Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
16 Nov

Dear Mark: Primal Trail Food

Just when you feel you’ve made the successful transition to Primal eating in everyday life, you stumble upon a scenario that sends you back to the drawing board. For some people, it’s the holidays. For others, it’s travel. For reader Brian, it’s regular camping trips into the real “primal environment”:

Dear Mark,

Each summer and throughout the year, I spend weeks at a time leading hiking, backpacking and camping trips in the backcountry. While this seems like it’s definitely a primal activity, traditional backpacking fare consists of oatmeal, tortillas, granola, peanut butter, pasta, rice, and beans. These foods are light, compact, durable, will fill you up, do not need to be refrigerated, and are easily packable. At the end of each week, though, I always feel worn out – depleted, almost – and I realize now that it is probably because of what I eat. Do you have any primal menu suggestions for those of us who actually live, at times, in a primal environment? (Hunting and gathering are unfortunately not viable options.) Thanks!

I know what you mean about being stuck in the wilderness with nothing but a big bag of carbs. I did a wildness trip a while back with a group that packed exactly that. Just a few days left me feeling miserable beyond belief.

As suggested, true backpacking imposes more limitations than base camping. Nonetheless, there’s still no reason to feel stuck in the traditional carb corner for the sake of packable convenience or physical need. If you pace yourself well and are already acclimated to the Primal eating plan, you’ll be perfectly able to rely heavily on fats, so there’s no need to carb up. (You can always bring along a couple sources of emergency fuel like a sports gel in case you “bonk.”) Rest assured that it’s entirely possible to eat Primally on long treks.

Lightweight and calorie dense is the name of the game for Primal packing. Obviously, dehydrated food can be a staple, and it’s a great way to work in plenty of veggies and fruits on the trail. I’d suggest dehydrating your own for price and variety sake, but many stores, especially good co-ops or camping outlets, will likely carry these as well. Think dried berries and apples, and veggie chips made from eggplant, sweet potato, zucchini, and parsnips. Throw in a couple pouches of sun-dried tomatoes and a little baggie of freeze-dried herbs/spices for good measure. If you prefer, you can always vacuum-seal some fresh veggies for days when you’re sick of the dehydrated stuff, but of course it will add the extra weight.

Dried meats, like jerky and pemmican, are obviously convenient choices and can help you get enough calories. In addition, you can consider including some chicken and wild salmon in foil pouches, a couple sardine cans, and the like. Freeze dried meat and powdered eggs are pretty easy to get a hold of. You can cook yourself a decent omelet with some dried egg, bell peppers, jerky and chives. Or add some meat to a dried soup mix for dinner.

For easy snacks and quick fueling, there’s always a good Primal trail mix (nuts, seeds and fruits), homemade fruit leather, as well as nut butter and Primal energy bars (both of which offer a good wallop of healthy fat). Although I don’t suggest living on it all week, a good protein/supplement powder can be a packable option, and it can help add calories if you feel you’re coming up short on a given day.

As for prepared meals, I’d say there are a few decent options out there, but I’d try to eat real food whenever you can. Not only are these meals expensive, but the prepared stuff generally reads like other processed foods do – chemicals, preservatives, and other odd laboratory concoctions. If you want to throw in a few packaged meals for convenience or variety, look for the natural or organic options, which leave out the fake stuff. (Just be prepared to add your own spices.) Of course, most are carb-heavy, but you can find some good omelet choices and occasionally a good low carb stew or chili. (Any brand suggestions out there, everyone?) Of course, you can always concoct your own fully Primal version ahead of time by putting together the dehydrated spices, meats, veggies, natural bouillon and other ingredients in individual baggies.

Finally, although you mention hunting and gathering aren’t options for your situation, both are great ways to supplement your diet with fresh food while you’re out on the trail. Gathering (seeds, mushrooms, berries, greens, etc.) is arguably the more straightforward of the two, but you need to know what you’re looking for. Obviously, you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere having just eaten a toxic plant. Take a good guidebook along with you. Even if you don’t plan to forage in the bushes, it might not be a bad idea for some side entertainment (or the unforeseeable emergency). As for hunting, if you have the skill and equipment, it makes all the Primal sense in the world to kill small game. Be mindful, however, of the legal issues surrounding hunting where you’re at – private/public land use and state regulations (hunting licenses, game seasons, tag/bag limits, etc.). And one last option: fishing. Although government regulations again come into play, fishing is generally less restrictive than hunting. Given the modest equipment needs (which can be handmade on site if need be), fishing can be a more impromptu choice if supplies run low or if you’re craving the sizzle of fresh fish in the pan for dinner. Enjoy your time in the wilderness!

Other campers out there? Have more ideas for Brian? Add your suggestions and anecdotes. Thanks to everyone for the great questions and comments, and keep ‘em coming!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Great post! I was just thinking about this over the weekend. My husband and I went on a hiking trip and ate horribly the entire weekend and of course felt aweful because of it. next time we will try your suggestions!

    cocobean wrote on November 16th, 2009
  2. You Just described my entire existence in one post!

    All of these options are very traditional, very primal and very energetic! I literally have bags of dried veggies laying around here. I ran out of dried meat and fish the other day, so I need to get working on that.

    Hunting and gathering is the mainstay of my diet!

    Grok wrote on November 16th, 2009
  3. Try some of those tuna in a pouch things. Lots of protein, and when they pack it most all the water is squeezed out, making it lighter and more compact.
    I was actually just thinking of this topic, but in a different light: survival food. Most of that stuff is very heavy on carbs because it can be stored so easily. Think bags of flour and rice. I guess my survival cache might be full of canned vegetables and sardine and protein powder.

    dave, RN wrote on November 16th, 2009
  4. Haha, this is the exact situation I was in last weekend. Luckily for me, I had thought ahead. I dehydrated some meat and made pemmican.

    Those tuna pouches would have been nice to have with me, great idea!

    Martin wrote on November 16th, 2009
    • I love tuna but try to avoid it in a pouch as it contains MSG. It’s on the label as “vegetable broth”. A lot of canned tuna has this added as well, except the oil packed/premium tuna. Again you have to pay more to avoid the junk. :-(

      Ann wrote on November 16th, 2009
      • Well, that explains it. I’ve always been wary of the “vegetable broth” in the ingredients list.

        Martin wrote on November 16th, 2009
  5. Nuts, seeds, and fresh fruits are always lay-around items, and when I run out of them, I may skip them for a day or two — usually a good excuse for intermittent fasting, or hypo-caloric intake in which case I’ll eat whatever vegetables are left before I restock with abundance.

    But I’ve gone for days on camping and hiking trips taking along only nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. I always get plenty of energy from just these sources and don’t feel like they’ll slow me down at all.

    I’ve been meaning to buy a dehydrator, though, as dried meats sound so convenient for on-the-run. Anyone has good suggestions for a home dehydrator?

    Johnny at The Lean Saloon wrote on November 16th, 2009
    • A dehydrator is just a low heat source. You can use your oven, or just buy the cheapest one you can find.

      Aaron Griffin wrote on November 16th, 2009
    • A dehydrator is a useful appliance if you are going to use it a lot. Excalibur is the gold standard, but I erred in buying the 9-tray, which is expensive overkill for a single person living in an apartment. I don’t have a garden and am not planning to open a raw restaurant. Has large fan which makes a racket. The 4-tray is adequate, quiet, uses little energy. (Nesco brand is respected for making jerky, and is cheaper, but uses as much energy as the 9-tray Excalibur.)

      Joshua wrote on February 26th, 2011
  6. Three words. Hard boiled eggs. Not good for longer trips, but will keep for a four or five day trek.

    gilliebean wrote on November 16th, 2009
    • Have you actually tried this? It seems sketchy to me….

      Aaron Griffin wrote on November 16th, 2009
      • In her younger years, my mom hiked throughout the vast USSR, including the central-Asia areas. Hard-boiled eggs were a staple.

        MariaNYC wrote on November 16th, 2009
        • This is a great idea! I was going to do this for my trip last week but I had run out of eggs.

          Martin wrote on November 16th, 2009
      • I tried it on a three-day trip once. The eggs (which I boiled myself) kept quite well in little baggies. Also, there’s a note below where Nicole seemed to have tried it with good success for four or five days. 😉

        gilliebean wrote on November 18th, 2009
      • Yeah – you gotta be careful. My hiking partner and I boiled a dozen eggs in Idyllwild, CA this spring and the next day started hiking NB. Second day out it was 105* at 10 AM. Even though my eggs were way down in my pack where it was cooler, I tossed them. Sure didn’t need a food-borne illness on the trail.

        hiker wrote on October 27th, 2011
        • If you’re willing to take the extra care and space, freshly laid eggs in the shell last at least 3 weeks at room temperature. I’ll cut down a Styrofoam egg carton (best for protection) to hold however many eggs I want to take with me and rubber band it closed, then cook them fresh on the trail.

          Randy wrote on June 27th, 2014
  7. We are a National Park Service family. (My husband is a ranger). We are mainly day hikers, but can clock in about 16 miles in a day. Cans or Sardines are the way to go. Light, very packable and easy.

    Hiit Mama - Meredith wrote on November 16th, 2009
  8. I’d also like to suggest bringing some actual fruit along. One of the best things after a day of hiking is biting into a real fresh apple.

    Aaron Griffin wrote on November 16th, 2009
  9. I definitely relate to this when I do assistant field work with graduate ecology students.

    I usually make several pounds of jerky, bring some almonds and cashews, throw in a few cans of tuna or salmon, grab some oranges and can backpack with this stuff and do really well.

    Accipiter Circus wrote on November 16th, 2009
  10. Properly made pemmican, consisting only of fat and meat, will keep forever and (apparently) provide for all of your nutritional needs. The high saturation of beef tallow (or bison tallow, if you want to get really authentic) keeps it from spoiling, unlike nuts, which are high in PUFAs and may go rancid quicker than you’d like – although on a short trip, that probably wouldn’t matter much. Indigenous Americans and European fur traders and arctic explorers lived on pemmican only for long periods of time, with no reports of ill health. (Once they started adding wonky stuff to pemmican, like chocolate or sugar, it started to gain a bad reputation from which it never really recovered.)

    Icarus wrote on November 16th, 2009
  11. I’d go for pemmican. Failing that, I’d take along two or three cans of ghee (each can would weigh just over a pound and yield about 4500 calories) and some jerky. Cans of sardines sound like a sensible alternative too.

    Valda Redfern wrote on November 16th, 2009
  12. You could feel “depleted” due to the fatigue of hiking all day or electrolyte depletion.

    Just other thoughts along with the diet 😉

    AlyieCat wrote on November 16th, 2009
  13. I’ve taken weeklong backcountry trips existing on avocados, sardines, and almonds. Run the combination through Fitday — it’s got everything that you need, even if it isn’t exciting.

    DC wrote on November 16th, 2009
  14. I’ve stumbled onto Landjaegar thanks to someone in the forums and they are now a staple for lightweight packable food that will pretty much last forever. You can keep this stuff on a shelf for a year and it’ll be fine.

    Lovestoclimb wrote on November 16th, 2009
    • Wow! I learn so many new things from Marks’ posts and from many comments on a more and more frequent basis. I have never heard of Landjaegar before. Thanks so much for posting about them. I looked them up and found a picture and quick description that I wanted to share for anyone else who had never heard of them. I plan on finding them somewhere. I live in PA and with all of the German/Dutch food floating around it shouldn’t be too hard (I hope). Here’s the link I mentioned….

      CriQue312 wrote on July 3rd, 2010
  15. I do a few hundred miles of long-distance backpacking every year. I’ve been working my way up the Appalachian Trail, and I’ve got 500 of the 2,100 still to do.

    Coconut oil is awesome stuff and does really well in a pack. It’s very much worth it’s weight. I can just eat it out of the jar, but you could add it to any of your hot foods, if you’re cooking.

    Wilderness family naturals sells dry coconut milk. It’s high in fat, so it only lasts about a year, but plenty long for backpacking! This is great as a base for coconut curries. At home, I mix the powder with Thai curry paste in the food processor. I bring dehydrated veggies (you can buy these on their own some place like and a foil packet of chicken, salmon or tuna. Combine with water, and it’s a *fabulous* meal. I’ve mail dropped these to myself all over the east coast with no problems.

    Lara bars contain all paleo stuff, though dates are very sugary. Ditto on Clif Nectar bars – five ingredients, generally, and miles beyond any other bar I’ve had. I *hated* bars before I tried these two.

    I do eat cheese, and cheddar cheese holds up really well. Hard-boiled eggs are fine for 4 or 5 days. If you have to re-supply, you can actually buy eggs that are boiled to pack out of town.

    Jerky, pemmican, fruits and nuts have all been mentioned. I also have summer sausage, which of course has nitrates, but it does well in my pack, and it’s a lot better than resorting to grains, sugars and pre-packaged meals.

    I bring the foil packs of tuna in sunflower oil on every trip. I eat one every day. Again, I can find these in mountain towns, so I can resupply them too.

    I’ve carried apples, carrots and even a ziploc full of sugar snap peas, though I ate those my first day out. I will usually only carry a little fresh fruit or veg. As good as they are, they don’t pack much calories for their weight.

    Nicole wrote on November 16th, 2009
    • This is great stuff! Thanks Nicole!! :)

      gilliebean wrote on November 18th, 2009
  16. Kippers. Pemmican. Prosciutto. Nuts. Olive oil. Dried fruit.

    When backpacking, my body turns into a furnace that burns anything, no matter how calorically dense.

    I used to do oatmeal w/ powdered milk + whey protein powder in the mornings, but now I love the convenience of munching on prosciutto and fruit while breaking camp. Fire up the stove for tea if you need a hot starter, but having dried oatmeal on my plate at the start of dinner was never particularly appetizing.

    Josh Roman wrote on November 16th, 2009
    • I hate waking up to oatmeal – I always have.

      I usually eat sausage and cheese in the morning and hit the lara bars later in the day.

      I find that Olive Oil is sneaky and I can’t seem to contain it effectively, but coconut oil never winds up all over my food bag.

      I haven’t tried prosciutto. I find it crazy salty at home, but I’d probably really like it in the woods.

      Nicole wrote on November 16th, 2009
      • Nicole, last time we resupplied at Red’s Meadow on the JMT, I found some small foil-packs of organic extra virgin olive oil, about the size of those salad-dressing to-go packs you find at salad bars. Seemed like a great idea to me, even with packing out the empties.

        Jo wrote on August 8th, 2011
      • I snagged a couple of 3 ounce glass bottles of olive oil at a supermarket that are very portable. Another option I’ve used is to clean out mini alcohol bottles.

        I’ll have to try prosciutto, I usually dehydrate slices of ham for easy breakfasts with a larabar or cheese.

        Randy wrote on June 27th, 2014
  17. Hi Brian!
    I like to take baggies of walnuts and bacon with me when I go hiking. I know bacon lasts at least a day un-refrigerated. It satisfies that salt craving I always get when I’m on the trail. Also, I have a great chicken salad recipe. I just pack it really tightly with ice. I have only ever done day-hikes, so those may or may not be viable options for overnight hikes.

    Grok on!

    Alicia W. wrote on November 16th, 2009
  18. I absolutely love this post and will be filing away everything I’m reading for an Appalachian Trail Hike (or part of the trail anyway). I’ve been to the base of it a few times, last time sans shoes. Soon….

    Linda wrote on November 16th, 2009
  19. Dehydrated fruit works only if you have a ready source of pure water. That’s not so in most of the places I pack into, so dehydrating my fruit only means I have to carry more water because the dried fruit is gonna suck it outta you! I’m with the folks saying just bring real fruit…clementines are my favorite. Jerky, seeds and nuts too. Nitrite free salami keeps pretty well for a day or so, depending on temps. Shelled fresh coconut is good for the first couple days. Yes, sardines. Canned oysters, too. I’ll bring frozen cooked steak for day one, it’ll be thawed by the time I set up camp day one. Kettle chips, yes they are a carb load but at least they are made with high quality fats and when I’m climbing and hiking all day I need more carbs than usual. Avocados, packed hard and ripe by day 2 (again, depending on temps). And if you’re going to carry beer, make it count–a heavy, tasty IPA in a can like Caldera or Anderson Valley. An interesting side note: small individuals need fewer calories, in general, but do we also need less water? I tend to go through much less water than my friends while mountain biking.

    DThalman wrote on November 16th, 2009
  20. I don’t know how I stumbled across your blog, but I enjoyed reading ideas here! Thanks for sharing thoughts :)

    Mari Ann "Fat Stomach" wrote on November 17th, 2009
    • You probably trolled your way over here from my blog.

      Grok wrote on November 17th, 2009
  21. There are some great ideas here. Avocados? Wow, I never thought of that, the will certainly last a few days. I made pear leather the other day for the first time, it was delicious and needed no extra sweeteners or water just a splash of lemon juice.
    PS: I’m so excited, my Primal Blueprint book has just arrived :)

    Squirrel Jo wrote on November 17th, 2009
  22. Fruit leather and jerky are my two favorites with my dehydrator. Both much better for you than the store bougt varieties, which have a lot of added sugars and salt.

    Rae wrote on November 17th, 2009
  23. The problem with dried foods purchased in most stores is they have either sulphur dioxide or sugar or both. A grocery store here in town carries dried cherries or blueberries, etc., but they all have a coating of suger. Be damned sure to read the ingredients list before you lay down your dollars.

    I have a food dehydrator so I make jerky, pemmican, and a variety of dried fruits. (I get rather odd looks when I go to a local butcher shop and get 20 pounds of beef fat to make the beef tallow used in the pemmican.)

    JAMES HOWELL wrote on November 17th, 2009
  24. Excalibur makes excellent food dehydrators.

    I’ve had one over 10 years problem free.

    Asian shops carry a wide variety of dried seafoods. The packaged squid, cuttlefish and octopus are tasty but usually contain MSG.

    Scott Stewart wrote on November 17th, 2009
  25. Excellent post. I’d never considered just how carb heavy hiking food usually is. I’m going to bookmark this post and come back to it next year when I start getting ready for my annual hike. Thanks!

    Extreme Fitness Results wrote on November 17th, 2009
  26. I always bring a nice can of home made canned moose. Although I know the can itself weight a certain amount after 4 days of eating the classic egg, cheese nut, dried fruit,fish and jerky I find the weight worth it. A nice hot meal of meat after 3-4 days give me all the strength I need to keep going.

    Canned meat is quite easy to do and is stable for freaking long.

    David L. wrote on November 18th, 2009
  27. Let me share what I eat on backcountry trips in the central and northern Sierra Nevada here in CA. In an average year, I spend about 20 nights in the backcountry during all four seasons. Much of what’s been mentioned here works if you’re hiking on the AT with regular resupplies and ready access to stores or towns. You don’t face the same weight restrictions as backcountry backpackers, so eat up!

    When it comes to backpacking, things have changed a lot in the last 5-10 years.

    Until recently, most backpackers hauled 60-70 lbs loads for just a week in the woods. The pack to haul these loads weighed 8 or 9 pounds by itself. In the last decade most dedicated hikers have ditched these loads. It’s easy to see why. It’s miserable. Many now ascribe in varying degrees to the “backpacking light” ethos. In a nutshell, this calls for you to strip everything down to the bare essentials and carry only what you really need. Naturally, this means very different things to different folks. In general, baseweights (your pack and everything in it other than food and water) vary from 10 lbs at the ultralight end to 20-25 lbs at the heavy end – for a 6-7 day trip.

    If you haven’t been backpacking in 10 years this may come as a shock, but modern materials and clever equipment designs have made it possible. The huge advantage of carrying less weight is that you can cover much greater distances (15+ miles per day over rough terrain) and can wear much lighter footwear (even 5 fingers). The reason I’m going into this is that someone who goes backpacking often enough to care about primal foods on the trail is almost certainly not carrying a 70 pound load and has very tight weight restrictions. The packs they use are probably rated for 30-45 lbs and exceeding that is an issue. In addition, someone who is leading trips into the backcountry (as the originator of the question indicated s/he does) often has to carry emergency/firstaid/communications “group gear” and is even more sensitive to weight for his/her personal food/gear.

    If you’re just going for the weekend and can carry 3-5 lbs of food per person per day then you don’t need to make many primal compromises. Fresh meat day one. Fresh sausage day two. There are even light plastic containers to carry fresh eggs in. You probably won’t be using titanium cookware or a minimalist stove, so preparing these is easier. Fresh fruit and veggies will be in your weight range too, along with all the dried foods Mark noted. For those of you who mentioned canned goods, throw the item on a scale. You’ll discover that you could have brought a dry-aged steak instead (it’ll be fine for 2-3 days unless it gets really hot).

    What to do if you are restricted to 1-1.5 lbs food/day/person
    Primal eating essentially replaces carbs with fats as the main source of concentrated calories. Fats are harder to store and are much heavier. As a result you’re going to have to make some primal compromises to keep it light. But if you’re smart about them you don’t have to make many.

    Caloric requirements: Forget about matching your calorie expenditure. On a typical weeklong trip, I’m probably burning 6,000+ calories a day. I find it hard to eat more than 4,000 calories even when not primal. You’re going to lean out a bit. Not an issue for most folks.

    Primal Compromises:
    Quinoa – Light and with lots of calories. Eat it with pretty much anything. If you buy the prewashed kind you can boil it and set the pot aside, while it continues to cook with the lid tightly closed. Toss some dehydrated veggies and chicken in there and they will all cook together while you get other camp chores taken care of. Practice this at home on your backpacking stove and make the necessary adjustments if you’re at altitude. Quinoa can be tricky, but once you get the hang of it it’s a great staple. I’ve found that different brands cook very differently, so find one, figure out the cook times on your particular stove and stick to that. I have a pot/stove cozy that’s very light (made by backpacker’s pantry, I think) that I use in the winter on backcountry ski trips to melt water quickly. Putting the cozy over the pot after you’ve brought the quinoa back to a boil means you can get away without running your stove at a simmer, which most backpacking stoves are terrible at.

    Cheese – We can argue about whether some of us have the dairy genes or not and if dairy is primal for some of us or not. I take along hard cheeses and use them in any meal.

    Rice – It seems to me that rice is the best of the worst. I only eat rice on longer trips when I’m sick of quinoa.

    In addition to the pemican, jerky, powdered eggs, and nuts that Mark noted, here are a couple more foods I take along regularly:
    – smoked salmon or trout (except in the height of summer)
    – canned chicken that I’ve dehydrated at home
    – lomo embuchado (spanish dry cured pork tenderloin)
    – salami and similar hard sausages

    The powdered coconut milk someone mentioned earlier works well. And I agree with Nicole that coconut oil is much easier to store than olive oil.

    Meal timing
    Primal folks are pretty comfortable with fasting, so the idea of skipping lunch is not a huge shock. I eat breakfast and dinner and then break twice during the day for a small nuts+dried meat+cheese snack. Not having to do the whole lunch production give you more time to explore.

    I haven’t really taken this into account. I am not on the trail long enough that things like smoked salmon break the bank.

    Foraging – Really, this isn’t an option unless you get the timing just right or are moving very slowly. A lot of backcountry habitats, particularly at altitude, are very sensitive. Tramping around an alpine meadow picking blueberries may cause several years worth of damage.
    Fishing, however, works great. There are very light fly or spinning setups out there. In the early morning and late evening when the fish are biting you’re usually at camp and you usually spend the night near a water source. Fresh trout for breakfast is fantastic. Just make sure to dispose of the guts properly as it’s a surefire bear problem.

    Food storage/prep
    – Food dehydrator: Really important if you want to eat real food while you’re out there.
    – Vacuum sealing: Although it creates more trash to pack out, I vacuum seal smaller portions of certain foods (especially once that can leach oil like smoked fish). Helps pretty much all food last longer.

    Backpacking in arid regions: This is tough and not something that I have any experience with so I’ll leave it to others.

    Marc wrote on November 24th, 2009
    • A couple more comments/suggestions

      I’m prepping for a trip this weekend. Last night I experimented with cooking quinoa and then dehydrating it. Works great. Rehydrates with just water and only takes 5 minutes from adding boiling water to ready-to-eat. I don’t think there should be storage issues.

      – Quinoa + powdered coconut milk (or regular powdered milk) + dried berries + slivered almonds + cinnamon is really good. Nutty and crunchy. I’d imagine you could add honey to this if you wanted more sweetness or calories.

      – Dehydrated cooked ground meat works well. It loses 50% of it’s weight when you dehydrate it. Leaner cuts work best. I’ve also had good results with well-browned ground venison.

      – a friend of mine has gotten good results overcooking a broiler chicken in a stockpot (boiling it) until the meat was ready to fall of the bone. Then he stripped, cubed, or shredded all the meat off by hand and dehydrated it. This gives you complete control of the meat quality (who knows what’s in canned stuff) and makes a killer chicken broth to boot. I’ll do this in the future. I’ve heard of folks using rabbit in the same way, but I haven’t seen it done so can’t vouch for that.

      – Leave behind the idea of having certain kinds of food for certain times of day. This opens up a lot more options.

      – Powdered/dehydrated eggs + dehydrated ground beef/venison + coconut oil + dehydrated onions + garlic powder + hot sauce makes a great scramble for breakfast or dinner.

      – If you’ve never tried pemmican do not underestimate it. I ignored it for a long time and now it’s a staple I never go on a trip without.

      – Traditional dried Japanese miso soup is ready instantly and really hits the spot while you’re waiting for dinner. It ain’t primal but probably falls in the “neutral” food category. Better than the decidedly non-primal hot chocolate. Tea bags are a pain to pack out.

      – Colder weather. Just add 4-8oz of butter to whatever you’re making. Naturally you’re going to have to carry more food when it’s colder but things keep much better, so you have more options.

      – In general, fresh meats keep much much longer than we’ve been trained to believe. It’s worth noting that a lot of the “safe food handling” instructions we are accustomed to are in place because the CAFO meat we eat is raised and processed in such unsanitary conditions. If you know that the meat has been properly raised and slaughtered you’ve got more leeway with storage. Obviously, if it’s 90 degrees all bets are off. Be sensible, use all your senses to guide you, and cook the meat thoroughly (this isn’t the time for a rare steak).

      Happy hiking

      Marc wrote on November 25th, 2009
      • Marc,
        I’ve been trailfood planner for several 100+ mile Sierra treks over the past 10 years; I’ve tended to focus mostly on carbs & fat but thanks to primal blueprint reading, this year I plan to beef up (as it were) our protein consumption. Could you speak to what % of the macro-nutrients you have found work best for you? Thanks so much for your long & detailed post!

        Jo wrote on July 31st, 2011
        • I’ve never broken done the exact calculations, but it varies dramatically depending on season and if it’s the first or last days of a trip. In the winter on a backcountry ski trip we’re probably looking at 50/30/20 Fat/Pro/Carbs. Summer trips mean less fat as it just can’t stand up to the heat. However, I’ll bring some high fat foods and eat it all day one and two. So day 2 of a 8 day summer trip would probably be 40/40/20 f/p/c. Day 7 or 8 looks more like 10/30/60.

          In the last 18 months since I posted my original comment I’ve become more careful about limiting quinoa, and eliminating rice and soy (which was lurking in a number of products). I’ve found that dehydrating different kinds of sweet potato mash into “chips” or “leather” works really well. It will rehydrate with boiling water, so I don’t need to try to do anything other than boil water on a backcountry stove. I will pre-make different flavored mashes – a garlic/thyme/rosemary one, an asian inspired ginger one, and a spicy one. That helps things not get too boring.

          Honestly, I really don’t worry too much about eating lots of carbs on the trail if they come from primal foods. You’re using them right away. It seems to me that you’re going to do more damage eating lots of grains and legumes while on the trail and that’s what I try hard to avoid.

          Marc wrote on July 31st, 2011
    • Thank you for this post. I am a Field Instructor for a wilderness therapy company called Second Nature and spend 8 days at a time, twice a month, backpacking. Not only are my trips pretty long, but it’s year-round in the high desert of southern Utah. This was much more realistic. Thanks!

      Jenna wrote on July 26th, 2011
  28. All this food makes me want to go hiking!

    Sara wrote on November 26th, 2009
  29. Once people realize that dehydrating their own food is not that difficult more people will eat much better.

    Pan wrote on January 17th, 2010
  30. Here’s a great website I stumbled upon while preping for a multi day backpacking trip that has a lot of easy and lightweight recipes:

    Joel wrote on August 4th, 2011
  31. Thanks for the reply, Marc. I julienned some sweet potatoes, roasted & dehydrated them & will be adding to my one-pot meals. Don’t think I am ready to give up beans just yet, but I’ve also dehydrated several lbs of grass-fed hamburger & pulverized it for easy dehydrating.

    As for fat, I find that nuts keep very well, even up to 24 days & so does olive oil. I find that a high-fat evening meal helps me sleep & doesn’t make me loggy on the trail.

    I just got a 9-tray dehydrator & love it!

    Jo wrote on August 8th, 2011
  32. I’m going on a couple of backpacking trips within the next month (a 3 day and an 8 day) and I think I’m going to be pretty good on the food front. I’m making my own granola ( and dehydrating my own chili for dinners. Taking tuna packs and nori for lunch, primal bars, nuts, jerkey, hard cheese for snacks. Not super lightweight, but I think it’ll be ok. Can’t wait to find out.

    Molly wrote on July 28th, 2012

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