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Camping & Hiking

What you should (and should not be) eating on the trail

Co-owner of TrailFork shares her best advice for avoiding hangry arguments with your trail buddy.

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We all know it’s not always easy sticking to healthy snacks and meals on the trail. We asked the co-owner of TrailFork to give us her best tips. Lilian Hoodes created her Boulder, Colorado-based business to help adventurers customize meals on outdoor journeys. Specify the length of your trip, your weight, and dietary preference (vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten-free, etc.), and TrailFork will create perfectly portioned meals based on your calorie needs, all for about $8 per meal.

Lilian Hoodes created TrailFork to create tasty, perfectly portioned trail food.Courtesy

1. Pack enough food.

Your body burns through huge amounts of energy when you’re backpacking, and especially at altitude. Consuming enough calories when you’re doing something that requires you to be at full mental capacity—alpine climbing, for example—is especially essential. My first alpine climbing trip was an attempt to summit the Grand Teton. Not only did I only bring a PB&J, a CLIF bar, and some couscous, I also forgot the coffee.

I bonked about five pitches up and had to bail, because it was obvious that I was dizzy and making unsafe choices rappelling. Since that trip I’ve learned that the need to be not only physically but also mentally alert in the backcountry means that it’s super important to pack adequate calories.

2. Lots of fat and protein in the morning, carbs, carbs, carbs at night, and sugary snacks during the day.

Your body will take longer to burn through a fatty breakfast (nut butters or our Paleoats, for example), and you’ll be less likely to run out of fuel early on in the day. Carbo-loading is the same principal that marathon fueling relies on. You want to give your body material to pump your muscles with glycogen while you’re sleeping. And while you’re moving during the day, sugar is the most easily available fuel source and helps in avoiding hitting a wall. (Also helps in avoiding hangry arguments with your trail partner.) Gummy Bears are my favorite trail snacks.

3. Watch ingredient labels for highly processed stuff.

Long hikes, ski tours, climbing ­– these are all activities that take a major toll on your parts, and you don’t do yourself any favors by using sub-par fuel. If you wouldn’t eat it at home, it’s probably not the best thing to put in your body when you’re asking it to perform epic feats. Whole grains, healthy fats, good protein, and moderate sugar and sodium: These kinds of dietary standards are especially important when you’re in the backcountry.