Eating on long distance tours

When you take a look on our Iceland tour in 2018 , you’ll notice that we did quite a long hike. Because of this long time (about three weeks without breaks) there might appear some questions.

  • What can I take with me?
  • What do I need?
  • How much do I need?
  • How often do I have to eat during the day?
  • What should I consider when choosing food?
  • What consequences does bad planning has?
  • And also: What to do when the planning was not correct?

Most of the comments on the internet regarding our Iceland tour said that we’ll probably starve and that it’s insane to carry so much food with us. One of the comments directly said that we’re going to die. We had to do some compromises and had to leave our every-day comfort zone and noticed, that variety is something very valuable and is very underestimated in our normal life.

“There’s a pretty good chance you are going to die with that plan.” A reddit.com user

Eat and drink enough

Our body needs much more calories when we’re active over the whole day (about twice as much, so 4000-5000 kcal).

When temperatures are low (also at night during sleep), it’s harder for our body to keep its temperature at about 36/37°C. This means that the body also need more energy while resting or sleeping. Good suitable clothing and a warm sleeping bag are needed to support our body keeping its temperature.

If you don’t consume enough water, salt and other minerals, the body can easily get stressed when sweating. This however can have a negative effect on the metabolism and also on the kidney.

The kind of food on such a tour differs a lot from the one of our daily life, which sadly has often a negative effect on our digestion system. This can lead to situations from constipation to diarrhea. A separate article regarding the “travel pharmacy” and first-aid kit will probably come in the future.

Too less food results in a bad mood

A badly filled stomach results in bad mood and more or less kills all motivation, which can lead to conflicts when hiking in groups (even when you’re “only” in a pair). Eating is, next to sleeping, washing and clothing, one of the most basic things a human needs and is the fundament of satisfaction.

When these basic things are not fully covered, it’s very likely that you become unhappy over time. The body then is stressed and is more sensible to external stimuli: The rain is more unpleasant, the hill is unnecessary steep and a conversation is the last thing you want.

Little fun fact about stress

Stress has very negative effects on the body and you might loose the ability to control your focus and attention. It can even go further and you may become more sensible to pain and even wounds may heal slower.

A long distance hiking tour does definitely not have the goal to produce stress, but to experience many things and to collect a lot of nice impressions. Therefore eating (good) food are one key parts of hiking and needed to prevent stress.

What food to take with you?

It depends on how long the journey is and what you like to eat.

If the journey is shorter, things like cheese and sausages probably stay fresh. For longer trips (a week and longer), quickly perishable food is not suitable.

Due to the amount of food we needed, we chose freeze-dried food. Those meals are very light and just need hot water. Furthermore those meals wont spoil during the hike.

Breakfast

Next to the actual food, a cup of tee (and next time instant coffee) was part of our breakfast. The tea does not only warm up your inner body but motivates and also wakes up your immune system (depends on the tea, we had a lot of hot lemon tea).

The basis of our breakfast was porridge or scrambled egg (we chose meals from Trek ‘n eat and liked it a lot). Normally we had 1x porridge + 1-2 BP-WR bar (sweat tasting emergency food and nearly the same as BP-5, NRG-5, NRG-M, EPA, MRE, …). In addition to that we mixed the porridge with some nuts (walnuts, cashews, peanuts, macadamia nuts, etc.) and dried fruits (plums, figs, dates, apricots) to have some varieties.

Generally we tried to create a breakfast sates for some time so that we didn’t became hungry after a few steps. Furthermore the breakfast should contain a lot of fibre for the digestion as well as long and short chain sugar, which gives you short and long term energy.

For us the scrambled egg was not as filling as the porridge. In hindsight we’ll experiment a bit because all the Nuts with their high concentration of fat were not that good for the digestion.

The motivation bar

We made the experience, that an easy accessible motivation bar is a very good idea. This should be a chocolate bar (or similar) that tastes good and that you can look forward to.

We used it in the moment when you get slightly hungry but also for passages where we needed some extra motivation. It improves the mood and motivates to walk up the hill and to bite through.

We took cereal bars, chocolate bars, banana chips and nuts with us.

Lunch

We mostly moved the lunch to the evening after building up our camp. Alternatively, when the weather was good, we cooked at beautiful places (mountain peaks, rivers, lakes, …).

In advance we bought a lot of freeze-dried food (by Track’n Eat, but there are some other and maybe better manufacturers). Unfortunately this is quite expensive, because one meal can cost between 6-8€. Also we had to experience that vegetarians have a significantly lower variety of meals compared to non-vegetarians. We were quite happy when it’s not soy-bolognese the third time in a row!

However we were quite satisfied with the products we bought.

Dinner

Before going to bed we often made a broth, soup or a portion mashed potatoes with parmesan.

We also set up three milestones and bought for each milestone one portion mousse au chocolat (also from Track’n Eat). This was a very good idea because it was a culinary highlight and gave us a quite large portion of motivation and strength!

Too less calories

We didn’t reached our calories goal of 4000-5000 kcal at all. Hauke consumed 2000 kcal (+- 500 kcal) and I about 1700 kcal (+- 500 kcal) per day.

Interestingly, Hauke lost about 8kg of weight, which we’ll try to avoid next time, but I kept my weight.

Our conclusion

We definitely have potential in our food planing process and will deal with drying own food (there will probably be articles in the future).

Every metabolism if different! The difference between Hauke and me was huge. You should deal with this before the journey and testing how much you need per day might be a good idea.

Cooking one of the meals and hiking with your backpack, to test if the food was enough, might be a good idea as well ;)

Kristina

My path leads me not only through my education as physiotherapist but also out into the green. In a way the escape of all the papers that want to be learnt, out into the silence where I am on my own. When I'm not outside or at my desk, I love bouldering or laying in the grass photographing.

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