How To Fight Off Hiker Hunger
When you go hiking or backpacking, you only want to pack what is essential. Basically, you want to pack as lightly as possible so your bag doesn’t impede your range of motion. You don’t want to bring too much of any single thing – be it clothes, multi tools, navigational devices, or even food. A heavy backpack could also be a cause for unnecessary slips and other accidents. If you follow these guidelines, then you’ll experience a lessened occurrence of hiker hunger. You no longer have to experience the pangs and headaches that have sent many a good hiker home before reaching their goal on more than one occasion.
Pack The Least Amount Of Food With The Most Calories
One of the most important thing in a hiker’s backpacking backpack is his or her food. So much so that this one of hiking’s greatest talking points. Some hikers can ramble on and on about their latest protein bar discovery that has the largest calorie to ounce ratio they’ve ever seen. Others would really want you to know about their latest recipe that includes ingredients that sound like they shouldn’t go together, but they actually do more often than not. The sport of hiking requires its enthusiasts to stock up on as many calories as possible to make sure they don’t pass out in the middle of a trail or a dense forest. They need to make it to their next resupply post.
You’ll need to consider the length of the hike you’re going on as well as what you’ll use to carry your supplies. On more relaxed trips, you could bring along a cooler, but on most occasions, the best you can do is a hiking backpack. Because of this limited space, you can’t really bring a lot of food with you. However, you’ll need to bring a lot of calories along. Remember, you can’t really bring heavy food items with you. Obviously, you also can’t bring foods that spoil easily. To accomplish this, hikers would usually mix together foods that have a high caloric value.
For example, some hikers’ recipes involve mixing together chocolate fudge, marshmallows, caramel bits, butter, and peanuts. If you’re not a big fan of making your own food from scratch, there are also foods that contain a combination of foods with a lot of calories. For example, hikers love Snickers bars. A single serving of this long, slender candy bar has over 200 calories. Due to its small size, you could pack as many of them as you want in your bag. It contains nuts, caramel, chocolate, as well as nougat made from almonds, honey, sugar, and egg whites. Trail mix is another favorite among hiking folks.
High Fat And High Carb
When you’re on a hike, it’s not really the time and place to keep up with the latest diet trends. You’ll be hard pressed to find a hiker that’s on low fat or a low sugar diet. While some people may compare the diet of a hiker to that of a long distance runner – they do share a couple of similarities such as consuming rather large amounts of fat – these two are vastly different. This boils down to how your body processes glycogen, which in turn, is greatly dependent on your heart rate as well as the pace you’re hiking.
A long-distance runner almost exclusively burns glycogen due to the fact that this is what their muscles demand. This is because they compete in short, but fast-paced events. On the other hand, hikers travel a longer distance, but at a much slower, more comfortable pace. Because of this, their bodies burn through a mixture of glycogen as well as fat, instead of just one or the other. This is why a lot of hikers get to eat as much as they want, but in a sizeable number of cases, this isn’t enough for them to stop losing weight at an alarming rate. They need to a lot of food to meet their larger than required daily caloric demands.
However, fat is not the only important nutrient in a hiker’s diet, or in anyone’s diet for that matter. If you want to go hiking, you may be tempted to stock up on candies and chocolates on your next trip, but you should hold your horses first. Hikers should not forego other forms of nutrients such as carbohydrates, as these are necessary for healthy muscle replenishment. Because your muscles have their starch storage replenished every half an hour on average, you’ll need something to feed that demand.
This is why, ideally, a hiker’s diet has high fat and carbohydrate content. You’ll need these to provide energy and refuel your muscles respectively. Junk food is the best fit for this – lots of hikers love a good Snickers bar or two, as we’ve mentioned previously – but you need to find a balance between that and some healthier options. These are foods that your body can quickly turn into the energy you need to push through with your hike. If you want to eat lots of sweets without packing on the pounds, then maybe hiking is a fit for you.
Eat At The Right Times
The times at which you eat are also important to consider. Hikers don’t eat at the times you would expect. They don’t follow a strict breakfast, lunch, and dinner schedule. More often than not, they eat as much as they can, as much as they need to. This is to keep them energized to reach a spot where they can set up their large camping tent or where they can get some more supplies. Imagine how emaciated you feel by just having your lunch an hour late on a workday. This is nothing compared to what hikers experience if they don’t eat when they need to.
When you’re on a hike, you should consume a lot of calories at around midday because this is when the sun is shining at its brightest and the heat index is at its peak. However, you should save your biggest meal of the day for another time. Eat as many calories as possible within half an hour of you calling it a day and falling asleep. This allows your body to restore your muscles and energy reserves that have been thoroughly depleted throughout the day’s exhausting journey. If you don’t allow your body to replenish itself, then your muscles may begin feeding on themselves.
Many experts also recommend eating a good breakfast, or just a good meal in general, before starting off on your hike. There’s no rule saying you have to eat something specific like a bowl of oatmeal or a serving of a protein shake. It doesn’t even have to be strictly sweet or savory. As long as you enjoy eating it and it gives you a substantial helping of good fats and carbohydrates, then you can eat it.
Get Some Real Food In Your System
We’ve mentioned before how junk foods are among many hikers’ favorite things to eat. However, we’ve also discussed how important it is to keep a balance in what you’re eating. Try bringing along some dried fruits together with your chocolates and nuts to add some variety and a lot more nutrients to your food supply. Dried apples, bananas, and cranberries are absolute favorites within the hiking community. You could also bring fresh fruits with you if you’re going on a shorter hike. If you want fresh fruit on a longer hike, try to pack ones that are not yet ripe so they won’t go bad as quickly. They’ll be ready for you to eat when you need them.
Aside from providing loads of energy and being just flat-out delicious, dried fruits also have a lot of health benefits. Most notably, bananas have potassium that helps maintain proper muscle function. Raisins and dates are affordable and easily accessible options with high-calorie counts. Forty grams of each of these dried fruits already have 130 calories. That’s a lot for just 1.5 ounces of fruit!
Meanwhile, dried berries have a lot of antioxidants, flavonoids, potassium, and vitamin C. Since berries are not that accessible to some hikers, it is a good idea to learn which ones are edible and which ones are not. If you do this, you can just grab some on the trail and have a nice little snack. If you are going to buy your berries instead of growing or picking them yourself, make sure to get ones without much-added sugar. Manufacturers often put extra sugar to counteract the tart taste so it would appeal to more people. If you can, try to get the organic variety as well. These contain more nutrients and were farmed using more sustainable practices.
If you’re going on a hiking trip, it’s not only food that you should stock up on in order to prevent hunger. You should also have an appropriate supply of beverages with you at all times. Chronic dehydration affects about a third of the world’s population, so make water your best friend on your hikes. Experts recommend drinking at least 3.7 liters of water every day for men and 2.7 liters every day for women. Remember, this is just the average daily recommended value, you’re going to need more if you engage in a physical activity such as hiking and backpacking.
People who don’t consume enough water often mistake the pains they are feeling for hunger. If you experience this on a hike and you simply try to eat your way through this pain, then the food you stocked up may run out quicker than you would have expected. Try to drink some water first. If you still feel hungry after that, then maybe it’s time to eat something instead. Also, if you drink water before meals, you will get full easier and it’ll take a longer time for you to feel hungry as well. Studies show that you could skimp on around just a little less than a hundred calories per meal.
Aside from preventing hunger, drinking water on a regular basis also helps improve digestion and lower fluid retention – the feeling of being bloated when excess water and other fluids get built up in the body. Drinking the recommended amount of water for your age and gender also helps flush out excess sodium from the body. This helps in weight loss and management, which is important if you’re afraid that a hiker’s diet will make you pack on a few pounds, even though it most probably won’t. There are insulated water bottles and filtered water bottles so make sure you have one handy on your hikes.
Practice Food Safety
Finally, we recommend practicing good food safety at all times. This includes how you pack your food, how you cook it, how you eat it, and how you dispose of it afterward. If you’re planning to cook, make sure you don’t pack your raw food items, especially meat products, next to the cooked ones. This could cause either one or maybe even both of them to go bad. This will leave you with a lot less to eat on your trip. Try to place raw food near ice as well to keep them at under 40ºF at all times.
If there’s no running water available and you don’t want to waste your drinking water, it would be a good idea to bring a pack of moist towelettes with you. This will allow you to clean off your hands before and after every meal time. You may also want to bring some biodegradable soap. This will help protect you from foodborne illnesses. Portable water filters or water purification tablets are great too if you know where the water near where you’re hiking is flowing from. Even if you trust it, using these can help you be even surer with your drinking water. Remember: drinking is just as important as eating when preventing hiker hunger.
Cooking and eating utensils as well as can and bottle openers are other things you should consider bringing along as well. Try to bring reusable ones with you if you can. However, if you must bring disposable ones, try to look for those that are made from biodegradable materials. Speaking of disposable materials, bring a couple of trash bags as well. This will help keep the trails and mountains you hike on as clean as possible.
Now you know how to safely defeat hiker hunger. If you follow these tips, not only will you be able to reach your goal on your next hike, you’ll also do it by exerting a lot less effort. This is because you are properly fed and have the right nutrients in your system.
- Nutrition for Thru-Hikers Part 1: Food for Fuel, Mountain Safety Research
- 5 Food Tips for Camping and Hiking, Eat Right
- 10 food mistakes every beginner makes when hiking and how to avoid them, Young Adventuress