Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fueling an AZT FKT

At this point in my life, I have logged approximately 19,000 (!) backcountry miles across 6 thru-hikes, 3 FKT's, and dozens of shorter trips, mountain runs, and mountaineering. You would think I'd know what to eat by now...

The reality is that after being diagnosed with gluten intolerance I had to overhaul my backcountry diet. The difference showed last year on the Appalachian Trail. I felt nourished throughout my journey, yet I knew there was a lingering missing piece. Most backcountry dinners rely on starches to fill you up. Removing noodles from the equation limited my choices and I found that I was mostly relying on soy fillers (TVP and Soy Protein Isolate) and rice. While it worked, it wasn't what I truly needed.

So, while you'll recognize many of these products as the ones I've been relying on for the past two years there are some changes. Hopefully these will help anyone out there trying to find solid GF foods for their backcountry adventures.

Greenbelly Meals: Breakfast of champions right here. Over 600 calories in the package and containing 1/3 of your daily nutrition (on the macro scale) as well as vitamins and minerals. The flavor and texture are unique from most other bars on the market, which was important to me after so many days of eating bars. Their proper nutrient balance ensured I was sated for several hours and started my day right.
Favorite Flavor: Cranberry Almond

Packs a Calorie and Nutritional Punch

Trailbutter: As always Trailbutter has been a powerhouse of slow burning fuel for me on these endeavors. Since backpacking is a primarily aerobic activity the body's main source of fuel is fat coupled with small amounts of carbohydrate. Trailbutter is the perfect ratio of slow and fast burning fuel. I use the 4.5 oz resealable pouches and sip on them throughout the day.
Favorite Flavor: Expedition Espresso 

Simply the Best Nut Butter Fuel Around

Navitas Naturals: I use a wide variety of Navitas Naturals products to snack on throughout the day. Their wholesome superfoods are nutritious, delicious, and contain a variety of micronutrients to maintain overall health. Goji Berries, Mullberries, nuts, etc. The newest addition to my fueling this year is their new Superfood+ Bars. These are not only delicious, but there's no junk or filler and they come in unique flavors.
Favorite: Hemp Peanut Superfood+ Bar

Navitas Makes a Wide Variety of Superfood Fuel

Probar: I utilized both the Meal Bars and the Base (protein) bars from ProBar on the AZT. The Meal bars are a great tasting, calorie dense snack that helps keep you sated for a long time. The Base Bars were something I moved from my previous hikes' dinner menu to afternoon snack (usually right before my 45 min water break in the heat of the day). I found that the extra protein in the mid-day rest period allowed me to do a little repair work in the middle of the day.
Favorite Flavors: Meal: Oatmeal Raisin (n/a) Base: Mint-Chocolate

Ok, so I might like ProBar a lot...

Fuel100 Electro-bites: I've been using Electro-Bites in my running and racing for several years and they were critical on the Arizona Trail in the heat. I've learned that when these things taste sweet that means I'm really low on electrolytes and if they taste too salty then I'm not. This is really crucial when you're sweating a lot and also trying to drink a lot so that you keep your electrolytes and fluids balanced. I usually ate a packet of these anytime I downed 2-3 liters of water to make sure everything stayed in equilibrium.
Favorite Flavor: Salty Vanilla

Electrolytes on the Move

Nuun: This is one of the magic bullets that has been missing all these years. An effective, well balance, electrolyte drink that tastes good, isn't full of junk, and covers the flavor of cow water! In all seriousness, Nuun combined with Nuun Plus made for the perfect electrolyte + energy drink on the AZT. I alternated between Nuun Active and Nuun Energy (Energy being a caffeinated version) throughout the hike. I drank 2-3 servings per day which was the perfect amount.
Favorite Flavor: Active: Strawberry Lemonade Energy: Mango Orange

Hydrate Early and Often

PaleoMealsToGo: Paleo Meals To Go were the final key to my on-trail nutrition. Over the summer I tried them and had a feeling I'd finally found what I'd been looking for. So I used them on the Arizona Trail FKT...and...Success!!!
I've always struggled to feel like I was getting adequate protein at night and these were the ticket. They hydrate in under 20 minutes even with cold water. The flavors are delicious and they are made with quality ingredients. You can read a more detailed review here. Each night I ate one of their dinners and in the morning I could just feel that I'd repaired and recovered more than I had on other endeavors. I am thrilled to have finally found a high protein meal that hydrates cold and isn't made with fillers. Real food only. In fact, all Paleo Meals To Go are "gluten free, grain free, milk free, soy free, nut free, shelf stable, and protein-rich." I can't recommend them highly enough.

In addition to being my dinner throughout the hike, I also alternated breakfasts between Greenbelly Meal Bars and the Paleo Meals To Go Cliffside Coconut Berry or Butte Cacao Banana. These were a filling and nutritious start to the day and a good way to break up the "bar" monotony.

Favorite Flavor: Bedrock Beef ChiliButte Cacao Banana

Variety of Delicousness

Salazon Chocolate: Yes, you knew it was coming, right? There is no way I hike anywhere without my chocolate fix! Even the desert. No, I didn't have melted chocolate all over my backpack either. I did have to make a concession to the heat and save my salty Salazon for dessert each night, rather than trying to eat it during the day. In the end, I rather enjoyed it as my final treat after a delicious dinner at the end of a long day.  (Desert Dessert?!) This year I also ordered only the 72% chocolate flavors (with the exception of the coffee which is 57%) and I've been very happy with that since I prefer my chocolate as dark as possible.
Favorite Flavor: Sea Salt and Cayenne

So, it's not on the AZT, but I didn't get any headlamp shots of me devouring my chocolate...

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Arizona Trail Gear Review

There's always a demand for Gear Lists and reviews after a thru-hike, so here is a brief review of the gear I used on my Arizona Trail Self-Supported FKT in October 2016. This is not an exhaustive list, primarily things I haven't reviewed before.

  • OPsack: Once again this worked well to keep my food safe from animals 
  • Bamboo spoon: I never knew I had expectations from a spoon until I started backpacking. This one meets or exceeds them all! I'm glad I switched over from Lexan. Long enough to keep your hands out of your food, lightweight, and a natural material to boot. 
  • Ultimate Direction Body Bottle Plus: I used this for making up my Nuun electrolyte drink. It worked well and collapsed down to the size of the cap when not in use. No weird mold or other growth in it despite not washing it for 3 weeks. Didn't puncture despite the pokiness of the desert.
  • Black Diamond Icon headlamp: I bought this for Barkley last year and it was incredible there. While nighthiking on the AZT I repeatedly thought, "If only I'd had this on the PCT and AT!" It's overkill unless you're doing hours and hours of night hiking since it's pretty heavy, but with lithium batteries it was bright for 3-4 hours of use 5 days in a row.
  • Gossamer Gear Nightlight pad: I'm a side sleeper and I definitely had sore hips using this on the hard desert ground. The nights I found good camp under pine trees or in washes it was comfy. However, I have that issue with any closed cell foam pad. As far as insulation this was perfect.
  • Sawyer All-In-One filter with Inline Adapter: This filter works great when installed using the inline adapter (sold separately). However, I cut the hose to the wrong length at home and had issues getting good flow. I ended up screwing the filter directly to the bladder and only using the clean side of the adapter with the remaining hose. I recommend practicing with your pack fully loaded at home so you get the filter mounted in the right place to begin with.
  • Sawyer 64 oz pouches (2): It was important to me to have a max capacity that was more than I anticipated ever needing. I carried these in addition to a platypus 2 liter for a total of a gallon and a half. I only carried that much once, but one of the Sawyer pouches did spring a leak 2 days from the end and I was glad I had a backup. It seemed like it got punctured by some desert plant. 
  • Ibex Balance Bralette:  One could say I'm getting more sophisticated. For the first time in about 10 years I wore something other than a bikini top as a hiking bra. I finally had to admit that the behind the neck ties were putting a lot of strain on my neck so I searched for an alternative. In the desert the wool was the perfect balance of warmth when it was cold, and wicking comfort when it was hot. Super comfortable I forgot it was there. Supportive enough for hiking, but definitely not for running.
  • Gossamer Gear Polycro groundcloth: I've been using these for years. 3 FKT's and counting now. In fact, I used the same one on the AZT that I used on the AT. So, any question of durability has been answered. 
  • Ultimate Direction Desert hat: Exactly what you need on your head in the desert. My only caveat was that you can't button it closed under the chin to keep it in place when it's windy.
  • Point 6 Ultra light compression socks: These were my saving grace every night. I looked forward to pulling off the gnarly hiking socks and shoes at the end of the day and getting these compression socks on. My feet felt like a million bucks every morning after a night of recovery in these!
  • Ultimate Direction Ultra jacket: The lightest rain jacket I own and perfect for squalls on the AZT. Kept me warm as an external shell on windy cold days as well. Not as good as a true hardshell during the snow/sleet/rain event on my second day, but although I still ended up wet it did keep me warm.
  • Mariposa 60 Lightweight Backpack: The new updates to this pack are great. I definitely felt that the integrated stays helped transition weight from shoulders to hips when I had a heavy load, which was often. I regularly carried a 30+lb pack due to the amount of water and food I had to pack. I also discovered load lifters for the first time ever. It was a magical moment.
  • Altra Paradigm shoes: As a Lone Peak girl I went back and forth over my choice to wear the Paradigm (a road shoe) on the AZT. In the end it worked out, but not without some serious issues. The first pair wore perfectly since the northern 400 miles is mostly dirt road. However, the southern half chewed up and spit out the second pair. Far more rocky. Comfort-wise they were a great choice and I'd wear them again, I'd just do three pair or wear a Lone Peak for the Mazatzal and Superstition Wildernesses.
  • Montbell Tachyon Jacket: This jacket was perfect for windy days and chilly mornings/nights. Critical as my warm layer.