Paleo Backpacking?

Paleo Backpacking?
More protein on the trail

Sunday, May 26, 2013

2013 Backpacking Season! What's New? Paleo!

Time for my state-of-the-backpacking-kitchen blog. I don't get over here much anymore since I worked most of the kinks out of the backpacking eating situation, but I do have some protein notes to share since we've starting eating paleo at home. You can bet I'm doing my best to transition that onto the trail!

I have noticed many more paleo backpacking blogs out on the net lately; can't say that most of them have been very helpful to me, but it's always interesting to read what other folks consider good backpacking practice. There's a lot of difference, as you know, between doing an overnight or 2 where you might get away with pouched or even canned tuna, some pre-cooked meat and fresh fruit and veggies, and the kind of backpacking that involves mailing boxes to yourself several weeks down the trail.

Our big plan for this summer is revisiting the JMT with a few detours courtesy of the High Sierra Route. Should be fun! One big change will be that instead of mailing ourselves re-supplies, we'll be recovering boxes of food pre-stashed in bear boxes at camp sites. It's a little unsettling to consider than an unscrupulous camper might make off with our re-supply, leaving us in the difficult position of having to hitchhike into town and buy whatever food might be available at the local grocery down from Onion Valley or North Lake campground, but I have been assured by those who have used this method that such an event is extremely unlikely.

We will be re-supplying at Red's Meadow --  that will be our one chance to eat a restaurant meal and scrounge through the abandoned resupplies of other backpackers. Always an adventure!

In 2009, Jack & I hiked the entire JMT and it was that adventure that inspired me to begin this blog. Our at-home diet has changed a lot since then; our backpacking diet not so much -- we still eat beans, rice and quinoa on the trail, as well as plenty of dried fruit. Our protein percentage, however, has increased not only at home but also on the trail over the past year or 2, although unless we have trail buddies who fish, we rely on what we bring, not what we forage!

Remember my original protein post when I was concerned that 90g of protein might be too much? Since adopting a more primal diet, I've come to believe that 90g of protein for such sustained physical exertion is not enough. So as I'm putting together the 24 hot lunches, supper porridges and day snacks for the July get-away, I'm trying to squeeze in even more via dehydrated ground beef and an assortment of protein powders and a new protein bar we've been enjoying for the past year. Oh ... didn't I tell you?

Our friends who supply us with the truly delicious organic green food bar also make a protein bar! This is not a perfect paleo protein bar -- it contains agave syrup (boo hiss) and although I love the 22g of protein, the 22g of sugar are a bit much. Even so, since we avoid soy and whey, this is the best bar I've found for backpacking. Or for pre-workout. Or for road trips ... (see my review on Amazon). So now you know. If they ever make this bar without agave syrup, I will be ecstatic!

Back to those 24 hot lunches? I've determined to limit each one to 7 oz each, with the breakdown of 2 oz of the beef protein powder, 2 oz of the tiny rice/quinoa mixture,  2 oz of dried beans, and 1 oz of vegetable/flavoring. That last part is the trick. I am actually writing down my recipes again this year because my notes from last year's meals were so vague. Yes, we loved the basil-lemon bean dish, but how much basil was really in that? And how much lemon? Oh well. Luckily, we are not picky eaters on the trail ...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Backpacking with Stress Incontinence

Not a polite subject perhaps, but it's what's been on my mind since the Skyline to the Sea backpack Mr. Jack & I did with some neighbors.

I don't think I've seen this issue addressed in a backpacking forum. What? None of the estimated 25 million folks in the US who suffer with urinary incontinence backpack? Most of us (75-80%) are women, so I'm so I'm not alone here. And yes, I knew I had a problem, but I had no idea how bad it would be.

Okay, sure, the day before the backpack I'd had a big delicious mug of coffee and a chocolate bar. The morning before the hike (after a lovely evening in a tent cabin at CostaNoa), Mr. Jack had brewed up some extra strong tea. YUM! You'd think I'd know better ... Word on the street, as you may or may not know, is that coffee, tea and chocolate are culprits in the UI world. Well, okay, but I'd been doing my kegels and maybe (maybe?) I still would have been okay if I hadn't munched a big ol' bowl of grapes our neighbors brought to the trail head as treat. Who knew that grapes, of all things, were also on the "don't eat" list? Amazing what some dedicated web browsing can uncover ... 

But back on the trail, unaware of the total food whammy I had brought on myself, I hoisted my 27-lb pack and started walking downhill. OH NO! The leaking began in the first few steps and did not stop. Hopeless. I had only 2 choices -- go back to the car & meet my backpacking pals at the end of the trail 3 days later ... or keep hiking, wet pants and all. 

I don't know what you would have done, but I was not willing to miss the backpack. So I kept hiking. And I kept leaking. It was not a pretty story. I couldn't decide which was the most uncomfortable -- the physical discomfort or the social discomfort.

In an attempt to alleviate the social discomfort, I made a big announcement at our next stop that I sure would be glad to get to camp to get out of these wet trousers. There wasn't much to do about the physical side until we actually did get to camp, where I rinsed out my soaked pants, threw them over the clothesline, and declined the after-dinner chocolate treat. The next morning, avoiding my usual cuppa black breakfast tea, I hiked on, a little drier.

By then, I had made the decision to "fix" the problem, no matter what it took. What I wasn't so clear on was exactly what I needed to do or if it would even work. I was willing to give up chocolate, coffee and tea forever, do kegel exercises morning and night, and -- as it turned out -- give up a few others foods, including -- yes -- grapes.

The most specific list I found was at the University Women's Health Care site. I especially loved the reassuring line that "if bladder symptoms are related to diet, you should see significant relief within 10 days." Ten days I could do.

So I did. But before I started, I did a jump rope test as a baseline. Turned out I could do 20 jumps before the leaking started. Ten days later? I was up to 50 before I stopped because I broke a sweat.

And for the record, I didn't strictly avoid all the foods on the UW list. I kept taking B vitamins and had salad dressing with vinegar; I also ate plums & peaches, as it is stone fruit season here in California. But I strictly avoided chocolate, tea and coffee, as well as grapes and apples. Some of the other foods on the list were easy to avoid just because I don't eat them: mayonnaise, carbonated drinks, melons, strawberries, guava and nutrasweet, for instance.

Just a few days ago, I was sorting through some backpacking food, assembling a menu for next week's Desolation backpack, and I absentmindedly popped a delicious block of Dagoba 100% organic chocolate in my mouth. Oh the delight! But oh the disaster later that evening when I pulled out the jump rope ... 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ready to Go? & Raves for a New Dehydrator!

We're just about ready to go here with 22.5 pounds of food for each 8-day section. This includes vitamins, our variety of teas, the inevitable salami, and (of course) some packaging. Doing the math gives us an average of about 1.4 lbs per person per day, considerably heavier than the last 2 years (2009 @ 1.24 & 2010 @ 1.08), at least a pound of which will be the beef added to supper (see below). But the big difference makes me wonder if I was including the vitamins & teas last year ... sometimes my notes are not as clear as I'd like when I look back. Anybody else have that problem?

This backpack's food prep has been plagued by "do-overs" & I won't be completely sure I am done until the box goes to UPS on Wednesday for its Kennedy Meadows destination.

First do-over was the dried ground beef. I had already composed & taped up most of the hot lunches when I realized how much easier it would be on-trail to already have the beef in the lunches. So I opened them all back up & added a carefully measured ounce to each one. And shouldn't I have done that with the pease porridge suppers (aka "gruel") as well? Well, yes. So I opened up each one of those, added the beef and re-taped. Turns out I had just enough beef for the 15-day backpack.

And that's when I hit the second do-over. Sunday afternoon, putting vitamins & such into little pill bags, I compared my inventory to the itinerary we'd sketched out Saturday night and discovered we were doing 16 days on the trail, not 15. Huh. So we'll need one more day of food? Well, at least one more day of trail snacks, so out come the bags of nuts, dry fruits, backpacking bars and ... oh my! Hang on a minute! I've forgotten the extra EmergenC! I'll be right back ...

Hopefully, that's the last do-over. At least the box wasn't taped up yet!

Excaliber Dehydrator Report

I got one. At last. And I am in love! If I'd had any idea how much easier, quicker & more enjoyable dehydrating would be with this 9-tray, no-hole, adjustable temperature dehydrator than with my well-used Ronco, I would have upgraded years ago. In fact, I would not have bought a starter-dehydrator at all. If you are still struggling with your donut dehydrator, I gotta encourage you to get out your money and get the right tool for the job. I'll rave more later - right now I have to go unload 9 trays of white nectarines I picked from a neighbor's tree this weekend.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Yes, We Survived!

Here I am, feeling overwhelmed with prepping food for this year's 100+ walk through the Sierras, and also wanted to touch base on this long-neglected site. I came back from last year's backpack full of ideas, but got distracted by work. Boo for me!

Obviously, we did not starve to death on the last hike. I didn't even get the hungries. I was, however, sluggish & peevish the first week of hiking. Maybe I just didn't have my groove on yet (or maybe it was hormonal timing), but after our re-supply at Red's Meadow where I found a foil-pack of PackItGourmet Freeze Dried Roast Beef Dices, my energy levels & my emotional doldrums lifted. Thank you, surplus box!


I ground the dried beef to dust in the foil pack & added a big heaping spoonful to my pease porridge each night. Amazing results.
So this year, of course, I am drying my own ground beef. I've discovered that my little quart-size crockpot will quickly & easily cook up 2 lbs of grass-fed ground beef. I drain off the juices for another use, break up the lump o' meat & spread it thinly on dehydrator trays lined with parchment paper. It dries overnight! Then I pop it into the food processor & grind it to dust. An ounce of this "meat dust" provides just over 15.6g of protein, so I'm planning to add that amount to both the evening and the mid-day hot meal.

Another way I'm planning to add a little extra protein this year is by substituting rice protein powder for the hummus mix in the Ginger Bars when I start whipping them up next week.

This year I am feeling especially rushed because not only have I (as usual) put food prep off until the last moment, but we are going to be out of town for a conference for 11 days in August, returning home just 2 weeks before we head out for Tuolomne Meadows.

I hope to make at least one more post in the meantime, but just in case, remember to carefully calculate your protein needs for your backpack! I am discovering that 1g of protein per each pound of lean body weight is not excessive!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tuolumne Meadows to Red's & Back Again


Just got back from the post office, where I posted a food box off to Red's Meadow. Seven days' worth of lovingly dehydrated vegetarian meals, hand-mixed gorp with local raw almonds, the world-famous dodie kakes, 2 kinds of food bars (Rebar & the Active Greens), pease porridge -- all the usual, with the exception of dried shrimp in the Indian meals & our standby homemade beef jerkey. Mr. Jack wanted to try a vegetarian backpack for a change -- well, except for the 4.6 oz of secchi salami we'll devour within days of opening the re-supply box.

But there's something odd about the food I've prepared & gathered for this relatively short 14-day backpack.

The food doesn't weigh as much as it should. It looks like the right amount. It feels like the right amount. All the meals individually seem to weigh about as much as they did last year and although we subtracted the 2 oz of jerky per day, we put 2 oz of some divine olive-oil-roasted & salted almonds right back in. But when I entered all the weights into the spreadsheet & divided out per person per day, I only got 1.08 lbs.

You know that's not right. Last year we had 1.24 lbs per person & turned out we were a little short. Well, it was cold. This year we have a cozier tent and a heavier quilt. Our days won't be as long, either, since we are going to try the High Route on the return leg, going mostly cross-country. But we are going to be crossing some snowy passes--I will, in fact, be carrying an ice ax and crampons for the first time in my life--and the ranger Mr. Jack conferred with on the phone mentioned low temperatures in the 20s. That's cold enough for me to be glad of the improved sleeping situation!

The food puzzle is that I'm not sure where we lost that average 4 oz per day: Are the meals marginally smaller? Did I skimp when measuring out ingredients for the pease porridge? Is the gorp lighter? And the big question: Will we starve this time?

We're heading up to Tuolumne to pick up our permits when the office opens early Saturday morning. By the time we get to Red's Meadow we hope to have a clearer understanding of our food situation. At that point, if we need more food, we can raid the food boxes! (Assuming anything there we can eat! If you've been in the boxes yourself, you can understand my hesitation about relying on instant oatmeal for much nourishment ...)

I keep thinking I've just done the math wrong, or written down a wrong weight, but if that is indeed the case, I've not been able to find it. I admit I'm tempted to throw another tube of almond butter into the bear bag and if there's room when we get ourselves all packed up, I just might ...

On the other hand, it's only 15 days of not very strenous hiking, so it's unlikely anything worse than the hungries will happen, even if we are a bit short on food. And we have plenty of tea ... even if we don't have squeeze bacon!




Saturday, June 12, 2010

Beautiful, Bountiful Chard

Dehydrating experts recommend using produce that's in season, fresh & bountiful. In my garden this summer, that produce is chard. So of course I've been putting it into backpacking meals now that I've finally started dehydrating for this summer's Sierra excertion.

While chard is not high in calories or protein (7 & 1g per cup, respectively), it packs a real
nutritional wallop:
"... a good source of Thiamin, Folate and Zinc, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese."
Chard is an especially potent source of Vitaman A, offering up 44% of the RDA in one cup! Most of us are in no great danger of a Vitamin A defiency, but still, there's something comforting about eating delicious leafy veg that not only promotes healthy vision, but may also, as the Mayo Clinic states, "prevent some types of cancer, aid in growth and development, and improve immune function."

A cuppa chard also provides 77g of sodium, which adds to its tastiness quota and is never amiss on the trail, at least, where we are generally sweating out all the salt we consume.

And chard is so visually attractive! That vibrant green leaf ribbed in red, gold or white! I've been chopping up raw chard to add to the pre-cooked Tasty Bites* and noticing how much more appealing the fresh veg is than the pre-cooked meal from the foil pouch.

While appreciating the bright green, however, I couldn't help but ask myself: "What will dehydrating do to all this Vit A?"

Nothing. apparently, as long as the product is kept out of the sunlight:

"Vitamin A is retained during the drying process. Because vitamin A is light sensitive, foods that contain it-like carrots, bell peppers, mangoes-should be stored in a dark place."
The same site points out that "Minerals ... such as potassium, sodium, magnesium, and so on--are also not altered when [produce] is dried." So we don't lose the mineral load of chard on the trail.

Some vitamin C, most of us realize,
is lost in the dehydration process, but that's easily remedied by imbibing a daily dose of fizzy flavored EmergenC in your choice of fruit flavors.

My next dehydrating adventure with chard is going to involve chicken stock, polenta, black-eyed peas with oregeno & lemon. I'll keep you posted!

*More on That: To veg-up the flavorful & convenient Tasty Meals, I use 1 lb of fresh veg to 2 packs of Tasty Bites. With the addition of a dried grain, this makes 2 meals for 2 people, or a total of 4 individual meals. I do not use all chard. The combination so far is 1/3 each by weight of peas, green beans & chard. I use frozen peas & green beans for convenience; all the veg is put into the food processor & chopped into smaller bits for future ease of hydration. The green peas & beans add protein, especially important this year as we are going to be back-packing vegetarians ... well, except for the half-pound of "emergency" hand-made fennel sausage (finocchiona) we picked up in San Diego's Little Italy farmers market this spring.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fructose: Friend or Foe?


Earlier this month, Mr. Jack & I planted 3 fruit trees in our yard. Two of them are multi-graft stone fruits and #3 is a Fuji apple, the only apple which is recommended for our slightly-too-warm gardening zone. We plan to have a fancy new dehydrator by the time the crops start ripening next year, adding a whole new dimension to trail food prep!

We do eat a lot of dried fruit while backpacking, mayb
e more than a ½ cp per day. That's considerably more than we generally eat at home.Our average fresh fruit consumption is one lone apple--less than 9.5 g of fructose, since we tend toward the tangy rather than the sweet. I did binge on persimmons earlier this year, which average 10.6 grams, and then there are those summer stonefruits, plums (1.2) & apricots (1.3). Last year I was a little concerned about the relatively high sugar content, but I got over it. Dried fruit remains one of the simpliest, tastiest ways to consume calories on the trail.

But recently I read an article about agave syrup on Dr. Mercola's website (you might
have to sign up to read the whole thing), which mentioned the dangers of eating more than 25g of fructose a day. Now, that sure seems like a lot of fructose to me! But it got me to thinking: how much fructose might be in that half-cup of dried fruit? I do my best to avoid sugar at home. Am I overdoing it on the trail just because I'm super-burning calories?

So guess what I did? Yep: I did the math. Turns out that half-cup of dried fruit could contain between 34g (all apples) or up to 87g (all raisins). Whew. Easy on the raisins, there, when you're mixing up that fruit.

Turns out, though, that if I'd kept reading, I could have spared myself the word problems:
"Exercise can be a very powerful tool to help control fructose in a number of ways. If you are going to consume fructose it is BEST to do so immediately before, during or after INTENSE exercise as your body will tend to use it directly as fuel and not convert it to fat Additionally exercise will increase your insulin receptor sensitivity and help modulate the negative effects of fructose."
Despite the fact that backpacking might be considered an intense exercise (if done correctly), I'm still going light on the raisins.

And I'm still going to stay away from the agave syrup. What will I use instead?

Lundberg's Organic Brown Rice Syrup. That's right: rice syrup. Not just because I love rice, but because it is remarkably thick, golden & sticky (just like honey) while being less sweet than sugar, honey, agave syrup or maple syrup. So it provides the same delicious binding with a lot less, well, sweetness. Some of us like that sort of thing.

Here's the sugar breakdown for Lundberg's Brown Rice Syrup, thanks to Diana Lopez-Vega!

Glucose (dextrose) 20-25%
Maltose 25-30%
Other Carbohydrates 26-36%

Of course, it's all still sugar, but as a tablespoon of the syrup has only 11 grams of sugar, even I would have a hard time agitating against it. Now, you still might want to account for all the fructose in that dried fruit, but please don't make me do any more math!