When it comes to backpacking food, the name of the game is calorie density. The easiest snacks are pre-made, and they’re usually really high in sugar or processed starchy carbohydrates. Common trail snacks are candy bars, Twizzlers, traditional GORP (“good old raisins and peanuts” – which usually contains M&Ms or chocolate chips as well), Cliff Bars, Luna Bars, Power Bars, etc.
You may operate just fine on these snacks, but I’ve found that I tend to do better on a low-carb Primal / Paleo style of eating. This means that I need to replace the energy dense sugar and starch with something. Fat is more than twice as calorie dense as carbohydrate/sugar, and it’s a perfectly natural fuel for the human body, so it makes perfect sense as a replacement. But it’s just as important to me that I consume the right types of fats as it is that I minimize the sugar.
Remember those Fruit Roll-ups that you used to get in your packed lunches when you were a kid? Think those but with the rich taste of real fruit, with a slightly more substantial consistency, and with an ingredient list that you can trust. That’s fruit leather.
Over the past several years I’ve had the great fortune of introducing some of my favorite people to nature through backpacking. The most meaningful of those introductions occurred this May, when I took my three-year-old son, Charlie, on his first backpacking trip. He absolutely loved it, and so we shared our second trek together just last week (mid-September). He has his very own Osprey 12L backpack that he picked out himself, and in it he carries his snacks, rain jacket, mini water bottle, headlamp, a change of clothes, and most importantly, his favorite teddy bear named Patchouli Bear.
My good friend and long-time backpacking buddy Kevin has a similarly aged son, so it was natural that we co-planned these trips. (It’s also a convenient excuse to get the wives to let us out of the house for the weekend.)
As I’m sure you can imagine, these trips aren’t anything like the treks that I take when traveling solo or with other adults. They’re within two hours of the Chicago metro area, we typically get cell service the whole time (definitely not “Zero Bars” destinations), and the hike to the camp site has to be less than two miles (because three-year-olds have short legs).
But we’re beginning to learn that this style of backpacking has its advantages; it lends itself to new luxuries, especially with regard to the food that we can bring. You’re not forced into a dehydrated and freeze-dried menu when you only have to carry your food for two miles, and you don’t really need to worry about refrigeration when you’re going to be cooking your food within a couple of hours of leaving the car*. Our most recent trip was our first foray into backpacking gourmet, and it turned out exceedingly well. Continue reading First World Backpacking Food→