So You're Hiking? What Do You Eat?
The Market Ticker - Commentary on The Capital Markets
2017-04-11 18:43 by Karl Denninger
in Outside Thoughts , 426 references Ignore this thread
So You're Hiking? What Do You Eat?
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It's amusing being keto-adapted and going out in the woods for a few days.

When actually hiking it's not impossible to burn up 4,000 calories in a day.  It's utterly trivial to burn up 3,000.  This of course leads to a problem; if you wish to be "isocaloric" (don't gain or lose body mass) you need to carry that much in calories with you.

Walk into any "hiking store" and you will find a ton of carb-heavy crap.

But there's a dirty little secret, you see: Fat has 9 calories/gm while both protein and carbs have 4.

And every single one of those grams you get to haul until you eat it.

It's obvious what choice you should make simply on the fact that hauling mass sucks. It's unavoidable to haul some mass of course but doing so unnecessarily, especially when there's no price penalty is flat-out insane.  This is the one place when it comes to backpacking where you can get rid of carried mass at no additional cost.

There is also a size issue.  Most of the so-called "trail foods" allegedly "fix this" by being sold dehydrated.  Well, that is both good and bad.  The good is that it really does make the size smaller.  The bad is that it does nothing for the caloric density problem that carbohydrates have to start with and it comes with a severe (I'd call it ridiculous) price penalty too.  When you look at the total calories in these packages on a per-dollar spent basis they're outrageously expensive.  The size issue becomes an issue if you hike in places that require a bear canister (or simply want to use one as I usually do as while hanging a bag, if you're intelligent about it, works for bears it does exactly zero to keep critters like mice out of your rations); the smaller canisters, if you don't optimize for caloric density will leave you with a hell of a problem in that you will rapidly find you have a conflict with time between resupply stops and how much fits in the canister, especially if you prefer the smaller size canisters because you don't carry a monster backpack to begin with.

By the way, water masses 8lbs/gallon and nothing can be done about that so using water to "rehydrate" food just means you haul even more mass in the form of water to do that with instead of just drinking it (of course whether the water is in your food or consumed "neat" it still counts toward what you need to remain alive and well.)  On the AT carrying ~3ltrs of water across a couple of containers (never, ever in only one if in the backcountry -- a puncture leaves you in a world of hurt and those sorts of things do happen!) is fairly sane since water sources are generally plentiful but that's still 6lbs.  In places where water is harder to come by or the conditions are nastier (hot and dry + lots of elevation gain, for example) you might need to carry double that or even more to have a reasonable margin of safety.  And don't forget your "make water safe" device(s) -- there are multiple options with my favorite being the Sawyer + Chlorine dioxide drops as that hits a reasonably sweet spot for filtering efficiency, biological kill capability equal to municipal supply since that's what they use (waterborne illness sucks) along with reasonable size and mass.  Just be aware that this approach, like most, will not get rid of chemical contamination (as opposed to biological.)

So what do I eat on the trail?  Two things, mostly: These little sausages made by Dukes that I've found available both at Truck stops (expensive) and, believe it or not, at WalMart (not so expensive), which have no "added chemicals" and rather than being low-fat monstrosities overloaded with protein are intentionally high fat.  There's roughly 700 cals in a 5oz bag, which is very close to optimum.  The only "gotcha" is that the bag itself is larger than it needs to be due to what appears to be an inert gas fill and you can't open them and squeeze it out because without preservatives once oxygen gets to them you have to either refrigerate or eat the contents.  Being pork-based they have a decent amount of protein too, which is important when you're working hard.

The rest?  Nuts.  Pick a type other than peanuts and do not eschew the salt -- you need it to replace that which is lost by sweating as electrolyte imbalance can be severely debilitating or even kill you.  An 8oz "can" (which is to be immediately discarded and the contents decanted into a sandwich or ziplock bag) contains a whopping 1280 calories.  They'll remain safe for a reasonable period between resupply stops once transferred (~4-5 days) and they can be eaten while moving.

So for roughly 1.5lbs I can have right near 3,000 calories, which on a "light" day is isocaloric.  For 2lbs I can be isocaloric at 4,000 calories.  Those who insist on putting carbs in their food are carrying at least another pound a day between resupply stops to have the same caloric content on-trail!  This means that when I have "off trail" days I don't have to gorge myself.  I typically eat my sausage in the early afternoon and eat nothing after about 3pm.  If you do 3 day "small section" hikes that 3lbs doesn't sound like a lot but it's damn close to half a gallon of water in terms of weight and believe me you will notice it.

This comes with another advantage -- other than for coffee, if you want it in the morning (and I do) you don't need cooking gear!  That in turn means you get to leave more mass and volume out of your pack.  Even a tiny folding butane stove, can of fuel and a small pot is going to put at least a pound in the pack and many cooksets are double that.  Just don't ever leave the last two ways (yes, I said two) of making a fire behind -- ever.

If you thru-hike you're going to run into a problem getting those nice little Duke's sausages however -- the gnarly gas station or little IGA in some random town will not have them.  You might get stuck with nut products (including peanut butter, and the "commercial" brands that are available everywhere are loaded with processed oil that's on my personal avoid list.)  But when you can get 'em they're saweet, and for section hiking availability isn't a problem since there's a Wallyworld damn near everywhere these days.

BTW there's another advantage to eating low-carb, high-fat: Your need to do a #2 goes down quite materially as well and that means fewer catholes to dig.  (Here's a hint if you've never done that in the woods before: Put your pants around your knees, both lower and upper parts.  This makes it nearly impossible to **** on your clothing while doing the deed.  You're welcome.)

For those who say this is "crazy restrictive" on food I counter with this: I've never seen anyone, even on a hard-core through-hike, that didn't take "zero days" and stops for resupply and similar; this usually means sleeping in a motel or hostel once a week or so where you can launder your (quite) stinky clothes and remove the stink from you with a shower.  You can't evade this because you need to stop and get more consumables along with dealing with personal hygiene.  So if you crave variety, and some people do, eat the variety then -- and make sure you include something high in vitamin C (e.g. broccoli, etc.)

Incidentally in the last few days I have passed (and been passed coming the other way) several people who were quite-severely out-of-shape obviously attempting a thru-hike on the AT.  I applaud them; they didn't look like they were digging it, especially the ones I saw on severe elevation grabbing sections of the trail, but they were doing it.  If I had actually had time to talk with them for any length of time, and learned that part of why they decided to do it had to do with fitness, I'd tell them straight-up to eat a high-fat, moderate-protein combination of those sausages (approximately one bag) and roughly one tin of nuts daily, showing them what was in my bear can, chawing down on broccoli and similar during their "off" days so as to get the requisite Vitamin C.  By the time they got to Katahdin, assuming they made it, they would have had the "unfortunate" experience of their pants falling off several times over, need at least two new hip belts for their pack (in a smaller size, of course) and no longer be overweight at all.  They'd also have a lifestyle that would keep them in good shape for the rest of their life if they kept with it and after that much time they'd be fully acclimated to not being hungry until noon on top of everything else.

What's not to like about that?

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