One of the most common questions we’re asked is “What are you going to eat?” Anybody that knows Soph and I knows that food is very important to us in terms of health and as a way to connect with others. The idea of being consigned to wangling our provisions from rural Alaskan gas stations or tiendas selling 300 varieties of ranchitos is daunting. In reality, there are just going to be times when we’re eating corn dogs that have been rotating under a heat lamp for 24 hours and we will need to be ok with that.
Here is a summary of what we will be carrying. For more detailed information, you can visit our gear page.
|FUEL - 16 OZ WHITE GAS||JOINT||CHRIS|
|MUG - SE DOUBLE WALL STAINLESS STEEL TRAVEL MUG||CHRIS||CHRIS|
|STOVE - MSR WHISPERLITE UNIVERSAL||JOINT||CHRIS|
|STOVE CLEANING KIT||JOINT||CHRIS|
|BEAR CAN - BEAR VAULT||JOINT||SOPH|
|COFFEE FILTER - UNMAPPED STAINLESS||JOINT||SOPH|
|COOKWARE - PAN GSI PINNACLE||JOINT||SOPH|
|COOKWARE - POT HALULITE 2L||JOINT||SOPH|
|KNIFE - MSR ALPINE KITCHEN KNIFE||JOINT||SOPH|
|MUG - ACE CAMP DOUBLE WALL||SOPH||SOPH|
|COOKING OIL & BOTTLE||JOINT||SOPH|
|SILVERWARE - SEA TO SUMMIT TITANIUM SET||CHRIS||SOPH|
|SNOW PEAK TITANIUM SPORK||SOPH||SOPH|
All of this will weigh between 8 and 9 pounds. That is close to 5% of our total gear weight including the bikes. Quite a bit of weight, but also quite minimalist when you consider how we eat. At home we often spend an entire evening each week just prepping vegetables and making base stocks and sides such as rice and lentils so we do not fill all of our evenings with cooking. Our Vitamix is the most important piece of equipment in our kitchen and we will be a bit lost without it.
The number one goal is going to be making sure that we are getting all of the calories we need through the healthiest diet possible given the obvious constraints. At some point I might try to put up a recipe section on here as we come up with some quick, easy, and healthy meals that can be made on a single burner backpacking stove. In the mean time, here is some information and a few lessons that I’ve learned over several years of bikepacking and touring
Laird Hamilton said that. His point was that you don’t want to be so concerned with what you eat that anything out of the ordinary causes IBS. The reality is that we will need close to 6,000 calories just to break even on some days. If you’re wondering, that is about 11 Big Macs. I am typically more in the camp of people who are very conscious of what I eat (sans the occasional cookie or ice cream treat). At the same time, I like to think that if 90% of what I eat is fresh fruits, veggies, and quality grains then the other 10% is fair game.
My general rule is that I do not buy anything unhealthy to have at home. However, on my first tour around Michigan I was finding it difficult to get the calories I needed and by the end found myself getting Burger King for the first time in who knows how many years. I was trying to put up 150 miles that day. I remember stopping and getting a burger, fries, and a large Coke (Note that I almost never drink soda and am very sensitive to caffeine). When your body is taking in that many calories, you can literally feel your muscles absorbing the nutrients. It is how I imagine Mario felt when he ate the mushroom to power up. I ate everything in about 5 minutes and was immediately back on the bike.
Stopping to eat during the day isn’t much different than stopping for gasoline at this point. You run into a shop, you buy some fuel, you put it in the tank, and you get back on the road. When you start looking at what you eat as fuel for your body and taking note how some fuels work better than others, your perspective on eating changes.
I am notorious for being the guy that doesn’t bring enough food on a backpacking trip. I would rather be a little hungry than carry an extra energy bar. One year a friend and I were planning a 200 mile trip on the Appalachian Trail and I knew I needed to be a little more prepared than usual. I spent half a day researching various foods and their calories relative to weight. The idea was to have the most energy dense food as possible to minimize how much we carried. I used this to plan a daily diet of about 4,000 calories. I remember how proud I was when we completed our first 5 day section and walked into town for a resupply just as I finished my last handful of trail mix.
Here you can see the caloric densities of many of the foods that we envision consuming regularly:
|Dairy||Whole milk powder||2250|
|Fruit (dried)||Dried apple||1115|
|Fruit (dried)||Dried banana||2378|
|Fruit (dried)||dried cranberries||1680|
|Fruit (dried)||Dried mango||1540|
|Meal||Ready to eat camping meals||1500|
|Staple||Kashi Go Lean cereal||1400|
|Staple||Textured vegetable protein (TVP)||1408|
|Veggies (dried)||Sundried tomatoes||1120|
Nuts give the best bang for the weight. Pecans are amazing at 3,500 calories per pound. Grains are great as well. Rice and beans contain all of the essential amino acids that we need. Meat and dairy can also provide a significant portion of daily energy when large amounts are needed. I honestly don’t have a great plan yet on how we will integrate large amounts of veggies into our diet just yet. I see nuts, grains, and legumes as being our main source of energy with meat added sometimes for flavor, and vegetables used as much as possible as they contain a number of nutrients we will need. In reality we will not be able to eat enough veggies to even come close to our caloric needs.
An average day of eating might look like the following list. This would weigh almost six pounds and contain about 5,200 calories:
Lots of people that we talk to envision us being in relatively secluded areas most of the time. Although this will sometimes be the case, we will often pass through small towns on a daily basis. I think that a 3 day stretch without a place to refill on food and water will be unusual, although there may be one or two in which we have to carry 5 days of provisions. With this in mind, we will try to carry as little as possible and purchase it as needed. This of course will not always be practical and I’m sure we will end up carrying a bag of rice or some oatmeal for a few days.
Some people have asked about storage and freshness for the longer stretches. I don’t see this as a major issue in moderate climates as many vegetables and especially hard cheeses and cured meats stay good for days. Interesting fact about eggs that I once read: The US is one of very few countries in which it is customary to refrigerate eggs. This has something to do with the fact that we wash them, which removes some kind of protective coating. Farm fresh eggs can be left unrefrigerated for a few weeks. Read about it here.
This is one of those “on the job training” kind of scenarios. We’re going to do our best to eat well, but I’m sure this will be a challenge at times. I look forward to sharing some of the tricks we learn along the way.
myfitnesspal.com has some great nutritional information on various foods if you are looking to learn more.