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 Chili, Butte 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...|