'd probably be surprised how much you like stuff that you or a significant stay-at-home dehydrates for you. My first reaction at trying a new combination that I've put together is almost always WOW! This is good!

Earlier this week I went on a 3-day and had some brown rice with peas, carrots and summer sausage, some black beans, brown rice and breakfast sausage, some amazing organic granola made from rolled oats, honey, sunflower kernels, walnuts and almonds and some really good chinese take home that I had dehydrated. I also make "real" (not instant) oatmeal on the trail. It's easy with a pot cozy. Add brown sugar, powdered milk, butter-salt and raisins and your energy level goes way up for a couple of hours. It's usually my second breakfast when I eat it. I've also started messing with TVP, and it's pretty good. It's made from soy flour and is about 2/3 protein. It's easily flavored and pretty cheap. I like a LOT of variety out there.

I think that I may actually eat better on the trail than I do at home.

03-18-2005, 12:20
s and Ramen (the good Korean kind, not the bland stuff you get in the supermarkets).

Finally! Someone else who values a good ramen! Very difficult to get Seafood and Spicy on the AT, but I've found it in a couple of places on the PCT.

Calories are important, and the source is also important, which is what MS was trying to get at. I think he put too much importance on the source, but that is just my opinion based on my own experiences and observations. When I saw a hiker (who had come up from Springer) in Virginia pop open one tray of a microwave dinner (beef stew) and heat it up on his stove, I really had to laugh. The thing weighed like 10 oz and packed something like 200 calories. That was his only meal, nothing else. No snacks. No dessert. It wasn't the fact that he was eating crappy beef stew that was the problem. 200 calories of carrots would be just as bad. The problem was that there was too little of it.

03-18-2005, 13:32
I have spent hours planning meals and repacking food for hikes and campouts. But while looking for freezdried items I came across the Mountain House 7 day supply sold as a case. It all fits in my Breeze with the collor extended. Its just too easy, no planning just get a box and go. Some outfiters you will pass may order it for you and have it ready to pick up when you pass through. I box from Mountain House and a botle of multi vitamin is my new food list.
But I can still put together whatever I want from small stores, so I still play with new recipies.

03-18-2005, 13:48
1) Spirit Walker is no doubt correct that much of the healthy stuff you're accustomed to eating that is in your local large grocery store WON'T be in a mini-mart in BFE, Virginia. IMO, that means that for hikers who want to eat healthily, either making strategic use of maildrops, or stocking up past the next 3 days on some critical high-nutrition item when you have the chance, would be a wise thing to do.

2) Chris, I don't for a second deny that any hiker going through many more calories than he takes in will start catabolizing his muscle. It's like with a car; it needs gas AND oil AND transmission fluid AND brake fluid, etc.; leave out any of them long enough, and eventually there will be a problem, guaranteed.

3) Smoky, please get someone to help you work through understanding that ideas have consequences, that if a concept routinely produces evil, it is evil, no matter how good it makes you feel. I can't say what would work for you, other it being neccesary to lay off reading the liberal/socialist circular reasoning writings for a few months you apparently have favored up to now. Try seeing if you can devise responses to logic that blows your positions out of the realm of the morally acceptable without desperately medicalizing people who have access to better information than you do for a few weeks, okay?

4) Rick, I covered "rabbit diarrhea" in my opening post on this thread. Did you read that far?

5) Mr. Ed, I did not advocate bringing "all that stuff" on a hike, let alone all in one packload. It was a list of some ideas I have come up with (originally, or via my reading) that I thought might be of use to some hiking members here who want to eat better on the Trail, while still being practical about it. If someone reads my opening post, and does nothing but any one of getting salmon foil packs in preference to tuna ones, bringing a small plastic bottle of dried parsley along to pour into some meals they cook on the Trail, or coming to understand that cheapo multivitamin pills are not a cure-all for a white-flour/high-sugar/low-vegetable diet, and nothing more, they'll have gotten something worthwhile out of my post.

Think of my opening post as a free buffet of ideas with many items, and you're only a little bit hungry. You don't have to have some of everything for it to have been worth your time.

6) Franklooper has the right idea. Eating well onthe Trail is not impossible, nor not worth doing. (Except for the salt, I make oatmeal almost exactly the same way you do.)

7) Agreed, chris; that hiker with the 200 calorie dinner has a poor hiking food strategy, just from the calorie content and weight issues alone.

03-18-2005, 18:01
Pretty interesting paper on long distance nutrition by a dietician at thruhike.com ? AYCE's site anyway. Me-I just sucked down 8oz of swiss cheese in some bean burritos and the tapeworm says: "Where's she hiding the shredded coconut?" Stale? It won't matter.

03-18-2005, 19:48
MS, what a great post! I've been wanting to start grinding my own grains. Do you know where I can get a Country Living grain mill? The local HF store is no help.



03-19-2005, 12:27
Here's a direct link to a Country Living Grain Mill for sale at walton's (a reasonable, if not spectacular price):


I'd get an extra set of grinding plates at the time of purchase if I were you. Unless you have physical issues or want to grind a LOT of grain, IMO there's no need to motorize it. Bread flour needs running twice IMO.

Here's the link to a page on their site that discusses grain mills. There are direct links to various mills at the bottom.


The manufacturer: http://www.countrylivinggrainmills.com/

05-18-2005, 07:03
I just finished a 4 1/2-day section hike on the AT in GA (Amicalola to past Neels). It was going to have been the whole AT in GA, but my boss called me back to work early. I'll pick up where I stopped on my next section hike, natch.

I would add to my suggestions maximizing foods that do not require preparation such as cooking, and using drink powders to encourage drinking. Lots of other hikers I saw made extensive use of Gatorade powder. I was too bushed and busy when not hiking to heat water for tea most days, and never drank enough liquids to get my urine clear while on the Trail, no matter how much I pushed water; the high humidity present most of the time no doubt was a factor due to increased sweating. (I didn't sweat much Sunday night at Jarrad Gap, though; my tiny Coleman thermometer said it was low 40s at dawn, which it felt like.) I'm not completely convinced that the extra salt in Gatorade powder is needed, as many dried foods (jerky, most soup/rice mixes, all freeze-dried foods) have large amounts of salt added. What I would like to find would be powdered orange/grape/tomato juice; they'd have better flavor than Gatorade or Kool-Aid/Wyler's, while containing lots of potassium and negligible sodium.

Also, my appetite was enormously depressed for the first three days, and still wasn't near normal at the end. I did find that keeping GORP ingredients separate as Jardine suggests worked well; I had dried almonds, figs, apricots, dates, raisins, miniature chocolate bars, beef jerky, dried cuttlefish, a can or two of sardines/oysters, and some other things for snacking between camps. I will continue to start off my hikes carrying 8+ PB & J sandwiches (made with extra jelly so easier to swallow).

I'd also like to see more fully burnable packaging; the plastic bags that everything dried seems to come in add up fast.

P.S.: I met aspiring thru-hikers Megapole and Lady Longlegs, who graciously allowed me to take their picture. I first saw them at Jarrad Gap, and we repeatedly crossed paths all the way to Neels Gap. There were two male thrus (not tall, white, dark short hair, some facial hair, 20s) that were around as well, having befriended them, but as they did not yet have trail names, I can't tell you who they were off the top of my head. I also met a section hiker named Robert (going to Mass.) and Alaska Bob, who had some VERY interesting things to say about my proposed Alaska hikes.

05-18-2005, 07:36
I can identify. During my section hike last Spring from Harpers Ferry south to near the SNP border, I got a little scared one day. It was in the mid 80's that week in April, unseasonably warm and little shade. One day, as I was sweating like a pig, I began to get a sort of metallic taste in my mouth. No other way to describe it. I was also feeling fatigued and a little listless. Although I had been drinking plenty of water I seemed to be flushing out all my minerals. I assumed the metallic taste in my mouth was a warning sign of this, not to mention the salt that was caked on my shirt. I figured my potassium might be getting low. I didn't have gatorade with me but did have some salt tablets in my first aid kit. Normally, I would never take one of them but I did that day. It was amazing how much better I felt afterwards. The metallic taste went away and I had energy again. So, even if I don't take gatorade, I will take a pack of emergency sports drink in my first aid kit, just in case it happens again.

05-18-2005, 07:51
Go buy one of those salt-substitute bottles in the diet or spice sections of grocery stores. Look on the ingredient list on the back for one that is primarily potassium chloride.

As bananas and oranges are especially high in potassium, unsalted banana chips and dehydrated orange products (NOT Tang/Kool-Aid/Wyler's) would work well also.

05-18-2005, 08:09
Thanks for the suggestion. Now, about the PBJs...I like PBJs too but what kind of bread do you use? I hate it when the Jelly soaks into the bread. I just usually put PB on Bagels or Flour Tortillas.

05-18-2005, 12:25
I use any of several 100% whole-wheat brands. I don't care for Wal-Mart store brand or Sara Lee's. I also look at the fiber, protein, and fat content, including sat fat.

05-18-2005, 15:20
Thanks for the suggestion. Now, about the PBJs...I like PBJs too but what kind of bread do you use? I hate it when the Jelly soaks into the bread. I just usually put PB on Bagels or Flour Tortillas.I like PB on bagels for lunch. FIrst time I tried it I learned NOT to spread the PB on all the bagels before I left. The PB oil soaked into the bagels and left the PB hard, flakey and unappetising.

TJ aka Teej
05-18-2005, 16:09
Man, how did Earl Schaffer ever make it back in 1948!?
Beans, bread, butter, sausage, peanut butter, bacon, eggs, corn bread, flapjacks, canned corn, and apples. In towns he'd occasionaly eat two whole pies, or buy some hamburgers to carry back out to the trail.

leeki pole
05-18-2005, 17:06
From a wannabe thru but an experienced marathoner, let me give you a suggestion. I always carry in my key pocket in my running shorts on Long Runs (i.e, 10 miles and up) 5 of those salt containers you get at fast food places. You know, the tubes that crack open at one end. When you feel the need for salt, just pull one out of the ziploc and partake. Hyponatremia is a real concern for any endurance athlete, thrus and LD hikers included, and after a bout with it running an 18 miler in 88 degree temps with 70% humidity, my doc reeducated me about the danger of too little salt. So check with your doc and make sure that you are getting enough to prevent this from occurring.

05-18-2005, 18:41
Oatmeal cookies, fig or blueberry newtons, dense dry "square" bread from grocery deli section (about 5x the density of normal bread -- CANNOT eat it without ample water to wash it down unless you like choking on terminal hiccups!).

I tried to eat something at least every other break. Eating was moderately pleasant, but anything other than "open and eat" was a chore. I wore a boonie hat with a fully-opened bandanna under it in back, plus gloves and a long-sleeved windbreaker (Packa during sustained rain) even into temps in the 80s (protection mainly against ultraviolet, secondarily against brush and bugs, including ticks), so I sweat PLENTY while hiking. I never got the shakes, except from being cold for a bit after I stopped at Jarrad Gap.

12-12-2011, 06:14

12-12-2011, 06:59

12-13-2011, 01:31
During long distant hikes it's hard to stick to a consistent diet. I'd recommend lots of water, then some more water, all the protein (especially fish), fruit, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, dairy that you can find. Go easy on the candy, junk food and the alcohol.

12-13-2011, 11:42
I find soup at night is a great way to rehydrate. I boil water with lentils, and add herbs and dried vegetables. Have enough sodium somewhere in your food, but not too much. Know how much you have before you leave. Good natural source is skim milk powder. If you don't drink alot of that, you can have some in your jerky, or your soup mix. The soup mix would be a natural place to add some, as you will be rehydrating with it, but not too much. If you eat oats some of the protiens in oats are better digested if you add a pinch of salt.

My own routine is oats for breakfast, with varying things with it like skim milk, spices, nuts, seeds. Lentil soup for supper, with dried vegetables and herbs. Jerky for something to chew on now and then. Skim milk and tea and spices through the day and with meals. As I am currently overweight that is all usually enough to keep me going. If I was leaner, or if it was winter and I want to fuel myself warmer, I will add more nuts and seeds and oil to add more dense calories, nutritiously. I am now experimenting with a lower carb diet, which works out to alot of protien at 5000 kcal/day, so I'll have to see how that goes.

What I aim for:
For every 1000 calories burned...
20% protien = 50g
20% carbos = 50g
25% food fat = 28g
35% body fat = 0.1 pounds of body fat

So if I think I've burned 5000 kcal per day, I would eat 250g protien, 250g carbs, 140g fats. Seems like alot of protien to me. I guess it would mean my usual diet, plus some pemmican, to bring up the protiens and fats to roughly par with the carbohydrates.

Dried Blueberries
Dried Vegetables
Dried Herbs
Skim Milk Powder
Pemmican ???

12-13-2011, 18:32
Pssstt...to anyone responding: this is a 6 year old thread!

Sarcasm the elf
12-13-2011, 19:04
Wow! Was this thread really started by Minnesotasmith?!?

12-15-2011, 21:40
Just wrote [here (http://www.laughingdog.com)] about how I think I'll refuel the beast during my 2012 Appalachian Trail thru-hike attempt. I appreciate your thoughts and comments!


09-04-2013, 02:49
I have noticed when this thread was begun and read it all the way to the end. The reason I stumbled across this thread was my search for logical and easily packed items to take on a planned AT thru hike. I noticed all the technical info and calorie figures and stats and what not that were listed by some readers. The question that pops into my head is...who takes a calorie counter or measures their caloric loss or intake on a hike? I say just make it simple. I am not diabetic but I do have Crohn's and so those who do have certain conditions that make them step back and reevaluate their diets find out the truth about food. And that is, most people in most westernized or modern western cultures are waaaaaaay to programmed, due to capitolist ideas about the workforce and when and how long you can take a lunch etc. Three meals a day so we are programmed to basically gorge ourselves at mealtimes because we know we aren't going to have a moment to eat again until many hours later. In reality, we should be eating small portions many times during the day. That's what you find out when you hike, that snacking healthily during the day while hiking is much preferable to stopping and eating three large meals a day. Just make it simple and do some research but don't over analyze the eating process. Lord a mercy. But I will say this, I am allergic to soy, however, miso paste I can tolerate. I think that the curing process destroys what ever it is I'm allergic to. I'm also allergic to a majority of fresh fruits except bananas, strawberries and grapes. However, during the heating process of fruits it seems to also destroy what ever the allergen is. My doctor told me once that people should listen to their body and it will tell you what you need most of the time. If you have a craving for a certain food, your body is trying to tell you something. Such as, I don't really like meat. I'm not a vegetarian but I usually will only eat white chicken meat, crisp bacon, crisp sausage, I don't usually like beef but I do enjoy a siimple cheeseburger every now and when. Sometimes I will have a huge craving for fried chicken liver but after a serving I will again lose my appetite for them for another few months. My Dr told me that it was my Crohn's telling me to avoid meat since I probably had Crohn's since I was a kid and just didn't know it. Listen to your body when you are on the trail. I'm no expert on long thru hikes but I know what my body is telling me regardless of where or what I am doing. Don't make it too difficult or overly analyzed. I also ran track and did weight training. Another sport that overly analyzes every thing right down to how many minutes you have between your weigh lifting and consuming your protein source in order to maximize it's potential benefit. Please...just eat the dang cheeseburger and quit yappin'.

06-08-2014, 12:04
One thing I haven't found listed or suggested...Miso soup. If you can find a bag of the miso past its perfect! A spoonful of miso has enough salt and potassium to get your levels back up and prevent cramps. Its also light weight and can be added to anything. Put some in your water bottle and instant engery

06-14-2014, 00:04
Do a search for "NOLS Cookery". It has lots of recipes and tips for packing food for long term trips. I've tried plenty of the recipes and all the ones I tried are great.

Actually, here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/Cookery-National-Outdoor-Leadership-Library/dp/0811731081