Friday, August 24, 2012

Dietary Concerns and Backpacking Meals

Backpacking food is great, well for backpacking anyway. But one of my big concerns is the amount of sodium that is in the food. I have found that my body is extremely sodium sensitive. For me, this means that even if I've lost a ton of sodium through perspiration and have lost tons of weight, my body is still going to react to me eating too much sodium. Which is apparently around 1400 to 1600 mg per day.

For my daily diet this is no problem. Occasionally I will go over my limits, but for the most part it is easy to keep my sodium levels down. The challenge comes when trying to plan out a backpacking menu. If you look at the nutrition information from some of the freeze dried packages you can buy, such as the Jamaican BBQ Chicken from Backpacker's Pantry you will see that the sodium level for one serving is basically what I would eat in a day. If you happen to be really hungry (which you probably are after a 10 mile hike) you may even eat both servings, building up nearly 2900 mg for that one meal! This is not meant to be a knock on freeze dried backpacking food, and is especially not a knock on Backpacker's Pantry (I happen to like them a lot). It just shows my current dilemma with my meal situation.

There are many big advantages to using the freeze dried food:

  1. You can carry a Jetboil/MSR Reactor type of stove with the specialized pot to store it in. This not only cuts down on cooking time (active prep time = 2 minutes), but it also cuts down on weight and space in the pack.

  2. You "cook" the food right in the bag, and usually eat right out of the bag too. This means that when you're done you lick then wash your spoon and put it and the bag in your bear canister and are done with dishes.

  3. The food packs well. It's vacuum sealed and it's easy to just drop into the bear canister when you're packing your pack.

So when I sat down to plan my approach to making meals for backpacking I decided that I wanted to take the advantages of freeze dried food into account while trying to plan my own strategy. The other thing that I want to take into account is to be able to make food that meets other specialized needs. For example:

  1. There is someone with a pumpkin allergy in my family. Believe it or not but I have actually been finding pumpkin in freeze dried meals.

  2. There is someone in my family with a peanut allergy.

  3. There are a number of people in my family that are gluten intolerant.

  4. Last but not need for extremely low sodium meals.

So the result of this is that I started digging for resources on how to fulfill these requirements. The best resource to date that I've found is There is lots of great ideas, not only for meals there, but also as a foundation for planning your own.

At this point I don't have any meals worked out, but I do have some ideas. As I go through this process I will publish the meals that I come up with here so that I have a list of my experiments and I will know what works and what doesn't. If I come up with some good recipes I'll move them away from the blog post format and store them as a recipe page so that they're easily referenced.

Like I said, thus far I have nothing, but my next backpacking trip is coming up soon. I've picked up my parent's dehydrator, dusted off my meat grinder, fired up my smoker and I'm getting ready to make some food!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Route: Infinity + 2.1

Location: Whiting Road Nature Preserve
Distance: 2.1 miles
Route Name: Infinity + 2.1
Terrain: All trail. Mostly flat, some rollers getting more difficult at the end.
Difficulty: Easy
Trails Used: Blue, Orange

Description: This is a relatively open 2.1 mile route with a few rollers but nothing major. The arial view of the route roughly forms an infinity symbol.

The route starts by heading north on the blue trail out of the parking lot. This is a false flat down curving to the left (west) that also aides as a good warmup. At 0.3 mi turn sharp left (south) and continue on the blue trail. After 0.25 mi you will encounter a junction with the orange trail. The orange trail will be to your right and straight with the blue trail going off to the left. At this point you want to continue straight to follow the orange trail. You will encounter a few small rollers while skirting a field. After you come into a junction with the red trail continue on the orange trail, fully entering the field for a good distance. For the next 0.7 mi you will mostly be in the field, popping in and out of the woods once or twice and going over a few medium sized rollers, but nothing too big. This portion of the trail loops around from going fully south to west to north and eventually east again. Not long after the trail turns east (right) you will encounter the red trail and will be fully back in the forested part of the preserve. Continue on the orange trail, passing the red trail junction, going up and down some more good sized rollers until you reach the junction with the blue trail. Continue running straight, onto what becomes the blue trail. This portion of the trail flattens out and after a short 0.15 mi you will have completed the route and will be back in the parking lot.

Route Names

The town I live in has a number of nature preserves that a local trails organization does a wonderful job maintaining. Because of this effort it makes it more feasible for me to run trails, since I only have to drive a short distance to do so. I also use an app called Running Ahead to track my runs. The issue with this being that I don't have a GPS and trails are not as well marked the mapping tool that they use as the roads are (no surprise there). As a result most of my course names end up being "blue-red-orange-blue" or similarly cryptic. The other day when I was recording a run I decided that it was time to have fun names for my routes. However in order for the names to make sense I'll document them here so that I have a point of reference.

My main motivation for doing this is so that I have a definitive set of routes that I know are interesting and that I also know the distances and trail conditions for before I head out. Keep in mind that these are not trail names, they are combinations of trails that I've put together to make for interesting routes.