Pack proper fuel for outdoor adventures |
Food & Drink

Pack proper fuel for outdoor adventures

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When you’re heading out on an adventure, with days planned full of activities, you want food that will nourish and revitalize you.

Hiking, climbing, swimming, paddling, gathering fire wood, lugging equipment — you’re going to be burning more calories than you think.

An adventurer should plan for about 1.5 to 2.5 pounds of food — about 2,500 to 4,500 calories — per person per day, depending on the individual and their exertion level. Even if you’re car camping, you’ll still likely be exerting yourself more than on a typical day.

Extra food is essential for any overnight trip, but a common beginner mistake is to pack too much food, forcing you to haul extra weight everywhere you wander. Only experience will allow you to dial in your personal food requirements, but Bob Frye, outdoors editor for the Tribune-Review and, offers expert advice.

Day hike

Even if your weekend adventure won’t include any overnights, there are still important things to consider about your food supply.

“Sometimes people go out on a day trip and they think they’ll be OK with the 20-ounce water bottle they use everyday,” Frye says.

But you’ll go through water faster than you think.

“You should carry at least 2 liters of water in something like a Camelback backpack reservoir,” he says.

Frye also suggests carrying some high-energy simple snacks like granola bars, apples, bananas or grapes. You also could end up staying out longer than anticipated for a variety of reasons, and carrying a few light snacks for fuel can help your brain and body stay safe and alert.

“If you’re going to be out for a solid day, you might even want to take a small stove and make a meal,” he says.

The National Park Foundation suggests a good hard cheese and a quality sausage for snacking, along with a strong knife.

Day trippers or campers heading into the Laurel Mountains can fill their backpacks — or their coolers — at Barb’s Country Store in Rector.

Located near the entrance to Linn Run State Park, the combination general store/deli is operated by husband and wife team Barb and Pat Flaherty.

“This is the time of year when we get a lot of tourists and campers. … A lot of them come in for lunch and take sandwiches with them,” Barb Flaherty says.

Made-to-order sandwiches, along with homemade potato and macaroni salads (thus necessitating a cooler), bottled water and soft drinks and homemade baked goods are popular items for impromptu picnics, she says.

Overnight campers can purchase grassfed beef, free-range eggs and local honey and syrups for fire pit or cabin kitchen meals, according to the store’s website.

“We are really a ma and pa operation. … We went to a Rachel Carson event in Springdale and saw vendors making and selling food the old-fashioned way. We thought there might be a market,” Pat Flaherty says.

Car camping

Of course, if you’re planning to make your vehicle home base, you have a lot more room for error in overpacking and a lot more room for creativity. But don’t get too comfortable and forget the basics.

“Sometimes people think they can just throw ice in the cooler and it will stay cold for the whole weekend, but that’s not normally the case,” Frye says.

To avoid unwanted illnesses, make sure food stays cold.

“We fill up old pop bottles or milk cartons with water, freeze them, and throw those in — a big chunk of ice stays frozen much longer,” he says.

Car campers love taking advantage of the ease of packing cooking supplies, but with this freedom, campers should consider going beyond the burger.

“You can make stews or pizzas or even bake a cake,” says Frye. “We sometimes make pineapple upside-down cakes in the dutch oven. It’s not very hard. Put some coals under the oven and then some more coals on top, so you have heat coming both directions. Check after about 45 minutes.”

Other ideas:

Mountain berry cobbler: Berries topped with Pillsbury biscuits, cooked in a pan over the fire.

Potato skins: Bake potatoes in fire, then load up with toppings.

Beer cheese fondue: In a pot over fire, melt your favorite cheese, add beer. Dunk in any number of other items — bread cubes, pretzels, chunks of hard meats like salami or pepperoni.

Mountain pies: “If you don’t make them camping, you’d never get to make them,” Frye says. “Try pizza, fruit filled pies or s’mores. Kids feel like they’re making their own thing, and they love it.”

Weekend backpacking

If you’re doing a multi-day outdoor adventure, weight is the main consideration.

“Everything that seems light in the kitchen gets a whole lot heavier when you’re lugging it up a mountain,” Frye says.

Food planning for these events takes a bit more thought.

“People immediately think of freeze-dried meals, but at $7 a meal, they start to add up. You can save money by bringing similar items and making your own,” he says.

A small stove is key here, since you’ll want some solid sustenance after a taxing day. There are a variety of backpack stoves available that can heat water with just a small canister of fuel.

Think of things easy to cook on a stovetop with water: pasta, dried beans, rice or even packages of dehydrated mashed potatoes.

“Adding things like the foil packaged tuna or chicken helps get some protein in, and also makes it easy to pack out,” Frye adds.

Bring easy to grab snacks like granola bars and dried fruit, nuts or trail mix to tide you over between meals.

Pack just a little more food than you think you might need — you never want to run fully out of food.

That said, camping is not the time or place to try new foods you may not care for, or that might not agree with you.

Go with what you know here, and save experimenting for days when you have less riding on it.

Other tips

• Pack out all of your garbage, including things like banana and orange peels. They aren’t native to the natural environment and therefore aren’t suitable food for the wildlife that will inevitably investigate. Burning garbage in a campfire isn’t a good idea either. Items rarely burn completely and can produce harmful fumes. The National Park Foundation suggests bringing extra trash bags for packing out garbage and using reusable cutlery, plates and water bottles.

• Frye suggests to all outdoor adventurers not to cook where they’ll pitch a tent. “Cook about 50 or 100 feet away from where you’ll sleep. That way, if animals are attracted to the scent, they won’t be coming into your camp.”

• Car campers should lock all food items in the car, but those on their own should always hang a “bear bag,” which should include every scrap of food waste, extra food, unwashed food prep items, toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen and even fruit-scented lip balm. If you’ve cooked a lot of food, consider changing clothes before heading to bed and including your dirty clothes in the bag too, so animals won’t confuse you with the scent of your dinner. Hang the bag at least 8 feet off of the ground.

Tribune-Review reporter Mary Pickels contributed to this report. See other stories, videos, blogs, recipes and more at

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