3 Ways to Eat Healthy On Trail
Have you been wanting to improve your nutrition on trail? Are you also wanting to save money on resupply costs? And what about that huge bag of trash at the end of each section, do you want to put an end to that too? If so, here’s a few things that can help.
Sharing a healthy meal with Bernie & Stacey, on The Hot Springs Trail
Option #1: Dehydrated Meals
In 2006, when I was preparing for my first long-distance hike - the Pacific Crest Trail - I had only one concern when it came to my food. How am I going to eat on-trail, like I do at home? At home, I was already living like I was on trail; however, the difference on the PCT would be that I would no longer have a dependable source of organic foods - aka the Co-op.
While some hikers are satisfied resupplying with candy bars and soda from gas station convenience stores, I wanted to have home-cooked meals. To accomplish this, I invested in a food dehydrator and got to work.
Here’s some things to consider when dehydrating your own food:
Cost: Making your own meals allows you to not only customize each night’s dinner but also save money in the long-run – verses buying pre-made products. In my experience, it can be more than enough to cover the cost of shipping.
Over-dehydrating: To preserve the nutrition in the food you’re dehydrating, the temperature should never go higher than 120°. Commercially dehydrated foods are dried at higher temperatures to reduce their drying time but this can cook away nutrients. On the flip side, they’re also over-dried to reduce the likelihood of mold – which compromises their palatability, even when rehydrated. Also, try not to re-dehydrate something that has already been dehydrated (such as spices).
Separate Loads: Dry in separate loads, meaning: pasta, then the sauce; or rice, then the steamed broccoli. This helps things dry more consistently and prevents over-drying.
Quality: Besides virtually guaranteeing the integrity of the food you’ll be eating, if you invest in a good dehydrator, you can sell it when you’re done and get your money back.
Kale Chips are one of my favorite dehydrated foods for hiking
Option #2: Raw Ingredients
In 2009, I set off on a much more serious journey, The Hayduke Trail. The Hayduke travels across southeast Utah, loosely following the Colorado River. The resupply options for it are far and few between. Due to its remote nature, I placed several food caches in the ground beforehand along the route. For this hike, I also went stove-less.
Please realize that stove-less doesn’t mean raw. There are plenty of stove-less foods out there that have been cooked to death, or worse – irradiated.
Here’s a few good ways to eat raw on-trail:
Raw Ingredients: Usually obtainable directly from the bulk food bin or produce box.
Low Temp-Dehydrated Foods: Foods that were dried at less than 120°.
Soaked or Sprouted Foods: Either soaked on-trail or soaked and then dehydrated.
Sprouted Flax Crackers are now available for the resupply box!
Option #3: Fresh Produce
After an incredible adventure on the Hayduke Trail, I set out on the Colorado Trail but was following a completely different set of parameters with my food – I was only going to be carrying fresh produce!
This was easy to do on the CT, thanks to towns like Leadville; which I wound up hitching to from 3 separate locations.
Here’s the low-down on eating fresh produce on-trail:
Day 1: Soft fruits & veggies - avocados, bananas, berries - salads & salsas
Days 2-4: Durable fruits & veggies - apples, broccoli, carrots - soups & sautés
Day 5: Root veggies & hearty fruits - yams, radish, oranges - steamed or raw
Any Day: Wild foraged foods, a healthy alternative to stores - avoid overgrazing
With fresh produce in hand, I was not only able to summit 12 of Colorado’s famed 14er’s during my hike, but a few years later, I also completed the Idaho Centennial Trail in a similar fashion, and again, with no unwanted weight loss, gas, or complaints.
In Summary: 3 Ways to Eat Healthy On-trail
Low-temp Dehydrated Foods
Dehydrated Superfoods are amazing for the trail
In my opinion, the best way to eat healthy - both on & off the trail - is a combination of all 3.
Here's to staying healthy on trail, a challenge worth going for.