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!


  1. I have never been so much concerned about the sodium content of backpacking foods. In actual fact, I have learnt a lot from you. I will pay close attention to the nutrition info of most backpacking foods. The following post has resourceful suggestions:

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