Elements of Backpacking Nutrition
1. Main meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
2. Trail food
3. Camp Water
4. Trail water/drink
5. Necessary ingredients (salt, pepper, oil etc)
6. Socials stuff (booze and pulutan) (optional)
7. Hydrite and Puritabs/Aquatabs (optional)
Secondary Elements of Meal Planning
1. Cook set
3. Fuel (butane; solid alcohol; denatured alcohol etc)
4. Utensils (spoon, fork, spatulas, can opener, knife etc)
5. Cups and Plates (pot covers could make good plates)
6. Water containers
7. Garbage management stuff (tissue; garbage bag; cellophane/vinyl bags to wrap your plates with before putting food on them to do away with the washing)
Why Plan a Meal?
1. To make sure that everyone is sufficiently nourished. Undernourishment could lead to injuries or casualty. Some climbers pass out in the middle of the trail due to deficiency of certain nutrients. If electrolytes (sodium, potassium etc.) are not replaced, this could lead to severe dehydration and/or cramps.
2. To ease up the trek. Food is a part of your load. Extraneous or unnecessary items are additional burden. This could slow you down or lead you to an unsuccessful climb.
3. To make the trek enjoyable, easier and less strenuous. Good and generous amount of trail food makes you forget about your tiredness for a moment.
4. To celebrate the journey. Socials is a celebration even before the event culminates. Although an almost indispensable part of any socials, booze may weaken a climber the day after. Drunkenness or intoxication (of alcohol or weed) could also lead a climber to jump off Buruwisan Falls at night! A good celebration is when good music, stories and jokes are shared and when intoxicating substances are just enough to make you feel good (or spill out secrets) so as to prevent fights, injury or casualty.
Where to Buy?
It is good to do the grocery shopping in the city. Very often, there is no or limited supply of goods at the jump-off. However, I sometimes buy some supplies at the jump-off so that in my own little way I can help the commerce of the locality. But in one of my Mt Maculot climbs, the fun in the road trip made our group forget that we had not bought rice yet. Fortunately there was a 7-11 at the campsite.
When to Buy?
Ideally, the day before the trek is the latest time to buy stuff. This gives room for buying other stuff that you may have forgotten to include in your shopping list. Buy butane gas whenever you have the chance even when you’re not climbing. Always have a stock of butane gas in your cupboard. This way you don’t annoy the team leader with the lines ‘Wala kasing bilihan sa may amin!’ or ‘Sarado na kasi kagabi!’
What to Buy?
Foods should be rich in carbohydrates, protein and fats. Chocolate and sweets are good sources of energy. It is better if your drinks contain electrolytes to replace the potassium, sodium and other essential electrolytes you lose while trekking. Daing can do the trick too. Also avoid foods that have antagonistic effects to ‘good’ foods. Although caffeine can make you feel energized and less sluggish, diuretics (e.g. coffee and Cobra) may make you want to drink more water, which is not good in a dry mountain.
Always have the principle of minimalism in your mind. Think of foods that have minimal weight and require minimal space and water (and minimal impact to the environment). Foods that make you thirsty like biscuits and cookies are not very ideal trail foods. Foods that require minimal preparation time are great. Salted eggs are always in my backpack. Bottled foods and drinks should be transferred into lighter containers.
As mentioned in the video, ‘what to buy’ is determined by the destination and the length or duration of the journey. Good and ‘real’ foods are great! But there is no room for sinigang in a dry mountain unless you’re hiring a porter to carry more than enough water. Hot and spicy foods are great in places that are of near-freezing temperatures.
Foods with shorter shelf life should be consumed first. Tomatoes and other vegetables ripen easily when not exposed to air so buy the green ones. If you’re skeptical about the condition of your food, don’t eat it!
How Much to Buy?
Bring enough but not too much! Insufficient water and food could lead to dehydration or passing out. Too much food equals excess and unnecessary weight which could also lead to fatigue. Estimate well. In my case, a two-day-one-night expedition (with 3 meals) requires one-fourth kilo of rice. For an elevation gain of 500 meters, 100ml-300ml of trail water (+ optional hydrite or salt) is enough. Consuming too much water while trekking exhausts you more. Water discipline will be discussed further in another post.
The overall amount of food you need is determined by how many meals and how much trail food the trek is going to involve. Always group foods according to how they will be prepared during the expedition. Include in the groupings the necessary ingredients and condiments. This way, you can avoid bringing too much and too little.
Who will Buy and Who will Carry?
Members of the climb party should be assigned with different tasks. Everyone should responsibly perform their duties. At the (assembly) terminal, check whether all the necessary supplies are brought. In the load distribution, divide the supplies equitably (according to capacity) and not equally. Expenses should be divided equally. Sponsors are very much appreciated!
Pre-cooked real foods are great. They taste real! They won’t require water and preparation time. A usual pre-cooked meal is adobo. It doesn’t spoil easily. Some boil meat at home and freeze it before packing. Then at the campsite you can turn it into any kind of meal. Foods which don’t have sauce also don’t spoil easily. I once packed lechon kawali and it still tasted like lechon kawali at the Los Baños peak of Mt Makiling. Goldilocks offers a variety of semi-real foods in foil/tetra packs. They’ve got dinuguan, laing and probably more.
Foods that require little preparation time are also recommended. Salted eggs and canned goods are common camp foods.
Always consider the little things that you need in the preparation of your menu. How can you fry if you don’t have oil and your pan is not Teflon coated? Bring enough fuel but not too much. One canister of butane gas for every group of three persons will do for a 3-meal trek.
Always set your camp kitchen at a safe distance from your tents. Clear the ground of weeds and other combustible materials before cooking. Always bring your stove and fuel. Avoid using firewood. Always secure sharp objects like knives and can openers. Always keep a trash bag handy.
Dispose of Waste Properly
Always bring down everything you brought up! When disposing of cans, open both ends and flatten them to minimize volume. Sharp objects should be layered with cardboard or tough plastic to prevent them from tearing the trash bag. Remove liquid first before putting trash into the trash bag. Keep the trash bag away from dew and animals so that they are easy to put away the following day. Avoid tying trash bags outside your backpacks. Twigs and thorns may rip them open and your trash will betray your tracks as bits and pieces of it fall one by one on the trail. In addition, any dangling object disrupts your balance and concentration. You may insert your dry trash bags beneath your backpack cover or inside your backpack. This is the reason why it is important to avoid dew and get rid of liquids from food before putting garbage into the trash bag. Seal the trash bag properly to avoid getting the stuff in your backpack dirty. Trash should also be divided among members of the group. Maarteneers don’t get invited to the next climb.