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a .t. jour neys
march – april 2013
march – april 2013
a .t. jour neys
Hikers, notoriously, never stop thinking or talking about
food. The borderline obsession is generally proportional
to the distance of their hike. Regardless if it’s a day hike
or a 250-plus-mile backpacking trip, food matters.
Food’s taste, calories, weight, volume, and ease to prepare on the Trail are generally top
considerations for hikers. Prizing these qualities above all else often results in a calorie-
dense diet of highly processed food full of salt and saturated fat. “If they’re living on
pepperoni and a highly saturated fat diet, that might be a concern,” says Boston area
ancy Clark,
., author of
Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook
. But
she goes on to say that the exercise hikers are doing is probably more important than
simply looking at diet alone. Living an active lifestyle and working muscles trumps poor
dietary decisions for most hikers, assures
ancy, since most short-term failings in a diet
Text and photos by Leanna Joyner
can be rectified post-hike, within reason. She
emphasizes that people should eat on the Trail the
way they want to live their lives, especially if they’re
concerned about health.
For hikers, the nutritional choices they make
generally reflect their eating habits at home.
etarians plan snacks and meals that focus on soy
protein and cheese.
egans opt for plant-based
diets, complemented with a spectrum of seeds and
nuts. People with gluten intolerance avoid the easy
and popular carbohydrates that are building blocks
of Trail meals, like pastas and breads. For 2006
thru-hiking pair Jeanne
ergenrother and Lincoln
annah, who don’t typically eat processed foods,
not many snack foods were carried on the Trail. “We
had heavy packs. We pretty much carried whole
food and not a whole lot of junk food. We carried
more fresh produce, like apples, onions, garlic, and
peppers,” says Jeanne. “It was a health issue for me.
If we had eaten the typical thru-hiker foods my
blood pressure would have skyrocketed.”
enee and
amien Tougas of Gaspe
Peninsula, Canada, apply their at-home eating
style of vegan, gluten-free food to their on-Trail
meals for their family of five who hike every week
as part of their training to thru-hike the Appala
chian Trail in 2014. “There’s this idea that you have
to have special foods when hiking with children
to placate them and keep them moving on the
Trail. We haven’t done that. The reward is being
out together in beautiful places,” says
enee who
blogs about her family’s adventures at Outside
Ways.com. Instead of using goodies as a treat,
these parents focus on providing nutrient-dense,
high-calorie foods that reflect how they eat at
home. They’ve streamlined their meal-planning to
eliminate the biggest deterrent to a family their
size getting outside — preparation — by continu
ally returning to what they know works for them.
Among their favorite Trail foods is a raw ginger-
cashew bar recipe, designed by their 13-year old
daughter, and an Asian rice and green tea soup,
ideal for cold weather, day hikes. “Everybody loves
it because it’s hot. You get hydration from the hot
water, salt from miso and soy sauce, and caffeine
and antioxidants from the green tea,” says
This recipe benefits the body with protein from
the beans and rice, carbohydrates and nutrients
from the fresh vegetables (remember, they are day
hiking), and the anti-inflammatory properties of
the antioxidants.
Eating on the Trail the way you would at home
makes hiking more sustainable since satisfaction
with food means it will be eaten with gusto. The
most important factor for any athlete is getting
the necessary number of calories for the body’s
epending on a hike’s distance, diffi
culty, and exertion, hikers may need upwards of
3,000 to 4,000 calories per day, if not more.
“The most important thing for a hiker to do is
take in enough calories so they don’t break down
their muscles. If they’re in a calorie deficit, they
start breaking down muscles, and that’s really
counterproductive,” says
ancy, who designs diets
for athletes starting with protein needed for an
individual’s weight and activity. Once identified,
she combines protein with a foundation of carbo
hydrates. Carbohydrates fuel the muscles while
proteins build and repair muscles. But, she
cautions not to over-think the equation. “People
eat food. They don’t eat carbohydrates, proteins,
and fats,” says
ancy, to help keep the focus on
what’s important: flavor.
Steve Silberberg agrees that people should eat
what they will enjoy. Steve’s company, Fitpacking,
guides people on backpacking trips to promote
healthy lifestyles. “We don’t want to starve people.
If your authoritarian about it, you get a lot of
unhappy people, so if there’s something you’re
really going to enjoy, bring it,” says Steve, empha
sizing that the activity is as important as the food.
For Jeanne and Lincoln, having fresh-baked
sourdough bread for lunch daily suited their taste
buds and their preferences for whole foods. They
kept a thick liquid sourdough starter in a jar and
added flour and water each evening. In the morning
they separated a portion into a plastic bag and
baked it at lunch, either in a greased pot on their
A Matter of Taste
Cashew-Ginger Cookie Nut Bars
(courtesy of Renee & Damien Tougas)
2 1/2 cups raw cashews
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup dried fruit (raisins, prunes, cranberries, apricots)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
Place cashews in food processor, process until cashews are ground into a course
flour. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Add a little water if too dry. Scoop
out of processor and pat into a small container. Refrigerate and let set a couple
hours. Cut into small squares and serve.
a .t. jour neys
march – april 2013
march – april 2013
a .t. jour neys
camp stove or on a rock with a pot inverted over it.
They paired their fresh-baked bread with butter or
peanut butter. “Our favorite recipe was pizza. The
first night out of town we tried to carry out stuff to
make either tomato-based or pesto pizzas using
olive oil, garlic, cheese, and the dough,” says Jeanne.
For a lot of other hikers, candy bars help satisfy
the requirements of appetite, flavor, and caloric
needs. Even though candy bars aren’t 100 percent
quality calories, they’re still better than nothing,
ancy. “Snickers was the energy food of
choice that I ate and that everybody else ate,” says
uane a long-distance backpacker of the
A.T., Long Trail, and Florida Trail. “It only worked
if I’d had a decent meal beforehand because I didn’t
have any resilience just eating Snickers alone.”
Anecdotally, Charlie experienced what
advocates, consuming mostly healthy foods that
provide vitamins, minerals, and proteins you
need, and allowing the remaining 10 to 15 percent
of food to be fats, in the form of cookies, chocolate,
candy bars, and ice cream.
Balancing Lightweight
Backpacking &
Nutrient Density
Selecting nutrient-dense food that meets the
requirements of hikers for lightweight, easy-to-
prepare, tasty chow is the challenge best met by
thinking in terms of food groups. Coupling different
kinds of foods in one meal or snack allows hikers a
complexity of flavors and body benefits. As an
example, oatmeal alone it is just a grain, a carbohy
drate, but add almonds, dried fruit, and dried milk
to produce a meal that includes a larger spectrum
of nutrients, protein, and carbohydrates.
Other ways to add more nutrient-dense foods
into a hiking diet is to carry fresh fruits and veg
etables. Apples, onions, peppers, garlic, and carrots
are popular among hikers with Leave
o Trace
ethics because of their low-waste ratio for packing-
it-out. Even still, the satisfaction of a juicy orange
or an avocado a day or two after leaving town is a
draw for many distance hikers, despite the peels
and hull. A novel way to add fresh, crunchy vegeta
bles is to grow them while you walk. “Sprouts
themselves aren’t high in calories, but other
qualities make them noble. They have calcium,
vitamins A, E, and C, and all kinds of great enzymes,
and phytonutrients, which help with digestion and
our immune system,” says Kim Safdy, founder of
erbivore, who researched and developed
a method for growing sprouts while backpacking.
For backpackers who rely heavily on pre-pre
pared, dehydrated meals, it’s a good idea to look
at other ways to incorporate healthful food choices
since dehydrating food causes some amount of
Tasty foods like Trail
sushi (left) and wild
berries provide a
balance between
nutrition and flavor. –
wild berries by Jimmie
“Walk and Eat” Jackson
Trail Sushi
(courtesy of Steve Silberberg)
Nori seaweed wraps
Smoked salmon
Daikon radish (or turnip if Daikon is unavailable), finely sliced
Matchstick carrots
Cucumber, sliced into matchsticks
Minute rice (white or brown)
Wasabi in a tube (or powdered, just add water)
Soy sauce, sesame seeds, and pickled ginger
Boil rice in water for 5 minutes or less. Let sit 5 minutes. Put nori on a sushi
mat (mat optional). Place a bed of rice on the nori (cover no more than
sheet). Add any combination of other ingredients. Roll it up. Serve as a hand
ice and
reen Tea
(courtesy of Renee & Damien Tougas)
Cooked brown rice, 1 cup per person
Cooked beans, 1 cup per person (any bean – or shelled edamame or tofu)
Shredded carrots or cabbage or both, 1/4 cup per person
Dried nori, approximately 1/2 a sheet per person, cut into small strips
Miso paste, 1 teaspoon per person
Soy sauce, 1 teaspoon per person
Furikake, any flavor (optional), sprinkled to taste
Sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon per person
Japanese matcha or sencha green tea powder, or 1 green tea bag per person.
Preparation at home: In single-serve, sealable storage containers, per person, add all
ingredients (except tea bags if not using tea powder). Pack tea bags separately. On
the Trail: Boil water − 1.5 cups per person. (If you are using tea bags: add tea bags to
make a large pot of green tea.) Add hot water (or prepared tea) to each one. Stir well.
Step onto the A.T. with a limited edition print!
Ron Roman, photographer and A.T. thru-hiker, is offering a
Limited Edition fi ne art print of the cover image for
Appalachian Trail, Celebrating America’s Hiking Trail
, recently
published by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
Ten percent
of the sales of this edition goes directly to support the ATC.
Available as 20x30” or 28x42” Archival Print on Hahnemuhle
watercolor paper. For more info and to purchase prints visit the
website: www.ronromanphoto.com/atc
Step onto the A.T. with a limited edition print!
The ATC Visitor Center in Harpers Ferry, WV will host a photography
show by Ron Roman during the Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Community
Art Walk, April 27-28, 2013. Come meet Ron between the hours
12:00 and 3:00 and view the art in person!
Send photos (2MB or larger) of hikers, shelters, campsites, and scenic
shots from Maine to Georgia to:
2012 2,000-
” J
, P
Do you want your
photography published
A.T. Journeys
vitamin loss. In some cases, for backpackers there
are also ways to let Mother
ature help. “A few
years ago I hiked the 100-mile Wilderness, and
there were blueberries all along the way. It was so
awesome,” said Steve about the benefits of recog
nizing locally-sourced foods en route.
hikers should be wary eating food from forage
unless they can positively identify it. Even if
correctly identified, it’s a good idea to be mindful
of the resource by only collecting a small portion
of what’s available, leaving most, if not all, to the
woodland creatures that rely on it.
As hikers’ backpacks have reduced in size and
weight over the last decade due to advances in gear
technology, it’s resulted in their inclination to cut
back on other necessities, like water. “Portioning
is the thing most hikers do incorrectly; they tend
to over carry food. Conversely, people underesti
mate the amount of water they need. It keeps so
many ills at bay, like hypothermia, and aids in
performance and digestion,” says Steve.
agrees. Constantly being dehydrated is as bad as
not eating enough for the activity. Being ade
quately hydrated actually helps the body incorpo
rate the nutrients it’s being fed. It’s the key to the
equation in a well-rounded diet, both on and off
the Trail. Carrying more nutrient-dense foods isn’t
just the domain of day hikers anymore. With the
evolution of lightweight hiking gear, thru-hikers
too can enjoy the foods that make them happy and
healthy, even if it means an incremental load in
their packs. As the essential part of every hiker’s
existence, food will and should motivate, energize,
and comfort. Mucho Gusto!
Leanna Joyner is a freelance writer and hiker living in Asheville, North
Carolina. She writes more about hiking at