I will soon be heading north to hike the Coastal Trail in Lake Superior Provincial Park, which means I’ve had to plan what I will carry and eat for about a week. In your typical outdoors store, you will find a wide variety of “camping” food, most of which is full of sodium, sugar, and preservatives, not to mention common allergens such as wheat, gluten, and dairy! Here I’ll share some of my food choices on my first long hike in the hopes of helping you choose healthy hiking food.
I used NutritionData.com to calculate calories as well as other nutrient info. On this site you can find info on many, many whole and packaged foods and you can also enter your own custom foods using the label info if you need.
Fruits and veggies
The greatest challenge of camping food is vegetables and fresh fruit, since I don’t have refrigeration. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t still bring some fresh stuff, I just have to eat it early on! I’ll be bringing a few bananas and some whole organic carrots (washed but unpeeled) for the first few days of the trip. Many fruits (bananas, apples, oranges, pears, etc) travel well and I find that carrots of all vegetables also can last a few days without refrigeration quite nicely as long as they still have their peels and are protected.
Dried fruit and nuts
Once the fresh foods above run out, dried fruit provides a great portable snack that is light and keeps a long time. Nuts and nut butters are also good choices. I’m bringing dried mango, peaches, and raisins, along with almonds (that I roasted myself in my oven) and almond butter.
Many years ago I got a dehydrator and one of the things I’ve used it for is to make my own homemade beef and turkey jerky, which is MUCH tastier (and healthier) than anything store-bought you can find! For this trip I’ve made a bit of both and frozen it until we leave to keep it fresh. I plan for it to last about 3-4 days.
To supplement what I have above, I’ve found a few packaged items that, while not as optimal as a fresh, whole foods diet, are workable for me.
Instant oatmeal packets are great for breakfast. Glutenfreeda’s are gluten-free and there is also Nature’s Path (not gluten-free). You can get both these brands in plain, unsweetened varieties to which you can add your own fruit, nuts, etc.
In looking through all the dehydrated packaged stuff in the store, I did find a few brands that have healthier ingredients and less/no preservatives. What I chose for this trip was Mary Janes Farm Outpost Organic Instant Lentil Soup packs. They also make several other meals which look tasty!
There are a wide variety of bars out there, so look for some that you like and that fit your needs. Generally, bars higher in protein and lower in sugar are best. I like Vega Sport Endurance Bars and Protein Bars. I bought a few brands just for flavour variety and plan to eat 1-2 bars per day.
Protein and/or greens powder:
Both are good portable additions to your morning oatmeal to add more nutrition and help make up for a lack of fresh fruits and veggies while hiking.
Drink mixes and electrolyte replacements:
While not necessarily a product I would use on a day-to-day basis, Emergen-C can be another good option while hiking and to take the chlorine edge off your purified water! They may also help with immune support while travelling.
Another simple option for sodium and mineral replacement is plain old sea salt. When I travelled to India in 2007 and to Nicaragua in 2010 I brought a small container of sea salt that I added to my bottled water to replace all the salt I was losing via sweat. I truly think this simple trick helped keep me better hydrated on both those trips and therefore illness-free!